The Hired Hand – Not just another blah-blah-blog

October 18, 2017

My Favorite Free Resources for Freelance Writers

Filed under: Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 9:59 pm
Tags: , , , ,

For more than 30 years, I’ve been a freelance writer. I’ll admit that I’ve also held down a full-time job for 99 percent of those years. I can’t afford to waste time searching for what I need to complete writing assignments. So I’m very discriminating when it comes to free online resources for writers. I want resources that are reputable, easy to navigate, and offer useful information.

Following are several of my go-to websites for everything from expert sources to stock images.


Purdue University’s OWL Writing Lab is a comprehensive resource on for more formal writing topics. You’ll find all the basics — grammar, punctuation, mechanics — plus subject-specific writing, research and citation, and more.


Let’s face it, when you’re optimizing copy for search engines, Google is the search engine to target. Industry statistics show that, in terms of global market share from July 2016 to July 2017, Google led with about 92 percent, followed by Bing and Yahoo! at 2.5 and 2.3 percent, respectively.

That said, the Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a helpful tool for researching which keywords and phrases to include in your copy. Granted, you need a Google AdWords account to access the tool, but you don’t need to spend any money to do so. One way around it is to create and pause an AdWords campaign. You may, however, need an active AdWords campaign in order to access the tool.


For marketing copywriters, the HubSpot blog is a treasure trove of information. The folks at Hubspot have content marketing down to a science. Admittedly, the categories are rather broad: marketing, sales, and customer success. However, the marketing blog posts cover many writing topics. A search on the word “writing” turns up dozens of related posts.

Seth Godin is synonymous with marketing. What I love about his blog is that it’s to the point. One blog post, for instance, is only 175 words. While this may go against SEO best practices for minimum word count, Godin’s posts are written with the reader in mind.


The Copyblogger blog offers useful insights, whether you’re a newbie writer or one with decades of experience. Topics run the gamut from conversion to eBooks to social media.


Many blogging sites require writers to supply their own images. One site that consistently shows relevant search results is Burst, powered by Shopify. When I entered the word “summer,” the site returned 141 matches, including these:

Summer images

Expert resources

If you’re looking for an expert resource for an article, Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a great starting point. Founded by public relations guru Peter Shankman, HARO is now owned by Cision. HARO is used by both writers and expert sources. I also do public relations work, so I have used HARO for both finding sources and for making my clients available as expert sources.


The following site could also be categorized under “fun.” It’s easy to get distracted when you’re using the internet archive Wayback Machine. This nonprofit site is a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. It’s a great visual reference for a historical perspective of websites as well as now-defunct sites.

I have to give another shout-out to Google here. If you don’t already use Google alerts, now’s the time to start. Wearing my PR hat, I’ve got to say it’s a free way to monitor mentions on the web. For research, just plug in your keywords and you’ll stay up to date on news regarding that topic. And from a marketing standpoint, it’s an easy way to keep tabs on the competition.


Many freelance writers do not have the luxury of running contracts by a lawyer. The Freelancers Union has a contract creator that lets you specify details including late fees, cancellation fees and numbers of revisions.

Freelance gigs

I’m hesitant to share the following resource, since it will increase my competition for writing gigs. It’s the Morning Coffee eNewsletter. The free weekly email digest includes a variety of freelance writing jobs, some of which are exclusive to the newsletter. I have landed several projects using this resource.

My list is continually evolving, as I come across new resources all the time. Be sure to bookmark your own favorite sites, and watch as your list continues to grow, too.



May 29, 2014

May 6, 2014

Emails even Mom would be proud of – a look at Mother’s Day promotions

Filed under: Advertising,Design,Email marketing,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 12:08 pm
Tags: , ,

by Darcy Grabenstein

U.S. online consumers will spend an average of $162.94 on Mother’s Day gifts this year, down 3.6% from $168.94 last year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. The survey said 29% of consumers plan to shop online. As email marketers, it’s our job to get a slice of that Mother’s Day pie. Let’s take a look at how online retailers are promoting the holiday. I’ll start with a few emails I saved from last year’s swipe file. The first is from JC Penney, reflecting its epic (or epic fail?) rebranding effort. I give JCP credit here, with its clever “mother’s may” and bold graphics and color. JCP Mother's May
Next is one from Rachel Roy, with an attention-grabbing subject line: Happy MILS Day! 20% Off. The headline, too, may cause you to do a double-take. Mother's Day Rachel Roy - Happy MILS Day! 20% Off

And a favorite of mine, uncommon goods, uses a brilliant play on words to tout its preferred shipping: “Don’t you think Mom would’ve liked A Faster Delivery?” Mother's Day - uncommon goods
Fast forward to Mother’s Day 2014.

I’d like to give a shout out to Wayfair, which used the subject line “Mom’s the word: Get gifting with hand-picked favorites she’ll love.” (Full disclosure: I used “Mom’s the word” for a Mother’s Day email when I was a copywriter at Lenox.) Pine Cone Hill uses copy to sell without overdoing it. The headline — THE MOTHER LODE — draws you in.

Pine Cone Hill - Shop Mother’s Day Gift Picks - and Get It Shipped for Free!
Bath & Body Works has an all-encompassing subject line: Give Mom The World! All NEW Fragrances + $6 Fine Fragrance Mist & More! The body of the email pays it off, promoting fragrances inspired by other countries.

Bath & Body Works
Some emails focused on new moms. This email from Nordstrom tugs at the heartstrings. It’s a study in pink. My question is whether a blue-themed email was sent out as well. Nordstrom - Mother's Day Gifts for the New Mom
David Yurman takes it a step further, using cause-related marketing. The subject line reads: Gifts that Help New Mothers. The copy-heavy email explains that a portion of its proceeds will benefit a foundation promoting maternal health. As an added bonus, those who contribute will receive a jewelry box as a thank-you gift. David Yurman - Gifts that Help New Mothers
The following retailers used cross-promotions in their emails. Jack Spade keeps it all in the family, promoting the kate spade new york site. The subject line serves up a dose of motherly guilt: Your Mother Would Love To Hear From You. It’s paid off with the headline below. Jack Spade - Your Mother Would Love To Hear From You
Burlington Coat Factory includes a co-op promotion with 1-800-flowers. The subject line spells out the offer — Just in time for Mother’s Day – 20% off at 1-800 Flowers — but doesn’t feature any of its own products. It also appears that there may have been special characters, such as hearts, that did not render. Burlington Coat Factory

Speaking of flowers, ProFlowers gives its subject line a sense of urgency with “URGENT: Last Chance for a $19.99 Special for Mother’s Day!” The layout and copy are straightforward, simplifying the purchase decision (even for those with hard-to-shop-for moms). It convinced me. My mother will be receiving a colorful bouquet, courtesy of ProFlowers.

ProFlowers - URGENT: Last Chance for a $19.99 Special for Mother's Day!


Like flowers, chocolates are popular Mother’s Day gifts. This Godiva email does a good job of promoting gifts for all the moms in your life — mom, wife, sister, friend.


Godiva - Mother's Day is May 11 - We've got a Plan!


Not all Mother’s Day emails receive this mom’s approval, however. Take the Dirt Devil email, for instance. The subject line is filled with good intentions: Make Mom’s Life Easier This Mother’s Day. And the headline is spot on (pun intended). But do moms really want a vacuum cleaner for Mother’s Day? One year I received a waffle maker for Mother’s Day; it was one of those gifts where you say “You shouldn’t have!” and you certainly mean it.

Dirt Devil - Make Mom's Life Easier This Mother's Day


And what about this email from J. Peterman? I expect more from the cataloguer known for its creative copy. I’m sure Elaine from “Seinfeld” would agree. A “Roses are red, violets are blue” rhyming poem? Seriously?

J. Peterman - Final Day - Mother's Day Celebration - 25% Off + Free Shipping.
In this Dean & DeLuca email, the cheesecake gets lost on the white background. I’m sure the monochromatic look was intentional, but a darker plate would have made the product pop.

Dean & DeLuca Free Shipping for Mother's Day Begins Today!

This email from Michael Kors leaves me scratching my head. The subject line reads ” For the Mother Who’s Ahead of Her Time.” I’ll admit it’s cute for an email promoting watches. But the watches definitely are mini and petite, as the hero image focuses on the model (who’s not very “Mom-ish”) as opposed to the product.

Michael Kors - For the Mother Who's Ahead of Her Time
On the other hand (pun intended), Fossil uses a simple but effective subject line: Got a great mom? We’ve got a great watch. The design showcases the watch, and the copy (“momentous savings”) is subtly clever.

Fossil - Got a great mom? We've got a great watch.

I doubt that the folks at Belldini meant to give a plug to MailChimp, but that’s what they did when they forgot to remove the template copy in their email. With their offer of 20% off sitewide, I’m sure moms will forgive them.

Happy Mother's Day From Belldini


As Mother’s Day approaches and we wax nostalgic over fond maternal memories, an old song comes to my mind. With lyrics by Howard Johnson and music by Theodore Morse, the song “M is for the Million Things She Gave Me” debuted in 1915. While its words paying tribute to moms everywhere still hold true today, I took the liberty of creating my own acrostic (in the spirit of Rachel Roy’s MILS email) paying tribute to Mother’s Day emails. No “Roses are red, violets are blue” for me:

M is for the Millions of potential gift buyers
O is for the Offers we that can’t be refused
T is for the A/B Tests we love to conduct
H is for the list Hygiene we practice
E is for the Emails sent hawking Mother’s Day
R is for the big ROI we hope to see

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

January 1, 2014

Jingle sells, jingle sells… the ho-ho and ho-hum of holiday emails

Filed under: Design,Email marketing,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 5:58 pm
Tags: , , ,

by Darcy Grabenstein

As we start a new year, let’s take a look at Christmas emails past. The 2013 holiday season was filled with promotional emails galore. Here are a few that caught my attention.

Black Friday

Gymboree gets the award booby prize for one of the earliest emails, hitting my inbox on Nov. 4. Home Depot, Lillian Vernon and weren’t far behind, sending holiday emails on Nov. 8.

Bebe brings it on with this headline: Bringing Sexy Black Friday

I’d like to give a shout out to these companies with subject lines that set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd:

Betsey Johnson
A Black Friday Offer You Can’t Refuse
☑Get your BLACK FRIDAY list ready | Over 500 Door Busters
Ready, set, click! Shop 500+ Black Friday Door Busters online.
$100 COUPON ends tonight! Black Friday Round ❷…
Current Catalog
❸ ❷ ❶ Black Friday Triple Offer Starts Now
☻☺☻☺☻☺☻ ☛
Ethan Allen
Black Friday Goes Red: Are you ready?
(I’m a sucker for alliteration…)
Black Friday Frenzy! 20% Off, Plus FREE SHIPPING!
(interesting how both the e.l.f. and Hartstrings subject lines were exactly the same; Hartstrings showed up first in my inbox…)
Imagine Toys
Tech the halls
(and in true J. Peterman style…)
J. Peterman
Unequivocal Blackness Today – Up to 67% Off & Free Shipping
Gift Ideas She’ll Definitely Take A Shine To + Free Overnight Shipping!
Judith Ripka
Bling in the New Year with Judith Ripka
Magic Cabin
Black Friday savings with all the fixings
(That one gave me an idea for a subject line for a Black Friday reminder email:
A second helping of Black Friday sales)
Nasty Gal
BLACK OUT—40% Off All Black Everything!
Nicole Miller
Don’t Go Cold Turkey – Shop Our Sale. Up to 70% off.
The Container Store
Oh! Oh! Oh! FREE SHIPPING on Stocking Stuffers

Both Ikea and Mod Cloth had similar headlines with a play on words that captured both the immediacy of the offers and their value:
Seize the days
Mod Cloth
Seize the deal

Mod Cloth also wins points for including content as well. The subject line – Feast your eyes on 5 Black Friday Tips + our fab 50% off sale! – says it all.

Modcloth email

Other headlines that caught my eye:

This should jingle your bells
(perfect branding…)
May all your holidays be clean and bright
those stockings aren’t going to fill themselves

When it comes to content, Wal-Mart does it right. The subject line – Be prepared with your Black Friday Ad and Map – tells you exactly what to expect in the email. The email includes a link to a store map so shoppers can navigate the aisles (and crowds).

Wal-Mart email

Cyber Monday

Here’s one subject line that caught my attention, as opposed to all the Cyber Week and other offers out there:

Cyber Sunday! FREE Shipping & Up to 50% OFF!

And now for the emails that made my list of nice and not so nice…


Fossil earns extra points for a compelling subject line – The feeling is virtual – and copy that pays off the concept, which is promoting e-gift cards.

Fossil email

Ugg also ties in its subject line – Looking for the perfect gift? You’re getting warmer – with clever copy:

Ugg email

Nordstrom also slips in a cute email selling slippers:


Vineyard Vines manages to tie in product to the holiday with both subject line – Check it out! New Sport Shirts are in… – and headline/imagery:

Vineyard Vines email

Tiffany brilliantly builds on its brand equity (See? I told you I like alliteration):

Tiffany email

And Dwell Studio puts a clever spin on last-minute shopping:

Dwell Studio email

These emails use compelling design to convey Christmas messaging. Nicole Miller keeps you coming back with its 12 Looks of Holiday:


Shopbop promotes its holiday boutique with a unique visual:

ShopBop email

And J.Crew separates itself from the rest of the pack with this simple email:

J.Crew email


Here are a few emails that made me go “Huh?” I think Bergdorf Goodman confused Christmas with Easter:

Bergdorf Goodman email

Neiman Marcus missed the mark with this one:

Neiman Marcus email

And Bumble and bumble lives up to its name. This email had me pulling out my hair over the headline:


Now that Christmas 2013 is behind us, what are your New Year’s email resolutions for 2014?

October 23, 2013

You had me at hello – welcome messages with “wow” factor

by Darcy Grabenstein

If first impressions are lasting impressions, then the welcome email is key to subscriber engagement. A welcome email – or series of emails – sets the brand tone and sets expectations of things to come.

A glance at my inbox folder full of welcome emails revealed many subject lines that read “Welcome to [fill in the blank].” Yawn. A couple of the emails had subject lines that began “A warm welcome from [fill in the blank].” How nice. Now show me the money!

Several subject lines did include offers, ranging from 10% to 15% to 20% to free shipping. Some subject lines only hinted at offers. Some of those offers had expiration dates (boo); others didn’t (yay).

Athleta’s subject line – Welcome to the Team! – is in keeping with its product line of athletic apparel. JC Penney’s subject line includes specific instructions on what to do to complete the subscription process: “Welcome! Just Open And Confirm Your Email.” Alrighty then!

Most of the email “from” lines simply have the company’s name. That’s a good thing, especially for a welcome email. Ruby Tuesday, however, takes it one step further; its “from” line reads: Ruby Tuesday So Connected. Panera’s is “My Panera” – a nice way of inserting a bit of quasi-personalization into the mix. That’s the name of its loyalty card, and the welcome email actually does include first name personalization, along with the card number (however, the image slice for the number personalization doesn’t line up exactly with the card image):

Panera welcome email

I’ve subscribed to many emails, particularly B2B, that rely solely on the ESP’s automated, cookie-cutter subscription confirmation email. There’s a missed opportunity here. If the ESP doesn’t offer customization of the opt-in confirmation, then follow up with your own branded welcome email.

Here’s a look at a few companies that do a great job of putting out the virtual welcoming mat.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. While the welcome email is important, so is the subscription confirmation landing page. It’s yet another chance to acquaint the subscriber with your brand.

Ruby Tuesday’s landing page includes a clever play on words:

Ruby Tuesday welcome landing page

In true Sally-Field-Oscar-acceptance-speech style, Zappos uses its landing page to thank the Academy its subscribers, then gives a snapshot of what’s to come.

Zappos welcome landing page

Its welcome email continues the tone (friendly, enthusiastic) and style (italic headline) of the landing page. I think the “XOXO” might be a bit overkill, though.

Zappos welcome email

Athleta’s welcome email resonates with its female audience, repeating the mantra “Power to the she”:

Athleta welcome email

Moosejaw is the master of irreverence. Its welcome email is a case in point:

Moosejaw welcome email

“Madness” perfectly describes the Moosejaw experience. And that’s OK. It’s what Moosejaw customers come to expect. Anything less would be a disappointment.

Woot is another company that’s delightfully cheeky. Even its name reflects a fun-loving, laid-back attitude. A couple of excerpts from its welcome email say it all:

Woot welcome email excerpt

Woot welcome email excerpt

The UK’s Innocent Drinks also uses humor effectively:

Innocent Drinks welcome email

Moosejaw’s and Woot’s irreverent tone is in keeping with each brand’s voice. However, if a luxury brand, such as Tiffany, tried this it would come off as inauthentic and offensive. Tiffany’s welcome email is true to character – simple, straightforward, and incorporating its iconic robin’s-egg blue:

Tiffany welcome email

There’s no one-size-fits-all guideline for welcome emails. Successful welcome emails – like any email – are those that are true to the brand and resonate with their audience. However, a company must live up to the expectations it sets for product, pricing, customer service and more.

Otherwise, it’s like pulling out the proverbial welcome mat from under your subscribers’ feet.

October 16, 2013

A copywriter’s take on subject lines

Filed under: Email marketing,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 2:38 am

While email subscribers sign up for emails to save money on products/services, keep up with industry trends or simply to be entertained, those of us in the industry usually have ulterior motives when opting in to an email list. I subscribe to hundreds of emails – and to email subscription services like Milled, Mailboxr, Patroneer and The Swizzle – so I can keep swipe files on everything from copy to design to offers and more.

Often, I come across emails with subject lines that are so clever (or so bad) I’ve just got to share them with my colleagues. So sit back and enjoy the show….

A purr-fectly good example of a bad subject line

One of my copywriting mentors would cringe every time he saw “purr-fectly” used in conjunction with any cat-related product. I feel the same way about the use of “Egg” in this 87-character (!) Golf Warehouse subject line (bold emphasis is mine): Eggcellent Easter Savings! Free Ship + Egg-stra 10-15% Off Clubs, Clothes, Shoes & Bags.

The Golf Warehouse email design is not as lame as its subject line. However, the email doesn’t show any product. At the very least, it would have made for an interesting A/B test of offer vs. product.


I’ll give Golf Warehouse credit for creating a colorful, quasi-interactive, Easter-themed offer. It’s easier to carry out a holiday theme if your products tie in to the holiday, such as gift baskets, or if your company name ties in, as in this subject line from Newegg: NewEGG HUNT: Come Crack Our Mystery Egg! 

It is possible, however, to use holiday-related terms in your subject line, even if you have no direct tie-in to the specific holiday. This Bealls subject line is one example (bold emphasis mine): Hop Online for An Extra Day of Lowest Prices…. What I like about this subject line is that it uses a different verb (“hop” instead of “shop”) for the call to action. I’ve used a similar tactic in a subject line for an Easter sale reminder email: Hop to it! Sale ends today.

Great minds think alike

I’ll often find emails in my inbox with the same or very similar copy. Whether it’s a case of coincidence or copy(cat)writing, it makes me do a double-take (pun intended). Here are a couple of back-to-school emails promoting backpacks that caught my eye. The first one, from Journeys, had this subject line: We’ve Got Your Back. The design does a good job of showing breadth of product, but I would’ve preferred an inset with a close-up of one backpack so I could see more detail.

Journeys back-to-school email

The other email, from Jack Spade, had this subject line: Got your back. But that’s where the similarities end. This copy kicks Journeys’ butt, so to speak. It starts with a clever but on-target headline: ONE STRAP, TWO STRAP. The copy is concise, but filled with just enough details to encourage click-through (and aid in purchase decision): hands-free utility, starting at $125, sturdy materials. And the imagery shows the backpack in use.

JackSpade back-to-school email

During seasonal promotions such as back to school (and even more so during the Christmas season), it’s difficult to make your emails stand out with all the inbox clutter. This Sony email has a subject line that, while on the long side at 70 characters, hits the target audience and gives savings specifics: Big Deals on Campus | Save up to $500 on PCs + exclusive student offers.

Sony back-to-school email

Those of us who started in the industry as direct-mail marketers often compare the subject line of the email to the teaser of the envelope. It must be compelling enough for the recipient to want to read more. Otherwise, the both the email and the DM piece end up in the trash.

This post first appeared on the Only Influencers blog.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

September 22, 2013

Mourning the loss of more American troops – on a personal level

Filed under: Social Media,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 4:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

Facebook is a social network that keeps us connected with family and friends. It’s a great way to keep others updated on our lives, no matter where we are. We share everything from the minutiae of our daily lives to major life events. We take joy in others’ happiness.

And we drown in sorrow at others’ losses.

Today, I am drowning.

Life has its highs and its lows. Yesterday, I wrote about a most glorious day in New Jersey. Today, although the sky is a silken, sun-filled, cloudless blue, it might as well be dark and dreary.

It is raining on my soul.

Liam Nevins

Liam Nevins

Today I found out, through Facebook, that the son of one of my best friends was killed – ON BASE – in Afghanistan. This is incomprehensible. This happens to other people’s sons and daughters, right?

Liam had recently been injured and was due to come home soon. He was about to begin a new chapter in his life with Julie. The fact that he was killed on base makes it especially hard to swallow.

He one of three American troops killed, all members of a special ops team. They were military’s elite.

He wasn’t much older than my own two sons. I can’t help but find it ironic that he celebrated his 32nd birthday on September 11th.

For those of us who think we are so far removed from the conflict in Afghanistan, this is a stark reminder that we are not. We should be grateful every day for the brave young men and women putting their lives on the line for our country. For democracy.

I ask everyone who reads this to take a good look at this handsome young man. We need to put a face on our forces serving overseas, especially those killed in the line of duty. They are not just statistics. They are someone’s son, fiancé, brother, uncle, nephew.

Forgive me if I’m rambling. This all hasn’t quite sunk in just yet. Writing is a form of therapy for me, so I’m pouring my heart out here. (It’s hard to type when you can’t see the keyboard through buckets of tears.)

To my good friend, I can only hope that my words – and the words of condolence sent by many on Facebook – will be in some way therapeutical as well. We are all so very proud of Liam.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

September 21, 2013

A weekend walk… turned into a walk back in time

Filed under: Culture,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 10:58 pm
Tags: , ,

It was bad enough when I had to move from my home state of Florida to Pennsylvania. Moving to New Jersey, however, added insult to injury.

Today, however, I’m basking in the history and friendliness of Burlington, NJ. I decided to take a leisurely stroll down High Street, Burlington’s main drag.

As fate would have it, I wandered into Virtu, a lovely little boutique specializing in – of all things – church hats. I started talking with a couple of customers, one of whom was looking for something to wear to a bar mitzvah. Go figure.

I explained that I was a relative newcomer to Burlington, and they asked if I’d been to the library. Library? What library? (That obviously answered their question.)

They proceeded to tell me that the library was just around the corner. So off I went.

Turns out that the Library Company of Burlington was established in… are you ready… 1757. It’s the oldest library in continuous operation in New Jersey and the seventh oldest in the U.S.

Burlington Library

Burlington Library

Timing is everything. As I was walking out the library door (after signing up for a library card, of course), I saw a woman dressed in full Colonial garb. I took a picture of her in front of the library and asked why she was dressed in period clothing.

She said she was giving a tour of Burlington. Cool! I asked if I could pay and join the small group, and she said I could – but that it was free. Cool!

We stopped at the Revell House, Burlington County’s oldest building and one of New Jersey’s oldest homes. Interestingly, it was built in 1865 by a Quaker distiller. (If that’s not an oxymoron,
I don’t know what is!)

It’s nicknamed the “Gingerbread House” because Benjamin Franklin supposedly ate gingerbread at the home on his way to Philadelphia. Proceeds of the Wood Street Fair, which I unfortunately missed, help preserve this historic treasure.

We also walked by the home of Ulysses S. Grant, built in 1856, which is now a private residence. I parted ways with the group, and ventured on my own back to High Street, the “main drag” of Burlington.

Temple B'nai Israel

Temple B’nai Israel

I found Temple B’nai Israel, South Jersey’s oldest conservative congregation. Then, at the advice of my fellow tour members, I visited the 300-year-old Lily Inn, a quaint bed and breakfast. There I was enthusiastically greeted by Murray Sonstein, the self-proclaimed “official hugger of Burlington.” (Yes, he gave me a big ol’ bear hug.)

So the next time you think of Jersey, don’t think of Snooki and The Situation. Think of the state’s rich history.

Word has it a revitalization is in the works for Burlington. Bring it on.

I guess it’s not so bad being a Jersey girl after all.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

April 17, 2013

The importance of copy

Filed under: Advertising,Branding,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 10:03 am
Tags: , , , ,

Hawaii ad mock-upIn the season opener of “Mad Men,” Don Draper is pitching a print ad to his client that promotes Hawaii.

The mock-up shows a beach shoreline strewn with a man’s jacket, tie and shoes – with footprints leading into the ocean. The headline reads: “Hawaii: The jumping off point.”

Like Don’s client, I immediately thought of suicide. Then I realized that it was the copy that led me to that conclusion.

Instead of “Jumping Off Point,” if Don had used a headline or tagline of “Hawaii. Shed your cares,” I’m guessing his client would have bought the concept.

Not only does this episode emphasize the importance of copy, it also shows how graphics and copy must work together to create a clear, cohesive message.

We all know Don has a dark side to his character. Apparently, he let his personality cloud his copywriting. This also illustrates how agency creatives must listen to their clients, even when they think they’re right and the client is wrong.

Me? I’ll take a fact-finding junket to Hawaii any day.


Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

January 29, 2013

Digital marketing D – A – R – C, that’s me!

Hello My Name Is badgeMy first name, Darcy, is admittedly a bit out of the ordinary. Over the years, I’ve learned to answer to Marcy, Dorothy, Darby – you name it. One nickname that has stuck, however, is Darc (rhymes with parse).

That’s why, when I read a recent article, “How the HubSpot CMO Screens for Top Marketing Talent,” I couldn’t help but think “That’s ME!”

The article states (the comments in italics are my own):

“The perfect inbound marketing manager has a variety of different skills.
At HubSpot, we like to use the acronym ‘DARC,’ which stands for digital, analytical, reach, and content:

  • Digital means they live their lives online and are familiar and comfortable with blogging, social media, and the web in general.While we’re on the topic of names, Digital could be my middle name. For the past 12-plus years, I have lived/breathed e-commerce. My current focus is on email marketing. I remember early on being at conferences where they asked for a show of hands who uses email and IM… who texts… telecommutes… or has an online portfolio… and eventually a smartphone… a Facebook page… a Twitter account… a LinkedIn account… a blog… a Pinterest account. Invariably, I was one of the few who had my hand proudly held high. Truth is, my writing now flows directly from my brain, out my fingertips and onto my laptop screen. Don’t even think about asking me to write something longhand.
  • Analytical means they like to measure what they do, and they make decisions based on data.

    I’ll admit that I usually leave the actual number crunching to the analytical folks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t incorporate their findings into my work. This is particularly crucial when it comes to email marketing. With so many variables to test – from the “from” line to subject lines, copy, graphics, calls to action, landing pages, social sharing, time of deployment, list segmentation and more – “test, test, test” has become my mantra.
  • Reach means they have a knack for growing their network by creating a gravitational attraction to what they do – and people want to follow their work.You’re here reading my blog, aren’t you? My blog is one way I reach out to my peers and prospective clients. And, as they say, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. So I’ll post links to my blog on other networking sites. I don’t expect people to find my blog on their own – I make it easy for them to do so, by posting content where they live (and work) online.
  • Content means they are naturally a content creator, and they’re not afraid of it. (You’d be surprised how many people are scared of writing a blog article.)”If content is king, then I consider it my crowning glory. In the days of print publications, I was known as a writer or a copywriter. Now I’m called a content creator. It’s just semantics. What I do is develop messages targeted to a specific audience, with a specific goal in mind – such as generate brand awareness, educate, sell a product or service, increase membership or sway opinion. There’s a lot of buzz out there about SEO content, but the bottom line is you’ve got to write for real people, not the search engines, in order to establish a true connection.

So feel free to call me DARC. I’ll take it as a compliment.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

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