Friday, April 29, 2005

Bad (blue) Ferret!

I haven't done a single cold call this week.

Why? Been way too busy.

Now, that's a good thing (despite the long nights), but I'm still a little peeved with myself. Cold-calling may not be the most enjoyable activity, but it's a time-honored method of getting clients. I want to keep up a regular schedule of cold calls - it's not like I'd run out of prospects, sitting in the SF Bay Area like I do - but that scheduling's the biggest hassle.

In other news, part of the reason I've been busy is that I had a meeting with a prospective client this week! A very friendly design group in Sausalito called Design Center Solutions. We went over several of their products, including an online training program called Training Space with a LOT of potential. It's clear everyone there is an experienced professional in their field, and I'm sure I'll learn a great deal from them in the course of working together.

Right, back to scheduling! See you all next week!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Do YOU Know The Right Word?

"The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." --Mark Twain

I first saw these words on a sheet of famous quotes, tacked to a door in a trailer-office camped on my old college's campus. The trailer was the makeshift office for the English department, until the new administration complex could be built. I remember it all very clearly (except the name of the professor whose door it was!).

This particular quote struck me because of my lifelong fascination with words. It inspired me to include "the right words" in my tagline of "We ferret out the right words for your business!"

There are literally endless combinations between words, across other languages, between dialects, and in various spheres of influence. Everyone uses them differently, and yet there are certain ways in which they must line up to be properly effective. In what way depends on both who is giving them and who is receiving them. The minutiae is emblematic of entire systems of communication between individuals, groups, societies, nations, and even (dare I be so bold?) worlds.

So, next time you're writing something - a memo, a report, even an email to a friend - think about those words you're using. A careful choice is all that's needed to make the difference between your work flopping along like a squished bug...or pounding into someone with the force of lightning.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A Poll! With Paws!

I'm looking for opinions. From you, my readers!

(And hey, it'd be nice to know if someone actually READS my keyboard spewage.)

I'm thinking of joining LinkedIn (, a network for individuals and professionals. The site looks clean, efficient, and capable of great communication between Netizens. A copywriter could find himself quite at home among such a crowd.

But, I always like to hear what the people have to say. Word-of-mouth being the most effective and honest form of marketing, you know. So, what do you think? Do you belong to LinkedIn? Hot or cold? Regular or decaf?

Drop me a comment here, or if you prefer privacy, email me at . Your email address will never be shared. I hate spam too. Thanks!

--Blue Ferret

Monday, April 18, 2005

Proofreed You Writign

I'm going to pass on a very useful link for the time-crunched in business (that's just about everyone!)
How to Proofread Your Writing

One thing I particularly like about this article is that it emphasizes the inability of spell check to catch certain grammatical mishaps people commonly do. Like the their/they're/there problem. I frequently encounter the your/you're problem too, and despite all my protests, people actually think the words are totally interchangeable!

Spell check can't and won't catch everything. It's an automation; it only catches what it knows to catch. Anything above it, beyond it, or simply outside of it will get passed by, and you'll be left with a document that has glaring errors in it. Not the best mark of professionalism if you hand your boss a memo that says, "Your invited to the company picnic next month. Their will be hot dogs, games..."

Proofreading is just as important as writing. It's way too easy to miss something, and have it come back to bite you. Print out your document and go over it. Ask someone else to take a look and see what jumps out. Hire a proofreader if it's a big document, or you have other priorities.

(P.S. - Yes, the title screw-ups are intentional. I'm messing with your heads...all of them, man!)

Friday, April 15, 2005

Collateral and Job Fairs

I toured a career fair on Sonoma State University's campus Thursday. Many prominent local employers, government agencies, and school divisions were out and about.

Sheer volume got to me. Sheer volume of collateral. Brochures, flyers, corporate reviews, employment listings, policy sheets, and more. Whoever wrote these pieces had quite a lot of output, and surely did well.

But what I noticed was that most of the recruiters were not willing to talk to me ABOUT that writing. They either treated the collateral as insignificant, or treated me as incapable of understanding the corporate processes necessary to create such work.

Quite depressing, to say the least. When collateral is viewed as insignificant, it reduces my faith in the company's confidence & trustworthiness. When managers treat me as some lesser person because I'm not wearing a suit at the same time they're talking, it hampers my ability to respect their professionalism. Sure, I realize they're expecting to speak to only students, but a moment of conversation should illustrate the kind of person you're talking to, so you can adjust accordingly.

If you're not proud of the writing your company has available to describe them, then you need to understand why that is. Is it because you don't value writing? Then you should read up on the power of the written word, and its impression on potential customers. Is it because you feel the writing available is poor quality? Then by all means, get new writing! It's not that expensive, and it can pay huge dividends in the end.

Think about this: impressions are developed within moments, but the best decisions are informed ones. What's going to inform a potential employee more, a 30-second schpiel from a recruiter obviously suffering from "not-wanting-to-be-here"-itis, or a foldout collateral piece with lots of company info and several reasons why employees enjoy their work there? Maybe a couple testimonials from managers or customers? Which makes the argument in favor of applying to work at your company? Which breaks it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I believe this is called an "Ah HA! Moment"

I was reading an article from Michael Masterson's Early to Rise newsletter yesterday evening (if you don't know who he is, Masterson is considered a Hercules of modern marketing - go to at once and sign up. The newsletter benefits ALL businesses), and he said something in there that got my attention. He was talking about how he makes all his emails address only one idea. Good advice, and a good practice.

What got me thinking was the fact that I have several prospects asking about brochures right now, and I thought, "Couldn't this one-idea-only be applied to a brochure?" Sure, brochures must convey a good amount of information about a product, service or company in only a few thin pages. But shouldn't they be built around one overarching idea?

Hence, I came up with my new mantra for brochures: "Say one thing, and say it well."

What does this mean? It means there should always be one idea behind every word on a brochure. If it's for a one-man shop just starting out, that idea's going to be, "Here's why I'm the man to see for this particular service." If it's a corporate division overview, the idea will be, "All our employees work toward producing this particular value for our company." You get the picture. (If not, email me and I'll explain).

Monday, April 11, 2005


Hey, I found a way to crash Mozilla Firefox!

Have at least 3 tabs open, and then type 'blog' into the Google search.

Boom. Dead. Frozen like a Jehovah's Witness in a hearse's headlights. I've really got to remember to SAVE my visited pages more often. *grumbles and goes back to relocating all the companies he was going to contact*

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Blogging Mini-Case Study

(Darn Blogger wouldn't let me post all day Friday!)

The more I read, the more I become fascinated by blogging. Not so much the aspect of content that I (always) enjoy, but more the institution of communication it foments. People take a simple, almost-universal platform and transform it like a Rubik's cube until it meets their communications ideal.

Back in January I consulted with an East Bay IT support firm. The first client on their agenda was a moderate-sized company (about 20-25 employees) who had severe communications problems with their customers AND between departments! It involved financial trade values and rates - numbers constantly fluctuating. They needed a platform that would centralize all their information, make it easy to update, and allow for notices to be sent to customers when rates changed.

What did I suggest? A blog.

It was the first time I'd suggested a blog as a solution, but it fit perfectly. Centralized medium (the Web), easy to update by anyone (posts), customers can be notified at once (email blasts or RSS feeds). Boom! Problem solved. I'm not sure how they're doing now, but the idea was VERY well-received.

And here I am, talking on a blog to you. Now you've read a mini-case study, gained a bit of information, and possibly recognized some of the versatility of this fascinating medium. Isn't that what communication is about?

For better communication throughout your company, contact Blue Ferret Communications.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

We Regret To Inform You...

Sorry, there will be no calling today.

Yes, I know, all you businesses out there are in desperate need of a writer to swoop in and save your Web projects and marketing collateral from the dreaded circular file (*insert B-movie dramatic background music!*). But the truth is, I just can't call today.

Why? I have a very sore throat.

My vacation last week was in a region that has substantially drier air than the air where I am currently. The humidity change sometimes provokes a dry throat. This time, however, it just got nasty. Yesterday I croaked a lot, but I felt okay enough to make some calls and catch-ups. Today however, I woke up feeling like someone had sprayed me with asbestos during my sleep.

So, rather than subject marketing & communications directors to a voice on their phones that sounds like a frog with emphysema, I'll forego the calling today and work on trying to improve for tomorrow. There is a tradeshow Wednesday that I will be at, and I'll need to talk up a storm! At least, one without a lot of rumbling thunder!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A brief absence

AGH! I didn't update! Sorry, sorry. Last week was a break I took, and so was not even in the office for Wednesday through Friday. Monday and Tuesday were productive calling days, though. I'm very pleased with the responses I got, and look forward to getting more this coming week. I'm a little behind schedule on my follow-ups, but it shouldn't be too hard to catch up.

I suppose I didn't vacation ENTIRELY - I attended a Chamber of Commerce mixer Thursday evening. It was a smaller mixer, in both attendance and location. The place was very cramped; people were finding crevices and hallways to expand into. I wound up doing what I've coined "the mixer walk," where you hold your arms flat to your sides, turn a shoulder toward the onslaught of humanity, and shuffle side-to-side like a mechanical crab. It works, though people looked at me funny. However, that could have been due to my ferrety mascot, Bloo, being in my pocket.

I did notice one thing that puzzled me - an inordinately high number of mortgage brokers and consultants. It was not my impression that such an industry was so booming it needed dozens of these agents within one demographic. I must be wrong, and if so, best of luck to all of you!

There was information exchange, a few possible projects...and I met another writer (yay!), with whom I'm sure I'll speak about business later. Evidently I'm much more technical than she, and she deals in some industries I'm not very good in. So, an equitable exchange of work seems already in place!

That's all for now - I'm off for a jog to try to shake off this lethargy brought on by Daylight Savings Time.