Critical tips from today’s news
A client requested editing for the marketing text that her company normally uses for its Christmas greeting card. Because English is not the company’s first language, she was worried that the text sounded awkward (it did) and that more could be said with fewer words (it could).
But is Merry Christmas even the right direction?
America the Beautiful, Land of Immigrants
Debates over the current immigration policies of the U.S. aside, there is no argument that the country has an impressively diverse population, especially when it comes to religious belief.
According to PewResearch’s Religion and Public Life Project, the U.S. is predominantly Christian by some 78.4 percent. That does not, however, equal a single religious belief, as Christians include Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Orthodoxy – some of whom do not celebrate Christmas as many of us know it.
There’s just as much diversity among the 22.6 percent: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and a range of others, including those who define themselves as unaffiliated.
A War on Christmas?
The rise of the term “Happy Holidays” is a wonderful acknowledgement of the diversity outlined above. Those who are using the term – along with a similarly neutral term, “Season’s Greetings” – are not political people with an agenda, those who are trying to define November and December as decidedly not the ownership of just the Christians. Instead they are the blessedly practical, people who accept that when you have 1 in 4 chances of a misstep with “Merry Christmas” it may be a wiser choice to choose a term that embraces them all.
Is that the end of the story? Not exactly.
How to Be A Wise (Wo)Man
So should you use “Merry Christmas” on your greeting card? Well, it depends! If you are a company that specializes in producing Christmas-themed products for the American marketplace, you are as interested in consistent messaging as the company that produces Hanukkah-related goods.
That is to say, the answer is in what you sell and who you are trying to reach.
If you want to send mass-produced cards to American customers or business partners located from Washington State to Texas to Massachusetts and to Alabama, I recommend that you go with the neutral greetings and images. Cards that feature explicitly Christian symbols (a cross or a manager, for example) should be passed over instead for cards that feature more generic or “gift-giving season” symbols.
Images that feature:
- Snow, snowflakes, and/or a snowman
- Food and drink festivities
- Poinsettia and ivy
- Wrapped gifts
- Red and gold colors
Just look at the kind of images you can find for “Happy Holidays” using Google image search:
The same rules should apply to all of your related content marketing. Do you produce a seasonal catalog? Make it a “Holiday Gift Guide,” for example.
If, however, you are writing a more personal messages to, say, an American client with whom you have talked about Sunday church activities, God’s blessings, and the like, go ahead and enthusiastically send a Merry Christmas greeting!
Here are examples of the Christian-themed “Merry Christmas” cards, also found using Google image search.
In short, here’s your lesson:
Unless you believe with certainty that your American card recipient is a Christian, choosing a more generic greeting such as “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” is your best bet.
I have a client for whom I do regular ghost writing of blog content. Writer’s block aside, this is easy enough to do at a computer but somewhat challenging when I am on the road. Thanks to an eyesight-friendly large screen, my laptop weighs a ton. I loathe carrying it with me — yes, defeating the whole purpose of having a laptop at all. But my iPhone is always with me and, in a pinch, serves as a perfect tool for drafting content on the go.
I am a devotee of both the the Drafts notetaking app for iPhone and WordPress for publishing content. Since I discovered Markdown, a plain text to HTML converter, it is now even easier for me to create blog content with my chosen formatting — content that I can drop directly into the client’s CMS with HTML tagging intact.
While I have perfected a Drafts_App-to-Evernote_App-to-Review_Cycle for my client, what about my own writing? I manage many WordPress sites but, frankly, keeping my own WordPress blog up to date is often an “I’ll get to it eventually” chore. To make the from-my-brain-to-published flow happen, I decided I needed a more direct workflow.
Building on a tip on iPhone blogging from Bojan Djordjevic, writer and editor at Alpha Efficiency, I created the following solution using Drafts and two freely available and well-reviewed tools from the WordPress Plugin Directory: Postie and WP-Markdown. If you follow the step-by-step instructions below, you too can move your blog content from smartphone to screen at the push of a button.
This tutorial presumes that you have purchased and installed Drafts for iPhone. If you’re a writer who is often on the go, run do not walk to get this app. It’s worth every cent.
This tutorial also presumes you are using a self-install of WordPress rather than WordPress.com. New to WordPress and not sure of the difference? Read this: .Com Versus .Org
Set Up A Secret Email Account
WordPress recommends that you set up an email account that you use exclusively for posting to your WordPress site. Agreed! But let me HIGHLY recommend that you create one using your hosting package. I tried this set up with GMail and, instead of writing, spent my hours reading the support forums trying to understand why it repeatedly failed.
Avoid the hassle: With one of your WordPress install’s randomly generated strings handy (Dashboard > Settings > Writing > Post via e-mail), log into your hosting provider’s cPanel and use that string to create a new email account. Write down all of the details — email address, password, mail server, and port — because you will need them later in this setup.
Install Postie and WP-Markdown
Postie, which is available for free in the WordPress Plugin Directory, “offers many advanced features for posting to your blog via e-mail, including the ability to assign categories by name, included pictures and videos, and automatically strip off signatures. It also has support for both imap and pop3, with the option for ssl with both.” (Postie)
WP-Markdown, which is also for free in the WordPress Plugin Directory, “allows Markdown to be enabled in posts, comments and bbPress forums.” (WP-Markdown)
From your website’s WordPress Dashboard, search for and install each of these plugins (Dashboard > Plugins > Install New).
What I write here won’t work for everyone, but it will work for the average user and are Postie’s default configurations. (If you need help with your particular WordPress setup, do consider booking a WordPress consultant. We’re here to help!:))
Where it says “youruniquestring” and “yourdomain.com” and “youruniquepassword” below, be sure to use what you wrote down in the “Set Up A Secret Email” step above.
These are the settings that Postie will use to fetch email from your secret email account as content for a new post.
Mail Protocol: Pop3
Mail Server: mail.yourdomain.com
Login name: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check for mail every: daily*
* Tip: You can trigger Postie to check for mail at intervals as often as “every five minutes” or as infrequently as “manually.” If, like me, you’re an occasional blogger who wants automation, then “daily” should be sufficient.
These are the settings that will keep your website secure from unauthorized emails, much in the way that a list subscription works per subscribed email address. If you have regular business and personal accounts from which you send emails, place them — one per line — in the space provided as so:
Authorized addresses: email@example.com
These are the settings that will control how the post is displayed. Since we are using Markdown, I adjusted these settings so that I can get the best results.
Default Post Status: Published*
Preferred Text Type: plain
Wrap content in pre tags: no
Filter newlines: no**
Send post confirmation e-mail to: sender***
* Tip: Test in draft mode until you are confident of the results. In any case, it’s WordPress! You can always go back and edit what you have published.
** You’ll notice that Postie conveniently adds help text for Markdown users there!
*** If, like me, you prefer confirmation messages, this option is for you. If not, the default is “none.”
That’s it for Postie for the average user. Want more control? Postie offers a host of WordPress Dashboard- and text-triggered controls that include specifying categories, post status, post date, and more. Simply work your way through all of its options or see them explained in WordPress Plugin Directory: Postie > Other Notes
Once you have installed WP-Markdown just a couple of clicks on its configuration settings will be right for you. Since I am using this for post content, just the following is needed:
Enable Markdown for: Posts
Finally, Testing Your Results
This is the final beauty of the whole procedure: Once you’ve reached this point, it’s normal email sending ahead!
To preview your Markdown, compose your text with Drafts and choose the “Markdown: Preview” function before sending your content as an email. Don’t forget the subject line — that will be the title of your WordPress post.
Want to get fancy? Use those Postie syntax options mentioned above to set publication date, to open or close comments, and everything else — all directly from within your email content.
I of course want to hear from you who have tried out this setup. What worked for you? What didn’t? More importantly: if you have another workflow that you believe accomplishes the same results with fewer steps out of the box, please share that in the comments.
Happy publishing, my fellow writers!
Flickr photo credit: twicepix
After losing his own seat to an irate fellow passenger, Barry Kirk was pleased to be bumped up to first class. That is, until he overheard a flight attendant complain to a colleague about just how much he detested serving first class fliers . . . When so much of customer loyalty depends upon the service experience, can any business afford to overlook the critical role of customer service on brand value?
Kirk is solution vice president of consumer loyalty with Maritz Research, a marketing research company whose data on customer behavior shapes the business strategies of market leaders worldwide.
Among the key findings of the company’s research on the impact of consumer experience, says Kirk:
- 43% of customers who defect from a brand do it because of a service interaction.
- Of those defectors, 77% blame employee attitude for the poor experience.
- More importantly, the large majority, 83%, of customers who defect because of poor service tell someone else about it.
“A company can do many things right with a customer, only to have it all unravel in one bad experience with a brand ambassador,” wrote Kirk for Promo Magazine.
Whether you’re the owner of a local hardware store or the director of a national electronics chain, these are numbers and insights to take to heart.
Read more from Kirk in “First Class to no Class: Learning Loyalty from a Flight Attendant” — Promo Magazine, May 17, 2011. Image credit: Richard Moross (Flickr).