Friday, January 4, 2013

WRITE IT RIGHT! writing ad copy for equestrians

By Catherine Sampson

Whether you are writing an advertisement copy to sell some tack, or preparing a resume applying for barn help, grammar and spelling matters. This is a consumer and employer market today with everyone vying for the best value for the dollar and the best employee for the job. Putting your best keystrokes forward presents a professional and credible appearance to the audience reading your advertisement or resume. Remember, they can’t see or hear you so the written word is their only connection to you the seller or applicant. It is your critical introduction to the prospective customer or employer you are attempting to attract. First impressions can be lasting ones; hopefully for the better.

What to Avoid

Stay away from the commonly used misnomer “bomb proof.” There is no such living animal. Instead substitute words like “quiet”, “calm”, or “sensible” 

Strictly limit the use of acronyms. Not everyone knows the meaning of these. It can be a definite turnoff and buyers will just ignore your advertisement. Remember, you are not texting or twittering. Spell it out for all to comprehend. You don’t want your message to appear in code.

Proofread and proofread again for spelling and grammar. The most blatant errors occur when the wrong word is used. For example a writer will use the word “confirmation” when then really mean “conformation.”  Others might include “bread” instead of “bred.”  The list goes on, including spellings that don’t even exist in the English dictionary.

Have someone else proof your copy. It is never a good idea to just proof your own work. Don’t rely on spell check to find your errors!  These programs are not failsafe. Authors can miss things and do. Authors will often subconsciously read what isn’t there or perhaps should be there. You don’t have to hold a university degree in English to write well. You just need to review the rules of good grammar and spelling that were taught in grade school.

Always accent the positive, especially if the product is a horse. Stay away from negativism as it can be construed as a faulty product. With that being said, be honest in your descriptions. Choose your words carefully. For example: “requires an experienced rider.” This is a red flag. It can be mistaken as nervous or unsafe. It may also portray a horse that is difficult to handle, spoiled or dominant. Instead try describing as high level performance horse or something similar that accurately describes the animal and its suitable future rider.

Job Applications

I can’t stress enough the need to proofread. It is imperative when preparing a resume and covering letter. When in doubt, use a dictionary to confirm the spelling and word intent. Studies have shown that employers reject more than ninety percent of all resumes that contain spelling and grammatical errors. These error filled applications are filed in the wastepaper basket as a waste of time. To the employer, it portrays a lack of thoroughness and attention to detail on the part of the applicant. This lack of care in preparing a resume and covering letter can be a treated as a precursor to an applicant’s future work habits.

Always include a covering letter when applying for a position. It is your opportunity to relay to an employer your attributes and experience as it relates to the position offered. It also creates a positive introduction. If you are sending resumes via the internet, never send out resume letters using a multiple distribution list. You must keep the letters personalized. If a prospective employer sees that you have sent your resume to umpteen people, they will most likely push the “delete” button without ever opening your resume.

Keep your writing relevant. Other skills and educational achievements should be noted in the resume but may not be pertinent to the position. Be prepared for reference checks. Include character references and employer references. Almost all employers will do background checks, even if you are applying for a part-time job mucking out stalls.

How to Write and Illustrate

When writing your advertisement, decide what are the best attributes of the item you are offering for sale? Organize your points of interest. Write with flair. Make it attractive and enticing for the buyer to read further. Review your copy for content and accuracy. Would you purchase the item if you read the advertisement? If you are unsure, then your advertisement is flat and lacking a grab line. Start over from scratch.

If photos are allowed in your advertisement – take advantage of it and post a quality picture. Only upload a photograph that is complimentary to the item or horse you are selling. Take special care in noting the background detail in the photograph. A beautiful horse standing in front of a manure pile, junk yard or broken down fence sends a double message.

Those elusive ears forward make the best pictures, as well as a horse standing square and balanced without tack on. In hand show pictures are the best. Tack detracts from the horse you are selling. It may also be taken by some viewers as though there is something to hide about the conformation of the horse. Be critical of the photographs you are using to advertise. Use summer photos whenever possible showing the horse in a sleek polished coat. Again, if the photo doesn’t look professional, all the flattering words you have written about the subject matter in the photograph are lost on that poor image. Most people are strongly inclined towards image stimuli. Make certain the word and image are blended harmoniously for the most pleasing advertisement copy you can create.

How to Market

Market your item, horse or skills just like any other product being sold to consumers. Don’t rely strictly on emotion to attract attention. Sob stories, albeit maybe true, don’t necessarily translate into success. Everyone prefers a good ending. Even if you are trying to find a home for a horse and are offering it at no cost, write your plea in a positive and encouraging manner.

If the animal has known health or personality quirks, be honest and include them in your copy, but be careful not to dwell on them. Again, write about the positive aspects of the horse you are promoting.

A case in point: a pony has had a history of laminitis but is sound at the present time of selling. Create an advertisement that lends credibility to the seller in being honest about the pony’s past health. Offer to prospective buyers that you are not opposed to radiographs being taken by a veterinarian at the buyer’s expense. You can also educate prospective buyers on the special needs care of a laminitis horse or pony. This eliminates any doubt in the consumer’s mind that they are dealing with an honest seller who only wants the best home for their pony. Accentuate what is good about the pony: gentle nature, good with children, veterinarian, farrier etc.

In Summary

Now that you have these tools in hand, you will be able to write with good literacy in attracting the highest dollar for your product. You will no longer limit your buying audience. You will be able to reach a larger more lucrative consumer by portraying yourself and your item in a professional manner. You will have created an air of confidence for buyers to purchase from you in future transactions. Write it right and you will be successful.

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