Results Driven Customer Services Focus


Picture of a deeply inspired person focused on a starlit sky.photo c/o Steve Halama, Unsplash.com

Taking Your Content to the Next Level

↑  click heading for my brief customer focus presentation  ↑

When you have a special project that, first and foremost, absolutely must capture the attention of your targeted or intended audience, you want to make sure that your message does indeed reach that audience, right? How do you ensure that happens and once you have reached that audience, what next?

Marketing your content to reach the greatest potential number of your ideal audience online today is a complex and challenging prospect. On one hand, you feel that you have written exceptional content that millions will not only see but feel deeply compelled to click through to find out more. On the other hand, you feel that through your research on the subjects of ‘audience reach’ and ‘audience engagement’, you have mastered the technique of grabbing your readers’ attention. Still, you find that your results are minimal and perhaps even trailing behind your previous content publication.

So what on earth is going wrong? You’re frustrated that after endless hours of time and inspired effort you continue to struggle with reaching your audience, triggering their interactive responses to your content, clicking through to various pages on your website and advancing to the ‘shopping cart’ phase of purchasing what you have to offer.

Steps Toward Better Business Results

The process of marketing your business online today continues to be increasingly complex, challenging you every step of the way and you feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Spending valuable hours of your business day focused on content marketing for the promotion of your business seems like a prudent and necessary activity right? It most certainly is important. 

Whether you have staff that can attend to effective website development and updates in conjunction with current day standards that must incorporate Google’s algorithm updates and web content standards, social media marketing, website blog content development, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid advertising copy (analytics data analysis, keyword research, ideal targeted audience demographics, and ongoing social media management),  or you are a one person operation and have to bring it all together on your own, be prepared for initial and ongoing research to make sure you stay abreast of best and preferred practices and schedule sufficient time to address those tasks.

This article is not intended to be exhaustive in terms of detail regarding each subject covered here. This will serve as an overview with touch points on key aspects of achieving greater audience reach, engagement and forward response to the purchase stages of your relationship.

Website Name, Registration & Development

Assuming that you have fully developed your ‘Brand Story’ and Business Plan in advance of your new business startup, determination of exactly who your targeted audience/customer/clients will be, and what financial resources you will have as startup capital to set up your business and get it launched, the next critical step is to set up your new website name and URL registration and plan for the physical development of the new website.

Website Name

  • Never decide on a website name in haste. Your business name must clearly define in a few well-placed words what you have to offer. The first instinct is often to come up with an artistic, catchy business name that may be unique and intriguing but does it immediately tell your potential audience/customers what product, services or cause you offer or represent? Don’t make people guess or you will lose them in a heartbeat; if in doubt, they click out! In advance, you need to determine what small group of core keywords represents your business.
  • While keeping your business name brief, make sure you incorporate a critical keyword or two which represent the primary service(s), product(s) or cause(s) of your focus. If you anticipate expanding your services, product line or cause focus, be sure to allow for that differential in your website name determination. 
  • Before formal registration of your business name and website, determine a second and third alternative business and website name as there is a possibility that your first choice may already be chosen and registered. Avoid potential legal challenges in future that may ensue because of a business or website name duplication with another legitimate business entity.
  • Research thoroughly in advance on best practices for the development of your business name. Draw from the experience of experts in this facet of your new business startup to ensure that your company name is effective in identifying what you have to offer and one that is unique to your competitors’ business names in a distinctive way. Your business name should also be easily remembered.

Website Registration

  • Once you have established your preferred website name, you need to secure that business name and website URL address as an exclusive business entity with sole rights to the chosen name/URL through official registration with the appropriate provincial, state or other local or regional authorities designated for legal website name and URL registration.
  • Do advance research to ensure that you understand critical issues and legalities surrounding the selection and registration of your new business website address/URL.
  • Website Domain:  Research the pros and cons of having an exclusive and primary website domain vs. a sub-domain. There is the argument that sub-domains will cause many to perceive your business as less professional/successful because you have not acquired your own domain. In the case of your own domain, you purchase the exclusive right to your own primary/proprietary domain. If you have a free hosted website platform where you have not purchased a domain, your website or blog URL will include the name of the site host in addition to your own chosen business/URL name. A sub-domain has a much longer/elongated URL address which is much more difficult for people to remember accurately.

Website Development

  • When looking at which website or blog hosting service you wish to acquire, pay particular attention to not only price (free/premium) but all conceivable aspects of functionality, what add-ons will be charged extra, domain stipulations, terms of use and so on. Also, check customer reviews in detail. Are there any highly negative comments that would cause you to raise a red flag? Be sure that in the event you wish to go to a different hosting service in future you are fully able to transfer your site content from the current to the new website.
  • Restrictive Functionality:  You will find that the level of site builder functionality varies between website hosting services. Are plugins included or are they a chargeable extra? What features are included (or not) i.e. shared or dedicated hosting, managed WordPress hosting, type of servers i.e. Windows/Linux, data storage and transfer limits, and more. Research hosting service reviews on sites like PCMag.com through searches i.e. “top website hosting services”.
  • Website Navigation: Plan for the website navigation menu and parent (primary) vs child (secondary/sub) pages in advance. Base your website pages and content on the purpose of your website and how it will best represent your company brand story development and core products, services or cause presentation and promotion. Assign easily recognizable web page names to avoid guessing or visitor navigational problems from occurring. If a visitor feels confused about where to go on a website and ends up struggling to find the desired page, they will click out in anger and never return.
  • Site Search Engine Optimization:  This aspect of website development remains an essential component and plays a critical role in how visible your website will be to search engines, how well-represented your core business focus is and the kind of content quality and user/informational value visitors will find when they arrive on your landing/home page. You should have determined your core set of keywords/keyword phrases in advance. 
  • Be sure to research in advance all current and relevant content requirements as defined by search engine algorithmic updates and related guidelines. Do NOT leave this to chance and attempt to determine on your own what is or is not critical in this regard. Google is by far the largest and most authoritative search engine on the internet today. Refer to Google Webmasters for support and tools/resources. Do NOT ignore the Google guidelines with respect to website content.
  • Take the critical time needed to research through industry experts like SiteProNews and Social Media Examiner to become aware and understanding of current SEO best practices. Google launches periodic and fairly frequent algorithmic updates and guidelines, therefore you cannot simply develop your new website or blog site based on guidelines at the time of your business website launch alone. Always stay up to date with frequency through research to avoid dismal website/page ranking and poor positioning in search engine results pages. If your site is placed beyond the first or second page of search results on the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask are currently the top 4) your site will be virtually invisible or ignored. Most people do not review sites listed beyond the second results page of their search.
  • Site Navigation:  Again, research expert articles regarding best practices for website development. Site navigation must be quick and easy for your site visitors. Statistically, new visitors to a website will spend no more than 7 or 8 seconds on the landing page to sum up in their mind whether they are on the right track for finding the information they want and need and if they cannot find that information fast they will click out and never return…another potential customer lost. Refrain from getting artistic about names you choose for your navigational (page title) tabs. If your visitors have to guess at which page tabs to click on and discover they have arrived at the wrong page, they will be frustrated and click out permanently.
  • ‘Responsive’ Website Design:  The number of internet browsers today are doing so via ‘mobile’ technology in addition to or instead of a desktop or laptop computer. The rising number of web browsers on mobile is staggering and increasing to eventually become the most common way to browse the internet while on the go. The portability of mobiles allows users to connect online wherever they are over the course of their day. As such, make doubly sure that your website is ‘mobile responsive’; critical to reaching a huge segment of the market who now opt for the portable online means to browse the internet.

Website Content

  • Once again, I cannot stress enough the importance of researching in advance to find best practices for your website content including your blog articles and your other primary pages where highly informative content tells your visitors/prospective customers exactly what services you provide or products you offer or what cause(s) you would like them to support.
  • Determine in advance how best to structure your page content, how much content is recommended, the type of visual elements that best represent what you offer and most relevant to the subject matter of each page, how to optimize images through “alt text”, best practices for search engine optimization in terms of content quality and practical usability, infusion of keywords and their density, the use of semantic wording, phrases and sentences vs keywords
  • Enhance user experience by linking from one of your website pages to another. Use ‘organic’ words and phrases that occur/read back naturally within the context of your content. This practice also helps to improve page/site ranking by the search engines. The more visitors click on such navigational linking, the longer they remain on your website, a key indicator of visitor engagement to the search engines.

Page Titles and Headline/Subheading Formatting/Tagging

  • As you can see from my article headlines and subheadings here, I have applied an alternative font color and font size in order that the headlines (or subheads when used) are readily visible. Stay as close to only two textual content colors only that tie in well with your website and logo theme colors. I have also formatted each of the primary article title (H1) and subheadings (H2) and by doing so, such formatting is a clear signal to search engines what the article entails as a whole and in part through the subheading and bulleted information throughout the article. This formatting of content supports the search engine bot scanning for page and site ranking and ultimate search engine results page (SERP) positioning. This type of formatting is a critical and powerful form of SEO that all website content writers need to implement to increase their overall site/page rank.

Website Content Quality & Informative Usefulness to Customers

As a business owner/administrator today who is reaching out to their potential/targeted audience for the purpose of attracting new customers, clients, or increased website traffic, engagement and purchase decisions, newsletter and blog subscribers, new leads generation, authority/expertise building and more, you MUST get away from pushing the sales element of your messaging to your reading/site visiting audience.

For years now, the consensus for web content best practices included heavy keyword and keyword phrase content (to the point of virtual keyword dumping or ‘spamming’). The major search engines no longer accept that type of black hat approach to website content development. Website browsers/users/searches are sick and tired of being constantly bombarded with nothing but heavy-handed sales pitches; “buy me, buy me, buy me”. 

Current expert consensus reveals that content marketers need to focus on what is best for their potential customers and develop their content accordingly. High-quality content that includes website content that is highly informative and immediately usable by our site visitors. Focus on your audience’ wants and needs through your content vs. that undesirable sales pitch.

Speak to your audience in a clear and concise content presentation that is easy to understand and identifies specific problems that your various customers experience, and identify how you and your products or services can solve those problems and make their life easier/better. Your readers should readily identify with the problems and solutions that you present as their own! Differentiate yourself from your competition by showing them why they should pick you or your products or services as the better choice, the better solution for them.

Specific Customer Problems & Solutions

To illustrate the foregoing, I will share with you who my typical and potential clients would be based on the services I provide and what solutions I offer that will help my clients realize best possible results with their textual content or copy. This is a general overview rather than an exhaustive itemization but the following will give you a sense of where your focus needs to be in terms of customer/client services or product development and sales and how you should represent them in your website content and online and offline marketing efforts accordingly.

Authors:

Whether a first-time publishing author or a seasoned pro in the publishing sphere, my author clients will approach me on several different fronts:

  • they want a solid start to their publishing endeavors right out of the gate with a clean, error-free, fluid, consistent, highly engaging and polished publication product that provides a first-rate reading experience for their potential customer market.
  • they want their readers to build in numbers through solid reviews, extensive sharing of their marketing copy and consistently growing readership through their product excellence, marketing and advertising efforts and consumer referrals.
  • they are experiencing difficulty producing unique and highly engaging content that differentiates them from competitor authors (of which the numbers of new authors has grown exponentially).
  • they have a general difficulty with the writing essentials of the English language including typos, spelling and syntax errors, incorrect grammatical applications, errors or oversights in capitalization, flagrant misuse of punctuation, poor structural/developmental or substantive content presentation that results in inconsistent, choppy, confusing storylines, inconsistent character development and more.
  • they have the drive and prolific writing dynamics which result in exceptional reader experiences and they have an unquenchable desire to reach the bestselling author distinction but need guidance in terms of how to achieve that desired and lofty level of publishing supremacy.

As a textual editor, proofreader, formatting and writing analyst, I provide the essential services which resolve the types of issues described above and/or help the author move ever closer to the bestseller circles through superior publications quality and reader experience. Be clear on this point: an editor or proofreading professional does NOT rewrite the author’s manuscript in part or whole. Our role is one of defining technical issues and suggested revisions to address those issues.

Editorial Services

Through a three to four-round content analysis process, it is my function to identify errors and omissions that are intermittently evident through my client’s book or novel manuscript and suggest correct applications and/or wording alternatives that would otherwise enhance the reader experience. The level of my participation in the overall editorial process depends on what my client is seeking as necessary from their perspective and/or my own perspective once I have had an opportunity to peruse the submitted manuscript copy.

In addition to the editorial aspects of publishing services I also provide manuscript formatting consultation and services to ensure that each manuscript submission is fully compliant with publisher guidelines. Where manuscripts are submitted with conflicting format issues that result in a poor reading experience, the publisher will reject the submission until such formatting issues have been fully resolved.

Copywriting Services

One of the critical elements of book or novel publishing is the ‘book description’ which is otherwise known in the publishing industry as a marketing tool known as a ‘sales pitch blurb’. This descriptive element on the author’s retail page is one of the first things a visiting consumer will review when determining whether to make a purchase. There is also opportunity within the ‘front matter’ and back cover for similar marketing copy which is designed to enhance and further the purchasing decision process. Where an author client does not feel they have sufficient skill in the marketing content writing side of publication, I provide copywriting services accordingly.

Business Professionals

Business professionals, whether a company owner or senior/marketing executive, will approach me to seek my advice and editorial/copywriting services for their communications and marketing content, advertising copy, website content, brand development, recognition, increased website traffic and engagement, enhanced marketing strategy for increased sales volume, optimized internal and external communications and more.

The challenges that business professionals faced can be multifaceted and not necessarily skills-related. Time restrictions for a company executive may ultimately be the biggest roadblock for them to effectively and efficiently produce the right type of copy presentation that drives business decisions, employee adherence to company models or guidelines, sensitive communications.

A business professional also needs to ensure that whether in-house or outsourced, the company’s marketing and advertising copy is exceptional in its delivery and revenues are enhanced as a result.

As a content/copy editor and writer/copywriter, I employ similar services as described above for author clients but more heavily focused on the textual content or copywriting disciplines to achieve mandated results for business professionals.

In closing, there are parallels to be drawn with my editorial and writing/content development services on behalf of clients. Each in their own way aspires to arrive at a superior product or service level which in turn helps them to achieve their own respective objectives in terms of product development and sales. 

Irrespective of overall project objectives, you will want to deliver the best possible product or services experience to your own clientele or customers. Maintain a clear focus on what the client wants and needs to resolve their problems whether specific to the individual or company you service or more industry centric as a whole. Develop your content, marketing and advertising copy and communications to the highest standard and presented to the client from their own perspective.

Effective Problem Solutions & Customer Trust

Offer highly relatable solutions to the problems specific to each client and you will see positive change in your overall customer experience and revenues. People respond to those product and service providers that they establish trust in and know will have their best interests at heart. Results driven customer services focus wins the day.

Subscribe to the Lasting Impressions Editing Newsletter

© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2017; All Rights Reserved

The Art of Successful Writing


bigstock-Portrait-of-beautiful-woman-re-38718040

It’s All About the Reader Experience

From as far back as my childhood days in elementary school, I clearly recall my fascination with words. Our teachers would speak with determined reference to the ways in which we needed to express on any number of levels through the many complexities of the English language.

Of course, in our very early elementary school teachings, those lessons were fairly simple in terms of what children that age could reasonably understand, absorb and apply both orally and in writing. Our preliminary task was to learn to speak the language and learn how to print, neatly and with deliberate and neat penmanship. Those words that we related to the most and were most often used in our day to day conversation were an early focus in class.

With each passing year, the importance of learning how to speak, read and write the English language became of greater importance, more and more complex. Grasping the spelling and meaning of each word was increasingly important, as was an understanding of just how complex the language really was. And then came the revelations of thesaurus content wherein lay a whole other dimension of the language through synonyms.

Well into the mid-secondary school period, we became more and more deeply engaged with the language through our studies. Written assignments became a routine part of our daily learning experience. Our teachers used the assignment process as a means to gauge our individual knowledge, understanding, and application of the language. I remember very early on feeling a sense of wonderment for the language, our language that was used in every conceivable aspect of people’s lives whether for personal reading, eventual writing as a profession, vocational requirement or creative endeavor.

Once into my secondary school years, I became increasingly aware of just how complex the English language was. We began to study not only advanced spelling of much more complex words and sentence structures but also a more in-depth study of the grammatical aspects of the language. This was pretty heavy stuff and for many, English Literature was tedious, boring, confusing and confounding. Many of my friends would question why we needed to know all that stuff, to begin with.

Well, when we eventually delved into the study of historical masters of the language, both structurally and creatively speaking, even more of the class began to wander their attentions to idle scribbling in their notebooks and banal daydreaming to while away the hours. Many would frequently check the big clock on the classroom wall, counting the minutes down to recess, a break from all of the mundane study sessions.

I look back on those days with a clear recollection of my own curiosity, no, fascination, with learning the English language, reading assignments and writing book reviews. The first time I held a novel in my hands was a milestone I will never forget. It was like diving into deep, darkened waters to unchartered depths of exploration and discovery for me. I kept those thoughts to myself because, quite frankly, kids in the day thought that anyone who was engrossed in reading studies was a ‘geek’, unusual to say the least.

Early into my high school days I began to have a sense that, even though I did not have a clear idea of what career direction I wanted to take, somehow I envisioned it having a lot to do with writing, communications, anything along those lines that would be an essential part of how I would make a living.

The study of poetry was for many an abstract, a nonsensical journey into waters that most students felt that they would never ply. What application could there possibly be through the use of poetic verse in our daily lives, right? Yet soon, I would develop an inspired thirst for the study of poetry. It led me to an appreciation for uniquely creative word, phrase and sentence composition that took a tremendous amount of focus to write effectively. Years later I would develop a lifelong passion for writing poetry.

I soon developed an even greater appreciation of how content development, in general, would form the basis, the foundation for more comprehensive writing applications that I would use throughout my entire career. My parents recognized my innate sense of excitement reading, especially fictional novels that I brought home from the library. One day mom brought home a box set of Hardy Boys mystery novels, hardbound and engagingly illustrated on the front cover.

I quickly became hooked on those Hardy Boy classics and read them repeatedly. My home library collection grew with each new publication and soon I would be into Nancy Drew mysteries and more. I would be fixated hour after hour, consumed by the gripping storylines, the suspense and wondering at the final outcome of each story, not wanting to put the books down when called for dinner. I would often read late into the night on weekends.

I loved the way the author developed his or her characters; their unique appearance and personalities, their voice, beliefs, interests, likes and dislikes, and their role in the story. And then there were the physical settings that surrounded individual scenes which rounded out the story. It all played out in my mind as a cinematic scene in a motion picture at the town theatre.

I recall punctuation being one of the more challenging elements of writing that I found difficult to grasp. I had an uncle who was a well-known journalist in both the newsprint and radio media. He was an artist and created the most incredible sketches with a graphite pencil that I have seen to this day. I began to read his newspaper articles, primarily editorial and sports columns but he later ventured in the most impassioned way into the political commentary and critique arena. He had a tremendous thirst for stirring things up and politics was just the thing. He struck out with a more unconventional and often controversial voice that had many readers incensed but truly got their attention and response. Those were my early lessons in reader engagement.

The more I read Uncle Gord’s columns, the keener my interest for writing became. I was fascinated about how he developed his storylines, how he captured interest and attention through the words he fashioned, how he painted a picture through every story told. The tremendous power and effectiveness of his word and phrase use and his very sentence composition was a marvel. I even fascinated at how each and every paragraph transitioned so fluidly to the next.

As a teenager, I was beginning to have a strong sense of where my career direction was meant to be. I decided to go on to college and study journalism. My interest and apparent strength lay in the printed media. I would work for newspapers, reporting stories from out in the field about any number of interesting subjects. I would interview important and learned people in order to establish and support my storylines.

While my passion for writing continued to grow during my college studies, the romance with journalistic reporting lost its shine, its polish for me and I did not pursue completion of those studies nor that vocation in life. Still, I would eventually forge on to management roles with a Crown Corporation that would be the beginnings of a life-long career in property and facility management. It was during those thirty years as a professional in the real estate management industry that I would apply extensive written communications on a daily basis.

Once I experienced the managerial roles in the real property industry, it was then that I quickly became aware of just how important effective written, and oral, communications would be in the course of my daily management and reporting of property operations to our clients. I was required to communicate in a clear, concise, informative and persuasive way, with clients from all walks of life. I would address property issues through all matter of supportive external service providers of daily or periodic services to our clients from trades-related contractors to architects, engineers, lawyers and industry professionals.

The strict rule of thumb within that Crown Corporation and all of the subsequent private sector firms that I was engaged by was to provide factually sound, informative and engaging communications and written reports to all clients and stakeholders. My accuracy and effective ‘voice’ through my written communications had to be delivered with the utmost clarity, consultative expertise and meticulous in its execution every single time documents were distributed from my desk. Critical decision processes were imminent from my communications.

Anticipating the extent of my focus on the written word moving forward after secondary school, I undertook to study intense, in-depth elective and college courses in English, grammar, and business management and communications as a precursor to my successive management years in a career that truly demanded exceptional oral and written communications skills. There would be absolutely no room for contextual error when it came to professional communications whether oral or written.

I learned the fundamentals of a storyline and communications development right from the opening sentence to set the voice and tone of the piece and what the reader could expect throughout its message, to the main body of the content delivery and final paragraphs that drew informative recommendations and conclusions. The content that I wrote was very often extensive in nature and complexity and was ultimately eight to ten or more pages in length. Even at that length, I was to cover a high volume of information and client recommendations in a clear and concise manner. Brevity to the point of confusion was never an option on the table. A lot was at stake if my message was somehow misconstrued.

The Art of Reader Engagement

The strength in communicating in an ‘engaging’ way goes far beyond mere logistics and factually informative report writing. In addition to writing highly informative content, the reader’s attention easily becomes distracted, especially the longer the overall length and depth of a piece is. Writing in a conversational voice becomes an essential element of reader engagement more now than ever before.

People’s time is harried; condensed into split seconds of engagement or distraction. Get to the point and give the reader what they are looking for and the sooner the better. Cut out superfluous content that would otherwise be characterized as ‘fluff’. Cut to the chase and make your point, especially from a content marketing perspective! What people will engage in is informative content that identifies the very problem they are experiencing and how best to go about fixing that problem, making their lives better, easier, more efficient, more cost-effective and enjoyable.

We often view ‘art’ as an ‘expression’, a unique and creative oral, written or painted/sculpted delivery of one’s thoughts or ideas whether spoken, on paper or online, even physically formed in an artful way that brings a pleasurable, inspired audio or visual experience to its audience. The beauty of any art form is strictly in the eye of the beholder…or is it? Is the perception of art by design for the divine graces of the beholder or is it mere aggrandization of its creator?

The art of reader engagement is all about the reader experience.

Today, when appealing to the emotions of your intended reading audience in writing, the critical element that delivers ties that bind is forming a connection with our readers through their emotional response to our content. Speak to your audience in a conversational tone…share with your readers through your own voice rather than second or third person.

When you relay a story as part of your message delivery, infuse the human touches that your audience can directly relate to. Consider a love story unfolding in your novel. What is the lighting like? Is it overpowering, glaring, unromantic or gently subdued? Are your characters yelling out to each other from separate rooms or are they close, but a movement’s touching away? How are they breathing? What are they gazing at? Are they resisting or embracing the imminent connection? What is the tone of their voice in conversation? Is it a matter of fact, suggestive, evocative?

How do we know we are making that important connection?

As writers, much of what we write is intuitive, off the cuff, instinctive progressions of ideas and circumstance which tend to lead the story where it is willed to go. It may follow our intended path of logical direction and flow but it also may weave its own directions between points A to B as would feel most natural under the circumstances.

We are a curious lot as creatives. We write as it feels good to ourselves. We develop a smug reliance on our instincts for brilliant situational development and resolution. Nancy is falling in love with Tom and that is how the story will end…right? Well, not necessarily. Writing as creatives, we hunger for what lies outside the box, the surprise element, a long way from what may seem logical.

In the literal sense, an artist will begin their project with very little or no sense of what they are about to create and allow the construction to go where it will. Here is what I, as a creative, experience when writing poetry or prose:

  • I first develop a conceptual idea for each piece.
  • As with a storyline, I envision a beginning, middle and an end.
  • I begin to write my piece from that concept.
  • I always have that ending in mind yet most often new ideas form in my mind and the piece takes on an entirely different direction and meaning.
  • I structure or shape my ending, my close, based on a new and fluid conclusion to the piece as it has progressed.

During its writing, I read back every word, every line, and every stanza repeatedly. Is its progression fluid, is it clear and engaging? With each new line, I read back again, always repeating that analytical process. I am incessantly reading back through the eyes of my readers, always. It is the reader experience that is paramount. Am I evoking an emotional response? Is it appealing and compelling for its intended audience or would it better be expressed another way?

I obsess on whether the reader is tearing up or grinning from ear to ear. Am I just being a coy and manipulative ass or am I producing something truly meaningful and never self-serving? Now, self-serving is a whole other matter to address and even though one’s content should never be overtly that, there is a quiet sense, as a writer, of the desired self-fulfillment, always. Still, my content always aims to resonate with its intended reader…without exception.

Content Revisions

Regardless of the genre or intended audience, whether a fictional novel, a university dissertation, business communication, content marketing or advertising copy, the primary objective is to write content that fully resonates with the reader. It has to echo, in other words, the reader should be able to relate personally to the content. It should invoke an emotional response. Editing or revision of content brings that content to its most clear and concise delivery while still delivering an enriching experience for the reader. The ambiguous becomes more clear, more appealing and a more natural progression toward the conclusion of the chapter or piece overall.

Revision fine-tunes, makes greater sense, hones in on specifics, filtering out redundancy, superfluous wording, laying bare a truer and more assuming path for the reader to walk along. When describing an action or reaction, use specific description to clearly explain a character’s train of thought to substantiate their response.

As you write, place yourself squarely in the shoes of the character in the moment. Each of their actions or reactions must emulate their personality under a particular circumstance and how that might change during other extenuating circumstances. It has to fit. If your reader does a quick about face there is an immediate and confusing disconnect. As the architect of the story, we need to always be acutely aware of the logical action and reaction that fits each situation and its participants.

In the writing process, if I have done my job you should be sensing the emotions of the characters and in response, you may well feel emotions of your own whether empathy or sadness, supportive or standoffish. In the course of reading, we experience our own sense of emotional responses, some that are powerful enough that our general response to similar circumstances in real life may change in kind. If we are going to interject an out-of-character response in the story we better resolve that displaced response with reasoning accordingly.

What does a creative writer do?

When I say ‘creative writer’ I am doing so from a fictional perspective as well as in the sense of written communications business to business or other specific targeted audience. We are ‘creatives’ in the sense of how we develop our content or copy. We develop the words and message for our intended audience and purpose, right?

We create or write and then were reread over and over again. Then we revise our content or copy through a series of tweaks as we examine our words, under the microscope, from every angle. Does it suit? Does it appeal? Does it invoke the intended response? Does it compel the reader’s own response and/or desired action? We must always read through the eyes of our audience.

We must always be mindful that each and every reader has their own personality, their own belief structure, their own likes, dislikes and reactions to what they see, what they hear and feel when they are reading. Our content should always compliment the reader’s intelligence and innate sensibilities, their potential personality, sense of humor and logic, wit and fancy.

Revisions are for the benefit of the reader and rightly so. Anticipate the changes being made during the editing process and how that might alter the reactions and responses of your readers in kind. Anticipate your readers’ perspective from various angles. As a writer, gauge your own responses as you read back your content and ask yourself how your varied and diverse readership would react in kind.

Build on your story through anticipation

Whether writing your first novel, business communication or advertising copy, it is essential that you write and revise through the anticipation of what it is your readers will be anticipating as they read progressively through your content and how they will react or respond. From a content marketing and advertising copy perspective, register a problem that you know your targeted audience is experiencing, build on the emotions being felt about that problem and show your audience how you can help them overcome that problem.

The approach to writing your novel is not dissimilar. Build a problem into a situation or scene, carefully anticipate your readers’ potential reactions or emotional responses and move the story or message forward with a most logical conclusion or solution to that particular problem.

Write with purpose and direction but the flexibility to allow for change

As writers, we fashion ourselves as conductors of an orchestra; flapping our arms and hands as directional overtures that guide our individual and collective musicians to act and react in response to the intended course of the composition score. As the music plays out in response to our direction, sometimes a wayward yet keenly enthusiastic and artistic soul among the collective throws in their own sense of musical prowess. As a conductor with an acute sense of hearing, you sense an errant series of notes, subtly off course yet curiously intriguing to be sure.

So you strike out for the cessation of sound as you awkwardly collect your thoughts. Then and without undue fuss request that the wayward musician replay that series of notes, audacity aside! Much to your astonishment, you, the masterful conductor, suddenly experience the unexpected; an alternate yet surprisingly pleasing and well-suited interjection of background accompaniment that works even better than the original score. What follows would be a rather furious recording of the new and preferred enhancement of the musical score, with a discreet nod to your ‘co-writer’ as subtle approval and signal to the collective to repeat the overture accordingly.

We must read back our work with an open and receptive mind to change.

Regardless of the source, our intuition becomes imperative in the moment. Trust your instincts, gauge your reader response and go with the subtle nuances of revision as the story or message progresses and as we read back repeatedly during the editing process.

It is the allowance for unexpected change that will shape and reshape our story or message in the most meaningful ways. As in life, we experience many twists and turns in the journey and must adapt to those changes which, for the most part, are positive. We can always alter our course when anticipated changes are not the most suitable to the storyline, message and solution conveyed.

Have you ever sat bolt upright in bed, shocked out of a dead sleep only to groggily awake to brilliant notions for a piece you are writing? Has it caused you to laugh out loud in the triumphant glory that such a critical idea would somehow startle you out of dream state, about your writing project no less, and render your storyline or copy superbly better conveyed? Well, I certainly have experienced that flash of unexpected light and regardless its origin it had me scrambling for the light switch and my pen and writing pad to get it down before the thought drifted in tatters out the open window!

Never take for granted the subtleties of revision on the winds of change. Some things were just meant to be!

Subscribe to the Lasting Impressions Editing Newsletter

© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

Social Media Marketing; Audience Reach for Business on Facebook


alheva_facebookHave you captured a presence on Facebook? The giant social media platform has garnered a huge audience reach as the leading social marketing platform on the internet today. Have you seen measurable results from that marketing reach or focused in another direction out of frustration?

Social media marketing efforts in today’s business environment face abundant challenges yet not insurmountable by any means. Social media platforms have undergone remarkable change over the years and will continue to evolve to address changes in the marketplace, search engine algorithms and how internet users ultimately utilize those platforms.

Seeking to establish and develop brand awareness and harness lead capture can indeed be frustrating for many businesses challenged with a juggle between available marketing capital , time and human resources to pursue marketing objectives to best advantage. An effective strategy is essential to your successes and without that strategy effectively implemented your efforts could well produce only marginal results.

Facebook has proven to be a very successful marketing channel and their statistical data bears that out. The mammoth social media platform will continue to play a strong role in the marketing focus of business enterprise as their momentum continues to gain and produce even greater results as anticipated in the foreseeable future.

Facebook Stats to Consider Carefully

  • Nearly 80% of all internet users, globally, use Facebook and fully 68% of those users are adults in the U.S. alone. Facebook user numbers are projected to swell to nearly 170 million in the U.S. by 2018.
  • Facebook continues to be the top social network globally in terms of membership with an 84% share. That’s staggering!
  • Nearly 1.8 billion users each month, globally, actively use the mammoth social platform with close to 1.2 billion people logging on to the site. Consider the potential of capturing the attention and engagement of even a fraction of that enormous audience potential.
  • Statistics reveal user habits which indicate that half of those users aged 18-24 log in to Facebook when they rise each morning. Being aware of such analytics for your targeted market is critically telling in terms of the best time of day to post for optimum targeted user reach.
  • Close to 30% of Facebook users are in the 25-35 age bracket which represents the most common user demographic. This is a prime target audience to reach out to for your expanded reach and potential new lead capture and sales conversion potential.
  • Work toward creating and sharing your quality content to that broad audience in a relatively economical cost range that won’t put a tremendous strain on your marketing budget.
  • Stats reflect an average user presence of 20 minutes or more with many browsing considerably longer means ample opportunity to gain valuable exposure through that audience in terms of website traffic, engagement and conversion activity.
  • Quality videos that provide informational and entertainment value for viewers has become a huge element of user engagement and establishing relationships, both elements crucial in social media platform marketing today. Consider this: daily Facebook user video views now exceeds 8 billion views every day. Including this powerful tool in your social media strategy has the potential to pay off in numerous ways. Be sure to share videos that bear strong relevance to your targeted audience’ interests to ensure their engagement and desired response.
  • Plan for consistent implementation of your social media advertising on Facebook, as with other social media platforms. Maintaining a presence in front of your targeted audience is essential. Facebook’s live video is quickly adding a new dynamic to the social media marketing strategy as well.
  • Persistence is the key. Establish your marketing strategy, stay the course with a balanced plan that works within your business marketing budget allocation and modify audience targeting parameters set in your Facebook ads to ensure optimum engagement and increased traffic and following.
  • Remember that in 2017 and beyond, the focus is transitioning to more and more direct interaction with your targeted audience; that is conversing in a meaningful way with individuals. Develop meaningful relationships through genuine dialogue that is beneficial to both parties. Quality content will continue to be important but increase time devoted to quality, meaningful online conversations with the audience you connect with. Mutual and genuine interests shared is the new focus to be sure to incorporate on a regular basis as a means to build an audience for a better bottom line. Outright selling on every single post on social media platforms is no longer effective. Personal connection is key.

Taking Critical Steps to Solidify Relationships & Marketing Results

  1. Determine clearly in advance who your ideal market is. Then develop post content that will be most appealing to that targeted audience. Monitor closely how your audience is responding; are they engaging through likes, comments and shares? If not, revisit your content strategy and test new content to find out what works well for your own audience.
  2. Plan an organized and scheduled marketing strategy. Increase the value of your blog content by eliminating superfluous fluff and getting right to the valuable core elements that your audience will benefit from. Be aware of upcoming changes that are anticipated with respect to the importance of blogging moving forward. Trends are always in transition mode. Take advantage of social media scheduling platforms like Hootsuite.com for greater efficiencies in your time allocation for the promotion of your brand.
  3. Continue to ensure that you are posting increasingly meaningful, beneficial, quality content with the infusion of value driven textual, video and image content that your audience will become more engaged in. That content must be relevant to their interests.
  4. Be sure to optimize your Facebook business page to ensure high quality content that includes critical keywords that will enhance your page’s visibility on the search engines. Make sure that in doing so sentences read back organically; that is, in a natural sequence of wording and sentence progression as opposed to intermittently inserting those keywords. Also ensure that your business page has an effective description that fully identifies the product or services you are offering.
  5. Incorporate a solid ‘call to action’ on your business page that will prompt followers to respond in a compelling way with the desire to seek further information about what you have to offer. You always want your audience to desire and be able to take the next step…to find out more through URL links to your website.
  6. Hire a social media professional who is fully conversant with the dynamics of effective Facebook advertising setup and strategy, audience targeting, analytics and more. Attempting to implement your Facebook ads on your own may result in frustration when the results may be less than you had anticipated.
  7. Become actively engaged (yourself) on and through your personal and business pages by following, likes, comments, and sharing of other users’ posts and pages and also connecting meaningfully on relevant Facebook groups as they continue to be of increasing importance to your social media marketing strategies.

Author Book Publishing Guidelines; Need to Know


As an author, probably one of the last things you want to even think about are publishing guidelines. Am I right? As a published writer and textual content editor I know only too well just how overwhelming the publishing requirements can be, especially when your highest priority is the quality of your book manuscript content.

I have used the Amazon.com logo to accompany this article not out of any bias, rather, to share many of the content and formatting ‘guidelines’ that Amazon stipulates in their overall terms of use which are common to most publishers. Again, remember that publisher guidelines do vary to a degree, thus the critical advance review necessary by all authors. Always keep in mind that even with the same publisher platform used repeatedly, over time the publishers make changes to their guidelines and publishing software so you need to be acutely aware of current guidelines in advance of writing and publishing a new book.

Disregard the foregoing at your own peril, frustration and stressful experience finding out that, after writing your book or novel, you now have to backtrack to make time-consuming and costly changes to modify those issues that arise during the submission process where content formatting conflicts with publisher requirements. Having a clear, advance understanding of all content and formatting guidelines will save you, the author, a lot of time, anxiety and expense to resolve issues that become evident during the submission and online preview stages and thereby also mitigating extra cost to hire someone to fix the problems.

Even if you have a regular proofreader/editor, hand over a manuscript that is as clean and guideline compliant as possible to minimize the cost for that editor to resolve conflicting issues, especially those on the formatting side which can translate into hours of work undoing evident format problems.

Be aware that publishing houses will most often reject your manuscript because of  conflicting content and formatting issues and request that you have all issues resolved and then resubmit your manuscript for their further scrutiny before allowing it to be published live to the retail level. The publisher is indeed a stake holder who wants to ensure that quality products are published under their name and were they to ignore content quality issues, they too would be losing revenue on lost current and future sales potential.

Let’s get down to some basics that every author must consider and make decisions on in advance of manuscript submission. My comments are based on my own knowledge and experience and not those of Amazon or any other publisher/distributor. As Amazon is the largest book publication distributor globally today with a half-dozen publishing platforms and counting, I will base most of my observations on their content and formatting guidelines which really should be the compass for any author planning to publish today. The majority of my client publishing services have involved Amazon and each client’s chosen publishing platform. See Amazon Content Guidelines and Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines for more information.

Priority 1; Select Your Publisher

Before you put ‘pen to paper’, even before deciding on a title and mapping out your storyline and key elements of your characters, settings, geographical locations, genre and more, chose your publishing platform first! Why start with the publishing platform decision? Read on. Continue reading “Author Book Publishing Guidelines; Need to Know”

Authors; The Editorial Services Decision


Are you an author struggling with who you will hire to edit your book manuscript? You’re not alone! In this article I will explore this critical decision process and how best to come to that critical decision. There have been countless resources published on and offline regarding this difficult author decision process.

Perhaps this is your first time engaging a proofreading or editorial professional and there is that element of unknown. Is this person competent, experienced and efficient with their work? Do they have the right perspective and work approach for your publishing needs? Is he or she a good fit overall for you to work with and will the results be as you had expected, better or worse?

The proofreading and editing processes are, to a degree, a consultative process, especially in the early stages. Periodic questions arise that require the client’s clarification and as such the author needs to be prepared for some interaction to that end. That consultative approach helps the editorial professional to establish a clear understanding of their client’s intentions and expectations from the beginning and helps to stream line the process to a more efficient conclusion.

How does all this relate to a decision on who the author should hire for their manuscript services? Quite plain and simply put, the more inclined the editor is to taking the consultative approach, the better the results upon completion of the review and revision process and the happier the client (author) will obviously be. The book editing process is not just a drop and run process and “I’ll see you when you’re finished.”

I have had clients who have had terrible experiences with editors they have previously hired and for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there was insufficient fact finding and discovery up front. Perhaps either party was in too big a hurry to get the job started and completed before taking adequate time to get a sense of whether they were right for each other to begin with. In the case of those bad experiences, my clients have on occasion approached me initially out of sheer frustration and anxiety because valuable time had been wasted and their targeted publishing date was drawing near.

The Editor Search Criteria

Authors may be unsure what criteria to use when selecting a suitable editor for their book manuscript analysis and revision. Quite often the author has undertaken to self-edit his or her own manuscript content and is unsure whether they even need a proofreader or editor in the first place despite colleagues’ urging to get that objective second look.

As a starting point, the author should assess a personal budget level for the editing services before even picking up the phone to contact potential editing candidates. How much can you afford comfortably? The basis for budget considerations should always be twofold; the affordability of the services for you alone and the value you place on that service to begin with.

Consider what importance you place on having error-free manuscript content, grammatically sound with an objective eye assessing the quality of the content and whether its storyline is consistent throughout. Has the content been structured effectively and with fluid continuity from one paragraph to the next and one page to the next and so on?

Is the editing services cost your sole factor rounding out your final decision on who to hire? Have you researched to determine what competitor fees are and why the differences in fee structure in the editorial industry? Each editorial professional, as independent business persons, will set their own fee structure.

Another important factor to consider is testimonial reviews published on the editor’s website such as those testimonials found here on the home and testimonial page and any other relevant information that might be found through internet searches. Art the website testimonials strictly quoted statements or are those statements qualified by the client’s name and photograph, perhaps even contact information?

Information for discovery:

  • Schedule a date and time to either meet in person over coffee, at the editor’s office or if they are more distant arrange for a telephone conversation/interview.
  • Has former/current client information been shared such as whether clients are primarily one-time arrangements or are there ongoing, longer term associations?
  • Seek referrals from other offers for suitable candidates to consider.
  • Review websites and professional editing/author communities online to see the kind of interaction that occurs between the parties and how they respond to each others’ perspective. What kind of impression are you sensing about the individual?
  • Refer to professional editors directories and association listings.
  • Scrutinize the editor’s website for client testimonials, a client portfolio and samples of editing project documents. Reading the editor’s blog articles will provide a good indication of their level of authority/expertise in various aspects of editing and proofreading services.
  • Does the editor’s services extend beyond proofreading or editing? Do they provide other publishing services i.e. manuscript formatting for print and digital media publishing? Do they provide manuscript interior and cover submission services to conclude the publication process?
  • What assurances does the editor offer regarding the maintaining of the stylistic integrity of your work including your own distinctive voice and style? Most authors develop those distinct writing characteristics that clearly define their ‘signature’ and ‘brand’ that their readers identify with strongly and favor as preferred reading.
  • As the author, be clear on the editor’s role and the scope and depth of services agreed upon in advance.
  • Many editors request a representative sample of the manuscript i.e. several pages in advance for them to provide a trial review and revision which serves to give the editor a comfortable sense of what level of editing to expect for the remainder of the manuscript and on completion a sample suggested change markup copy for the author’s perusal to gain a sense of what they can expect from the editor moving forward.
  • Query the editor on how they would address unexpected issues that might arise during the editing process. Might there be additional services in those instances and how the overall cost would be affected?
  • Does the editor provide a written services agreement which clearly stipulates what services are included, cost itemization for each separate service and other relevant terms and addendums. Service agreements are an important part of the author/editor relationship because it clearly defines services mutually agreed to and protects both parties as a formalized and binding document.

The Hiring Decision

Be careful not to be hasty with your hiring decision. Take as many advance steps in the discovery phase as you feel you need to be sure in your own mind which editorial candidate feels right for you. Don’t prejudge an editor or proofreader solely on the basis of what others have stated in reviews whether good, bad or indifferent. There are many dynamics at play between both parties to the service. Decide objectively what is best for you based on your own project needs.

Don’t forget to get acquainted and get comfortable with each other. Consider the following:

  • Have your questions been addressed fully and openly or were the responses superficial, vague or evasive?
  • Is there a genuine friendliness or artificial over/undertones to the conversation?
  • Does the editor appear engaged and interested in your project or seemingly in a hurry to disengage and end the conversation quickly?
  • Compare several candidates and in doing so be consistent with your line of questioning, topics covered and not bringing everything down to the cost factor alone. Consider very carefully what your objectives are for your publishing project including the potential results once the publication is released and goes live at the retail level.
  • Consider what merit and experience the editor will bring to the table as the project moves forward. Are you both receptive to the process as you understand it?
  • Remember that strict budget constraints can impose limitations not only on how much the editor can do for you but also that ultimately those limitations can affect the final product quality and overall results/performance of your publication upon its release. There is potential for disappointment if results are not as anticipated and the possible desire/need for further editing services at additional cost and the process of publishing a second edition of the book.

In closing I’ll leave with you publishing authority Jane Friedman‘s guest article by Stacy Ennis titled ‘5 Ways to Find The Right Freelance Book Editor‘. You will also see the host’s link to her guide for author publishing titled ‘Publishing 101’. I have been following Jane Friedman for years now. Her comprehensive volume of reference and resource material and her own perspective on the publishing industry and authoring process is valuable insight for all authors to engage in and consider in pursuit of a better publishing experience.

© Don MacIver, Editor, Lasting Impressions Editing 2016

Audience Centric & Letter Perfect


A photo by Alejandro Escamilla. unsplash.com/photos/y83Je1OC6WcReader engagement has never had greater focus and it all comes down to audience connection through line by line content and storyline development that resonates powerfully, stimulates appeal and leaves the reader with a highly impressionable and memorable experience.

Whether the written works of an author, poet, writer, business professional, marketing copy or a personal account, the composition must convey a compelling message that invokes reader response. The English language is for many an intricate, complex and confusing tangle of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and adjectives…the list goes on and on and what it all comes down to is choosing the right words in a clean, concise presentation and in a distinctly characteristic way that bears the unique voice and brand of its author.

When clients come to me they do so because they have specific and varied needs relating to the final presentation of their written project. They want to put their best foot forward and rightly so. For the author, standing out means competing against a rapidly growing authorship community that has vastly greater publication resources and options than ever before. They can opt for traditional print or electronic formats through self-publishing or publishing house services in varied levels of content development, marketing and distribution. Choosing a proofing or editing professional to help ensure accuracy, error-free, polished conveyance of our story has become an integral part of the publication process.

The business or marketing professional can outsource the challenge and tedious, time-consuming process of transitioning a draft copy to an error-free, fluid, polished communication that compels the targeted audience to actionable, measurable response. The very business of audience engagement has evolved tremendously over the past few decades and very few individuals can take on the various elements of developing and fine tuning effective communications and authored works independently…it takes a team effort.

When the product is finally presentation or publication ready the next challenge is getting that product, that compelling story out to the masses, delivering the message to the right audience and marketplace, on or offline..and that takes expertise all of its own. That our written communications have to stand out above the rest is an understatement.

There are vast resources available for understanding best practices of the day in terms of content development, management and conveyance. The dynamics of website content, keyword and meta tagging selection and related applications are perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face in promoting our products and services online. Internet is the medium of choice as reaching a global audience for many is critical to the growth and success of their business or creative endeavors. I have favored numerous reference and resource providers over the years as an author, writer, poet and business person.

Amoung my favoured sources of current and ever-changing dynamics in the world of communications and publication are SiteProNews for breaking technological, social media and search engine news, one of the most-read sources of expertise in their field. As an author I frequent Writer’s Digest for its wealth of information author centric, Writers Market for author publication reference and resources.

For the author who needs a little help with the grammatical side of their storytelling a good reference resource is found in the Grammarly Handbook and whether wearing the hat of an author, writer, poet, editor or business professional I have an open resource such as Dictionary Reference at my fingertips while writing any creative or business composition. Having both dictionary and thesaurus components is critical in not only conveyance of error-free content but also to discover and implement alternative and unique ways of written expression through synonyms and metaphoric phraseology. It all makes for better, more compelling reading and response.

Last and perhaps most importantly of all, as communicators in whatever form of creative or business writing we need to ensure that we not only stimulate thought and response mechanisms in our readers’ experience…we need to connect with them through their emotional response to our message. Our content can be exemplary in its composition, highly informative and engaging but unless we can make a critical, personal connection with our readers in a way that they can relate we will never fully accomplish our publication objectives.

In terms of connection, ask yourself this…why do romance novels sell millions of copies annually, why do bestseller publications of any kind, whether mystery, fantasy, poetic, science fiction, motivational, historical, geographical, autobiographical or other blockbuster book, magazine or other published medium historically sell to the masses year after year, decade after decade in such huge numbers?

When we discover the key to touching the human spirit, mind, heart and soul, only then will we fully understand emotive writing, audience centric and letter perfect, for the ultimate reader and audience response…and that, my friends means powerful human connection.

© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2016

 

%d bloggers like this: