Long Copy in 601 Words (and Numbers)

Let’s keep this short. It’s a blog.

But, there are times when long-form writing is called for. If you are writing to seniors, know that they are readers. And, especially before making a buying decision, they want to know all they can know. Imagine your mom or dad and how they would read a booklet before making a major purchase decision. Research suggests their approach would be very different from your own and even more different from your children.

If you are selling yourself at a job interview and the interview was scheduled for a half hour but lasted an hour, what would you think? Sounds like the interview went well.

Would you stand up after thirty minutes and walk out of the room if you were selling yourself, or any product or service? Of course not.

And you shouldn’t stop writing in direct response advertising. You’re engaged in the conversation and it’s rude and unproductive to terminate your conversation prematurely. There is a reason why direct response television is in a longer format than 15 seconds. And, the same reason applies to print or direct mail if you are seeking to close a sale and get an order.

So how can you write copy that will engage the reader from the first sentence to the last?

Here are the top eight tips for better long-copy writing:

  1. Make it personal, relevant and a reward to read. Your reader will appreciate it.
  2. Tell a story. And, make the story about someone, not just something. People are interesting. It’s called a human interest story for a reason.
  3. Pay close attention to your sentence leads. Try action-verb sentence leads (look at this list for examples). Or use transitional sentence leads such as so, and, or … to pull a reader through your copy. And please never start a sentence with the word “the.” Phil Burton, who is possibly the greatest copywriter of our time, said, “Writers beginning sentences with the word ‘the’ are placing signs at the beginning of their sentence saying, ‘Graveyard ahead’. Weak sentence leads are the death of sentences and the morbidity of unfortunate readers.” No, you will NOT find a “the” lead in this blog. Never.
  4. Make good use of extensive punctuation:
    1. “Quote someone”
    2. If you’re excited show it!
    3. Question marks? Absolutely!
    4. Use a pause – give your readers a moment to catch their own thoughts.
  5. Vary your sentence lengths. Some sentences can be long but they should always be clear. And make some sentences short. It works. It’s conversational. See?
  6. Write to one person. Get close. Whisper, don’t shout.
  7. Edit viciously. Justify every word. Find stronger nouns, more vibrant verbs and eliminate any unnecessary adjective or adverb.
  8. Use lists. Number your list instead of using bullets. Your list has a specific number of things you want your reader to know, in order of importance. Using numbers tells your reader you have 7 things that you want them to know. Bullets kill reader interest.

Let the reader get in the last word. Ask a question. Force them to think.

What would be the impact on your organization if you were able to significantly improve internal and external communication?

Listen to and agree with your customer’s thoughts. Make their next steps clear. Call them to action.

Improving your internal and external communication will make a significant impact.

What’s happening, Twitter?


By: Ethan Thomas, Account Coordinator

Daily users are declining. Total active users are declining. Is it management? Or is it that a picture is worth much, much more than 140 characters?

It really seems as though Twitter is losing its following to Instagram, Snapchat and – though I hate to admit it – Pokémon Go. Instagram rebranded its logo, put a minimalist touch to its interface, and even changed up its newsfeed algorithm. Snapchat has exploded into the realm of paid advertising content, and companies are finally catching up to speed on how to reach customers on the platform. And in less than a month, Pokémon Go has become the biggest game in U.S. history (though its popularity seems to be fading).

All of this is going on and what, Twitter removed links and photos from counting toward the maximum character count? Seems like a pretty boring summer for a social media behemoth.

Don’t worry. Twitter isn’t brooding in the corner while Snapchat and Instagram take over the social media landscape. It’s got a bigger plan. If you haven’t been looking, you could have missed it.

Last fall, the NFL experimented with the first free live streaming of a football game on Yahoo Sports. Yahoo reported that the live stream accumulated 15.2 million unique viewers, 33.6 million video streams and over 460 total minutes of video consumed. The game took place in London, and the most surprising statistic came from somewhere unexpected: 33 percent of the entire audience, just around 5 million unique viewers, were overseas. For a sport dominated by American fan bases, this is huge. Twitter definitely took notice.

Twitter swiftly won the global digital streaming rights for 10 NFL Thursday night games. It beat out big-name competitors such as Amazon and Verizon – two big competitors in the live-streaming market. “This agreement also provides additional reach for those brands advertising with our broadcast partners,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He may not be everyone’s favorite major sports commissioner, but he’s nailed this right on the head.

The potential for advertisers to utilize this medium is enormous. Not only will there be outstanding paid promotion opportunities, but the amount of organic brand-to-consumer connections will set a tone for other major sports in the United States and abroad.

“This is about transforming the fan experience with football,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “People watch NFL games with Twitter today. Now they’ll be able to watch right on Twitter Thursday nights.”

Twitter’s been relatively quiet about this, but with less than 50 days left until kickoff, expect to see brands begin pushing their involvement.

Old School. And Visionary.

download (1)

By Tom Hirons, CEO

Phillip Ward Burton was an advertising genius.

Burton’s career started at Proctor & Gamble where he responded to letters from consumers and rose to be the senior creative officer consulting on all Proctor & Gamble brands. He went on to be a professor at Syracuse University, the feeder school for New York agencies. His textbook for advertising concepting and copywriting became the most widely used in the US. His weekly column in Advertising Age, “Which Ad Pulled Best?” popularized his research on advertising perception and explained what factors contributed to advertising effectiveness.

In 1987 the American Advertising Federation wanted to present him with their inaugural Distinguished Educator award and name it the Burton award. He accepted the award but declined to have it named after himself saying, “You never know what scoundrels may follow me.” In reality, he was too humble to have the award named after him.

When Burton reached the mandatory retirement age at Syracuse, Indiana University picked him up. He continued to teach for another 20 years. One day he came to me and said, “I think I’m going to have to quit teaching.” Knowing he was a bit hard of hearing I shouted back to him, “Mr. Burton, why would you do that?” With a smile, he replied, “I really can’t hear the students.” I leaned in and reminded him that what he had to say was so important I didn’t think the students would care. But, he had made his mind up. He asked me to pick up his classes. And, for another 20 years I carried on his tradition.

Phil Burton came from the golden age of advertising. His contemporaries were Burnet, Burnbach, Ogilvie, Reeves and other giants of our industry. His ideas and principles were ground breaking and as relevant today as when he started. Simplicity. Relevance. Humanity. Truth.

So much has changed in our field. Advertising is both a reflection and driver of culture. Digital media has revolutionized how we communicate. Technology has impacted our craft. Public relations and advertising have converged.

Culture has changed. And, Phil Burton would be right at home.

Building Client Relationships One Post at a Time


By Emily Hayden, Account Manager 

As an account manager at Hirons, I spend quite a bit of time each week monitoring my clients’ social media pages. I act as the front line when it comes to observing and responding to online conversations involving the brands I represent. This takes certain levels of skill and tact in order to maintain the brand’s voice and please its customers.

When monitoring social media, I see it all – the good, the bad and the just plain weird. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of really trying to understand what the original poster wanted to say and the emotions behind it. While it might seem counter-intuitive, social media truly are about relationships. Most posters just want the company to hear what they have to say, whether it be critical or complimentary.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s really easy to see a negative comment online and give a canned response along the lines of “Thank you for your feedback, [NAME]. We will take it under advisement moving forward.” Here’s the thing, though: This doesn’t accomplish anything for anyone. As the account manager, it’s my job to get that feedback to the client in the hopes that its staff can make the necessary changes to improve that customer’s experience. Along with doing that, it’s crucial to provide the customer with a response that shows that the company really does care about fixing whatever might be broken.

On the other hand, as important as it is to respond to negative comments online, it’s equally important to acknowledge the positive ones. I try to never use the same “Thank you” response more than once. I like to authentically thank people for being loyal customers in any way I can. It just makes people feel good to be acknowledged, and it makes me feel good to reach out to people who love the brand as much as I do.

A great client recently gave me the most humbling compliment anyone could give to someone in my position. He thanked me for replying to customers on Facebook in the way that I do – adding that I respond as though I were an actual employee of the company. While that’s an amazing compliment, what he doesn’t realize is how seriously I take the responsibility of managing social media accounts.

As an account manager, I am able to see firsthand how passionately our clients care about their work, and that enthusiasm is contagious. The work we do through Facebook, Twitter and other social channels is our opportunity to help our clients share their passion with their customers and fans on a personal, real-time level. In many ways, social media are the most powerful tools we have for sharing the voice of our clients, and we waste them if we issue a canned, computer-generated response.

My advice: Be a fan of your fans. Share your passion, get more shares!


Learning to Code Just Got Easier


By Chris Costidakis, Associate Art Director

Wouldn’t it be cool to know how to create your own iPhone game? Apple just made learning how to code so simple and fun, a kid could do it!

At Apple Inc.’s World Wide Developers Conference 2016 (WWDC), app developers from around the world gathered to hear the latest announcements from the tech giant and to learn ways to make their apps better.

This year’s conference was full of new firmware updates for iOS for iPhone, macOS for Mac, watchOS for Apple Watch and tvOS for Apple TV as usual. But there was one announcement that stood out to everyone at the conference.…

Swift Playgrounds™ is an innovative new app for iPad that makes learning to code fun and easy for anyone. Swift Playgrounds brings coding to life with an interactive interface that encourages students and beginners to explore working with Swift™, the easy-to-learn programming language from Apple used by professional developers to create world-class apps. Swift Playgrounds includes Apple-developed programming lessons, where students write code to guide onscreen characters through an immersive graphical world, solving puzzles and mastering challenges as they learn core coding concepts. The app also features built-in templates to encourage users to express their creativity and create real programs that can be shared with friends using Mail or Messages or even posted to the web.images

“I wish Swift Playgrounds was around when I was first learning to code,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “Swift Playgrounds is the only app of its kind that is both easy enough for students and beginners, yet powerful enough to write real code. It’s an innovative way to bring real coding concepts to life and empower the next generation with the skills they need to express their creativity.”

In addition to the lessons, Swift Playgrounds comes with a number of built-in templates to help aspiring developers express their creativity. Students and developers can modify and build on this code to make it their own by adding graphics and touch interactions.images (1)

A preview release of Swift Playgrounds is available to Apple Developer Program members, and a beta release will be available to the public in July. The final version of Swift Playgrounds will be available in the App Store for free this fall.

For more information, including videos, images and demos, visit, apple.com/swift/playgrounds.






Uhhh … What’s PR and Advertising?


By Taylor Morton, Amos Brown Intern

When I told my 7-year-old cousin that I am a summer intern at a public relations and advertising agency, her face immediately went blank. She replied, “Uhhh, what’s that?”

As first-graders, we all wanted to be a doctor, firefighter, singer or professional athlete because these were the established norm for that age group. I myself wanted to be a singer and background dancer for Christina Aguilera, but that was very short-lived after quickly finding out I could neither sing nor dance.

Frankly, how many 7-year-olds know anything about public relations? Or advertising? None that I know of.

At some point, we were all introduced to the PR and advertising industry, and some of us were influenced to pursue a career in it. But I’ll be honest: I am 21 years old and just now beginning to understand what public relations and advertising truly are.

As a telecommunications and journalism major, my main focus is gathering and presenting news to the general public. However, I’m learning that advertising and public relations consist more of telling a precise message to a precise audience. The message is then tailored to resonate with other audiences to generate an optimal reaction or behavior.

Though they have different approaches and goals, journalism, public relations and advertising are all merely forms of communications. At my university, Ball State, all fall under the College of Communication, Information and Media.

The industry of journalism, which aspires to impartiality, uses communication to simply inform the public and then allow individuals to create opinions based off the information shared. Advertising and public relations use communication to help share a client’s image, idea or program with targeted audiences.

As an intern, I’m still very new to the industry and still ask, “What’s PR and advertising?” But I’m learning more each day.

Few children learn about journalism, PR and advertising as possible careers. That’s too bad.

Take my cousin. Trying to think of the simplest words to describe my internship, I replied, “Well, it’s a way to communicate certain news and information to certain people.”

Her face began to glow with understanding. Then she said, “Oh, OK. I can do that!”


Is Your Celebrity Endorsement a Knockout?


By Jessica Peine, Communication Management Intern

After losing iconic sports legends Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe, conversations are swirling regarding the impact these individuals have had on the sports world and on society at large. While both men epitomized sportsmanship and were amazing role models in their respective sports, they also left an impact on our world of advertising, creating a dialogue around how athletes and other celebrities contribute to brand recognition.

Ali appeared in advertisements ranging from fish sticks, to d-CON Roach Spray, to an immunization PSA for the New York City Department of Health. Howe tended to keep a lower profile, doing occasional brand appearances and speaking engagements.

Companies, both big and small, often go back and forth about whether or not they should enlist a celebrity spokesperson; while there is no right answer, there are definitely some factors to consider when making that decision. On the positive end, celebrity spokespersons can help build awareness and even influence consumer purchases. A potential consumer might see an endorsement and think, “If Product X is good enough for him or her, then it’s good enough for me.” Celebrities, particularly ones that are rather recognizable, can offer the eye-catching edge you might need to get consumers to listen. A spokesperson could also help breathe new life into your brand, particularly if you are trying to reach a new demographic audience.

On the other end, though, there are some things to be wary of when choosing to use a celebrity spokesperson. One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that their reputation will become entangled with yours. I don’t need to go into specific examples, but we’ve all seen what happens when a celebrity goes off the rails and how that impacts a particular brand. Consumers are also pretty smart when it comes to endorsements; they aren’t going to believe that “Famously Beautiful & Filthy Rich Socialite X” uses6789333 “$5 Drug-Store Makeup Brand Y.” Your spokesperson has to be believable and genuine when they are representing your brand or product.

In order to achieve that genuineness, you might consider enlisting local politicians and change-makers who are viewed as down-to-earth and approachable. These individuals can help position you within your local markets and create opportunities for word-of-mouth advertising.

Celebrity endorsements can be a pretty big toss-up, and they certainly aren’t going to come cheap. National consumer product brands might find some success if they can create a genuine conversation (I really can’t emphasize that enough), but local brands might do better to put their time, energy and resources into other advertising outlets. Ultimately the choice is up to the company whether or not they want a celebrity to represent their brand and hopefully they have a Muhammed Ali rather than a Jared Fogle.


Mythbuster: “Spin” Doctors or Storytellers?


By Brittany Kaelin, Account Coordinator

Oh, so you’re a “spin” doctor?

I swear I hear this question almost every time I tell someone I work in advertising and public relations. Allow me to bust that myth for you – we are not “spin” doctors. Some people think that PR has a negative connotation, but the goal of an agency is not to create a false image of a client’s brand that only portrays them as do-gooders. We want to create an image that accurately represents their company’s values and goals, and we want to help clients be successful with their audiences.

A valuable piece of information I learned during my time at Purdue University was to always admit your mistakes immediately so you can tell the public what happened first. The truth will always come out, and as PR professionals, it’s our job to get it right the first time.

Our aim is not to push nonspecific slander at the general public. We want to tell a story, not a lie. We use focus groups, interviews and analytics to find out who the audience is and what their wants and needs are so that we can meet them. Transparency is key in our profession because if you are transparent, you have nothing to hide which creates trust and effective communication with your publics.

One of the biggest reasons that I decided to work at Hirons was because of something I was told in my interview; “We are here to help tell someone’s story and do meaningful work.” That’s exactly what we do – we don’t “spin” facts to make a favorable impression instead, we research and think critically to create a message that will resonate with the public.

If you asked me today whether or not I’m a “spin” doctor, I would reply, “I’m not a DJ. I’m a storyteller.”



Some Thoughts and Advice, from Intern to Intern

By Ethan Thomas

To any potential, current or future interns, here are a few tips from a Hirons’ intern who has spent 9 months as one.

Prep: Prepare for every meeting, client and project. Indy 500 driver Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” Take that lesson from one of the best 500 drivers ever.

Knowledge: You won’t know everything. Nobody expects you to know everything right away. I’m still learning and bugging people to teach me the ins and outs of the company. (Maybe keep an AP Style Guide at your desk, too)

People: Meet them. Know their names. Learn what they do.

Volunteer: For Projects. For deliveries/drop-offs. For Meetings. Hirons like the go-getters who want to be involved in every aspect of the organization.

Questions: Ask them. Incredibly smart and talented individuals will be surrounding you every day. Use that to learn and grow.

Coffee: Drink it. Also, Kendall likes some “machiatto-mocha-frappucino” thing, just in case you need to get on her good side.

Be Bold: Relentlessly challenge your own abilities. You may surprise yourself in what you accomplish.

Have Fun: You have the opportunity to work and experience one of the most enjoyable and fun industries in the world. Have a great time with it.

Now, go forth and conquer. We believe in you.



Needed Change in TV Ratings

Nielsen has had a monopoly over the TV ratings industry since it invented the service in 1950. However, Nielsen has been slow to adapt its current rating system to reflect viewers’ recent ability to watch TV at any time and on multiple devices. This has sparked much criticism, including heat from Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s ad sales chief.

“Imagine you’re a quarterback, and every time you threw a touchdown, it was only worth four points instead of six,” Yaccarino said at the recent international CES trade show.

Though the football metaphor may be a confusing, the gist of Yaccarino’s complaint stems from the overlying problem in today’s TV ratings: Nielsen only considers viewers of live and recently recorded TV. Nielsen fails to include the growing population who binge watches every season of their favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes or even on-demand cable. The reason: These platforms either don’t air advertisements, or their advertisements are different from those shown during TV broadcast.

In short, advertisers don’t care how many people watch a show; they care how many people watch their advertisements.

“The perception for a long time in the industry is that Nielsen has been somewhat slow to adapt their measurement to changing patterns of media consumption,” said Tuna Amobi, an equity analyst covering media companies at S&P Capital.

Expanding services

While Nielsen has expanded its ratings services to cover many elements of consumer culture, it has yet to figure out a way to incorporate viewers from other platforms in its TV ratings. However, it is studying them as well as what they are saying on social media. Some recent moves:

  • Expanding research on viewers watching shows through Netflix and digital-only platforms
  • Expanding its partnership with Twitter to monitor social-media content about TV shows
  • Analyzing data from Facebook to create “social content ratings”

To further maintain its monopoly on the TV ratings industry, in the past year Nielsen has released 69 new products and technology innovations. Most notably, Nielsen introduced a “total audience metric” to track TV viewing across video on demand, mobile and streaming. But is it enough? Either Nielsen is working hard to stay afloat of the criticism or it is worried about potential competitors.

New competitors are emerging, though they might not be enough to dethrone Nielsen, which receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the television industry that it measures.

Predictions for the future

The future of TV advertising is unclear.

  • Will ratings even be relevant in a few years?
  • Will ads be bought and sold based on specific data about viewers, such as location, occupation, salary and purchases?

However, a few things are clear:

  • $70 billion in advertising dollars are traded in the United States each year based on Nielsen’s ratings.
  • Hundreds of television programs live or die based on Nielsen’s ratings.
  • Online viewership may continue to be insignificant to TV advertising as long as the ads shown during an online broadcast are different from the ones shown during the TV broadcast.

NBC’s Alan Wurtzel summed it up in this way: “Are we happy with the way we’re following technology and being able to measure it? No. We’re way behind. On the other hand, are Nielsen ratings important and critical to the industry and as important to the industry as they ever were? Absolutely, when you consider that if we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t get paid.TV