I didn’t sell a single home as a real estate writer (and why you should still hire me)

 

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My very first copywriting job was at a real estate agency in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I joined an in-house marketing department of several writers and some admin staff. We worked closely with outsourced photographers and designers.

The company’s owner would tell an anecdote about how this team came about:

One Saturday morning in the early 1990s, he was perusing the real estate pages of the paper, as he always did, when something struck him. Every one of the ads for homes listed by his company began in precisely the same way:

“This stunning 2/3/4-bedroom home in [Suburb Name]…”

Two would have been a coincidence. Three would have been annoying. Every single one demanded action.

Up until that point it was the salespeople who were writing the copy. These agents fueled the business’s engine with their interpersonal and negotiation skills; they didn’t need to be burdened by tasks they had no interest or training in. The owner saw an opportunity to eliminate the proverbial two birds. While removing an unwanted task from his agents’ daily schedules he could make a significant change to the way his company presented itself to the public.

That was the foundation story of the marketing team and, in a way, a foundation stone for the way I thought about professional writing from that moment on.  Continue reading

On Brighton Grammar’s bullying article

Try hard

Earlier this week a private boys’ school in Melbourne got a lot of unwanted media attention for publishing an article on its website on the topic of bullying.

You can read the article here and Brighton Grammar’s responses to the uproar here.

The article was written by Melissa Anderson, who describes herself as a “resilience coach”. She’s also a counsellor and a pharmacist.

My first reaction to it was astonishment, disgust and a kind of despite-myself amusement. I admit, I spent a good half an hour ridiculing it on social media.

As I read and re-read it, though, I began to wonder: what if it deserved the benefit of the doubt? What if this wasn’t the work of a person with very bad ideas, but merely the work of a very bad writer?

What if somewhere past the corporate tinniness; deep within the thick, barely penetrable forest of the gardener anecdote; beyond the jarring non-sequiturs and sudden change in addressee there was something worthwhile?

What if this was… salvageable?

So I went through it as a kind of exercise in morbid curiosity. Here’s what I came up with: Continue reading

On delivering value

delivering value

The uniform I use when delivering value to clients

Value. is the world’s most precious resource. Every organisation desperately seeks it – from their employees, from their partners, from their copywriters, from their carpet and upholstery.

However, value is a bit different to other prized commodities. Unlike iron ore and gold, for example, it’s intangible, infinite and entirely subjective.

That doesn’t mean, though, we should strut around the office feeling confident that we’re all “value adders”. I mean, let’s be honest, we almost certainly are. Because value is so nebulous a concept, we can pretty well be unconscious at work, and as long as we’re not slumped on the CEO’s desk wearing only a doily, we can make a case that we’re “adding value”.

My point is that in 2015 adding value isn’t enough. It’s a bit passe, actually. We need to be delivering value to truly earn our swagger.

So how do we do that? Continue reading