Brand Story: 10 Reasons to Work with FredComm

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It’s Your Business. It’s Your Story. Let’s Tell It Well.

 

  1. Focus on Your Strengths
    There’s no need to steal time and energy from your passion and core competency. Instead, benefit from a great brand story without taking your eye off the ball. Listen, you’re great at what you do. Why not hire someone who is great at strategic messaging development, copywriting and content creation for advertising, marketing, public relations and social media?
  2. You’re Too Busy
    Isn’t everyone? Let me take that copywriting or content creation project off your plate, get it done well and give it back to you, ready to go.
  3. Copywriting Is Not Like Other Writing
    Anyone can string words together, but few can effectively copywrite. Advertising, marketing and promotional materials require specialized experience and expertise, and Fredricks Communications has it.
  4. Fresh Perspective
    You’re close to your business or institution, as you should be. But maybe you’re too close to give the branding and messaging a new, more objective and more effective approach. I’ll bring a fresh eye to the project and to your business.
  5. Experience
    I’ve been in advertising, marketing and advertising for a couple of decades, and I was a newspaper reporter/editor before that. I’ve served all kinds of clients, from sole proprietors to companies with hundreds of employees, that do business in my region, across the country and globally. And they keep coming back.
  6. Strategic Focus & Execution
    You need more than just a wordsmith; you need someone who can help with strategic direction, too. I’ve been building brands and strategic messaging for a long time, so I can, and do. Plus, I can do it better, faster and cheaper than a large agency with several layers of people (bottlenecks) on your account.
  7. Deadlines Are Sacred
    FredComm has a rock-solid track record for on-time delivery.
  8. Pout-Free Service
    You want someone who is easy to work with, puts ego aside, produces crisp and effective writing, and won’t make a scene if you make copy changes. That’s me.
  9. Best Team for Every Client
    I’ve worked in agencies and as part of an in-house marketing team. That background trained me to think visually and work closely with art directors and graphic designers on creative concepts, a valuable skill essential to producing strong work. With my “virtual team,” a group of talented professionals who provide complementary services like graphic design, website design, photography and so on, I’m able to deliver exceptional work without breaking your bank.
  10. Less Expense
    Some people think hiring outside talent on a project basis is expensive. In fact, the opposite is true. You get exceptional results while saving the costs of salary, benefits, and office space for an on-staff writer. Plus, the more you work with me, the more I get to know your organization, products and services, and the faster I can do every new project.

Bonus: Fun
I like to have it. So do the pros I work with. And FredComm clients appreciate it.

Let’s get started. To build an effective brand story through strategic messaging development, copywriting, content creation and all the associated services that lead to advertising, marketing and public relations success, get in touch today.

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5 Keys to Effective Public Relations Writing

Image of woman thinking. Words next to her are: "5 Keys to Effective PR Writing"

 

If you work in public relations, or if PR responsibilities fall to you by default in your company, it’s a good idea to keep these keys to effective PR writing in mind.

Think First, Write Later

Ideas should precede expressions. Let yours bang around your brain a while before putting anything on paper. Answer these questions:

  • How does this relate to members of my audience?
  • Why is it, or should it, be important to them?
  • How can I grab and hold their attention?
  • How can I best engage and persuade them to be concerned or take action?

Develop a “Creativity System”

A lot of creativity – some would argue most creativity – is the result of building on an idea that’s been around a while or combining two existing ideas to make something new. Borrow systematically and keep files of good materials. Make notes when ideas hit you and so on.

There’s a caveat here.

Creativity for the sake of creativity is not only wasted time and effort, but could actually detract from your message. Your idea might be amazing, awesome, never before seen, but if it rubs your customers’ or your clients’ customers the wrong way, it could have exactly the opposite effect from what you intended. If it’s bad enough, and if you’re a PR service provider, you could lose your client. I’ve seen it happen.

Be creative, but only in the context of what appeals to the target market, and make sure the creative complements the overall communication strategy.

KISS

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

It’s amazing how hard it can be to adhere to this rule, especially if you have a boss or client who insists on including every last nitty-gritty detail in the ad, press release, video, e-blast, social media post… whatever. I call that kitchen-sink marketing. When you throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into the ad, press release, video, e-blast, social media post… whatever… your main message is lost. And there goes its effectiveness.

Another part of this involves the most basic of basics. Understand what motivates the members of your target audience, write to them, cut out unnecessary words and paragraphs, avoid industry jargon, off clarifying examples and so on.

Love the Draft/Comp

As much as we’d like to believe we’re the best communicators in the world, that the first draft or comp is right on the money, we’re not. No one is perfect; it’s not likely any of us gets it exactly right the first time. Perfection is achieved through the process of retakes, revisions and rewrites. So write, shoot, design, then revise, revise and revise, then revise again.

Less is More

Keep it short, sweet and to the point. The public relations materials you produce will be stronger and more memorable. Most importantly, they’ll communicate your message more effectively and spur more people to the action you and your boss or client desire.

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* Based on “4 steps to better PR writing,” by Fraser P. Seitel.

#TipTuesday – Break This Rule in Advertising, Marketing & PR Copywriting

Fredricks Communications Tips Graphic

Provide Work Without With

 

Sometimes rules are made to be broken. That’s often the case when you’re talking about “proper” grammar vs. advertising, marketing and public relations copywriting. And it’s definitely the case when using “proper” will undermine “effective.”

Consider these two sentences:

  • I will provide Fredricks Communications with access to my Google drive.
  • I will provide Fredricks Communications access to my Google drive.

Get rid of that proposition, “with,” and nothing really changes. People still get it, and the sentence is shorter. And those who pay any attention to this blog know I push brevity as Rule #1 for clarity and keeping hold of readers’ short attention spans.

According to several “proper” grammar sources like the English learning website VOA, “with” is necessary:

With is a preposition, and the verb provide has two different subcategorization frames:

  • Provide somebody with something. – The recipient of the thing (Fredricks Communications) is the indirect object.
  • Provide something (to somebody). – The thing provided (access) is the indirect object.

Subcategorization frames? Recipients? Prepositions? Indirect objects?

Clear as mud in the eye to your average Joe.

Here’s the important point – nobody cares, except your former English teachers. And, with all due respect, they never had to sell a widget.

You and I and our bosses and clients care about selling that widget, and we know we need lively, engaging copy to do it. So keep your copy clear, keep it brief and work without with in your advertising, marketing and public relations copywriting.

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“Shoulding” is Messy

Image of fist being held over an employee.

Let Employees Contribute and Thrive

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received came from the pastor who performed the wedding ceremony for my lovely bride and me. We met with him several times before the big day for pre-marriage counseling.

I don’t recall the context of our discussion that particular day, but I remember clearly what he said:

“Don’t ‘should’ all over yourself.”

Here’s what he meant:

Spend your time obsessing about the things you should do, should have done, shouldn’t do and shouldn’t have done, and you’re never going to be happy. In fact, you’ll box yourself into a life of frustration. 

Of course it’s important to set goals and create plans for achieving them. Of course there will be things you wish you would’ve done, or done differently. But it’s equally important to not be too rigid or beat yourself up over those things.

Live well, be kind, apply The Golden Rule and so on, and things will work out. More importantly, you’ll be happier, more content and more open to possibilities.

He also suggesting “shoulding” on others, in this case our soon-to-be spouses, should be avoided. Doing so causes them to be less happy, can make them crawl back into their shells and likely will make them dislike, or even despise, you.

This advice applies just as appropriately to work and employee-supervisor-employer situations. We’ve all heard the old cliché – “Happy employees are more productive employees.” They’re also more dedicated, driven and creative employees, all of which can be important for any business, and especially in my line of work.

Here’s another cliché for you – “Clichés are clichés because they’re true.”

In work situations, “shoulds” not only box people in; they stifle creativity and drive, two things that can be very beneficial to a business and its bottom line.

Consider the following statements:

  • “You should approach the project this way…”
  • “You could approach the project this way…”

See the difference? 

The second is more a suggestion than a directive, and therefore is much less threatening or likely to cause employees to withdraw, crawl back into their shells and play it safe. The substitution of “could” for “should” leaves the door open for other, potentially better, ideas and ways of doing things. 

Here’s a third option that’s even better yet:

  • “What do you think is the best way to approach this project?”

Employees are the most valuable assets of any business, if they’re freed to contribute and thrive. Managers and owners hire them for their brains and abilities; it doesn’t make much sense to shut down their potential before they even get started.

Don’t “should” all over them.

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Tip Tuesday – Is Your PR Writing Overqualified?

Fredricks Communications Tips Graphic

Like using qualifiers? A lot of them, perhaps? As professional copywriters, we need to do a little better.

That’s the advice of Stunk & White, authors of the bibles on grammar and style.

In “The Elements of Style,” William Strunk and E.B. White put it eloquently: “Rather, very, little, pretty – these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.”

Harsh, even without the vampire imagery. Harsh, but right on.

Besides, copywriters should always cut unnecessary words. It’s the “Less-Is-More Principle.”

Which has more life?

  • “It’s rather important to be honest. vs. “It’s important to be honest.
  • “We’re very excited about this product.” vs. “We’re excited about this product.”
  • “I’m pretty sure I gave you the right medication.” vs. “I’m sure I gave you the right medication.”

This isn’t a life vs. death deal – except maybe in that last example – but for a prospective client, neither is hiring you. Take the advice of Strunk & White for your public relations writing:  be a life-giver, not a leech; throw the qualifiers back into the mucky slough.

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BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking

BankNorth TV - BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking by Fredricks Communications

Click to watch :30 TV – “BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking” by Fredricks Communications and Midco.

For the first time in its nearly 115-year history, BankNorth has moved beyond the borders of its home. Today, First State Bank of Warner, S.D., opened its branches in Aberdeen and Warner, S.D. with its new name, BankNorth. The acquisition announcement is supported with print, radio and television ads, media relations and direct mail. Fredricks Communications provided connecting, scriptwriting, art direction and project management services.

The message –

“First State Bank of Warner is Now BankNorth, and we’re excited about the direction we’re headed. We’ve been First State Bank of Warner for a long time, and over the years, honesty, loyalty and integrity have been our guide. We’re still the same people in the same locations, and those same values still drive how we work with you every day.”

The acquisition announcement is part of a larger rebranding campaign for BankNorth, which was formerly First State Bank of North Dakota. Check out additional campaign elements and the new BankNorth website.

Thank you to BankNorth for allowing Fredricks Communications to be part of this project, and to all Fredricks Communications partners who helped pull everything off so beautifully: Bock’s Office Transformational Consulting, Creative Monke, Kelner Communications, Knight Printing, Midco, Solberg Design and Video Arts Studios.

Caribou Love

A little love can go a long way… sometimes even to a comped cuppa.

 

Screenshot of Fredricks Communications tweet

This morning I was waiting in line at Caribou Coffee off of 25th Street South in Fargo. It wasn’t a very long line, but I figured I had enough time to put together a tweet.

My middle-aged fingers are pretty slow with the tapping (as my kids remind me every day, it seems), so the line dwindled while I pecked away at my iPhone keys. I wasn’t paying much attention, and just as I was finishing I heard a voice saying, “I can help you here, sir.” Of course I was keeping the barista waiting and there was a line behind me.

I stepped up to the counter, apologizing and explaining that I had been “…giving you guys a little love on Twitter.” 

“Really?” he said. “What’d you write.”

So I showed him. He was saying how cool that was and thanking me when the manager overheard. The manager took a quick glance. “Comp his drink,” he said to the barista.

And that’s how I got my free cuppa joe this morning.

How cool is that?

Here’s to the fine folks @cariboucoffee off of 25th Street South in Fargo, N.D., who’re over there working their butts off right now. If you get a chance, go show ’em some love. You might not get a free cup, but the people and the coffee are great.

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Copywriting: To Split or Not to Split

Screenshot of Martin Fredricks doing vlog post

youtube.com/fredcomm

It’s the second day of the work week, and you know what that means: It’s Tip Tuesday!

This Tuesday we’re talking about splitting infinitives and other verbs in marketing, advertising and public relations copywriting.

<watch the video>

Let me start out by saying I absolutely love The Grammar Girl and grammarist.com, two grammar sources that have given me some peace of mind lately.

You see, once upon a time I had a boss who had a hard-and-fast rule about split verbs and split infinitives. Split infinitives are verb phrases, like “to increase” that are split by a modifying word (usually an adverb).

  • We plan to increase your blog traffic over the next 12 months incrementally.
  • We plan to incrementally increase your blog traffic over the next 12 months.

Split verbs are split by a modifying word (again, usually an adverb).

  • We will respond to any issues that might come up quickly.
  • We will respond quickly to any issues that might come up.

It wasn’t just a rule, either; splitting a verb was verboten. With extreme prejudice. I started having nightmares about a grammar monster with huge, sharp, teeth coming to viciously devour me and the sentences I’d written that day.

<See what I did there? “…to viciously devour…”>

Thing is – and The Grammar Girl, grammarist.com and several other sources back me up on this – there is no such rule in English grammar. Turns out the boss was being a grammatical snob. Which – hey – who am I to criticize? That would be the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

Thing is – and I say this to aspiring advertising, marketing and public relations writers all the time – in our world, we need to write like people speak. We need to build a rapport, a comfort level with the people seeing, reading or hearing our copy. And we’re never going to connect our clients to their audiences – even retired English teachers – by copywriting like pompous professors.

Besides, people split verbs all the time in everyday conversation. Which sounds better? You tell me –

  • I’m going to run to the store for some milk quickly.
  • I’m going to quickly run to the store for some milk.

Get beyond the split verb issue, and the sentence becomes even less academic –

  • I’m gonna quick run to the store for some milk.

But that’s a subject for another Tip Tuesday….

In your advertising, marketing and public relations, your copywriting needs to sound like you speak. Have a conversation with your audience. And, by all means, split away.

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BankNorth – We’ve Always Been Headed This Way

BankNorth logo

 

BankNorth is moving forward in a new direction. But the brand has always been headed this way.

BankNorth print ad - "Values-Based Banking. Always."For nearly 115 years, First State Bank of North Dakota has served customers and communities in rural North Dakota with honesty, loyalty and integrity. It’s been Values-Based Banking.

FSBND became BankNorth on July 20, 2018. And it’s still Values-Based Banking.

 

________________________

 

Congratulations to Fredricks Communications client BankNorth, which has officially changed its brand name from First State Bank of North Dakota (FSBND). FredComm is proud to have played a role in the rebranding and reintroduction effort.

For more on the renaming/rebranding process, check out the FredComm BankNorth page.

A huge thank you to FredComm’s project partners for your fantastic work: ock’s Office Transformational Consulting, Creative Monke, Kelner Communications, Knight Printing, Midco, Solberg Design and Video Arts Studios.

Of course, the greatest kudos go to BankNorth’s internal team. Well done!

The brand transition messaging will continue to evolve through the end of the year. Stay tuned!

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Copywriting: Remember the Passenger

 

Driver behind the wheel

 

Copywriting is Like Driving

At the most basic level, the goal of both copywriting and driving is to get people from one place to another.

  • A to B
  • Clueless to aware
  • Uneducated to informed
  • Disbelief to acceptance
  • Wet behind the ears to experienced
  • Making do or using your client’s product or service

How well you perform along the way ultimately depends on what your passengers – target market readers – take away and how they assess the experience.

The Open Road

My father taught me about placing the passenger at the center of the experience when I was 14 years old and had my learner’s permit. He kept his patience, somehow, as I slammed us through hundreds of jerky starts and chin-to-dashboard late stops.

“The safety of your passengers is your responsibility,” he said, “and one way you’ll know you’re doing a good job is if they’re comfortable on the ride.”

He told me to begin slowing for stops early so the other people in the car would never be pressed into their safety belts. Don’t slam their backs into their seats; ease into accelerations so they don’t notice. Make easy turns instead of sharp jags.

“If you’re doing it right, they’ll forget they’re in a vehicle at all,” he said.

Easy Riders

Copywriting and driving are both journeys.

The product of a good writer is so smooth that readers have no clue as to the challenge it was to make the narrative seem so.

The best writers paint word scenes so vivid that readers see the pictures on their minds’ movie screens, or even imagine they’re in the scenes themselves. I’m thinking now of some of my favorite authors, masters like John Steinbeck and E. Annie Proulx. Reading their novels, I forget I’m reading at all.

Advertising and marketing copywriters don’t have the luxury of pages upon pages to paint the vision, but we can strive for similar effect in shorter form. Usually it’s about getting readers to imagine themselves working with your client’s company, using their products or taking advantage of their services.

Along the way, we not only take their physical comfort into account, but their emotional ease, as well. We’ll use words and phrases that arouse something in them, directly point out the benefits of what we’re suggesting, give them unspoken (unwritten) permission to take the next step in the buying process.

It’s like turning up the heat in a chilly car, tuning the radio to the type of music our passengers like, inviting them to sit right up front where the action is or take it all in more passively from the backseat (a.k.a. addressing pain points, leveraging motivators and highlighting differentiators).

Easy, Not Dull

At the same time, copywriting can, and often should, be more disruptive than a smooth Sunday drive through the countryside.

From time to time the writer can purposely give passengers a jerky start or a stop-short, face-flat-to-the-windshield revelation. A screeching burst of rapid-fire clauses. A pause that affords a glance in the rearview. A sharp swerve that screws their hairdos straight up into the roof upholstery.

In other words, sometimes a copywriter’s fun can be the readers’ fun, too.

There Already

Take your passengers on an easy ride. Keep them interested and wanting to travel farther down the road, deeper into the brand story. Give them an abrupt halt when it’ll help them see things more clearly.

Remember, target market members’ comfort is the copywriter’s responsibility. Be an exceptional chauffeur, and when the experience comes to an end your passengers will ask, “Oh, are we there already?” Sure are.

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