No News Is The Worst News
It's been one of the slowest news weeks of the year, which means it's been one of my busiest weeks of the year.
Let me explain: when a week has a lot of big news, it's easy to find topics to cover, and my job is a breeze. When it's a slow news week, finding content is torture. Summer has been the slow season for as long as most can remember (that's why the default lead story on the news every summer night is the weather), and the summer-fall transitional weeks are the news nadir for the year. Nothing is happening.
While trawling the Internet floor for treasure and pearls, a lot of things turn up that are interesting, possibly even useful, but not headline (or Headlines) worthy. Still, just becuase we don't run it doesn't mean no one wants to read it. Here are a few of the articles that didn't make it into our newsletters this month that I thought may be of interest.
Writing Lessons Learned from Social Media - "Like a good PR or elevator pitch, an effective tweet, Facebook status update or Google+ post is compelling, finely-crafted, tightly-edited and impossible to ignore. Social networks are a great place to test messages and hone your writing to the sharpest of points."
PR Newswire's vice president of social media, Sarah Skerik, discusses some of the insights she's gleaned about writing for various social media services, and how to tailor your message to a variety of audiences. Online writing is still a relatively new phenomenon, with social media being the latest wrinkle, and a lot of the ground rules and best practices are still up for debate. Skerik's brief analysis hews closely to what I think makes sense, and offers great tips for anyone looking to start or expand their social media presence.
How Retailers Use Marketing Tricks to Manipulate What You Buy - "I discovered the 32GB iPad is the most popular model. Marketers at Apple knew this would be the case long before the iPad ever hit the market. This isn't because the 32GB meets the average consumer's needs the best. It's because Apple knows when consumers are presented with three options and have to make a relatively uninformed choice, caution steers them to the middle."
From coffee cup sizes to real estate prices, every aspect of the selling experience has been analyzed, refined and targeted toward a specific goal: to get your money. This article from Alaska's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner takes a look at the psychology behind the marketing decisions of such companies as Apples, Starbucks and the mom-and-pop store down the road. It may be old news to many of you, but it's helpful to get a refresher in price presentation. Although the article makes specific mention of retail, the principles readily translate to promotional products and just about any other sales-based industry.
The Secret Language Code - "Remarkably, how people used pronouns was correlated with almost everything I studied. For example, use of first-person singular pronouns (I, me, my) was consistently related to gender, age, social class, honesty, status, personality, and much more. Although the findings were often robust, people in daily life were unable to pick them up when reading or listening to others. It was almost as if there was a secret world of pronouns that existed outside our awareness."
This is venturing into some deep linguistic nerd territory, but for anyone interested in the psychology of language and how to use it toward persuasive ends, it's fascinating. Scientific American interviews James Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, about his research into language use and human psychology. Using computer models, Pennebaker analyzed texts from numerous eras, locations and languages, and found that the use of pronouns like "I," "he" and "who" had a number of social correlations and implications. What really jumped out to me was this quote: "Basically, we discovered that in any interaction, the person with the higher status uses I-words less (yes, less) than people who are low in status." Interesting stuff, and potentially useful to know on your next sales call.