Tell the Truth and Be Nice

Several years ago, I was at a  marketing conference in Florida. The hotel was lovely, situated directly on the beach and though it was hurricane season, the first day started out sunny and calm.

I went to some of the sessions, had some surprisingly decent coffee and met some wonderful attendees. What I was interested in was the lunchtime keynote by a legend in the copywriting industry.

The man who spoke (who shall remain unnamed here) is a billionaire who started in direct marketing (aka: junk mail) three decades ago. He was charming, direct and forthcoming in telling us his secret to making a great deal of money: play to the fears and greed of the target market.

He then went on to show us an actual info-video he’d created for a financial website. It was a deadly boring video by nearly every standard. Just a voice over a black screen with white captions.  The narration talked about the ‘impending financial crisis” (three years after the actual financial crises of 2009, well into the recovery) and recommended buying into some penny stocks that were certain to go up.

If you’ve seen the movies “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “The Big Short.” you might have some idea of the kind of financial product that was being sold.

The speaker told us that this video had made hundreds of thousands of dollars in less than a month. He then told a roomful of aspiring copywriters that there were dozens of companies looking for people to create content just like that video, waiting to hire them in the ballroom next door.

Sitting through that keynote made me physically ill, but I stayed because I learned early on that in order to beat your enemy, you must first know him. And those kind of marketers are, in my mind, the enemy.

Shysters who exploit the emotions and  insecurities of vulnerable or unsuspecting  people for financial gain are not a new phenomenon. Mark Twain wrote about them in Huckleberry Finn, and they were already old-hat by then.

But the power of the Internet and the psychological tactics that are employed today are extremely sophisticated. Constant vigilance is required and even then, if the right ‘buttons’ are pushed, every single one of us can find ourselves pushing a ‘buy’ button we never intended to touch.

But those same tactics can also be used for good. Not to convince someone to buy something against their will, but to cut through all the noise and chatter and present an honest case for a product or service that is truly needed or useful.

More than a motto, “tell the truth and be nice” is a statement of two of my core values: honesty and kindness. It’s how I strive to live my life and how I run my business.

I will not write for a financial company selling penny stocks  – no matter how much they pay. Nor will I take a client who claims to have the only ‘all natural’ vitamin supplement cure for diabetes that “Doctors don’t want you to know.”

If that’s you, please move along.

But if you have a product or service that truly helps people, animals or the planet, please contact me now, because I would love to work with you.

We only have one life and it’s short. Let’s do as much good as we can, together.


If you decide you want something I’ve recommended, please consider buying it through the link on my page so I get the commission. Thank you.


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