Writing for sales: so maybe we DO need a few features…

It had to happen, didn’t it. We stretched the elastic band so tight on heart-centred sales and conversational copywriting and benefits-only wording that the other day, it snapped.

It was someone on LinkedIn who made the point that sharing the benefits of a product or service is all fine and dandy, but what if your prospect asks how you make those benefit promises come true? Not with smoke and mirrors, presumably. So here we must turn to corroborating features. Snap!

article on features

OK, but how do you make it Texas’ best bread?

I’m sending myself up here because I’ve been bleating on about “benefits sell, features smell” since the Dark Ages of my former career as a copywriter. (NB: I still deal with features and benefits in the planning and marketing of nonfiction books.)

So how do features work when our words are benefits-led?

[Read more…]

What to write when features are objectives

Especially in business messages aimed at employees and/or suppliers, there aren’t any features at all to help persuade them to buy into your objectives – at least nothing as easy to identify as an “AL-alloy metal frame with HK-147 PVC compound, polyurethane seat and back rest,” for example.

What to write when features are objectives

We can show the competition how the job really should be done…

Objectives: features that can be persuasive benefits

[Read more…]

How to make benefits your best friends in business writing – 10 Quick Tips

Everyone in business knows – or should know – that benefits are what customers and prospects are interested in when it comes to what you have to sell.

How to make benefits your best friends in business writing - 10 Quick Tips

What if there are so many features that it’s hard to translate them into benefits?

But all too often businesses get stuck on the features of their products and services, without relating them to what’s in them for the customer. Result? Poor  results.

[Read more…]

Do you know what you’re REALLY selling before you write about it?

really selling,writing,Tsufit,blogging,writing

They know what they’re selling–sex.

Heaven forbid that I should harp on about the old features and benefits  number again, but something I read in my fellow Canadian, Toronto-based **Tsufit’s latest email has made me take a look at this issue in a different way. [Read more…]

The secret spits of a student journalist…

A guest post by Tim Worden

The secret spits of a student journalis

Tim Worden, Journalism Senior at
Cal State Fullerton university, California

I spotted our photographer in the crowd. He was sprinting. I ran, following him to the crime scene, a car crash at the doorstep of the Cal State Fullerton campus.

A helicopter blazed overhead, a dozen police cars surrounded the scene and officers with M16s were setting up a perimeter. Five robbery suspects had fled onto campus to hide, and at least one was armed.

About five reporters from the newspaper were watching, myself included. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper, the Daily Titan at Cal State Fullerton in Southern California, asked me to go back to the newsroom to post tweets and write a short article to be posted online about the situation.

The night wore on as the entire campus was put into full lockdown. Our reporters phoned in to give updates, stuff like two snipers just crossed the street and the SWAT team was clearing the third floor of the building where the armed suspect was allegedly hiding, as I sent about 40 tweets. It became the hit story of the Los Angeles-area evening news and our website got 50,000 views that night.

But this was a fluke.

With the exception of that night, our website does not get many views and the newspaper’s Twitter and Facebook accounts are hardly used, except to occasionally put an advertisement out.

Covering the police lockdown taught me one thing: Our newspaper needs to have a stronger online presence.

The Daily Titan, an eight-page student-run newspaper for Cal State Fullerton, a 36,000-student school, is known as a good college newspaper. I agree. But Cal State Fullerton’s journalism program is just OK.

The essence of journalism is in a flux as the Internet has elevated the focus of technology and websites for newspapers. Study after study has found people are getting their news online, and college students are leading the pack. More newspapers are instituting a digital-first perspective to the newsroom, meaning they will put a finished article online before it goes to print. Social media makes journalism personal as readers can join a conversation with a newspaper.

But Cal State Fullerton’s journalism program is still focusing on an increasingly outdated model. A journalism student at the school is actually getting a major in “communications.” The program is divided between a print and broadcast track. The print track, for example, only requires one broadcast journalism class.

The department may consolidate the print and broadcast journalism programs as early as this year, but so far that rumor has not been confirmed.

Lower-division journalism classes suck

Among journalism majors, there is a consensus that the lower-division journalism classes suck. The classes are: Comm 101, writing for the mass media; Comm 201, reporting for the mass media (print); and Comm 202, reporting for the mass media (broadcast). The tree classes give students little to no actual reporting experience.

Fortunately, the upper-division classes are better. There are classes like editing and design, opinion writing and magazine writing and production. The capstone journalism class is Comm 471, news media production, where a student becomes a staff writer for the school newspaper and is expected to write two articles per week.

Many students get to this class, supposedly the culmination of a journalism bachelor’s degree, completely unprepared. When I took the class in spring 212 I was hesitant—scared, even—to write real news stories and cover my beat of state news.

I learned almost all I know about journalism from my on-the-job experience writing for the newspaper.

As the semester progressed, I became more confident in my writing abilities and learned how to report on local government. I wrote two big stories about the city mayor, interviewing her for 20 minutes for the first and attending a formal speech she gave for the second.

I moved up to copy editor for the newspaper, my current job, something that propelled my writing ability to professional quality. As copy editor, I make sure everything is perfect: grammar, spelling, people’s names and facts. Critically looking at my peers’ writing taught me how to improve my own writing. Many beginning journalism majors lack this foundation and their writing shows it.

One of the editors this semester told us that it is our job, as student editors, to teach and mentor our peers. At the final staff meeting at the end of the semester, he reminded us of our success as students—most of us 20 to 22—to write professional-quality stories. In fact, our goal is to write a newspaper that rivals the New York or Los Angeles times.

“You guys are so good because you taught each other. Your teachers didn’t have a damn thing to do with it,” he said.

You can learn a lot studying journalism in the United States. But most of what you learn comes from your peers and on-the-job experience. I have two recommendations for young journalists:

  1. Read and write. Read as much as you can and write as much as you can. And edit as much as you can.
  2. Get experience. Get involved with your college newspaper before you think you are ready. The experience will teach you as you go. And a real-world internship is essential.
  3. Pretend like you’re a professional journalist. Because the more you imagine it, the more you will realize that you are a professional journalist, just without the name recognition or fancy credentials.

Back to the lockdown event on campus, the editors have noted the value of using social media and the website for the newspaper. Changes are being made, I am told, for the newspaper to adapt to a digital world.

Tim Worden is a senior journalism major at Cal State Fullerton in Southern California. He is a copy editor on the school newspaper, The Daily Titan, and starts an internship with a local newspaper in February. He hopes to become a copy editor and magazine writer. © Tim Worden 2013

Now: spit this and write right

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand



How do I write benefits into features that aren’t features?

How do I write benefits into features that aren't features?In many types of business message there aren’t any features at all – at least nothing as easy to identify as an “AL-alloy metal frame with HK-147 PVC compound, polyurethane seat and back rest,” for example.

What you do have, though, are objectives. And even those are intangible, to all intents and purposes we can treat those as features, so we can then make the conversion from feature/objective (what something is) to benefit (what it does for you) just as we can when the feature is as tangible as an AL-alloy frame.

Take a look down this list. In it I have identified a range of features/objectives which most of us are obliged to make into messages at some time or another, and I’ve then supplied some benefits – or at least one key sample benefit – to go with each. The feature/objective is in bold with suggested benefit/benefits underneath…

Increase your knowledge
Make sure you’re up to speed
Give you the edge over our competitor

Sell them a new concept or process
If we adopt this, your job will be easier and smoother to run
You’ll never have to waste time doing tedious (whatever) again
Your job is safe: any redundancies will be covered by natural wastage

Improve their skills and abilities so you are better at what you do
Gain useful transferable skills to further your career
Help you get the best from your job now

Be aware of how serious such a problem can be
Learn from the experience so you’ll see it coming next time
Improve your problem-solving skills

Help you be instantly aware of a problem
Helps you to raise the standard of your performance and that of our team
Means you’ll give even better service next time

Welcome chance to relax and have fun at company’s expense
Opportunity to get to know your colleagues better
Developing work friendships helps your team work more cheerfully and effectively

Despite these being troubled times we are secure here in this company
Your job is safe
You’ll be relieved to hear that (whatever)

You know that we understand how difficult the business is right now
Your extra efforts are deeply appreciated by management
Thank you for your loyalty – that matters so much to everyone

The company is safe and so is your job
You can check for yourself by reading the current company accounts
We have big plans for the future and we want you to share them with us

Our new orders mean we’re going to be busy – great news for us all
Hope you’re feeling good as we’ve got a lot to do this week
When this rush is over, we’ll all get together for a beer and a breather

If we keep going at this rate there will be good bonuses for everyone this year
We can show the competition how the job really should be done
Anyone else is doing the job, but we are all true professionals

You are one of our key people and your contribution is critical
Our customers truly appreciate you and your service – read these testimonials
You can be proud of our team – and of yourself

And so-on. My examples may be well off-beam for what you need in your particular business or organization, but at least they will get you thinking in the right way.

So when you need to write the benefits for “you” in features which are intangible objectives, don’t panic … just check out this list!

Now, write yourself some benefits from all  your writing:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English


photo credit: Mara ~earth light~ via photo pin cc