Debt – The Silent Assassin

  “History is splattered with the broken dreams of debtors.  Debt kills hope, invites despair, anxiety and ongoing hardship.  Silently.”    The Victorians punished debt.  Today, debt is a way of life for millions.  It’s well hidden – but scratch the surface and see what you get… Debt isn’t always about greed, or naïveté – or even crass stupidity.  It can be about misfortune, ill health, bad luck, bad timing – call them ‘hard luck stories’ if you will. Debt shatters lives.  In the old days, harsh punishments were meted out, in part to humiliate, but also to deter others who may have had the temerity to dice with the dangers of LSD (pound, shillings and pence, that is). Debt Is Punishing Anyone who’s been in serious debt will know that the anxieties and animosities it generates are punishment enough in themselves.  In today’s world, loan sharks take no prisoners; payday loan companies (until the Financial Conduct Authority stepped in recently) added insult to injury by compounding the interest on small debts to unmanageable levels; whilst credit card companies and their ilk have an awesome array of legal options to make a ‘pinned-out rat’ of anyone who transgresses. In the old days, people like Oscar Wilde were thrown into debtors’ prison.  Others, for a variety of reasons, ended up in the workhouse, grim Victorian institutions that gave fulsome meaning to having to ‘sing for your supper’. Members of today’s ‘Benefit Street’ underclass don’t know they’re born.  State beneficence – misguided or not – ensures that the original ‘safety net’ of the ‘cradle-to-grave’ Welfare State and the post-war Bevan era... Read more...
Cameron's New Young Property People

Cameron's New Young Property People

This week’s Tory Party Conference will no doubt be dominated by Iraq.  Somewhere in the mix, however, we can expect to hear more about the vote-winning wheeze of seducing England’s first-time house buyers under the age of 40 with a scheme that knocks 20% off the market value of a home. The Tories’ pledge is to build 100,000 new homes on brownfield sites (and public sector land) over the course of the next parliament – a knee-jerk reaction, perhaps, to Ed Milliband’s earlier promise to build half a million homes by 2025! Whoever you believe, there’s no doubt that the housing shortage will become a political hot potato before next May’s General Election.  This is hardly surprising given the concerns at so many levels about the social and economic effects of unaffordable housing. Nowhere are the effects of this more evident than among the ‘boomerang generation’ of twenty-somethings who have been forced to live with their parents way beyond the age that most of us would find acceptable. As the house-price bubble continues to inflate, the age of this disenfranchised group is creeping inexorably upwards.  It’s not uncommon nowadays for young men and women in their 30s to be still living at home. Does Tinkering Work? We’ve already seen government step in to kick-start the housing market in the immediate post-recession era with its Help To Buy initiative.  This scheme will also be available to those who qualify for the new Tory deal. In important ways, fiscal tinkering of this order highlights the misguided thinking that’s been going on in government circles for long enough.  As Shadow Housing Minister... Read more...

Up Your Copywriting Rates – And Make Your Clients Happier!

Yes, I know…  At first glance, that headline is a paradox wrapped in an enigma.  And yet… when you focus on delivering value for money, copywriter and client alike can land a win-win deal.  Honest.   The term ‘copywriting rates’ is a misnomer in so far as it’s preferable to get away from the ‘price list’ approach to costing.  In the quest to provide ‘value’, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. So how does this work?  In simple terms, we all want someone to care about what they’re providing for us – and that applies to whether it’s a business transaction or a personal one. Here’s how the psychology works – and here’s the way to earn more money (whatever business you’re in!).  When you quote a price for a job – on a standalone ‘take it or leave it’ basis – there aren’t any reference points relating to quality or after-care.  ‘Price’ is all there is to go on.  The copywriter will certainly know that they are providing quality and value-for-money – but the client is left guessing.   Let’s Look At It This Way… By reassuring the client that they can expect a high quality, creative and commercially effective job borne of experience and a certain degree of ‘talent’, the price you’re quoting begins to seem more reasonable.  For a comparison, think Picasso.  The following tale may be apocryphal, but it’s been told often enough to have acquired a certain amount of credibility! When the great man dashed off a mini-masterpiece in a French café, and then added a huge price tag, the would-be customer complained... Read more...
Financial Copywriter Wanted – Experience Preferred

Financial Copywriter Wanted – Experience Preferred

Copywriters are called upon to write about many things.  For the most part, their political and socio-economic views are of no consequence.  Products and services don’t usually come with a health or wealth warning.  For copywriters with more acute sensibilities, however, there are certain ‘no-go’ areas where ethics enter the fray.  Think: cigarettes, alcohol, defence products and, yes, political parties (to name just a few). An area which may appear unexpectedly on the list of certain copywriters would be financial products and services.  In case this surprises, maybe we should revert to the demise of Lehman Brothers, the run on Northern Rock, the PPI scandal, and manipulation of the ‘Inter-bank Rate’ (AKA ‘Libor’).  Forget, if you will, the scourge of ‘Payday Loans’, the controversy surrounding the Co-Op Bank, or even the continuing trend for bankers’ bonuses to exceed most people’s ‘norms’. If you’re a copywriter who’s been briefed to come up with the goods for a website (let’s say), for a brochure, press or TV ad – how far will the influences of the outside world colour what you write?  Copywriters, of course, are expected to be impartial, but financial matters are so much part of the warp and weft of our Capitalist society, it’s difficult to be totally objective.  Somewhere along the line, even a diehard copywriter runs the risk of being influenced by their own political, economic and social leanings! A Human, Financial Face Despite what some people may think, copywriters are only human.  OK, they set out to persuade targeted consumers to behave outrageously when it comes to spending their money, but that can be explained... Read more...
Content Marketing: Who's Your Best Bet?

Content Marketing: Who's Your Best Bet?

Given the growing importance of content marketing in the quest to attract sales leads and conversions – not to mention the significance of ‘social sharing’ and the contribution this makes to SEO – it’s not unreasonable to ask which marketing professionals will give you the best bang for your buck. By starting at the beginning and asking what are you expecting content marketing to achieve, you’ll have a clearer idea of who would be your best partner.  To be effective, content marketing must have high quality, original content at its core… content that readers will find useful, practical and valuable enough to ‘share’ on social media sites. This is a complex brief – and certainly not a job for the amateur.  To begin with, there must be a strategy that will target relevant content towards well-defined market segments.  This includes identifying the most suitable media platform and devising an editorial programme that will engage with your target audience. The challenge is to identify which group of marketing professionals can provide the most effective service.  That includes the skilful creation and placement of various types of ‘content’ – blog posts, articles, white papers, e-books, newsletters and so on.  (It may also include non-written content such as infographics, videos, podcasts etc). The wide-ranging demands involved in creating such a diverse range of content place varying expectations on the skill-sets of suppliers.  Take a look at the following options – then decide which is the most appropriate for your particular needs. IN-HOUSE – This is the first (and most obvious) option to consider – but do you have your own home-grown writing/design/production... Read more...

Website Copywriting Makes The Link With Content Marketing

‘COPYWRITING SHORTS’  #104 With ‘content marketing’ being the catch-all phrase of the moment, it’s hardly surprising that website copywriting is right up there, riding in the slipstream. As a highly experienced copywriter, creating ‘content’ is what I’ve always done.  The trick nowadays is to align your content with a meaningful marketing strategy – and therein lies the challenge. The optimal starting point has to be with your website.  This is the home of your online content, the hub to which everything else you do is linked.  The ‘content’ we’re talking about here includes what goes on your web pages, what goes into your blog, and what external content you choose to provide or engage with. These building blocks of your online content marketing strategy can be brought together brilliantly by social sharing on the sites of the usual suspects – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn et al.  In case you’re not sure, ‘social sharing’ has become the go-to skill-set for post-Hummingbird SEO. How your content marketing strategy dovetails with the totality of your online marketing activities is a topic for another post.  In the meantime, you can find an introduction to copywriting techniques for your website and SEO by visiting the following Buzzwords’ pages: Web copy: www.buzzwords.ltd.uk/website-copywriter SEO:... Read more...