Pet Peeves from the Copyblogger Editorial Team, and What they Reveal

We’ve written quite a bit lately about identifying core values in your content.
Creating content around a positive value like integrity, fairness, humility, or faith will attract an audience that shares those values — and that fosters a powerful sense of unity.
But our friend negativity bias tells us that the flip side of that will probably be more compelling. In other words, talking about the things that bug you will build an even faster bond with your audience.
For today’s post, I asked our editorial team to let us know their peeves — the things that irritate, bother, and annoy them.
I’m going to try to tease those out and figure out the values behind them — and see what that might say about who we are as a company and a community.
So let’s get peevy.
Stefanie Flaxman’s peeve
Stefanie is our editor-in-chief, and as you’d expect, she has a healthy list of grammar and usage peeves.
But an editor is much more than a proofreader. It’s one thing to misplace a comma — it’s another to come at a post in a fundamentally flawed way. Here’s Stefanie’s peeve:
Hype/extremes/absolutes: Writing voices that are heavy on absolutes tend to simultaneously lack substance and speak to the reader as if they know what’s best for them … which isn’t a combination that builds credibility.
For example, earnestly referring to any flesh-and-blood human being as a “guru” is typically too vague or a sign of hype. If the person is an expert, top

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What Not to Do (in Content Marketing)

Some weeks are all sunshine and lollipops. This week is not that week.
Actually, all week we’ve been warning you of various colorful ways online professionals can shoot themselves in the foot. On Monday, I talked about a bunch of ways (around 30, I think) that people mess things up for themselves when they’re conducting their professional lives on the web. Some of them are silly, and some of them are serious. (I hope you’ll add your own advice in the comments!)
On Tuesday, Robert Bruce alerted us to the dangers of the writhing, pushing, sweating bodies of hype. Goodness gracious me. He does have an important point to make, beyond all the heavy breathing, and it’s an entertaining read.
And on Wednesday, Stefanie Flaxman shared an embarrassing email marketing fail (not ours, thank goodness) — and the lessons to be learned from it.
Over on the Copyblogger FM podcast, I dug into the deliciously awful disaster of the Fyre Festival that Wasn’t … and talked about what it means to accept responsibility for messes.
How about you — got any interesting disasters to share? (Your own or someone else’s?) Mistakes are how we learn and grow, so let us know in the comments!
— Sonia Simone
Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital

Catch up on this week’s content

The Goofus and Gallant Guide to Success on the Web
by Sonia Simone

Why Sex Doesn’t Sell
by Robert Bruce

A Quick Copywriting Lesson Taken Directly from an Email Marketing Fail
by Stefanie Flaxman

A Different Way to Think About

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A Quick Copywriting Lesson Taken Directly from an Email Marketing Fail

Ten years ago, a tattoo shop I went to subscribed my email address to their email newsletter.
They didn’t send updates very often, so I never unsubscribed. However, new owners recently acquired the business — and apparently their email newsletter list — because lately I’ve been getting not very good emails more frequently.
I should have unsubscribed after receiving the first few, but I kept forgetting. I’d just scroll through an email quickly and delete it.
And I’m glad that was my routine, because today I have a copywriting lesson to share that I took directly from a mistake they made in an email they sent last week.
What was the email marketing mistake?
The first three paragraphs of the email contained too many comma splices and exclamation marks for my taste, but those goofs didn’t bother me too much.
As I continued to scroll down, a photo caught my eye and I wanted to read more about the tattoos in the image.
But when I looked at the caption below the photo, it said:
“Create a great offer by adding words like ‘free,’ ‘personalized,’ ‘complimentary,’ or ‘customized.’ A sense of urgency often helps readers take an action, so think about inserting phrases like ‘for a limited time only’ or ‘only 7 remaining!’”
The person who wrote the email didn’t fill out that section of their template and forgot to delete the placeholder text. Although that’s a forgivable mistake that any busy person could easily make, it communicates a bit of carelessness.

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Why Sex Doesn’t Sell

In his essay, “It’s Necessary for the Scene,” American playwright David Mamet explains why no play or movie he writes or directs include explicit sex scenes.
Mamet is no prude. He cut his teeth in the theatre, working in and around that last great institution of vagabonds and players, excess and fornication.
No, what he’s getting at here is something more important than a hopeless moral stance. It is a display of wisdom and restraint that can instruct both copywriters and content marketers.
“When we see the scene of simulated sex, we can think only one of two things:

Lord, they’re really having sex … or
No, I can tell, they aren’t really.

Either of the above responses takes us right out of the film.”
Sex doesn’t sell the story; it takes us completely out of the story.
Good copy and great content come from the humility of listening … listening to the conversation your audience is having and entering that conversation with an honest, clear, useful, and helpful story.
What “takes us right out” of that marketing story? Half-truth. Hype. Hard sell. These are the “sex scenes” of copywriting, content, and marketing, online or off.
Like so many impotent Hollywood producers who’ve derailed otherwise great films with unnecessary plot lines and scenes, dropping a little “sex” into your copy to punch it up will only cripple your efforts to tell the story.
And that’s important … telling the story. Yes, “sexy” copy will get you sales — maybe even a lot of them —

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The Goofus and Gallant Guide to Success on the Web

Back when I was a very nerdy little kid, every month I would anxiously await my copy of Highlights magazine, and read it cover to cover. I’m charmed to discover that Highlights is still publishing, and that they still feature the regular comic strip “Goofus and Gallant.”
Gallant was a kid who always did the right, noble, and virtuous thing. Goofus, on the other hand, could be counted on to be selfish, unpleasant, and rude.
For now we’ll just gloss over the uncritical definitions of absolute good and bad, along with the thorny question of just what’s going on at home with Goofus that he has so much trouble with social norms.
Let’s assume that Goofus isn’t Goofus because he’s intrinsically evil, but because he doesn’t get it. Perhaps he’s being raised by quasi-tame wolverines who lack the ability to teach him the refinements.
We see a lot of Goofus on the web.
So in the interest of spelling out a few unwritten (or widely written, but ignored) rules of the web, let’s look at how Goofus and Gallant conduct themselves.
Goofus promotes freebies and sponsored products without telling his audience. Gallant always discloses when he gets something for free, or when he’s being paid for a post.
Goofus deletes his updates when he’s caught being a Goofus. Gallant knows that the internet never forgets.
Goofus thinks deadlines are suggestions for approximately what month you can expect to see his stuff. Gallant manages his deadlines and turns content in promptly.
Goofus asks

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Tough Love Week on Copyblogger

I got an email from my team last week saying, “Seth Godin just wrote a post about an interesting new program he’s doing. Should we try to get him on the podcast?”
The answer to that question is always Hell, yes. It’s always great to talk with Seth, and he shared a little bit about his interesting new seminar, and a lot about his thoughts on communicating to create meaningful change. I got a lot of value out of the conversation, and I think you will, too. His seminar is also well worth checking out, but you have to do that by Friday.
This week on the blog was all about seizing responsibility and making your professional life better.
My conversation with Seth sparked some thoughts that I explored in Monday’s post — about how we can quit putting up with not-so-great clients and attract more of the wonderful ones instead.
On Tuesday, Robert Bruce told us to shut up. In a nice way. A mostly nice way.
And on Wednesday, Stefanie reminded us that the world does not actually revolve around us, no matter how it may seem. She gave some solid advice for how to get over an obstacle that keeps a lot of web-based writers from reaching their goals.
The Showrunner published their 100th episode this week! They celebrated by answering your questions about podcasting. Never let it be said that Jonny and Jerod do not know how to party.
Enjoy all the straight talk …

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