Effective Messaging
No. 97
April, 2014

There's still time to sign up for my luncheon presentation "Writing for the Web" at the Consulting Alliance on Friday, April 11. I'll be talking about how to write effective online copy. The session includes lots of interaction, so it will be fun as well as informative.

In case no one mentioned it before, it's spring. Well, where I live it's almost spring. The birds are making their mating sounds and the snow is almost gone from the back yard. I'm wearing my summer attire in the Web Words photo again.

And it's Happy Birthday to Web Words. The first article looks back on the past eight years and offers some useful lessons learned.

The second article addresses the very serious topic of getting help, including some useful hints for the next time your technology lets you down.

I'm offering a coupon for a half-hour's free consulting for potential new projects. And, since I haven't yet met my quota for the first half of 2014, my offer stands for an hour's free consulting for new email marketing customers and upgrades to other Constant Contact products.  


Please be in touch.

I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Follow me.

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In This Issue
Retrospective - Looking back on 8 years
Getting Help - Talking to a real person
Web Tips - Duolinguo
Act Now
To celebrate Web Words' eighth birthday, I read some back issues. Not every one--I didn't have all day. But I did visit all the birthday back issues.

If you write anything for your business (or even for pleasure), there's great value in reviewing what you've written
. I found all sorts of cool things, including the idea for a coupon. Check it out and be in touch if you'd like to use it.

Here are my observations:

Technology Change

OMG how things have advanced in a mere eight years. In "Arriving Late for the 21st Century," (April, 2006), I described my first foray into using the Internet in a coffee shop. It was a big deal with a laptop and cord and even a $10 fee for the privilege. Today I expect to use free WiFi just about anywhere with my iPad Air or my phone.

I first wrote about social media in June, 2008 in a two-part series that included my personal history with online networking. Back then it was almost impossible to imagine that Facebook would become the business juggernaut it is today. I covered my first experience with cloud computing in the fall of 2011, not really that long ago. And almost everything is on the cloud today.

I'm on the lagging edge of some technology. I was thrilled with my new computer in April, 2007. I'm still using the same machine, though one of the monitors literally went up in smoke recently.

E-zine Publishing

Little has changed with Web Words over the years. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. The articles are shorter than in the beginning. I changed the numbering system after the first year. Every issue has still been published on time, and I'm proud of that.

I still write two articles each issue. Typically, one relates directly to online marketing and Constant Contact. The other is about technology in general, or some personal technology-related topic. And there's always Web Tips.

I covered my lessons learned in a birthday article two years ago. Here's a summary:
  • Be consistent. If you're writing online--be it a blog, newsletter or social media--set a schedule and keep to it.

  • Focus. Build your following around your expertise. Pick a topic you love and share your knowledge generously.

  • Build your list. Even if you're using social media, you need the names and emails of your followers. If you can't reach the people who are interested in what you do, you're losing out in today's competitive market. Keep your list clean and up to date.

  • Experiment. It's not always comfortable to try new things, but that's where the growth lies.

  • Master subject lines. As my loyal readers know, this is my big challenge. I know they make a difference by the opens rate. But I still struggle to pick ones that really work.
My stated goal in the first issue was "to entertain, demonstrate and inspire, all at the same time." I intend to provide value to my readers in every issue.

And I still love helping others get started with their online communications. So if you're thinking about it, be in touch.
Getting Help
The more we depend on technology, the more we need help for those nasty moments when our computers let us down. I suppose the time will come when we can just ask them to fix themselves, but until then, we depend on humans for assistance.

First, we should give thanks for the amazing help we have today. For just about any problem you have, some kind soul has devoted their time to providing a two-minute YouTube video on how to fix it. I faced corrosion recently when I unearthed an ancient telephone headset and found someone (me) had left the batteries in place for years. I was instructed to use diluted vinegar and shown exactly how to dampen the Q-tip. Success.

Phone Support

When the Internet doesn't provide, or you can't understand what it's telling you, it's time for a phone call. I have a principle that if I pay for a product or service, I should be able to speak to a live person about how to make it work.

A while back my relatively new iPhone decided to lose connection with its Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. As you likely know, this is the phone's connection with the outside world. I happened to be in the vicinity of an Apple store and my "genius" popped out the card, put it back in and everything was fine. "But," he said, "if it happens again, you'll have to get a new phone."

I didn't want a new phone. And it did happen again, a few weeks later. Reasoning that the SIM card really belonged to the phone company, not Apple, I called AT&T. I wasn't optimistic, but the tech I spoke to was very matter of fact about the problem, as if he actually understood what was wrong, rather than reading from a script. He had me take several very odd actions, including using an eraser on the card (which I had become a master at popping out). That actually solved the problem.

Most recently I wanted to burn a CD of a recording that had been sent to me in Dropbox. The Apple person said I needed to put the file into iTunes. When I asked how, she couldn't help because the cloud storage service wasn't their product. Dropbox is free, so no help there. I managed to get the file into iTunes on my Macbook, but that computer is old and no longer supported. The first Applecare rep I talked to dodged the challenge. But I tried again and this time I got a willing partner who talked me through the whole process to success, even though he could have legitimately refused.

Some Strategies

If the person you're speaking with clearly doesn't know what they are talking about, escalate. You might have to ask more than once. If they won't let you, call back and try a different person.

If you're lost in eternal menus or don't like the choices you're given, say "agent" or "operator." One of those will usually get you to a real human being.

If you want patient, understanding, well-informed assistance, choose Constant Contact for your email marketing. Their phone support is the best I've found. They just aren't useful for SIM cards and burning CDs.
Web Tips


I caught up with an old friend last week who is spending a lot of time in Mexico. How's your Spanish, I asked. "Un poco," he replied.

He needs Duolingo.This fascinating, crowd sourced totally free app provides instruction in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese. There's no cost because the company is offering translations of Web content to paying customers. The people translating are learning the language. The whole process is offered in bite-sized pieces so you can learn a language while standing on line at the bank. Reviewers report it's not only fun, but also addictive, in a good way.   

And Finally . . .

Shawenon Communications collaborates with small businesses, solopreneurs, professionals and not-for-profits to get their messages across in the written word.

We specialize in electronic communications, including e-zines and other forms of email marketing, Web sites and social media.  We also ghostwrite articles and other business communications. As a solution provider, we resell www.shawenon.com



First name
Susanna Opper
Shawenon Communications

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
Act Now 
Mauve SO headshot
Spring is a great time to launch new marketing campaigns.

I still need new customers in the first half of 2014, so I am offering an hour's free consulting to everyone who signs up tor Constant Contact
until I meet my quota.

Current customers get the same deal if they add a product to their account. This could be EventSpot, Social Campaigns or Survey.

Let me know how I can help you with Constant Contact.



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phone session
This coupon is good for one 30-minute marketing and communications consulting phone session for new potential clients or new projects from existing or former clients.

Possible topics include:  
  •     Email marketing newsletters or e-postcards
  •     Surveys
  •     Email invites 
  •     Social networking  
  •     Promotional articles
  •     New business initiatives 

Call 413-528-6494 

Offer Expires: May 30, 2014