Month: March 2021

Are acronyms & jargon ever a strong tactic?


Welcome to the bizarre, beguiling and brilliant world of CrossFit lexicon – a lingo like no other that I felt duty-bound as a copywriter to investigate, ever since the first time I found myself kipping in my local CrossFit box (Blitz Twickenham). FYI a box is a gym. And I wasn’t napping, I was hanging from a bar attached to the ceiling. Obviously. I’m still working on my fitness ‘gainz’, but my understanding of the language has definitely strengthened. I now know a pistol from a push press, a dead bug from a dumbbell thrusters and a hook-grip from a hang power snatch. So, as it’s the global ‘CrossFit Games: The Open 2021’ right now, I thought it timely to introduce you to some Blitz banter – and a snapshot of this exercise phenomenon.

Let’s start with Cindy. Don’t be deceived. Cindy, I found out, is a type of WOD. Workout of the Day. Not to be confused with QOD: Question of the Day (much easier to achieve). And so start the acronyms. As a copywriter, it’s always my mission to get clients to ditch abbreviations for clarity’s sake; often alienating, they can leave readers guessing as to their meaning.

But acronyms and jargon are to CrossFit are like marmalade is to Paddington – inextricably linked and all the better for it. Far from alienating, they’re part of the glue that helps bring the community together. A tribe, after all, needs a common language.

“At the heart of CrossFit is community,” says Blitz Twickenham Founder, Tim Hagon. “If we didn’t have our own language, we’d spend all the time talking rather than doing what we love – working out. When I say: it’s FRAN today (pull-ups, thrusters etc) – we know what that means. It’s really easy to pick up, and it gives you that sense of belonging to a community with a joint mission: to be as fit and healthy as we can be.”

On that note, I’ve called on my fellow Blitzers for inspiration and here are their favourites – plus my interpretation of what it’s like being on the receiving end of them.

AMRAP: As many reps as possible. That means a lot. It’ll be hard. It’ll hurt.

EMOM: Every minute on the minute. Also, seemingly unending.

HAM: Go at it ‘hard as a mother***’. Something I could do with channelling more.

RX: As prescribed. If you manage an RX weight, you’ve smashed it. Think Hercules heavy.

T2B: Toes-to-bar. Yup. It literally means you have to swing by your hands from a bar and simultaneously get your toes to touch said bar that’s hanging from the ceiling. Some form of modern-day torture. Looks pretty awesome when achieved.

GOAT: Working on a weakness. “Spend 10 minutes working on a goat”. I have a lot of goats, which makes this a time-consuming strategy.

RDL: Romanian deadlift. Glutes and hamstrings at the ready. Need to channel your inner Vlad – named after Nicu Vlad, a Romanian heavyweight lifter.

DUs: Double-unders. Skipping rope needs to swing round twice per one jump. In mind-bogglingly high numbers.

DUs: Also down-ups. Like burpees to the floor, without the jump in between. Never a few; always in their hundreds.

STOH: Shoulder to overhead. That means your weight has to do just that.

HWPO: Hard work pays off. And judging my the amazing athletes at Blitz, that certainly rings true.

And then there are the femme fatale names of the workouts – akin to the naming of deadly storms. Mary is the mother of Satan – with handstand press-ups (actual press-ups while standing on your actual hands upside-down), while Kelly means kangaroo-like proportions of jumping and Karen involves 150 wallballs for time. Wall balls? Oh yes, weighted gargantuan balls that you need to throw very high up onto a line marked on a wall and then catch while in a low squat. You need to keep your wits about you, as they can land on your head. Don’t even get me started on Barbara.

So, a blowy (tough – you’ll be out of breath and then some) Cindy (push-ups, pull-ups & air squats) AMRAP (as many reps as possible) that you need to go HAM (hard as a motherBEEP) on should by now all make sense. Right? If not, come see for yourself. You have nothing to lose and everything to gainZ…

STOP THE SCROLL: Best tips for posting on LinkedIn in 2021

11 years in recruitment and three children later, Claire Smith then decided to upskill with Digital Mums.  She’s now a social media guru who understands inside-out the huge impact of a decent online presence on sales and growth; not to mention, the overwhelming nature of it for companies that don’t have the time or inclination. Here, TPW chats to Claire to get her valuable insight into how LinkedIn can boost business – and bottom line.

TPW: LinkedIn can be a challenge for busy businesses. What are your top strategies?

Claire Smith: It can be a minefield, but it is also an incredible tool when enticing new clients or customers. Here are my top three tips:

KEEP IT SIMPLE: It’s a common LinkedIn mistake to overcomplicate content and use a writing style that doesn’t encourage engagement.  Try to follow my CHAIR rule, to ensure you’re ticking off at least one (preferably more) of the below:

Challenge: encourage debate and be thought provoking

Help: post educational content that offers advice or top tips

Amuse: Linkedin is definitely a place for fun and humour!

Interest: spark conversation

Relevance: is your content of use to your audience and reflective of current times?

BE CONSISTENT: We all know this, but we rarely adhere to it. But all social platforms, to be effective, need regular posting targets. Quality once or twice a week posting, consistently over time, is much better than average content posted every day – your audiences and algorithms won’t like the latter.

AUDIENCE FIRST: This is why thought leadership content does well on LinkedIn. This last year has also seen an increase in video content and LinkedIn Lives – both of which have great results for engagement. I would recommend experimenting with different content forms e.g. short posts, long-form content, articles, video and see which works best for your brand/business. However, always be consistent with your brand colours and identity. The holy grail is to stop the scroll…

TPW: What’s the key to good blog post titles on LinkedIn?

Claire Smith: Short headlines that include relevant keywords are best. In the last 6-9 months Google has started to index short headlines (so these are now searchable). Also, try to be provocative and attention-grabbing to spark curiosity from your reader.

TPW: What are businesses NOT doing on LinkedIn that they should do more of?

Claire Smith: Video, without a doubt. Since video was introduced in 2017, it’s grown and grown. I recommend a run time of 30 seconds to 2 minutes; evidence shows this has the best engagement rate. It’s great for letting your audience know more about you and showing your business’ personality. Once you’ve broadcasted, it’s also essential to engage with other uses and interact with their posts – in the hope they’ll do the same with yours.

TPW: And finally, are there any clever ‘tricks of the trade’ that we should do more?

Claire Smith: LinkedIn Stories is a great new feature (October 2020).  Similar to Instagram Stories, it’s a quick and engaging way to share 24-hour updates on the platform. You can add text overlays, mention accounts and share a question of the day. 

Once published, stories appear in tappable bubbles at the top of a user’s LinkedIn feed on mobile. From here, viewers can send a story via direct message, making quick and casual conversations easier on the platform. It’s excellent for giving people behind the scenes insights.

Finally, I always recommend users of the platform to take advantage of the LinkedIn social selling index tool (SSI). This is a scoring tool that tells you how well you are establishing your brand on the platform – and provides recommendations for improvements.  The target score is 70: Check it out now! It’s a gamechanger.

AMENDageddon: Are you sabotaging your own content?

I have just submitted the gazillionth round of copy for a project I am working on. It’s not something I am proud of; in fact, I’m embarrassed about it. Why, then, would I share this uncomfortable truth with the world, I hear you say? Well, it’s a good reminder to myself, as a writer, not to get sucked into doing things any way other than the TPW way, and standing firm on that. More importantly, the following three lessons should also help you, as a business or an agency, get the most out of the content you commission every time, instead of inadvertently sabotaging it from the get-go.

How to avoid AMENDAGEDDON & get the very most out of your content – and your copywriter:

  1. It’s all about the brief, ‘bout the brief – no trouble.

In our experience at TPW, the brief or the brainstorm stage of a project is THE most important step. It’s what we often spend most of my time on with our clients. It’s an opportunity to delve into the depths of the stories you’re trying to tell and why they matter. Using our investigative journalistic powers, it’s also the chance to get into the nooks and crannies of your business. What makes your organisation tick – and above all, how can it can change habits, opinions or trends.

The trouble with the current project I mentioned is that I was brought to the table after the initial brief. Worst. Decision. Ever. I blame the maelstrom of recent home schooling for my schoolgirl error. But I should have known better after all these years as a copywriter and journalist. It soon turns out that the initial brief was woolly, at best. After many, many rounds of amends, with small, unnecessary tweaks each time, I can’t say the content is now any richer for it. This brings me swiftly on to my next point…

2. Too many cooks: a way to add inefficiency & confusion into the mix

This can be particularly complicated when an agency – or multiple agencies – are involved, acting as bridges in between an end client and the content creator. In our opinion, when too many ‘stakeholders’ (please try not to use this word) are part of the content journey, it’s the main ingredient in creating inefficiencies and confusion. More often than not, no-one is singing from the same song-sheet (brief, messaging and tone of voice). I would go as far as to say that, as a writer, I have never been involved in content creation involving many different contributors that has gone smoothly. It’s stressful, convoluted and time-consuming (not to mention budget-consuming) for everyone.

So, how can this change, given that different groups may need to have their say? Firstly, I would recommend an agency and an end client to dedicate just one marketing expert to each particular project. Add in the writer or content creator, and you have a small trio of professionals only that need to check in with each other. These designated people can brief the wider teams their end. Check-in targets also help. Rather than sending ad-hoc Teams meets, have weekly calls, limited to half an hour, to discuss succinctly feedback, amends and any changing expectations.

3. Trust in the experts – or do it yourself

This is a little confronting, I know. More so than my usual style. However, if you’re outsourcing content to an ‘expert’, it’s time to let go of the reins a little and trust in them to do a good job. Otherwise, what’s the point? You might as well handle it in-house.

I understand: you’re about to spend a wedge of your (possibly tight) marketing budget and you want to be in control. In this way, you can ensure it’ll pay off.  However, during our time as content creators, micromanagement has the adverse effect. If the brief is thorough enough – including alignment on messaging and tone of voice – the rest should be plain sailing. In the words of one client: “TPW understands our business and the messages we want the world to hear.” And that’s because they’ve put their trust in us to do just that.

So, there you have it: three simple steps to avoiding copy limbo and amendageddon – and unleashing smashing content.

FROM PARALYSIS TO IRON MAN: An extraordinary story of resilience

The man in this photo has just scaled the Alps on his racer bike. Impressive, but nothing particularly extraordinary, you might say. What if I tell you he had already undergone three major spinal surgeries by the time this was taken, retraining himself to walk each time. Also paralysed on one side of his body and another tumour growing on his spine, his doctor couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw this. He had other patients who were bed-ridden in his condition. How could he have conquered the epic 740 kilometre Route des Grandes Alpes? How could he even be standing? And what if I told you he’d go on to have another spinal operation – and then get hit by a car….?

Meet David Smith: a 42-year-old Scottish Paralympian who I had the pleasure of interviewing thirteen years ago at The Press Association; it was his first radio interview. Back then it was obvious he was made of sterner stuff. He was an adaptive rower who won a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, before becoming part of the GB cycling team.

Fast-forward to now, and I am catching up with David all these years later (virtually, of course). Dogs yapping in the background, he’s on a farm in Jamaica where he’s recently moved to with his girlfriend – looking healthy and happy.

He fills me in: “I’ve now had six surgeries on my neck; four times undergoing the full spinal cord injury journey of learning to walk again and rebuild. The hardest was after my surgery in 2016, when the realisation came that I was never going to move my left side again. No longer was I only fighting a sarcoma, I was also now dealing with a spinal cord injury. But I set two goals when I was paralysed in hospital: to ride across the Alps and ride for Britain again. The doctors’ answer to that was, ‘let’s start with re-learning to brush your teeth’.” He, of course, went on to compete in the World Championships in 2018.

But this is David through and through, as I am coming to learn. His BBC documentary ‘Dead Man Cycling’ nods to this, at the start of his extreme medical hurdles. He tells me that you have to find meaning in suffering, or there’s no hope. But he admits that despite his optimistic ‘athlete’ mindset, there have been soul-destroying moments along the way. David never received the results of one of his routine scans. They would have shown an undetected tumour that was growing quickly again on his spine. David firmly believes that if he’d had radiotherapy then, he would have avoided further surgery – and the subsequent paralysis.

“That’s a hard pill to swallow. With the tumour, you can’t say the what ifs. But with the paralysis, there’s a voice in your head saying ‘what if’ all the time. I can physically suffer with the best of them, but you have to go on a mental and emotional journey as well. You have to find meaning in the suffering otherwise there’s no hope.”

Maybe it’s his ability to find this that’s fuelled David’s super-human graft during his ‘horrendous’ rehabilitation; at times he spent up to six hours a day for months on end strengthening his mind and body so he could reintegrate into society. If you were to see David now on a bike, you’d never believe the left side of his body can barely move.

“I’ve worked super hard to regain small bits of muscle. I now have a little bit of thigh muscle and a tiny bit in my foot so I can move it slightly, and no more. I drive it all off the right leg. I use my right side to propel myself on the bike. I was led to believe I would move again, so I flung everything into rehabilitation. I am proud to be disabled in sport; it helps me not just to survive, but thrive.”

It’s clear David has suffered more than his fair share of facing adversity – and yet still does thrive. But when he tells me he was cycling to Richmond Park for training, and was hit by a car last year – and whisked away in an ambulance, only to be back in the spinal scan once more – it’s amazing to think he’s not been irreparably mentally broken. But by now you’ll realise David is not one to wallow.  As well as becoming a columnist for The Herald, Scotland, he’s eyeing up the chance to compete in the 2023 World Championships for Jamaica, then maybe Paris in 2024.

“I’ve had to reassess what my values are and my body has been through way too much to try and win. Making the start line now is success for me. That doesn’t align with UK Sport and British cycling. So I ask myself: how can I live my dream, but have another way of doing it? The Jamaican option is on the table.”

For now, David’s short-term target is nothing less than an Iron Man in Hamburg. The pandemic restrictions may delay the event. But there’s one thing for sure: if the show does go on, David will be there. And he’ll smash it.

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