Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 6 April 2022. In this issue:
I welcomed last year’s report from Campaign Monitor and now they’ve done it again, comparing email metrics across 100bn emails sent during 2021, organised into 18 different sectors. So if you are continually wondering how well your emails are doing, this is a great place to get a sense of what’s ‘typical’ to compare them to.
All reports like this are skewed by the clients using the provider, and although publishing is one of the sectors it’s bundled in with media and entertainment, so that’s pretty broad. There’s also no way of knowing what types of publishing are represented here. Overwhelmingly newspapers and magazines going to a consumer audience? That would have little in common with a scientific journals publisher’s emails sent to academics.
But 100bn emails is a LOT of data, and it is fascinating to compare the stats for different sectors and consider what they reflect. For instance, the best performing sector is education, which makes complete sense given the reliance on online teaching through 2021. Travel is down ... no surprise there, either.
Some quick takeaways:
We’ve probably all been there. What you thought was an innocuous piece of copy is met with a vitriolic comment which first baffles and then alarms.
When this happened to the second of two current clients this month, I thought it was time to respond.
Example 1: The back cover of an academic title about the history of colonialism included copy that would originally have come from the author, with one phrase (also probably the author’s) that inflamed a customer who bought the book. That customer emailed to complain, accusing the publisher of promoting ‘white supremacist views’. Having seen the phrase, I’m not sure that warning bells would have alerted me to change it.
What did the publisher do? Apologised for causing offence, cited the author’s impeccable credentials, changed the copy on the website, moved on.
Example 2: The education publisher who published a blog post about assessing children with visual impairments. A very practical, upbeat post by teachers who were addressing this in their schools. Tweets alerted other teachers who recognised this challenge to the helpful post.
One reply caustically said ‘what a pity your own products aren’t designed well for the visually impaired’.
What did the publisher do? Stopped tweeting about the article, and responded offline to the poster of the comment. Social media can quickly become poisonous if threads get distracted and out of control. I should also mention that this poster’s caustic remarks elsewhere on social media had been noticed before.
What should they both do?
Put both of these into perspective. The most useful thing we can learn from them is that there have always been, and always will be, odd individuals to throw us a scary curve ball that makes us question our judgement. Neither of these were the publisher’s ‘fault’. What we should emphatically NOT do is rein back and write bland, ‘safe’ copy instead. Meanwhile, like the professionals we are, we apologise for causing offence. And move on.
Our Copywriting Workshop can’t cater for every scenario, but it does look at how to make good judgements, what to watch out for, and how to be bold enough to get (the right sort of) attention.
Do any of you remember the psychologist’s video in which viewers are tasked to count the number of times a baseball is passed between players? As the action unfolds, a man in a gorilla suit walks across the court. None of the viewers notice because they’re concentrating on counting. They are shocked when they are told.
Here’s another one. Think you have a keen eye for detail? Not much gets past you? Last month David Crotty shared this video on Scholarly Kitchen, named ‘Illusion of the Year’ by the Neural Correlate Society.
Emma Phillips is Head of Marketing at Class Professional Publishing. During the practical work feedback session in a recent Copywriting Workshop she opened by saying ‘I’ve made some of this up so will have to check it before actually using it’.
The reason I love this is that it shows that Emma was driven by the needs of the customer, rather than the possible limitations of the product details she had in front of her. Sometimes the most compelling fact we can say about a product is omitted from the description handed to us to work with. It’s one of our jobs as marketers to see things from the customer’s perspective and fill in the gaps. Always accurately, naturally.