Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Online Plagiarism & Why It Needs to Be Stopped

"You should just give away your art and share it with the world." That's the response that my artist/illustrator friend received when he kindly asked the person to remove his artwork from their site. The "online plagiarism" discussion fueled me to write about a subject that really irks me -- people who steal artwork and writing, and think they are "entitled" to it...without having to pay a dime.

My friend makes a living from his art, and I make a living from copywriting. I know there are some people who are not informed when it comes to copyright law, and not every person out there "steals" art and content on purpose. However, it's a slap in the face to artists and writers when they assume that we should just give away our talents and skills for FREE. Are they going to pay our bills and expenses, and put food on our tables? I don't think so!

My response to people who think it's okay to steal art, music, writing, etc.: Would you clock in at 8 am and tell your boss you will work for free today? Would you step into a lawyer's office and expect him to give you FREE legal advice? 

Most of us who "create" for a living are freelancers and independent contractors, and we work hard to earn our money. We probably works ten times longer and harder. Because we are freelancers, that does not mean we give away our time and skills for "free".

And online plagiarism doesn't end there. It has taken over education as well. I have a friend who is a high school teacher and at the end of the year, I always ask him how many plagiarizers he caught during the school year. He said it never fails and kids don't learn their lessons. He has flunked students for plagiarizing papers. Unfortunately, the internet makes it easy for students to plagiarize, but it also makes it easy for teachers to catch their students as well (if they are diligent and cross-check facts and information).

I didn't go to college and earn a degree in journalism for the heck of it. And my friend doesn't spend hours creating his artistic illustrations for his clients because he has nothing better to do.

Please be respectful of artists, musicians, and writers, and please don't steal their work. If you want more information about digital copyright laws, check out the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) .

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Companies Need to Know the Difference Between Content Writing Vs. Copywriting

I read an article this morning on SiteProNews about creating the "perfect content marketing strategy." As a copywriter, I wish that content marketing sites would spend more time researching the difference between content vs. copy. Some may call it semantics, but copywriting is a different beast unto itself. Some copywriters also write content/articles (I write both), but most copywriters usually stick with what they know best: marketing and sales-focused copy.

The information presented gives erroneous information to business professionals who require writing services. Yes, she presented good information about getting what you pay for and  that content writing is an investment. I definitely agree, but she threw "website writing" into the general content category and that is not correct.

So what's the big deal and what's the difference? There is a BIG difference that companies need to understand before hiring a professional writer:


Here is a typical scenario that companies face: 

Mr. Smith, CEO of ABC Company, is not happy with his company's website. He takes one look at it and cringes:"Our website reads like a first grader wrote it. Our sales are slacking, and our web site traffic is non-existent. When I talk to prospects at networking functions, they have never heard of our company, let alone understand how our products work!"

My recommendation to Mr. Smith: Hire a copywriter! A copywriter will sit down with Mr. Smith and his team, and figure out what's not working. He/she will review the company's marketing strategies, branding, and messaging -  from the top down. 

Some questions a copywriter might ask: 

  •  Why don't their target markets relate to their website? 
  • What's wrong or what's missing on the site? 
  • Is the website design lackluster and needs a design overhaul? 
  • Does the site have calls to action and testimonials on their website? 
  • What does the company want to achieve with their website? etc. 

These are just a few areas that a copywriter will address BEFORE they even sit down to write the copy. Hire copywriters who work well with designers. If the copywriter  is worth his/her weight in gold, they will have an "eye" for design. Most copywriters don't actually design sites, but they need to understand how a website intuitively works, and how to create a strategic site map, etc.

You could hire a content writer to write "text" for your site, but that's exactly what you will get - words that won't do anything for your sales, lead generation, etc. Copywriting is a persuasive writing style that achieves a marketing purpose, and content writing does not always do that.

Content Writing 

So when should you  hire a content writer? If you need a well-researched blog article/post or need help with your content marketing (placement of articles on syndicated sites to showcase your expertise in your industry/niche), then a content writer would be a good idea. But do NOT hire hack writers who churn out $2 articles. You get what you pay for and many of these companies hire non-native English speakers/writers. Sometimes these cheap articles may be plagiarized, and you could get in a lot of trouble for publishing plagiarized content. It also helps if the content writer understands SEO (search engine optimization) keyword placement. 

If you need a slick, well-researched article, white paper, or report, hire a writer with a journalism or strong writing background who knows how to research. Because someone has an English degree, that does mean they understand how to write an article. If you need a twenty page academic research paper, an English major may work in that case.

If your company requires technical writing, hire a professional technical writer - there's a reason they are called "technical" writers. And they are well worth their money!

By understanding the difference between copywriting vs. content writing, you will save your company a lot of time, money, and headaches!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Professional Skype Etiquette: How to Use Skype For Business

I spend the majority of my work day on Skype. Between instant messaging and Skype calls, you can usually find me hanging out on Skype. It makes it convenient for me to instantly communicate with my clients and you can't beat free Skype calls. If you conduct business via Skype, it's important to follow these "etiquette" rules. Skype is free to use - just download it to your computer. Skype offers low-cost calling plans, but instant messaging and Skype-to-Skype calls (including video calls) are free.

1. Don't "shout" when you type. Shouting is the equivalent of typing with all caps. Just be careful when you instant message and make sure your caps lock is turned off. "Shouting" in the cyber world is considered rude.

2. Don't have a one-sided conversation with yourself. Don't blast out twenty instant messages at once. Remember that not everyone is tied to their desk, and the other person may have stepped away. Wait patiently until you receive a reply, and then continue your conversation. If you need to review a conversation, Skype archives your instant messages, and you can go back (even a year later) to review the conversation.

3. Be respectful and courteous. The same professional rules apply when you use Skype. Use appropriate language, grammar, etc.

4. Don't call someone until they are ready to receive the call. Send an instant message first and politely ask if the other person is ready for the call. The person might be away from their desk, in a meeting, or on another call. Also, don't assume that everyone wants to participate in a video call, and some people may not have a web cam. It's polite to ask first - would they prefer a phone or video call? Video calls are a great feature, especially if you want to personalize the call and see the other person's happy, smiling face.

5. Use the "away" feature when you are busy or step away from your desk or phone. This lets your contacts know you aren't immediately available. If you set yourself to "Do Not Disturb" you will not see the other person's instant messages, so use this feature sparingly. You can also set yourself to "invisible" if you don't want your contacts to know you are online (but you are able to see your online contacts).

6. Download the free Skype app to your smartphone. The app makes it easy to catch your clients on the go, and is a handy feature if you don't want to use up your mobile minutes.

7. Include your professional contact information on your Skype profile - email, mobile number, website link, and don't forget to add a smiling photo!

8. Skype offers a low-cost international calling plan so if you work with clients in other countries, this might be a reasonable option. Take advantage of Skype's call forwarding feature - forwards Skype calls to  another phone number of your choice.

9. Use Skype for small group/conference calls. Conduct the Skype call as you would any conference call. This feature works well for smaller group calls. You can also upload and send files during the call.

10. Create groups within your Skype contacts. This feature allows you to instant message a group of your contacts at once. If you work with multiple people at the same location, this is a convenient feature. You can conduct a three or four-way conversation, and you don't have to go back and forth in different screens.

For more user-friendly tips and information, check out Skype's help page. Happy Skyping!

Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

Content Writing & Marketing Tips ** Online Buzz Branding

** Digital & Social Media Strategies