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How to Write a Great Letter to Santa

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 by Lisa Z.

Crafting a compelling direct appeal letter is all about timing, tone, and attention to detail. Take your basic Letter to Santa. Sure, you could crank it out on mom’s PC to show St. Nick how clever you are (and, therefore, worthy of his attention) by:

  1. Ramping your wish list up visually with your fave font, and
  2. Liberally using font size 36 for emphasis.

But wouldn’t you rather sign Johnny or Janie Doe to a carefully designed, perfectly executed missive on that special toy you covet? Wouldn’t you love to wow Santa with a heartfelt handwritten plea that will not only grab his attention, but also hold it captive? If you desperately need your letter to stand out among the hundreds of thousands delivered to the North Pole every year, apply these three tenets of successful direct appeal letters to your crucial mailing to Kris Kringle: Timing After scrutinizing success rates for bulk mailings, players in the world of fundraising have learned that November, September, and February stand out as the months that garner the highest response rates. Now, a letter to the Big SC mailed in September might strike him as a tad overzealous, maybe even inappropriate. But correspondence in late November (the winningest month)—perhaps timed to arrive on the Monday after Thanksgiving—would no doubt earn points for preparedness, aptitude, and self-discipline. These are all qualities that potential donors value, even Santa, so try to get your letter in the mail before Turkey Day, allowing time for travel to the furthermost reaches of the earth. Tone Finessing the tone of your direct appeal letter calls for tapping into your creative juices. Select words that illustrate your smarts (and hence merit), but avoid those so lofty that even an educated elf can’t follow their drift. Hone your message into a single, powerful sentence. This is known in direct mailing circles as the “call to action.” Action! Can’t you just hear the happy hum of Santa’s workshop? Choose language to express your excitement, such as in this sample sentence: “When I see a Roboraptor, my pulse quickens and my life has new meaning.” Include bullet lists or check boxes for easy reference to your wants and needs. (Such lists are designed to catch readers known as “skimmers.” This is most applicable to mailers who wait until the last minute, when Santa is losing focus and is no longer moved by those aforementioned heartfelt calls to action). Be sure to include a postscript after your signature, as studies have shown the P.S. is one of the two most read parts of any direct appeal letter (after the first sentence — a.k.a. the call to action). Skimmers typically jump right to the P.S., so be sure to highlight here the one gift that would make your Christmas morning the joy-filled toy-fest you envision. Attention to Detail Check—and then double-check—that every word is spelled correctly. (Letters with misspelled words go straight to the “Socks and Underwear” gift area.) Seeing as Santa is known for checking his list twice, this is not too much to ask. Art is also a nice touch to any letter, particularly when you take the time to color in. Tracing is allowed, but original drawings are more effective. Finally, be sure to choose a festive holiday stamp for that special finishing touch. But choose with care. Letters to Santa with Hanukkah stamps, for example, send a mixed message and, worse, could raise eyebrows in regards to the issue of double dipping…. Happy Holidays! PS: Word on the street is that Santa does not approve of letters that are texted, emailed, or Twittered. But if you’re good, he might friend you on Facebook.

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Death of a (pharma) salesperson?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 by Client Jeff Gaus, Prolifiq

Custom marketing materials make it easier for physicians to educate their patients about the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved uses and benefits of the drugs they prescribe. However, some physicians believe that those who distribute these materials—the pharma reps—provide little value beyond giving out free samples, branded “swag,” and educational materials. In fact, their efforts […]

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The Very Best Style Guide Reference Books

Monday, November 16th, 2009 by Chris

If you’ve read the fabulous Grammar Queen’s post on creating a corporate style guide (and if you haven’t read it, do so right now), you know you must make some decisions about how your organization crosses the t’s and dots the i’s. However, you can’t possibly list every grammar or style rule in your own […]

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How Do I Create a Corporate Style Guide?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Lisa S.

Your Highness: I work in marketing at a midsized technology firm. My boss tells me we need a style guide. Yesterday. And I’m just the person to produce it. While I do some writing as part of my job, and I can put commas where they belong—OK, most of the time—I’m not a writer or […]

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A Passion for Prolixity

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 by Alicia

Copywriters value clarity and concision. Short, pithy, unambiguous—that’s the way we like our verbiage. We count words and lop clauses. On our own time, though, maybe curled up in our favorite cozy chair with a nice steamy cup of tea and the latest issue of Puffball Gazetteer, or maybe catching up on email (even though […]

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How to Write a Great Customer Quote

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 by Lauren

At their best, customer case studies provide compelling proof points that support your message. And at their worst, they read like messaging documents sprinkled with stilted quotes. Yawn. So how can you make sure your customer case studies compel—not repel—readers? With persuasive quotes from actual customers. I’ve been writing case studies with Content Bureau for […]

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 by Stacy

Friends, It’s time for a little spooky fun. What do we love to read during Halloween week, but is too scary for the kidlets? The Legend of Sleepy Hollow If, like me, you’re on the West Coast but missing a NY fall, page 12 is a must-read. If you must jump straight to the chase, […]

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Is My Writing Too Passive?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 by Lisa S.

Your Highness: This letter is being written because I’ve been told that there is a problem with my writing. Specifically, a problem with the passive voice. But understanding this is difficult. I mean, my job is in marketing. I’m supposed to be good with words. And language has always come easily to me—out-of-the-box thinking is […]

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Making Your Case: A Guide to Compelling Customer Case Studies

Thursday, October 15th, 2009 by Client

I recently took a stroll down memory lane—and tripped and fell. The occasion was a look at some of the first customer case studies I ever wrote, way back in 1992. Rereading those pieces, it turned out, was not exactly a pleasant excursion—more like visiting an embarrassing relative. I was relieved no one else would […]

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“After Deadline,” The New York Times

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 by Chris

If you want to learn how to write clean copy, fast and under the gun – for marketing or any other arena where clarity is valued – the best training is in a big-city newsroom. (Assuming there are any such jobs left in journalism, but that’s another story.) Those of us lucky enough to have […]

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