The power of the press release

A press release does several things for your business.

  • A news release announces a recent accomplishment you have achieved. For example, it could be a class you completed; a professional designation you earned; a civic award; your appointment to a board or charity; an educational goal you may have attained; a new program you are rolling out; an office expansion; or any noteworthy event that keeps your name in the public arena. One caveat: Don’t fall into the trap of the “I feel good” press release. Find the hook in the accomplishment, which means that the accomplishment also helps your clients, not just you.
  • A press release announces a new program roll out or personnel change. Maybe you have partnered with a new carrier or formed a new strategic alliance. Perhaps you’ve lured a new hire with impressive credentials. Maybe you’ve grown so much that you’re opening a new location.

A press release reminds editors that you are an expert. Every press release should include a brief biography or a short history of your company. The pitch reminds editors to call you, not your competitor, the next time they are looking for a quote or information on insurance for an article they are writing or a television soundbite.

You can write a release yourself after you get the hang of it, but for your first few releases, we’d suggest hiring a professional. “Pushing” the press release is an additional cost and we can help you determine how to best publish your news release. A press release provides free advertising and puts your name in front of important local or national newsmakers who can turn to you when they need information, which means more free advertising. Keeping your name in the public arena is vital to increasing business.

Ask yourself this question: If I planned to buy a house, which realtor’s name would immediately pop into my head in my location? Try to make your name synonymous with insurance in your community.

Press releases are a very inexpensive form of advertising that reminds your community that you are the best one to call when purchasing insurance.

A live stamp can get your marketing letter opened

One holiday season I was in a long line at a California post office. An elderly woman was in line in front of me. When she finally got to the counter, she ordered a book of stamps. After asking for the book, she qualified her statement by saying with a great deal of irritation, “And none of those darn Elvis stamps, either!” Everyone within earshot tried not to laugh out loud.

Should you use a live stamp or bulk mail for your next promotional piece? While bulk mail may save a few pennies, I always use a real stamp. In fact, I often get creative and use stamps with themes or beautiful pictures just to draw the letter opener’s eye to them. Last month it was a Wonder Woman series and that sure got some remarks.

A live stamp makes the recipient pause to ask themselves if this letter is something important. They rarely ditch a stamped letter. Would you?

We write marketing content, including pitch letters, for agents, brokers, insurers and insurance vendors throughout the nation. If you want content marketing that will produce sales, call us at 602.870.3230 for a chat.

Improve your insurance technical writing by removing passive voice

meetingWhat is passive voice and why should you avoid it in your insurance writing? No matter what you’re writing for the insurance industry, a blog, a technical report or a white paper designed for marketing your business, passive voice weakens your writing. Once you understand a little about passive voice, it becomes much easier to find and eliminate it in your own writing.

What is passive voice?

Passive voice sentence construction occurs when the subject of a sentence becomes the object of an action. I know, it’s a grammar thing, something we disliked in school. Here’s an example of passive voice.

Our underwriting team was defeated by the western region.

Passive sentence construction weakens your writer because, in a nutshell, no one takes responsibility for the action. Written actively, this sentence would read like this:

The western underwriting region defeated our sales team.

Ouch! That wording smarts a bit more, doesn’t it?

In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon.

The applicant was rejected by Tom due to his negative loss history.

In active voice, the subject of the sentence (Tom the underwriter) performs the action.

Tom rejected the applicant due to his recent negative loss history.

One easy way to fix this and many passive sentences is to put the actor, Tom, ahead of the verb, “rejected” in the sentence.

Tips to find passive voice

To find passive voice, look for verb forms like “to be,” like “is,” “are,” “were,” followed by what is known as a past particle, a verb typically ending in “ed.” To make things harder, not all forms of “to be” are passive, but it’s a good red flag.

Here are a few more examples.

The claims department’s closing ratio was reduced last month by a high number of flu-ridden adjusters.

Rewritten actively you might say something like this:

Absenteeism in the claims department from the flu reduced last month’s closing ratios.

Here’s another passive construction.

The marketing team’s attendance at RIMS was delayed by one day due to bad weather in Atlanta.

Rewritten actively, the sentence might read like this:

Due to bad weather in Atlanta, the marketing team arrived at RIMS one day late.

I know what you’re thinking: “This is too hard! It’s grammar! I have a solution for you, or rather Microsoft Office does. While grammar check in MS Word won’t catch every instance of passive voice, it does a darn good job.

Here’s the plan

First, ensure you turn on grammar check in Word. If you aren’t sure how, read this link. Just be sure when you click your Review tab on Word and you click the Spelling & Grammar tab, the box at the bottom marked “Check grammar” has a check mark in it. (Now, if I’d said “is clicked,” I would be using a passive construction and Word would not catch it.)

Next, run the Spelling & Grammar check on your entire document. If you are new at writing active voice (the opposite of passive voice and what we strive for), you will probably have a high percentage of passive voice in your document. You will find the percentage of passive voice instances on the final grammar check tab under Readability, Passive Sentences.

Finally, to narrow down the location of your passive writing, go paragraph by paragraph with Spelling and Grammar. Do this by highlighting one paragraph at a time. If necessary, highlight sentence by sentence. Find the offending sentence and reword it. As you move to active voice in all your documents, you’ll find your writing comes alive and your audience, whether or not they understand grammar mechanics, will appreciate your writing style much more.

I’m a technical person – Give me a number

What percentage of writing should be passive? Professional writers argue percentages, but I strive for no passive writing in my work. If you’re new to this concept, shoot for five percent passive, and then aim even lower as you learn.

But we write about insurance,” you may argue. “It’s technical and somewhat boring!” Experts argue that even highly technical writing should avoid the use of passive voice. Even though we’re writing about insurance, we should never bore our readers. Our writing should be clear, crisp, concise and active. This writing style engages the reader and helps to ensure he or she will tag along to the end of your writing, whether it’s a claim report, an underwriting manual or a insurance white paper designed to educate clients or consumers.

In conclusion

One of the problems of passive voice is that we may attempt to distance ourselves from our decisions with the use of passive voice. I recommend you step up and say it like it is – take responsibility by using active voice. After all, that’s what we do in the insurance industry – we make decisions.

Active voice bolsters your writing, helping to engage your reader every step of the sometimes technical way. With the help of Microsoft and a few simple tips, you can actively improve your writing.

Should We Use Stamps or Metered Mail in Marketing Mail?

ElvisOne Christmas I was in a long line in the post office in Garden Grove, California. An elderly woman was in line in front of me and when she finally got to the counter, she ordered a book of stamps. After her request, she qualified her statement by saying with a great deal of irritation, “And none of those darn Elvis stamps, either!” Everyone within earshot tried not to laugh out loud.

While bulk mail may save a few pennies, I always use a real stamp. In fact, I often get creative and use stamps with themes or beautiful pictures just to draw the letter opener’s eye to piece.

If we can help you write copy that will produce sales, contact us at 602.870.3230.

We help agents, carriers and insurance thought leaders throughout the US with their blogging, marketing and ghostwriting efforts. Why not call for a free consultation? With over a quarter century in the insurance industry, we understand your business.

How Long Should Sentences and Paragraphs Be in Business Writing?

As agents, consultants and claims people, we should write in top form before we send that letter or publish the final draft of our blog. Here are a few tips on sentence and paragraph length.

There is a lot of poor writing out there on the web. Even in professionally written White Papers and blog entries, there is lots of room for improvement. As agents, consultants and claims people, we should write in top form before we send that letter or publish the final draft of our blog. Here are a few tips on sentence and paragraph length.

The “eye likes white space.” If you mail a letter or publish a blog without adequate paragraph breaks, readers will quickly lose interest. Creative use of white space encourages the reader to dig in and begin reading, then refuses to intimidate the reader along the way.

How long is a sentence?

Most writing experts agree – use concise sentences in business writing. Strive for an average of 15-to-20 words in even the most technical documents. However, good writing uses varied sentence length. If you write all 10-word sentences, your work would be choppy. If you use all 20- or 25-word sentences, the reader will soon lose interest. Vary sentence length and strive for an average of not more than 20 words per sentence. Briefer is better. A four-word sentence that is informative is perfectly acceptable. “Risk management maximizes profits” speaks volumes in four words.

How long is a paragraph?

A paragraph is a relatively short block of text that opens with a statement—a topic sentence—which describes what the paragraph contains. Many writers, even experienced ones, tend to stray toward lengthy paragraphs. This is a mistake. Strive to average less than 100 words per paragraph. Also keep formatting in mind, because if you format using more than one column per page, your paragraphs should be even shorter.

Remember these three rules for better business writing:

1.       The eye likes white space

2.       Sentence length average: 15-to-20 words maximum

3.       Paragraph length average: Less than 100 words