A Word Sparking Star Wars and Real Wars

Star Wars: The Force Awakens drowned us this summer, with merchandising ranging from mascara to oranges on store shelves. Once I saw the new film, I wanted to see the original theatrical versions, undiluted by George Lucas’ meddling. Lucasfilm insists they no longer exist. Of course, legions of fans took it upon themselves to reconstruct the films using a variety of sources. The most controversial change in the first film takes place in the Mos Eisley cantina scene. (spoiler alert – but really, you should’ve seen Star Wars by now!) Green gilled and bug-eyed Greedo corners smuggler Han Solo. Han’s a marked man and Greedo’s itching to collect. In the original version, (after stalling and Han drawing his blaster) Han shoots Greedo “in cold blood.” Here’s what the shooting script says:

Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of light. 
Han pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the other patrons look on in bemused amazement.”

Later revisions show Greedo shooting first, then Han and Greedo shooting at the same time. “So what?” you might think. This visually insignificant change is one that contains multitudes.

It’s supposed to inform viewers that Solo isn’t so trustworthy. Ben and Luke have put in their lot with this low-life braggart. We’re supposed to feel uneasy about this hasty alliance. It changes the tenor of the film. Han could have sold Ben and Luke if captured by the Imperials, left them for dead at any time, etc.

Another far more tragic example of subtle changes having long reaching effects was during the last gasp of World War II. Japan, threatened by invasion from the United States and fast running out of resources, was determined to fight until the last man. The “Big Three” (United Kingdom, Soviet Union and the US) issued an ultimatum for surrender to the Japanese. The Japanese responded in the negative, but suffered from mistranslation. A word – mokusatsuhas two meanings in Japanese. The first being “ignore” and the other, “refrain from comment.” It was the difference between “let us think about it” and “We refuse!” If the message was translated as “no comment,” the Japanese and US may have arrived at a surrender deal, preventing the twin atomic horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This misinterpretation struck consequences far beyond the imaginations of its writers and readers.

It’s a chilling lesson for clarity and precision in communication. We may think that subtle differences make no difference, although we're proven wrong time and time again. If you believe that words are your ally, do – keep in mind words might turn on you without provocation. Remember always: "Expect to misunderstand and expect to be misunderstood."

The Pointy End Podcast now up!

A month or so ago, I was humbled to be a guest on Active Elements Radio The Pointy End podcast, hosted by Dr. Leslie Fisher. Dr. Fisher is a good friend and colleague of mine, and we've had many long conversations about a variety of topics during our meetings at the NAB Village. The Pointy End is his podcast series looking at "the pointy end" of what people in small business do, in probing and insightful detail. It's a relaxed but no less informative talk...I hope!

It was a great privilege to guest "star" on the podcast, which you can hear above. We talked about the "pointy end" of copywriting, its relation to journalism and media culture as a whole. About 40 minutes - let me know your thoughts in the comments!

My Story: From Slinging Prose to Selling Words

The kind crew at SavvySME asked me to write "My Story" for their series on people starting small businesses. Here's an excerpt on how I started freelance copywriting with a link to the post below:

In the twilight of 2013, I was sitting at my desk. I was sitting, writing content for the new .au Domain Administration website. Instead of paying the developer to sort it out, that job as Marketing and Communications Officer, settled on me. I leaned back in my chair, daydreamed a little before thinking; “You know what? I bet I could do this full time. I bet I could do this full time and make even more money.”

A few months later, I quit auDA and started I Sell Words. The End.

Well, not quite...

Read the entire post at SavvySME.

Drawing Attention: Script for Animated Ad!

Just a short note to showcase this awesome new ad for my friends (and by my friends) at the Animation Company.

Sam and the Animation Company are one of my dearest clients, and I was lucky enough to help write the script for this short attention grabber. I was especially proud of the tagline I came up with - keep an ear out for it!

The Animation Company is a Sydney based corporate and business oriented animation studio. They're always creating engaging, informative and attention-grabbing animation in both 2D and 3D.

To find out more about the Animation Company (with website copy by me!), click here.

Think About It: are you adding content or transforming your business?

Below is a modified version of the Hysteria Magazine industry mailout.

In 2011, I finished my Masters’ thesis, Rock Sells Out: Australian rock journalism—cultural creation,industry influence and electronic evolution. The last part of my thesis dealt with the inevitable—print was in decline and new ways of delivering content and experiences was on the rise. This is before anyone thought of the concepts of 'distributed content' and how to engage Hysteria’s core demographic.

Even back in the doldrums of the early 2000s, the research was clear: people aren’t paying for content if they don’t have to. The onus was on us to innovate. The old models of engagement are over.

Journalists and content creators aren’t simply word monkeys any more: they have to be content producers AND search engine optimisers. There’s no going back to filing copy and putting your feet up after. This new age affords us many benefits. Streamlining a content experience on one device means better and greater opportunities for all.

Analytics. Hysteria Magazine is a completely digital experience. How do you know you’re making a return on investment placing an ad in print? You can guess. In reality, you don’t. By going digital, you tap into analytics. Analytics are cold, hard and accurate facts staring in the face of blind faith. For example:

We gather this information precisely and in real time. The CAB audit might show you how many titles are in circulation, not how many eyeballs are on pages. Do you know for sure your ad made a sale? Online content is an opportunity to refine one of your business' investments.

Engagement. Using our proprietary app and social channels,  you can unique experience tailored around specific media. Do you think about your business as having one function plus content, or does your content transform your business entirely?

Distributed content. Hysteria isn’t a mag, a website, an Instagram, a Twitter, a Facebook. It’s everything. One channel doesn’t drive traffic to the other—it’s the complete package. If you have content that doesn’t fit the traditional 'website as print substitute' model, we get creative. We maximise reach using our social and proprietary channels.
All of it is Hysteria.

Copywriting and content isn't simply "marketing" or having a "presence." If you have a website and social media, it transforms your business. You may not be a "content provider" or "news site," by trade. It's undeniable content forms part of your identity and how you communicate that identity to the world.  Content shouldn't be an afterthought. It should feel as important as what product you sell or what service you deliver. What people see is your business. That's how you should do business!

How do words explode a thousand times?

Hiring others is more than getting someone with a skill you don't have to complete a task for you.

I realised earlier this week that writing words isn't just a service, but an investment.

Copywriting and content is an investment that pays dividends over and over again. Like the great Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin said many years ago: "Books are of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite only explodes once, whereas a book explode a thousand times."

In a business sense, your words are written once and potentially convert hundreds, thousands - even millions of readers into customers. Think of your favourite book. How many times have those words been read by millions, even billions of people?

Think of slogans like "Just Do It" and "I'm Lovin' It." It's almost impossible to think of those three words and separate them from their brands. These precious little words "explode" in the mind, impossible to ignore.

How do you get your words to "explode a thousand times?" If you aren't content with doing it yourself, you hire professional and practical copywriters in your stead. It's a form of short-term business building and long-term investment.

Hiring external contractors to write your copy not only saves time and effort on your part, it's also:

  • A form of passive income. Good copywriting increases web traffic. Great copywriting converts them into customers.
  • Gives your brand identity. A consistent tone and voice sets your brand apart from the rest. It's vital for all businesses to lend familiarity and consistency in their dealings with customers.
  • Forms part of your overall marketing strategy. Consistent blog posts and other marketing materials increases your reach and potential customer base.

If you or someone you know is willing to make an investment in words that attract, engage and convert, contact me today! I'll make sure your words "explode a thousand times," too!

Thanks and Merry Christmas/New Year 2015

Hello, Tom from I Sell Words writing here.

Just a short blog post to thank you all my clients and friends for your support for I Sell Words in its first year of operation. It's been a steep but rewarding learning curve. Getting to know people from all walks of life such as creatives, business owners, entrepreneurs and people who've just need a bit of help with copywriting has been a real privilege.

The continued success of ISW throughout this year and beyond could not have been possible without people such as you. For that, I humbly offer you my gratitude.

As for myself, I will be catching up with friends and family over the break. I'll be taking a short holiday of my own over the Christmas and New Year period. I'll be winding back full-steam operations today. Everything will be back to normal on January 8, 2015.

Write you in the new year,

Tom