Archive of ‘Communicating’ category
Before I went back to school, I was an account executive at a newswire. My job was to advise clients on their communications strategies, which is more accurate than simply saying, “I sold stuff.” I was never the aggressive, Glengarry Glen Ross-type of salesperson; my skills lay in developing relationships with my clients, understanding their needs and providing them with the right product or service. I made sure each proposal was personalized and meant something to my client.
Now that I’m on the other side of the table, I like to be treated the same way. So imagine my chagrin when I received this today:
This is a life-size cardboard cutout of a man named Dave, a VP from a marketing communications agency I won’t name.
I’m not a marketing expert by any means, but it doesn’t take one to know when a pitch hits the right spot. It must be creative, targeted and engaging. Because your goal is to attract attention and create enough interest to make your audience take action that will add to your ROI – visit your website, ask for a meeting, buy your product.
While Cardboard Dave certainly attracted my (and my coworkers’) attention and created interest, the action I took was probably not what he had in mind. Case in point: Cardboard Dave underwent a Sharpie makeover.
Here is why I think Dave’s pitch failed:
- There was no one waiting at the reception desk to greet me and hand the package to me personally - it was a ditch and run.
- The package was very large and bulky. I had to carry it up two flights of stairs to my desk and almost knocked someone over. Furthermore, my workspace is not very spacious so I don’t know where I’ll keep Cardboard Dave.
- The only part of the package with my name on it was the mailing label on the wrapper. There was no letter addressed to me; all I got was a snazzy, embossed booklet placed in a slot where Cardboard Dave’s hands are. There is nothing personal about it.
- Cardboard Dave promises “favourable impressions” and “better recall” of my organization’s message. It would have been more engaging if their spiel demonstrated some understanding of the ODA’s key messages. And if they did some research, they would have known that while I do wield some influence, I am not the decision-maker of my team.
- There is a page in the booklet listing the associations Dave’s company has “been associated with.” I’m a sucker for semantics — has this organization actually worked for these associations? I once donated money to the Canadian Cancer Society, so technically, I can say I was “associated” with them.
- The last page bears Dave’s signature and information, and has an unusual, if slightly creepy, closing:
I’d like to give you a call
In a couple of days
To see what you think.
Or for pickup. : ) (I’m still trying to figure out what THAT means.)
Overall, these are my immediate impressions:
- The company must be doing well in this economy to spend $200 for each cardboard cutout and booklet, which is what I estimated the package to cost. Are they going to recoup their printing costs through their fees? Because associations are not-for-profit; we answer to our members and have to account for every single cent we spend.
- How many trees were felled to make Cardboard Dave?
- Dave’s ego is so big (“How big is it?”), it can’t fit on a standard business card.
- It would have been more cost-effective, and a nicer touch, if 3D Dave had personally come to my office and spoke to me directly, instead of sending his cardboard representative. Chances are he would have gotten a meeting. Sometimes, tried and true tactics trump snazzy packaging.
I’ll give Dave points for creativity and chutzpah. But like his one-dimensional counterpart, this pitch has left me stiff.
What do you think?
Ahoy hoy, my fellow singletons. This is the final installment of my non-award winning series on online dating and PR. In this chapter, I conclude with The Profile, the crème de la crème of your online dating persona. Or, as per my brand analogy, the Product. You’ve drawn in the potential buyer (mate) with your logo (picture) and your slogan (tagline) now it’s time to deliver the goods (you).
Have you ever bought a product that had a great slogan, an expensive advertising campaign and a massive amount of build-up behind it? A product that was so buzzed about that if it ever lived up to its hype it would be the BEST THING EVER INVENTED? If you have, how disappointed were you? Take the iPhone. It holds 3,000,000 songs and you can access Facebook on it but it hasn’t completely changed your life the way you thought it would, has it? It doesn’t give you next week’s lotto numbers and you have to deal with Rogers support.
The lesson I’m trying to impart here, perhaps unsuccessfully (if an analogy falls in the forest and there’s no one around to get it, does it make a sound?), is: Be honest. Don’t make yourself out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread or the internal combustion engine. Yes, you’re trying to differentiate yourself from the competition but you already offer something that is unique and one-of-a-kind: you. There’s someone for everyone, a good friend once told me, so your goal, grasshopper, is to find your someone.
Take your time, do it right
I’ve been on a lot of dating sites and I have never come across one with a time limit for creating your profile. Why do so many read as if they’ve been written under duress? (“You have five minutes to write your profile, Mr. Bond, or I’ll blow up London.”) Like good sex, writing your profile takes time, patience and skill. A nice bottle of Shiraz also helps.
- Write your profile in Word.
- Copy edit.
- Copy edit again.
- Send it to a friend for feedback. (Note: you may risk laughter and ridicule, so be careful which friend you send it to.)
- Post it and watch the ladies flock to your profile.*
(*No money-back guarantee.)
A little help from my friends
Does this look familiar?
“My friends say I’m handsome/smart/witty. ”
Of course they do — they’re your friends. If they don’t say things like that from time to time, you should consider getting new ones. But the thing about friends is their lack of objectivity. Oh sure, they’ll bring up embarrassing moments from your life and poke fun at your past misdemeanors (like how you used to pronounce David Bowie’s last name as Bao-wie - completely hypothetical, by the way). But when it comes to setting you up they will not hesitate to make you sound like a great catch, if only to get you laid so you can stop whining about how lonely you are.
So, refrain from including any endorsements by your friends. (AND parents. God, those are the worst. I mean, what mother doesn’t believe their child is the Second Coming? I read somewhere that women experience a type of chemical change to the brain after giving birth. This is to make them forget how very, very painful childbirth was so they can fall completely and irrevocably in love with their baby and not kill it out of revenge. Or somesuch, I’m just paraphrasing. )
Wow, what a big ego you have
It’s a thin line between confidence and vanity, and only a few adroit individuals manage to walk it successfully. Those that can’t end up sounding like pompous jerks. These were plucked from actual dating profiles — the identities are hidden to protect the stupid:
“I’m the man of your dreams.”
“Stop — don’t look any further.”
And my favourite:
- restless entrepreneur and investment banker
- thrill seeker
- successful yet humble
No, I did not make the last one up.
Stick to facts like occupation or location, any fact that can’t be refuted or subjected to debate. (E.g. “I’m a graphic designer living in downtown Toronto. I have short, brown hair and blue eyes,” or “I am Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht.”) Just like the “My friends say I’m…” sentence, avoid subjective self-descriptions. Your date will decide whether you’re funny, smart or a raving narcissist.
Long walks on the beach, sunsets and puppies
The best way to attract potential dates is by listing your likes or hobbies - music, books, activities. Don’t give a laundry list, just a general description of your interests, e.g. soul music, animé, taxidermy. You might end up with a date for the next sci-fi convention or food and wine show. A good idea is to tell the reader what your perfect date would involve, or what you do on a typical Friday night (I’d avoid any mention of crying, masturbation or porn; besides, those are all givens when you’re single).
I don’t need no stinking Spellcheck
According to the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL), 48% of adult Canadians have literacy levels too low to cope in modern society. What bothers me is that a lot of men on dating sites can obviously read and write but choose not to. They may want to appear hip (e.g. hey there. i hope you like my profile. i am a handsome stud.) or emphasize how eager they are (e.g. HEY THERE! I HOPE YOU LIKE MY PROFILE! I AM A HANDSOME STUD!). I also suspect that most men just don’t care (e.g. Hey ther. Hope you lik my profile. I am handsome, stud.) Whatever the reason, poor grammar and spelling is a big turn-off for most women. A man who doesn’t put a lot of thought into his online persona more than likely has skidmarks on his underwear and a towering pile of pizza cartons on his kitchen counter.
Many people struggle with learning disabilities and ESL courses while you take your first-world education, piss all over it and light it on fire. This is not cool.
Don’t give us a list of what you look for in a woman. You’re looking for a date, not shopping for groceries. If you want someone who enjoys participating in sports, it’s fair to ask for that in your profile - you want to keep the couch potatoes away. But ask for something like this:
I’m looking for an attractive, intelligent, sexy, spontaneous woman in her 20s who isn’t into head games and is open-minded.
and you might as well be asking for a leprechaun to come flying in on a unicorn with a pot o’ gold. Perhaps no one has told you this, so I’ll be the one to break it to you: No woman is that perfect. (Neither are you, for that matter; stop being so picky.)
Every man wants a woman who is attractive, smart and funny. Don’t state the obvious. List the attributes that YOU find attractive that others may not: “You have a Princess Leia costume”; “You appreciate a fine zombie movie”; or “You live for paragliding.”
When a woman reads your laundry list of expectations, do you know what she does? First, she checks off the traits she doesn’t have. (Blame Cosmo and Vogue for that.) Then she moves on to the next profile. So, if you are looking for a 24 to 35-year-old woman who must fit your very narrow criteria, the chances are good you’ve lost the interest of that attractive, intelligent, just-turned 36-year-old sexpot who owns a Princess Leia metal bikini.
Some things are best left unsaid, or saved until the third date. These include broken relationships, past heartaches or stories that sound like lyrics from a country song. You can mention you’re divorced or have children — there are some facts you should be upfront about from the beginning. But stay away from documenting your inner struggles following a bad breakup. Some profiles read like depressing novels; if you want to channel your inner Tolstoy, take a writing class. Otherwise, you won’t get many responses, save for the occasional recommendation of a good therapist.
So, there you have it. I hope this helps you in your journey for love and happiness. I leave you with hope, good thoughts and this butchered film quote:
If you build a good profile, they will come.
This is the second in a series of musings on PR and Online Dating, originally posted on October 14.
Part two — The Nickname and Tagline
For those who have never perused online dating sites, the nickname is your user handle. You don’t want to use your real name and if you ask, “Why not?” I strongly suggest you avoid the Internet forever. A tagline is a one-sentence introduction about yourself. Don’t make it a pick-up line; this is why women don’t like going to bars.
When coming up with your profile name and tagline, it is best to think of it in terms of branding. Your photo is your logo, your nickname is the name of your product (you) and your tag line is your slogan. All are meant to create intrigue and interest. Much like you do with your hair and clothing, you want to take those extra few moments to make sure everything is in place. Or you risk this:
Uh oh. (Source: The LogoFactory.com)
Have you ever been asked to come up with one word to best describe yourself? It’s an exercise in frustration. This one word is supposed to encapsulate and communicate the essence that is YOU. Which is why choosing a nickname for your online dating profile is the trickiest and most discouraging chore you can go through. How do you come up with a moniker that captures how funny/well-read/cool you are? Some say it can’t be done; I say it can, with imagination, some creativity and a little help from your friends.
The “Nickname”. We all have nicknames bestowed upon us by others. Some are pet names given to you as a child, while others are handles you’ve picked up as you’ve gone through adulthood. No doubt there are more waiting for you in the future.
Using your nickname in your profile is a good idea. However, if its etymology needs to be explained to those outside your social or familial circle in order for it to be understood, don’t use it.
Case in point: Your broheems call you Stubby because of your fondness for those old Molson stubby beer bottles. Cute, yes. But on a dating site, “Stubby” takes on a whole different meaning. Sure, you can explain your nickname in your profile, but most women won’t even bother getting to it. They’ll be too busy laughing.
Characters. This is easy - just take your favourite character from a book, movie or television show. This works if you’re targeting your audience to find someone with interests that match yours. But if you want to broaden your horizons and attract as many women as possible to your profile, proceed with caution and note these caveats:
- Anything from Star Trek/Star Wars/Battlestar Galactica. As much as these shows have made strides into mainstream culture, calling yourself Picard, Boba Fett or Starbuck automatically labels you as a nerd.
- Comic books. With all the inner personality conflicts afflicting superheroes and their foes, tread carefully here. Calling yourself Harvey Dent — do-good lawyer or a maniac with a facial deformity? Superman or Batman — a loner in tights. The Joker — another psychopath with facial deformity. Remember, women read comic books too.
- Don’t be a smarty-pants. People aren’t going to rush to their dictionaries to look up your name, Hephaestus. Same goes for you, Beowulf. Names like these are foreign to most people — they’ll just scrunch their noses, scratch their heads and move on to Optimus Prime’s profile. I’m not suggesting you have to dumb it down; just keep in mind it is a dating site and from what I heard there isn’t a high representation of Mensa types on there. My nickname was Circe — very few men got the irony.
Names with “69” or “XXX” in them. The man who has this nickname is the kind who watches way too much porn and has several restraint orders filed against him. It can also scream, “I talk the talk but never get to walk the walk. MOM! Nooo, don’t come in! Why don’t you knock? I soooo have to move out. Oooh, new Number 6 fan fiction!”
Boring1234. If the name you chose is taken, most sites will suggest the same name, but with numbers at the end. For example, Casanova3453. A name like this tells me you either lack imagination or are too lazy to come up with another name. Try again.
Some confuse this with a pick-up line you would use at a bar. Again, It’s more like a slogan. Like an ad exec you be should be creative and sell yourself. Just avoid any advertising clichés like “Over 1 million served” or “Servicing women since 1975.”
“Hey Ladies…” No matter what your intention or affectation is, this always comes across as sleazy. Are you looking for one woman or a harem? If it’s the latter, good luck <snicker>.
The Egoist. Online dating sites are full of these arrogant pricks. “Hey, don’t look any further!” or “I’m what you’re looking for!” Unless you can back that claim up with third party endorsements, lay off the spin. And if you ARE Mr. Right, why hasn’t some lucky lady snapped you up yet?
I actually saw a tagline that read: “Hey! You’ve just won the lottery!” Really? I guess no one wants to claim you. You are the equivalent of the Free Ticket prize I get on Encore: high investment, low yields.
Pop culture references. See “Characters”, above. But with the following caveats:
- No Scarface quotes. “Say ‘Hello’ to my little friend!” No, thanks.
- Avoid chick flicks. Unless you want to meet a woman who can recite every line from Pretty Woman and will drag your ass to the latest romantic comedy pukefest. She also has a ton of stuffed animals on her bed and puts sweaters on her cats (note the plural tense). Here’s a tip: Princess Bride works for a lot of cool chicks.
- No poetry. Unless you’re Lord Bryon or Smokey Robinson, avoid including your own work. Seduction through words is best left to the pros.
- Song lyrics. These can be open to interpretation or ambiguity. Choose wisely or go for the completely blatant (Spinal Tap’s “Lick my Love Pump”).
The Eeyore. “No one’s gonna read this” or “Yup, I’m still on here!” Being self-deprecating to the point of cringe-inducing is not going to bring women to your pity party. The concept of “reverse psychology” is so overused that it doesn’t work anymore. Unless you’re Bugs Bunny.
Duck season, fire!
Coming soon: The Profile
Here’s a little tidbit about me: I was once an online dater.
I am not ashamed of my admission, nor do I regret my actions. I made a few friends through the process. I also have a collection of funny anecdotes I can depend on to liven up pauses in conversations.
Earlier this year, I decided to remove all my dating profiles, despite being bombarded with eHarmony ads. (Clearly, their ads are targeted to people who have never dated online.) I did so for two reasons: one, online dating can take up a lot of one’s time, which I don’t have much of anymore; and two, online dating can be a humiliating process — your self-esteem can only take so many beatings, no matter how strong you think you are. (There is a third reason I give when the question is asked by smug marrieds: “Yes, I AM still single and childless. Why ruin a good thing?”)
All this begs the question: why does online dating have to be so hard? Before the Internet, people would meet each other at bars, parties or through friends. That was truly a WYSIWYG situation; you could size up your potential mate in as much time as it took to drink your beer. But that meant making the effort to put on makeup, venture outside and spend time with countless knobs before you found a decent bloke with nice breath and more than two words to string together.
When I discovered online dating, it was like manna from the heavens. I could scroll through hundreds of men, in the comfort of my home and pajamas, and delete the undesirables with a click of my mouse. It was like picking fruit in a grocery store — I could toss aside the dented, moldy apples to get to the shiny, juicy ones. How can that be a bad thing?
But like most web applications, it’s only as good as the people who use them. There are users who see the tool as enhancing their lives, e.g. increasing their chances of meeting a nice person. And there will be those who see it as a means to their nefarious ends, e.g. how many women can I dupe, date and dump? You can probably guess which group I encountered the most.
I was recently sharing my online dating experiences with a girlfriend. Between the two of us, we accumulated many stories of, to quote the Lowest of the Low, salesmen, cheats and liars. We came up with some basic guidelines on how to decipher a man’s online profile. (For example, using “Tony Montana” as a profile name. Is it their real name or a shout out to a murderous, cocaine-snorting movie character? Answer: they probably have a Scarface poster over their bed.) Conversely, these same guidelines could provide men with tips on how to best market themselves. Then it struck me — online dating is a lot like public relations! My cohort didn’t see the connection but I sure did. The idea may seem ridiculous at first, but bear with me.
PR is about building relationships with your audiences. It involves developing a positive relationship with the public, with the goal of getting them to view your organization in a positive light. It also includes building a strong brand that will attract the right audience, instill trust and confidence and help you avoid pitchfork-wielding mobs.
When posting a profile on an online dating site, aren’t the goals very similar? You want to build a strong brand (profile) that will attract the right audience (women). It should also be an accurate and honest portrayal of what you have to offer; if your brand does not reflect reality or you can’t back it up with quality product, your success rate will plummet. And you will be chased by pitchfork-wielding women.
According to Love Online: A Report on Digital Dating in Canada 37% more men than women use online dating services. That means for every woman using online dating services, there are more than two men. So not only do you have to attract women to your profile, you have to compete with hundreds of other fellows at the same time. How do you make your brand stand out? I called it the 3H factor — honesty, a little bit of humility and a dose of humour.
So as a public service announcement, I decided to embark on a series of posts on marketing yourself through your online dating profile. What do women look for? And what do your profile choices really say about you? (My experiences with online dating are limited to men, so the focus will be on male profiles, ‘natch. Any male visitors to my blog are free to post their own musings about women and online dating in the comments section. Or write a post on your blog about the subject; remember to link to mine to create a lively discussion.) I would also like to thank all my lovely girlfriends who contributed their own suggestions via Twitter.
Part one: The Photo
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and brother, they ain’t kidding. This is the make-or-break item in your profile. It is what makes a woman decide whether to read your profile or block you from ever appearing on her screen again. The following are the types of photos commonly used and why they give credence to the old notion that pictures can steal your soul.
Standing in front of your car. It’s nice that you’re proud of your souped-up Honda Civic. In these times it is impressive that you can afford to drive, what with the high insurance rates and soaring gas prices. And kudos to you for being able to get your entire car in the photo with you!
What it says about you: That sure is a nice sheen on your chassis but you’re so far away that I CAN’T SEE YOUR FACE. It also tells me you’ll probably be more into your car than me. I expect our dates will include trips to the car wash, street racing and a request for a Tawny Kitaen-pose on the hood of your car because you are more than likely a Whitesnake fan.
Tawny Kitaen, 80s video vixen. She’ll put a shine on your chassis!
The Usher Shot. No, I’m not talking about the singer. It’s that one photo taken at your buddy’s wedding. You’re in a dapper tuxedo and you look absolutely, incredibly handsome.
What is says about you: You look good in a tuxedo. Big deal, most men do. But unless you’re James Bond, don’t bother using it as your main profile photo. Yes, it shows that you dress up real good, but what about the other 364 days of the year?
Group shots. Wow, you have a lot of friends. And they all seem to like you, you party animal!
What it says about you: You’re actually going to make me look for you in the photo? Is this what I’ll be doing every Saturday night when you’re out partying with your buddies — looking for you? In my experience, men who post the group shot are usually the ugliest ones in the photo. While this may not be true in your case, that’s the first thing that pops into my head. Next!
Pictures with attractive women. Wow, those are very attractive women you’re with! You’re such a stud!
What is says about you: So you got a Hooters waitress/Budweiser girl/auto show model to pose with you. Sorry to tell you this, but they’ll pose with anybody. That’s what they are paid to do. And if you are such a chick magnet, why are you on a dating site? You can get women to pose in pictures with you, but you can’t seal the deal?
Dude! They are SOOO not going out with you.
Cut and paste shots. Aren’t you creative! You’ve taken a picture of yourself with an ex-girlfriend, cut her out and put “This could be you!” in her place. Awwww.
What is says about you: You think women are all the same and easily replaceable. You’re also a big nerd.
The shirtless man. You’re smoking hot. You must spend every day at the gym working on your six-pack.
What is says about you: You’d rather spend time at the gym instead of snuggling in front of the TV with me, a pizza and a six-pack of beer. You also spend more time in the bathroom than I do. You shave your chest more often than I shave my legs.
You are a walking Backstreet Boy video.
The traveler shot. Wow, you climb mountains, scuba dive and visit exotic locales. Nice shot of you waterskiing/in front of Mayan ruins/snorkeling.
What it says about you: You’re never home long enough for a relationship. And you have no job.
Firemen. Ah, yes, 9/11 has been bery, bery good to you, hasn’t it? What a cheeky shot of you wearing nothing but your, er, hose.
What it says about you: You want a one-night stand. Women of substance do not get a fire down below just because you slide down a pole. (This rule also applies to cops and military personnel.)
Firemen NEVER look like this.
“Private” or hidden photo. You have to send me your photos first before you see these goods, baby.
What it says about you: You’re cheating on your wife.
No photo at all. You haven’t got a scanner. You haven’t had time to upload photos from your digital camera. You’re probably better looking in person, anyways!
What it says about you: You are a lazy, ugly Luddite.
It’s simple, really. BE HONEST. Don’t post any photo of you that is more than five years old. The picture is supposed to sell you. Think of it as truth in advertising; we will meet you at some point — do you really want us to be disappointed? Do you want us walking away thinking we’ve been sold a bill of goods? Remember, women talk. I had girlfriends who used the same dating sites I did, and we would warn each other about certain men. If I only had a blog back then…
Here’s another way to put it: You want to sell your car and post an ad in Auto Trader. You are selling a Pontiac Sunbird; you wouldn’t post a picture of a Cadillac, would you?
I know it’s hard. A lot of women will flock to the generically handsome men who make all the above mistakes. But be patient - these women will be continuously disappointed with “Romeo243” and “PrinceCharming4567” that your nice photo and funny profile will win them over. You may not look like Brad Pitt, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are women who aren’t sold just on flash and style; we look for substance behind the brand - wit, charm and intelligence.
Coming soon: The profile nickname.
I read this interesting post in a blog on Computerworld.com last week:
People over 30 hate cell phones
By Mike Egan
A research firm has found that people over 30 use just 12 percent of the features on their cell phones and feel frustrated and overwhelmed by cell phone complexity. And it’s not just exotic features adults struggle with, but even basics like checking voice mail, using address books and dialing.
The firm, Half Moon Bay Calif.-based Bowen Research, found that people under the age of 30 use about half of their phones’ features.
More than one third of the people over 30 surveyed by Bowen Research expressed “deep frustration” about their cell phones.
Here are a few quotes from the study published in a Bowen press release:
“I never quite know what I’m doing after a year and a half.“
“If it’s too complicated, it just really isn’t worth it.“
“Not intuitive at all.“
“To this day, I don’t know how to check voicemail.”
Multiple respondents said many cell phone features are “impossible to learn” and that cell phones are “out of your control.”
Where did they find these luddites survey participants? Living under rocks?
As someone who is — ahem — over 30, I want to dispel any notion that the majority of us are technologically retarded (or “e-tarded”.) I am pretty savvy when it comes to technology. I can figure things out within minutes, even without an instruction manual. While I love the scratchy sounds of a needle hitting vinyl, I just love my iPod. My Laserdisc player and VCR are collecting dust while I fawn over my PVR. I’m definitely not “old school” when it comes to technology.
But I do hate cell phones, and not for the reasons noted in the article.
I grew up in a time before cell phones, when there were moments you were actually unreachable. You didn’t know the minutiae of stranger’s lives when you rode the bus. When the company you were with wouldn’t ignore you to read their latest text message.
Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy and take advantage of the conveniences technology has given me. It has come into my life gradually, however, and I have been able to choose which tools fit my life. Future generations will come into this world completely connected to technology. They will know no other way of life. They will communicate more through technology and interpersonal relationships will become…well, less personal.
Having a cell phone is something I chose to buy; it wasn’t forced on me. The cost is minimal and it provides me with some benefits and efficiencies. But it does not rule my life. I have friends whose lives would be turned upside down if they lost their cell phones. Me? I still keep an address book. I choose face-to-face conversations over those conducted by text messaging. I use my cell phone to facilitate get-togethers, not replace them.
I hate cell phones because they encroach on a way of life where we interact with each other in person. Humans evolve over time to adapt to their environments, but were we failing as a species before the advent of cell phones? I don’t think so.
Or maybe I’ve never been much of a phone person to begin with.