Creative Communicator: Become one @ DMA2012!

We know you remember Hershell Gordon Lewis’ last feature article, how could anyone forget? Always witty and highly informative, Herschell’s posts never cease to please our readers. Prepare to be thrilled yet again as you read through Herschell’s most recent contribution to our blog, an article highlighting all the ways in which we, as marketers, are creative communicators. Don’t forget to come-out early and hear Herschell speak at DMA2012. He’ll join us for our Pre-Conference Creative workshop, Fast and Furious Creative, on Saturday, 10/13 and Sunday, 10/14. Register NOW and don’t forget to use this exclusive Blog code AN508 to get a $250 discount!

Running On Tracks

Because we’re creative communicators…

…We look down our patrician noses at the cliché-ridden speeches, ads, mailings, and emails from political candidates. We long since have decided for whom we’ll vote, and no amount of hype is going to dislodge the logic behind our decisions.

So we wouldn’t have Michele Obama’s dependence on “Y’know” or Mitt Romney’s starting too many sentences with “Well” or the overuse by all candidates, federal state and local, of “The American People” or “It’s important to…” or that accursed crutch the teleprompter. Political speech-writers don’t know what we know.

For example, we know how reworking a statement into a question can be an automatic injection of power. Great balls of fire, the Sherwin Cody School knew this three generations ago, and that’s why “Do you make these mistakes in English?” ran unchanged for 45 years. (“Don’t make these mistakes” wouldn’t have been a disaster, but neither would replacing the question with a statement have maximized response.)

Because we’re creative communicators…

…We quickly recognize the psychological difference between the positive, responder-in-command word Send and the negative, we’re-better-than-you-are word Submit.

And we search out and destroy words and phrases that carry as many negative microbites as they do positive ones – such as You’ll be among the first to…” which transmits an image of you as one of a grubby bunch of Wall Street protesters. Think, think! You’re suggesting creation of an upscale image, and among delivers the reverse.

Because we’re creative communicators…

…Our capabilities as wordsmiths constantly expand. If we’re writing selling copy we search out and destroy questionable words and phrases such as availableneeds as a noun … When it comes to … Act now … utilize.

What? You see nothing wrong with those constructions? Then will you please be my competitor? (Note – that last sentence is a question, not a statement, to add the power automatically attending my having you making the destructive decision.)

Because we’re creative communicators…

…We stay out of passive voice. Why? Aw, you know why: Active voice has guts passive voice never can match, because in passive voice our target receives (note that word “receives” because it’s next on our “Avoid” list) an action when we want to transmit the notion of originating an action.

Because we’re creative communicators…

OK, now, let’s use receive as our guinea-pig. So before reading any more of this diatribe, stop for thirty seconds and ask why receive is on the list. It’s a gentlemanly and ladylike word. It doesn’t insult anybody. It has no objectionable connotations.


So what do we use instead of receive? Gotcha. No, “gotcha” isn’t the word. Show up at the 2012 DMA Conference and you’ll be exposed to a whole batch of power-hungry concepts such as that.

(Did you slide past that last one? “You’ll be exposed” is a passive phrase. Whenever you see a version of “to be” as you re-check your selling copy, take a second look and ask yourself if a stronger construction exists.)

Because we’re creative communicators…

…Just one more thought-twister, because I don’t want to give away the whole store:

When a marketer, no matter how big or how arrogant, sends you an offer worded “You are invited to apply for…” then you have the opportunity to contact the creative director of that company – or whoever hires the creative director – suggesting that a copywriter who genuinely understands the principles of force-communication (you) is available for future mailings, emails, or skywriting.

Opportunity? Take a tougher position than that. You not only have the opportunity. You have the obligation, on behalf of all us pretenders to the throne, to generate that contact.

Chances are the executive who gets your communication won’t understand what the fuss is about. That’s okay. At least you’ll shake up him or her for a few minutes.

Come to think of it, that’s been the purpose of what you’ve been reading for the past three minutes. So I’ll settle for a mini-shakeup.

Care to join me? Let’s shake on it.

                                                                         — Herschell Gordon Lewis


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