Read This Blog: Be The First On Your Block!

Dear Andrew,

I’m writing personally to you because I know you, among the planet’s eight billion human residents, read my blog andrewposts. Evidently you have a lot of time on your hands. And poor judgment. (That’s Andrew’s grinning mug beside these words. I’m hoping to increase my readership among the ladies…)

(Hi Bryan! You’re the other person who reads my blog!)

And hello to you, stray accessory person who may have stumbled onto my post mistakenly thinking it was one of Erin’s erudite and informative submissions on writing, and have, by some miracle, or an oversight on your part, continued reading.

This is the thing about organizational blogs. They are like social media posts: we think they are a necessary part of life but no one actually pays attention to them. We are, for all intents and purposes, using a global medium to talk to ourselves. Hey look, we got seven likes! Thanks mom and dad!

Ad Agency Blogs — thhhhppp!
I sometimes peruse the blogs of ad agencies, non-profits and others somehow related to my work. Here’s what I notice: outside of their staffs, and occasionally their families, I’m the only other person reading them. You can see by the comments and shares, or lack thereof, that the same six people have read the past year’s installments. And these are the blogs posted by the communication experts.

Many people who work like I do, as consultants, freelancers and sole proprietors, feel the need to promote themselves with a blog. They send it off to everyone on their email list. This helps increase the pool of people who will instantly delete the email.

And yet, we continue to pour resources into this endeavor with the express purpose of fooling the search engine algorithms. We are literally writing for bots. Which is painful to consider because writing a blog is not easy. For one thing, you have to have something to say. That eliminates most of America, including, obviously, me.

Then you have to take the time to write. I’m a writer, so for me this is like brushing my teeth: I can do it several times a week without much trouble.

For other people, this is a Herculean accomplishment that requires planning, focus, dedication and four “5-Hour Energy” drinks. They dread the process of blog writing but know they have to roll one out every single month or else millions of people who currently don’t care will think that the organization or individual has nothing to say.

(Ever the innovator, I use my blog posts to prove that point.)

If You Can Name Your Readers, Stop!
I have for months asked Charleston AMA for the analytics on my blog. They either change the subject – look, a squirrel! – or passive-aggressively promise to do so very soon, certainly by the next time Comet Kahoutek passes through our planet’s orbit.

They are not mean; indeed I believe they are being merciful. Or perhaps practical, assuming they want me to continue posting. They know that if Google reports the number of people reading my posts as: Andrew and Bryan and occasionally some lost soul who quit about halfway through, that I might stop bothering.

So I did an experiment. I slipped into my July 30 post something incendiary. Something designed to provoke howls of protest from outraged personages. It was small and subtle: you had to read the whole post to see it.

Do you know the word “bupkis”? (Spell check doesn’t.) That was the response. Either this blog has a massive following of culturally insensitive people or the echoes of my word bomb were clanging around an empty vessel.

So I occasionally counsel clients to forget about a blog and limit their time on social media. They’re not worth the time and effort because, frankly, no one cares what your printing company/business consulting firm/wounded vet organization has to say. If you really feel the need to blog, reduce it to its essence and post it on Twitter.

And spend the time saved brushing your teeth.

Thanks for reading, my beloved chapter president. And Bryan, if you’re still here.

Your pal,
barry waldman

Charleston AMA Wins Finance Excellence Award

We did it! Our chapter was awarded a 2014-15 Finance Excellence Award. The award was a result of the Chapter Excellence Awards (CEA) document we submit each September. The Chapter Excellence Awards program was established in 1974 to recognize and reward outstanding achievements in leadership, finance, membership, programming, and communications among AMA professional chapters.

Our board worked hard all year to keep track of the chapter’s activities, goals, membership statistics and various other metrics to submit for judging to the AMA headquarters. Congratulations to our chapter leaders and our many members and volunteers who make the Charleston AMA Chapter so outstanding!

The 5 C’s of Effective Copy

Untitled designToday I’m going to talk about the 5 C’s of effective copy. Yes, I know that there are usually only 4 C’s – carat, cut, clarity and color – but that’s for diamonds, and here we’re talking about something even more important: words.

By “effective” copy, I don’t mean clever or cutesy or impressive. I mean copy that persuades and gets prospects and customers picking up the phone. Because that’s what you ultimately want, right? So here goes!

1. Customer-oriented. You’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for your customer. You have something to sell, something to give, something to explain. Whatever it is, you need to write about it with your customer in mind. Think about the information the customer needs to make a decision about whether your product or service is right for them. Paint the picture of how life will change for the better after doing business with you. Explain how you’re solving a problem. In short, speak to their needs.

2. Clear. I mentioned above that effective copy doesn’t mean clever copy. Clever is the enemy of clear, and it can lead to confusion. And they say a confused mind doesn’t buy. Don’t fill your writing with so many puns and turns of phrase that you muddy up your message. Prospects reading your copy should quickly understand who you are, what you’re selling and why they should buy. Will you win any Clios? No, but you might win some customers, and that’s more important.

3. Concise. Don’t use more words than you need.

4. Conversational. Here’s the simplest trick ever for writing in a conversational tone: think about what you want to write, and then say it aloud. And write that down. Done! This will stop you from writing overly long sentences filled with jargon and $2 words. The truth is, the “business letter” style of writing you probably learned as a kid in English class doesn’t have a solid place in marketing anymore. These days, you can be both conversational and Professional with a capital P at the same time. So don’t be afraid to write as if you’re speaking to a friend.

5. Call-to-action. Okay, this one is a noun, so it doesn’t fit with the rest of the C’s, which is a bummer for me, since I like consistency (another C!). But it’s so crucial to effective copy that I included it anyway. What is your call to action? That is, what do you want people reading your copy – whether on a billboard or in brochure or – to do next? Tell them! “Call this number today.” “Check out this website.” “Click here.” “Buy now.” These are all calls to action. They’re absurdly simple – but effective.

– Erin Danly

Get in touch! Whether you need help with your marketing copy or want a little advice, I’d love to hear from you. You can write me at

When Coffee Is Good For You

Against their better judgment — indeed, against any judgment at all — the lords of Charleston AMA recently asked me (and, in a coffedrinkflash of wisdom, Liz Mester of Wings For Kids) to inaugurate the Coffee Talk series for non-profits with a discussion called Showing Is Better Than Telling: Making your case succinctly to all your target audiences.

From what I saw, it was a superb performance. (Thankfully, I didn’t see my own presentation.) Coffee Talks in each category will take place roughly quarterly, (we also have a real estate series) and if the first one was any indication, non-profit marketing is a popular subject. Either that, or I have suddenly become attractive to the ladies. (You know which way to bet.)

If you work in non-profit and missed the presentation, I recommend you time travel backwards a few weeks and catch it live. (Also bet the house on Northwestern minus the points against Duke.) If you’re “too busy” to time travel, or some other lame excuse, here’s a synopsis, which you’ll want to print out, frame and hang on the wall for target practice.

1. Showing is better than telling. Empty claims don’t move people; data, images, pictures and stories make the case vividly. Many non-profits fail to use their powerful stories, vivid pictures and dramatic images because they take some work to obtain. Also it’s easy to just blather.

2. People give to charity because of how they feel, not because of what they think. We give to charity because it makes us feel like the kind of person who helps others, because we want to feel generous, or part of something or connected to an issue. So non-profits should focus on how their potential donors will feel, not what they will think. If presidential campaigns are any indication, thinking isn’t at the top of too many people’s lists.

3. Non-profits, like other businesses, should focus on The One Thing they do. No one needs to know everything your non-profit does, just its unique value proposition – the one thing that makes it different from everyone else. This is rarely represented in the mission statement, which is often written in Klingon. It is captured in good elevator speeches.

4. All good communicating is story-telling…which Liz showed can be accomplished in 35-word newsletter stories and 112-character tweets and zero-word photos. They can even be accomplished in tedious, verbose, trifling blog posts.

Like this one.

Coffee talks are less expensive (free for members, and I was worth every penny), shorter, more narrowly focused, less formal and conducive to more give and take than monthly luncheons. I was even prepared for hecklers, though there was none of that. Unless you count snoring.

Look for the next Non-Profit Coffee Talk in February, subject TBA but almost certain to be scintillating.

The participants in the last one should be recovered by then.

–barry waldman

Revolve Conference – A Conference at the Beach, October 29-30

Picture of Speakers

Revolve Conference, scheduled for this Fall in the Charleston area, is an exceptional opportunity for continued education, networking, training and development in:

  • Marketing
  • Design/UX
  • Business

Taking place at the lovely and inspiring Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms, Revolve welcomes some of the brightest talent (twenty-five speakers announced so far) from across the country to share their expertise on process, creativity, strategy and inspiration. Learn from platform-changing thinkers and disruptive innovators through practical sessions and talks that address the challenges you face today.  

This two-day event provides a compelling agenda, offering attendee-choice breakout sessions on Thursday (Day 1), a mid-event “Party at the Pavilion” at Wild Dunes’ Grand Pavilion on Thursday evening, and inspiring keynote talks from headlining speakers on Friday (Day 2).

Event Details:
Isle of Palms, SC
Venue: Wild Dunes Resort
Date: October 29-30, 2015
Tickets Regular Price after September 18 – $499 (for a 10% AMA Member Discount to Revolve Conference, email
Register here:

Ad-vertising Naseum

Anyone tuning in to Atlanta Braves games on the radio may have noticed some very odd things – besides a cornucopia of losing. It’s the ads.

After about seven innings — for those of you uninitiated in baseball, an inning is a period of time during which batters open and close their batting gloves 112 times and the third base coach lovingly slaps three teammate’s tushies – it is evident to any sentient listener that the Atlanta Braves radio network has sold a grand total of eight sponsorships for their 162 regular season broadcasts.

butt slapThere are breaks between every half-inning, which means four ads at a time run 18 times during the game, not counting all the time during the pre-game and post-game analysis. (Analysis: You see the way he touched Rodriguez’s derriere over at third base, Bob? That really gave the team the shot of adrenaline it needed to beat the spread.) There are also highly entertaining pitching changes, to slow the blistering pace of contests, and to provide more desperately needed advertising opportunities. By the end of one complete broadcast, each of the sponsors has disseminated its messages to the entire Southeast region something like a dozen times.

Times 162, not including Spring Training games.

You get the idea. Ad nauseam.

Now if I had the opportunity to reach a key listening demographic two thousand times over the course of six months, I might consider offering a couple of different spots. But the masters of advertising in Atlanta have determined that Baseball Man (and Woman, I suppose, though it’s hard to believe there are women this stupid) hasn’t quite caught on after the first 1,500 listens and thus must be subjected to the exact same ditty…again.

“Lookie, lookie, lookie, here comes Cookie: Cook’s Pest Control.” I kid you not.

But wait, I haven’t relayed the worst of it. Two of these spots literally make absolutely no sense. In one, broadcaster Don Sutton notes that to play baseball you need a bat and a ball. It’s the same with phone service. Lots of companies say they have the best this or that but only Verizon has the most reliable 4G service.

Yes, a Fortune 100 company runs this non-sequitur 2,000 times across a quarter of the nation.

Then there is the ad in which a woman remembers fondly her dad teaching her to save for rainy days. Those days when things don’t go your way. But rainy days make you appreciate the sunny days, like when your dad holds his new grandson for the first time. For those sunny days, you need… whatever idiot bank it is that wasted its money on this drivel.

It is baffling how these ads got through the process of production and onto the air. Let’s review:

  • A professional writer had to pen this nonsense.
  • Someone else had to accept it and determine to produce it.
  • A client had to approve it.
  • A variety of talented people had to voice it, record it, edit it, etc.

Did not one of these people mention that the ad they were planning to put on the air two-thousand times was unmemorable and unintentional rubbish? The president of the ad agency? The CEO of Verizon? The bank president? Some random homeless person on the street? Hello?

You may be thinking that the ads worked because I remember them. But I do this for a living. I listen carefully and try to glean something from how the ad was written, produced and aimed at its audience.

Here’s what I learned from these ads: there are people out there working hard (and often, apparently) to make you and me look like freakin’ geniuses. And helping us save for a rainy day.

–barry waldman




Charleston AMA Hosts Crisis Communications Panel

On September 3, The Charleston American Marketing Association will host a luncheon and panel discussion focusing on crisis communications. This educational event will bring together five influential experts from Charleston’s media and public relations industry to share advice and best practices. Marketing professionals, business owners and students at all levels of experience in the Charleston area are invited to attend for fellowship, networking and education. The discussion will empower busy professionals in the Charleston community with the skills and tools they need to guide their organizations through crises. Attendees will learn how to prepare for, respond to and recover from a crisis.

Elizabeth Boineau, Owner and Principal, E. Boineau & Company
Matt Sartwell, Municipal Editor, The Post and Courier
Cheryl Smithem, Founder and Principal, Charleston Public Relations & Design
Barbara Vaughn, Director of Media Relations, City of Charleston

Jon Bruce, Anchor and Reporter, ABC News 4

Purchase tickets:

Can You Sell Without the Stupid?

Short of hiding in a cave, my efforts to avoid the granular, 24-hour media coverage of that festering pus of a fake presidential campaign have proved fruitless. It’s on all 26 televisions at my gym, projecting the orange-haired narcissist and his purposely inflammatory ramblings.

I’d be interested to hear from psychologists and psychiatrists whether my use of the word narcissist in this case is simply understatement or an actual clinical diagnosis. It does appear that we are witnessing the sad spectacle of real mental illness unfolding before us. According to opinion polls – which themselves are a form of mental illness 65 weeks before an actual election – a quarter of one segment of the electorate gives this bizarre reality show the thumbs up.

It’s a cliché at this point that stupid sells, that outlandishly juvenile behavior is fun to watch, that awful judgment is entertaining, that no one can look away from the train wreck. We’ve had grammar school beauty pageant contestants and developmentally-stunted New Jersey stereotypes and a silver spoon family so utterly bereft of talent or insight but redolent of breast tissue that their massive celebrity seems almost inevitable.

But even the cultural realists are having trouble wrapping our heads around a lowest common denominator presidential campaign, even if we know that it’s a cynical attempt to boost business and provide more fodder for an area-code sized ego. Surely, we would have thought, we at least want our presidents to be dignified and possess an intellect above the Real Housewives line.

It makes you wonder, if you’re trying to sell a historical site to tourists, or technology solutions, or real estate, how you can compete with the lunatics without becoming one of them. Can smart, segmented, integrated marketing communications, with well-targeted and media-specific messaging really triumph in the public mind against this miasma of cognitive deprivation?

Thankfully, of course it can. In fact, that’s still ultimately the only way to win in the marketplace. The media sensations listed above have mostly evaporated; you can only watch a train wreck for so long before the novelty is gone and it’s just plain grisly. Even the presidential sideshow will eventually wear itself out as Americans begin paying attention to the candidates – roughly four weeks before the actual election.

Henry Mencken was almost certainly right, that “no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” But eventually even plain people act in their own best interests, so that if you sell the right thing to the right people, they will buy it. Yeah, I know, there’s a plethora of data points to support Mencken: pet rocks, 15 fast food chains, vaccinations causing autism, ambulance-chasing lawyers, $100 ripped jeans, Toys for Tots, supermarket tabloids, Windows 8, the South Carolina “educational” lottery, and on and on. But that’s a mere drop in the marketplace bucket, where trillions of transactions are consummated every day.

The explosion of technology and the ongoing degradation of culture will continue apace, but neither changes the core dynamics of marketing: find out what people want, give it to them and make sure they know about it. As you and I prove everyday (okay, maybe just you do) matching the product or service to the audience, medium, method and message, and doing it all as much and as creatively as possible, that’s the only sure formula for success.

But if that fails, it’s good to know that mental illness is your backup plan.

–barry waldman

Thanks for a Great Year as Prez

Wow, my year as Charleston AMA president went so quickly! What an honor it’s been to serve as chapter president for the 2014-2015 term. I’ll admit I was nervous at the start of my year. Suddenly all chapter decisions rested on my shoulders. So many people had worked so hard over the years to launch, build and grow this chapter, and I certainly didn’t want to mess it up. A year later, the c2015 Spark Awardshapter is still intact (whew!).

One of the hardest things about being chapter president is figuring out realistic and achievable goals for your year as president. Ideas are limitless, and I knew our chapter could do so much more. I wanted to move our chapter forward and had no fewer than 50 ideas. But, let’s be real, I have a full-time job and a family (as does the rest of the board). Time to narrow down that list of 50 to three key items.

With a theme of “Flexing Our Marketing Muscles” (a nod to my love of CrossFit), I started my term in July 2014 with these goals:

  • Strengthen membership – both adding new members while giving current members more value so they renew their membership year after year.
  • Grow the annual Spark! Awards – increase entries, streamline the process and add more clout to the awards program.
  • Become Charleston’s go-to marketing resource.

As I reflect on the past year, I feel good about those goals. Of course, we can always do better. We can always do more.

Yet in 2014-2015, we:

  • Launched our first special interest group. We partnered with BoomTown on a quarterly real estate marketing coffee talk that draws about 15 people each time. Now, we’re looking at adding a second niche group in fall 2015.
  • Grew the Spark! Awards. We had a record number of entries (almost 90) and a terrific awards ceremony. We revamped the categories, streamlined the entry process and kept entry fees free for members. This event now has a solid base so we can grow it even more in 2016.
  • Won top place in our chapter size category for new member growth as part of the American Marketing Association’s Spring 2015 Acquisition Campaign Contest.
  • Had some really amazing Signature Luncheons on such topics as social media, the marketing power of Yelp, TV advertising, pay per click and lead generation, mobile apps and more. More than 50 people signed up for the May and June luncheons.
  • Hosted fun networking events like our fall Brew & Chew plus a Hawaiian-themed spring happy hour.
  • Created some chapter marketing materials such as pens and coffee mugs for our speakers.

Charleston AMAAnd those are just a few of the many highlights. The board of directors is a hard-working group and it’s a pleasure to lead the chapter with these people. I feel good about our chapter and consider it to be the resource for marketing, PR and creative professionals in the Charleston area.

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to flex our AMA muscle this year!

~ Holly A. Fisher

P.S. And … I gave AMA a totally fun First Gentleman. 😉

Charleston AMA Happy Hour


Charleston AMA Wins Spring Membership Contest

CAMA LogoThe Charleston Chapter of the American Marketing Association won the top place in its size category for new member growth as part of the American Marketing Association’s Spring 2015 Acquisition Campaign Contest.

During the contest period, the Charleston Chapter acquired 13 new members – an 11.4 percent increase. The chapter has 114 members. For its efforts, the chapter receives two professional memberships.

The Charleston AMA Chapter, founded in 2007, hosts monthly Signature Luncheons on a variety of marketing topics as well as networking events and quarterly coffee talks focused on niche marketing areas. It also hosts an annual Marketing Bootcamp, which this year is scheduled for July 30 at the Historic Rice Mill.

“Marketers looking to connect with like-minded professionals, grow in their professional development and succeed in their careers will find no better value than the Charleston AMA Chapter,” said Holly A. Fisher, chapter president and owner of H.A.F. Creative. “This award is not only a testament to our hard-working board and volunteers but to what we bring to the Charleston marketing community. This chapter is a place of learning and connection for anyone in marketing, public relations and creative industries.”