Reason for Nicole Kidman’s clapping revealed!


Contrary to rumours suggesting the awkward clapping of Nicole was caused by the amount of bling she was wearing on her fingers, I’m here to reveal the facts.

After several rounds of heated Big Data analysis, a group of white-coat-wearing scientists from the Ponds Institute have revealed their conclusions. They determine that Nicole was in fact making a statement, and that she was honouring the little known National Creativity Day.

A day where the essence of creativity – fingers – should be kept pure, clean and respectably pointing towards the sky. Certainly not touching each other. And, if you think about it, fingers are the ideal ‘icon’ to represent creativity. Without them, there would be a broken link between the mind and the result.

Creative thinking 

Of course, the Academy Awards is the ideal venue for such a tribute. After all, Nicole was surrounded by scriptwriters, music conductors, grips, best boys, camera operators, gaffers… the list of people with creative fingers goes on.

So, for those Nicole naysayers out there, constantly giving our Nic a hard time for her acting (ok, best we don’t talk about the movie Australia), it’s time to reconsider your stance. As this genius of the screen is now also a trendsetter of the highest magnitude.

Well done Nicole Kidman. We applaud you (without fingers), and eagerly look forward to what you’ll be pointing on National Country Music Day.

How to write property copy like a pro

Computer sold final

Great property writing has a way of adding that extra sizzle to the property steak, while igniting the reader with a passionate curiosity, if not desire, to inspect.

For those curious about writing property copy, have property they want to promote, or perhaps are a real estate agent wanting to sharpen their copy writing skills, my many years as an advertising copywriter, real estate agent and property development writer may be of help. However, before putting pen to pad, there are a few little curly things to consider.

First, be descriptive and enticing but not salesy – keep the cheese for the champagne sale’s victory. Write real. Speak to the reader in a realistic manner, keep your prose on subject and never waffle, then dive deep to find the property’s unique selling proposition (USP). Even if it is dog ugly on a busy highway with zero space, it may be enticingly priced, offer potential, or be a developer’s dream.

Several ways to skin your copy

Ok, rookie writer, there are two main areas to consider when knocking out great property copy: structure and style.

The first, structure, is all about providing a clear picture to the reader. The best way to do this is to describe the property as if the reader is making a personal inspection. Start with how it delivers a ‘striking streetscape presence’ from the outside, perhaps mention the landscaping if it is a plus, then take the reader through the front door with a brief property description: ‘Opening to sleek contemporary interiors, the residence is bathed in an abundance of natural light.’

Follow with a brief description of the property: ‘Boasting a superb array of three living spaces, this three-bedroom brick…’ Then try get to the kitchen asap – my experience is this is always top-of-mind with buyers, so spend some time here cooking up buyer desire. Something along the lines of: ‘Fine cuisine is delivered via a superb array of European appliances deftly integrated into polyurethane cabinetry, complemented with stone bench tops and chic glass splash backs.’ All the better if there’s some juicy stuff like Calacatta marble, butler’s/walk-in pantry or 900mm oven.

Then, in order, provide a brief description of the living spaces, master bedroom, bedrooms, study and any outdoor entertaining/swimming pool setting. Now it’s time to wrap things up with features. Highlights like ducted heating/AC, ducted vacuum, fireplaces, electric vergola, designer lighting, gas fittings and remote garage entry with internal entry; plus any extra exterior goodies such as integrated BBQ/pizza oven or basketball venue.

So that’s structure, now about words

I know a property writer that only uses one adjective per sentence. I find that hard to do, but I’m always mindful not to be too flowery.

When it comes to descriptive words, these days no property copy seems to appear without ‘chic’ and ‘sleek’ mentioned. Quickly followed by ‘outstanding, sensational and stunning’.

When slider or bi-fold doors open to a great outdoor entertaining venue, think about the ‘seamless indoor/outdoor interaction.’ Plus, there’s some punchy options like: ‘unchallenged, sublime, unparalleled, etc. You’ll be amazed how handy a thesaurus can be when you pop in these thought starters.

What not to write

What is it with the word: ‘replete’? I see some writers using this in such a pompous manner, along the lines of: ‘An outstanding presentation of Tudor architecture replete with feature cornices and elegant lighting.’ How would the average Joe/Julie property buyer relate to that word, unless, of course, they read it after eating their fish dinner replete with chips.

Also, be careful with the word ‘complement’, don’t confuse this with ‘compliment’, which has an entirely different meaning. Replace
simple words like: ‘big’ with ‘generous, oversize’ or ‘sizeable’

Once written, put it under your pillow for a night and read it fresh as a buyer would. Then edit it back as tight as possible. Also read premium ‘boutique’ agents’ listings – you’ll recognize the structure mentioned here, and maybe pick up a few extra property writing adjectives. As opposed to most franchise agents, boutique agencies usually exhibit superior marketing, with professional writers, and this is quite apparent with their copy.

Cap your creative content off with a strong or clever headline (never punny or corny as it devalues the product). Then get ready to enjoy that victory champagne, as you watch the steak you’ve been writing about get devoured.

How to write a speech worth talking about

Microphone final better. JPEG

Great speeches resonate: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” as well as, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Yep, JFK and Churchill certainly knew how to blow their listeners away. If delivering memorable speeches is something that interests you, then read on as this simple technique might be the difference between a successful speech and something to cure insomnia.

I once saw Jerry Seinfeld say that recent research revealed one of the greatest fears is speaking in public – even more so than the fear of death. Then he cracked a joke saying that if this were so, the person giving the eulogy at a funeral was not as fortunate as the person getting buried.

Style and substance

Like a lot of communication, great speeches usually require two critical areas to focus on. In this case, one of them I can’t help you with at all, but the other is a cinch.

The first area is all about word gravitas. Choosing words like “ask not” instead of “do not ask,” and “human conflict” instead of “war,” are all part of why these speeches impact. Pumping out these requires an astute mind and a thesaurus – so good luck with that one.

The second area is a lot more doable and will still bring zing to your communication. It boils down to one major element: theme.

For example, I recently gave a speech for, of all things, an engagement. Before I put pen to pad, I spent some time searching for a relevant area that would mean something to him, her, their friends, as well as provide some ‘fat’ I could play with.

After looking at where they lived, their careers, hobbies, good/bad habits and family situation, etc, I finally cracked it. The couple were both middle children. So theme became: the middle.

Structurally, I crafted the speech around welcoming everyone to the evening, thanking the hosts, and advising the audience of the important things in this couple’s life. But instead of talking about love, commitment, faithfulness, and all the other expected areas, I started describing the TV show: The Middle.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s about a dysfunctional family that somehow stays together in trying circumstances.

Life imitating art

I threw in a few gags about overcoming dysfunctional habits of each other, while announcing that they were middle children. Although initially confused where I was going, the crowd quickly picked up the theme as it became quite obvious.

I mentioned the couple became engaged in the middle of their training, both their bedrooms are in the middle of their houses, they solve arguments by meeting in the middle, and how they finally knew they were meant for each other when they felt something strange in their middle, because that’s where the heart is.

There was an abundance of other middle-orientated situations to share, and then I wrapped things up by saying that I hoped nothing would come in the middle of these two… except the pitter-patter of adorable little children.

Each time I mentioned ‘the middle’ there were appreciable laughs and applause as I tied in the theme word with the lives of these soon-to-be newlyweds.

The rest of the evening was spent dotted with people I did and didn’t know thanking me for not only an entertaining speech, but an educational one at that.

So, whether you’re fronting the microphone in front of a wedding crowd, a financial organisation, or a committee, if you’re not an orator or wordsmith of considered note, take the easy way – theme your way to a great speech. It’s the last word in easy speech writing.

Have your finance blogs lost direction?

Head in sand final???    When was the last time you read a finance blog that fixated you with every word? How long has it been since you wrote a blog post that was an absolute page turner? Why is it that most financial blog pieces are as boring as this year’s election? Instead of writing something that gets ignored more than a salad in Clive Palmer’s kitchen, why not juice it up with something that everyone absolutely loves, and reads… a great story!

As a freelance content writer I write lots of content, especially finance; and in doing so I read zillions of blogs to keep in tune with events. Some are great, but most times I just want to put my head in the sand.

When it comes to creating finance, property investment, or superannuation copy, I’m continually noticing one key area that seems to be overlooked: the amazing experiences clients enjoy either with the product, or on their way to accessing that product.

For example, I once shared a flight to L.A. with an elderly American husband and wife. As one does on long flights, we started chatting. It turned out, husband Cliff had been in the navy and was woken up quite rudely in his ship’s bunk, anchored in Pearl Harbour in December 1941, by some loud bangs.

He told me, at first, he and his shipmates weren’t too concerned. It seemed, at the time, there was a bit of rivalry between the navy and the army. As Pearl Harbour was quite a party town, and Sunday morning sleep-ins were always a desperate remedy, the navy planes liked to wake up the army guys early Sunday morning, and likewise the army planes to the navy.

When loud booms started going off, Cliff’s ship buddies all started screaming, “Wow, those army pilots are in real trouble now, by dropping live ammunition they’ve taken this thing way too far!”

However, it wasn’t too long until they realised it wasn’t their side doing the bombing.

Cliff survived that day, and quite a few other close calls along the way. As his war service took him from island to island, he became exposed to clearing land for airfields and building military accommodation asap.

After a few years in the Pacific, he became quite adept at overseeing construction crews and turning the impossible into reality.

After the war, he settled around the navy town of San Diego. At the time, Southern California was starting to boom with development and Cliff’s construction skills kept him in high demand. After many years of building, he became a licensed realtor and started selling his own developments.

We had a few laughs as he explained: “I didn’t know what was more dangerous, fighting enemy snipers or negotiating prices with customers.”

Over those many busy years, he and his wife, Annie, battled everything from corrupt officials, untrustworthy business partners to economic fluctuations and the financial uncertainties they all delivered. However, all along the way, they made certain they regularly put something aside for their future.

After all, Cliff said: “You never know when you’ll get woken up with a bomb.”

Even though they were spending time in their latter years ‘playing realtor’, as they said, it was more for friends and fun. They focused most of the time travelling, discovering new experiences, chatting to people such as myself, and enjoying the fruits of their labour.

That flight was many years ago. Most of the stories I heard that day have been forgotten. Although, I do remember thinking this couple had lived an amazing life, while still focusing on living an amazing retirement.

Stories like this are a natural for superannuation content. With the turbulent 50s, 60s and 70s, there’s plenty of Australian stories out there that need to be told. And hopefully by clever finance/investment/super brands that want to build their brand, by building relationships.

So, if you’re unsure how to engage with your blog readers, just share fantastic stories that your demographic can relate to. Otherwise, without a good story, it’s just too easy for a blog to bomb.

Five ways to turn beasts into great blogs!

Untitled  If you’re involved in the area of finance, super or property, and you’re still trying to tame the demands of a weekly blog – creating informative, yet interesting, content – then, perhaps, these few tips may be just the ride you’ve been looking for.

As a freelance content writer, I’m reasonably experienced at writing keyword websites and blog copy. I also have some expertise in real estate, so I’m quite at home (no pun intended) about writing around property, finance and even superannuation.

In my many years of advertising, I’ve written about everything from BMW to baked beans.

Recently, I was quite surprised when I wrote half a dozen blog pieces for a recruitment company, and the end result was a disaster – prompting this blog.

The agency I was freelancing to provided good reference, a tight brief, and substantial information to help build my prose.
Once written, the client was chuffed, and I felt more popular than a ham sandwich at Clive Palmer’s house.

However, once these blogs crawled through the client’s editorial mob of gnashing scissors, they read more like: “Ten Dull Things To Do in a Gulag”. These ‘editors’ just didn’t realise that, unlike a gulag, readers choose to read these blogs – or not so.

For blogs to be effective, they have to first stand out, as well as be engaging, and then provide something of value to the reader.

Sadly, their potential to be engaging as well as readable had been squeezed out of them. They should have, at least, left the following:

To get this right, as Curly said, “The secret to life is one thing…” And my blog writing secret is ‘One Word’. Think of your product as one word and write around that word. For example, when writing for BMW the one word I use is ‘Dynamic’ – all my copy has a dynamic tone to it. When working on Hyundai, the word was ‘Fun’, and likewise my copy. Here’s a tip, when I write around Super, investment, etc, the word I usually write around is “Reassurance”. Reassurance that your money is safe, reassurance that your money will grow, etc.

2. Headline
It’s simple, engaging headlines entice readers to drill into your copy. The easiest way to crank out a great headline is to write a straight line describing your blog content, and then fiddle with it. Also, make it inviting. Five ways sounds easier to read than 25 ways.

3. Aspiration
Most people reading about money, property investment, super, etc, are trying to see what’s around the corner, and how to better their future. So, make sure your blog fuels their aspirations. What is it about your brand/product that can make your readers’ life better?

4. Keywords
Jump on YouTube and punch in the keywords (key phrase): ‘How to use Google Keyword Planner Tool’. From there, you’ll start to understand the power of keywords, long tail keywords, what is searched for, and a bunch of other stuff that will help your copy get out there.

5. Visuals
Let’s face it, people are lazy. It takes an effort to read a headline. On the net, people are skimmers. They will only read a blog if their brain tells them there’s something worthwhile for them in it. Yes, a punchy headline may inspire the reader’s brain, but a great visual not only grabs the cerebrals, it also sets a theme/tone to your story. Plus, if you use something different – like cartoons, as I do – your copy immediately stands out from the rest. Further activating those cells.

6. Don’t waffle
One last tip (Hey, I know I said 5 ways, but I’m being generous), Try and keep your copy to around 500 words – 600 tops. Plenty of my SEO buddies tell me that’s best practice for keeping search engines happy. Now, hop back on that blog horse and enjoy the ride!

12 quick reasons why superannuation is like marriage!


Beam me up if I’m wrong here, but most people still believe in marriage, as well as superannuation. While both provide unbelievable benefits, unfortunately, there’s also the dark side that can lead to some ugly D words: Divorce and (here’s where super comes in) Despair… for your future.

However, perhaps if we lift the lid, or sheets, ever so gently on these two subjects, we can see how they correlate… and have an amazing synergy that, perhaps, we can learn from?

1. Elvis or Gomer?
Yeah, you’ve been dating for a few years, checking out the talent. And then one day, BOOM, you meet Mr/Mrs Right. Your life’s quest has now been satiated. All the boxes are ticked. Everything makes so much sense. And you’re thinking, if I don’t sign this up I might miss out.

Whether it is a partner for the rest of your life, or a financial arrangement that will support you to the end of your life, you move forward and make a commitment – confident of a rewarding future.

With rose coloured glasses, you now start the journey of discovering, was it Marilyn Monroe or Phyllis Diller you actually married? The same predicament presents for the aspiring super funds you explore. They all have great attractions, but what will they look like in the future?

2. For better or worse…
As the honeymoon continues, both in marriage and with your super fund, you are beaming with new life. Your many experiences of tyre kicking have paid off – and you bathe in the knowledge that your future is anchored on a rock solid foundation. Both emotionally and financially, you are headed for a fantastic future.

3. Does my ego look big in this?
You even find yourself quite keen to show off your trophy wife/stud husband to your dinner party friends and work colleagues. In a similar fashion, no barbeque get-together is too sacred not to talk about your latest super returns and, by the way… how did your fund perform compared to mine?

4. Hey, what’s that?
Hmmm, in time you start to notice things that simply weren’t there before. Your better half appears to be doing things that just don’t make sense, and there’re moments when they can be quite annoying. At the same time, why is your super not performing as it should be?

5. Cybill had how many personalities?
To your delight, and at times annoyance, your other half can be stunningly sensational and light up your universe with complete fulfillment… and at other times they’re just not there in the room. Funny how your Super can deliver amazing returns one year, and then the next time you check it’s a shy underperforming hollow thing in a dark corner.

6. Seconds anyone?
As time goes on, you two start to do what most couples do… put on weight. Not too dissimilar to your super – you hope.

7. The hassle-in-laws
With marriage come the in-laws. As they start to make themselves known, you find that some are easy to deal with. The others remind you of your super fund – in that, they too start to contact you with issues… be that insurance offers, or other financial options. These, just like relatives, will now be forever in your life.

8. Ka-ching
As either of you progress in your careers, so does your income and the what-part-of-Europe-can-we-now-holiday-in pay packet. At about the same time, your compounding super starts to deliver impressive statements.

9. Where’s the remote?
Inevitably, there’s nothing as unpredictable as the economy. Which can result in one or both of you lying around the sofa all week, wondering what Oprah is doing? Again, much like super in a bear market.

10. Patience is a virtue?
Marriage, at times, can be just as eventful as an election rally for Donald Trump. Whether you succumb to the consuming statistics of divorce, or stay the true and narrow path of marriage, will be determined, to a large degree, with how you ignore the temptations that arise. Staying true to your superannuation fund will also be a test of endurance.

11. A team effort
At last, it’s time to grab that golden iWatch and retire with your beloved. You’ve both (or the four of you, including your super funds) weathered the ‘what-ifs’ of life, and can now enjoy the fruits of your lifelong toil.

12. Let the good times roll
About now, you should find a soft chair in the shade and have a good long think. Statistically, you’re one of the few to make it to God’s waiting room with someone you love, and have the financial freedom to enjoy it. Whether you’ve spent your life with Marilyn, Phyllis, Elvis or Gomer, their support, as well as that from a quality super fund, gave you a great life. And if anyone is offered the same life opportunity, they would quickly say: “I do”.

Does the age of your finance/super writer add up?


If you’re in the business of communicating with your clients about superannuation, property investment and getting one’s life ready for retirement, just how familiar is your funky young writer with these ‘grey haired’ products?

From someone that’s been around the writing traps for years, here are a few thoughts to ponder over.

The recent budget was full to the brim of superannuation-affected changes. And yet, the few young writers I talk to emit a dull fog when I try and raise the subject. Hmmm, as well as realising I’ve gotta get out more, I’m also questioning if younger scribes can really connect with this particular product when writing about it.

My perspective is based on many years of copywriting, and having freelanced for around 100 advertising and marketing agencies, interstate and overseas. From the major agencies, the minors, and smaller two-man-bands, I’ve written for just about everything.

In the process, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed, squeezed, sniffed, eaten and ridden in the product I was working on. Really, the only way to understand what you’re writing about is to partake in it. Fortunately for me, I have never had to work on a funeral account.

Crack the idea

I even recall the week my art director and myself were working on the Le Snak account. We had wall-to-wall Le Snak up to our wahoozies, and we had to come up with a whiz-bang idea to fit the bus back, bus sides and metrolite (bus stop) media – the USP being portability.

In between experiencing all the other staff in the agency visiting us to say hi, briefly talk about life, and then briskly leave with a handful of Le Snak, I finally cracked the idea.

It was birthed from endless hours dwelling on portability, which led to a quick trip to the luggage section of Myers, Chatswood. As I started to look at all the different types of luggage – from airline bags and backpacks to bum bags, I started to notice that at the right angle their zippers looked like teeth. Ah, ha! Idea born.

We shot a series of bags with their zippers open, looking as if they were wild animals trying to eat a pack of Le Snak. The campaign ran nationally and was so successful, the client decided to run it the following year as well – plus, I was even able to keep some of the bags.

The point of all this, is that I had to connect with the product to deliver the strongest piece of communication.

And that’s the exact modus operandi that should be used for superannuation.

Aside from wine, the only thing that gets better with age is writing

In more recent times, I’ve been accepting the arrival of grey hairs as just God’s way of telling me the sleek, young body I’ve been living in all these years is about to get a factory recall. And, with that remodelling, thoughts arise of retirement and how to pay for it when I get that golden iWatch in 20 years.

Which means, when it comes to writing superannuation and investment copy, after all this time of playing with the clients’ products, I’m now actually living in one of them. And any writer over 40, such as myself, has more skin in the game than Kim Kardashian would on selfie night.

That’s why I’m throwing the gauntlet down at young writers. And by young, I mean someone young enough not to have any interest in super.

How much would they know about the product? Apart from the recent timing and contribution changes, are they aware of the propensity of people to have multiple super funds, on average around four funds each, and that females end up with about half the amount males squirrel away? Each fund sucking their very future away with fees and insurance charges. Yes, that’s a hassle. However, it can be even more of a hassle to combine them into one. And which one?

Which fund has strong returns and/or allows you to move your insurance over? What are the tax implications with the new super fund, if you’ve made after-tax contributions? And how do you avoid getting burnt by high fees with the funds you’re terminating?

Then there’s the hassle of getting it done. If you’re unsure which company you should pool your super with, good luck with the free government website – that site is more confused than Donald Trump’s hairdresser.

You should also be prepared for a shock when a private organisation offers their services. The one I contacted wanted to charge $1200, for something that a super fund will do for free.

Then, in the process of moving, when one of my accounts had the wrong birth date, instead of just changing it over the phone, I had to verify who I was with a frustrating trip to  a distant police station for validation.

The harder things come, the more you appreciate them

Fortunately, all this angst is quite educational. Yes, superannuation content usually involves issues relating to timing, personal circumstances and taxation planning; however, any writer who hasn’t personally tried to sift their way through the super minefield may be accused of already retiring – as their content will reflect their inexperience.

So, if the blog or native advertising writer you’re using may be more interested in things other than super – like cheese – then start packing their travel bags. As great content is only written by those that love, and know, what they’re doing.

Five ways to write copy that doesn’t suck!


How many times have I been called in to pump up the effectiveness of either an existing blog piece or website content, to see the first problem is that “The King’s English” hasn’t been used. Why do I describe language like that? Simple. That’s exactly what my public school primary teacher used to say to myself, and my fellow pupils, encouraging us to communicate with effect – along the lines of: “Don’t waffle, boy, get to the point.” He obviously knew he was instructing future web content writers.

15 years of industry experience later, his words are still concrete. So much so, I often recall his message when I’m contacted to write a blog piece of key worded web copy – well, that and a few other bits and pieces I’ve picked up on the way.

Here’s a checklist that might help you craft stronger copy:

1. The first thing you need to do is stop. Don’t type. Think. Prepare in your head what messages you are going to send to your typing fingers, and how efficient your communication can be. In order: who you are, what you do, and what you can do for your prospective customer, is the usual format for websites; not too disimiliar from what that teacher taught us: intro, story, conclusion. Then, as Siimon Reynolds (shameless name dropper, me) once drilled into my writer’s mind: “Juice it up!” Meaning, why not insert a powerful headline/subs, facts, funny observations or freak-out snippets that can make the message more engaging?

2. Write tight. If you are writing along the lines of: “The dog was being chased by the boy,” it’s more efficient if you say, “The boy chased the dog.” Always subject actioning the noun – it’s quicker to write, read and understand.

3. Craft efficient sentences. Limit these to 30 words, or less. Try, also, to insert commas within 15 words. Yes, commas, semi-colons and dashs have to conform to the laws of punctuation, however they also provide a breather for your reader, and a nano-second for your message to sink in.

4. Paragraphs should also be finessed – three or four sentences. Think of them as an episode of a soap opera, with the sentences telling the story of that half hour soapy. Next paragraph should have a new story to tell.

5. Headlines and sub heads should get attention. Seven words, or less, is the old rule-of-thumb. They should direct viewer traffic to the subject of your message – and if entertaining, then all the better. So try to be as punchy as possible, with relevance to the copy. However, don’t be too cute. Only employ clever humour, as readers want information, not silliness.

Now, aside from proofreading like crazy and editing your copy to waffle-free statues, you’re all set to go. And, if you’re writing website copy, remember to write about the web product’s benefits… not features. After all, web visitors are shopping for a solution, and what’s in it for them. Those that know data well, reckon you’ll have a maximum of five seconds to ‘capture’ each website visitor before they ‘bounce’ to your opposition. So, focus, write tight, engaging copy, and your successful content will be king.