How Do You Sell A News Publication When You Can’t Talk About The News?

Dear Friend,

Let’s clink our glasses together and finally agree.

If you are going to write a great sales letter that makes people stop in their tracks and say, “Wow! I want that!”…

… there are some compulsory floor exercises you must follow.

1. You need to grab your reader by the throat.

(Direct response is an interruptive form of advertising. Why should your prospect stop making love to their spouse… their neighbor… their favorite concubine… and pay attention to you?)

2. You need to build a one-to-one relationship with a qualified buyer.

(Woah, Soldier! If you don’t leave, my husband is going to… wait… come into the light… you’re cuter than I thought. )

3. You need to slide your Unique Selling Proposition under your prospect’s nose using language that gets them to nod their heads with familiarity.

(Right, mate, why is your bloody pub about cuttle fish better than the bloody pub I already bloody have?)

4. You need to present an offer that will motivate someone to take action — now!

(What! Derek Jeter is about to break Lou Gehrig’s record, and you want me to turn off the television…)

Oh, did I mention you need to do all this — quickly?

Ideally, in 5 or 6 paragraphs. The paragraphs should not be more than 5 lines long and about 10 to 12 words per line… in 12 point type. (We can argue later about the font.)

That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. Some talented copywriters have hacked away at this brush before you and left clear paths to follow. You just have to swallow your pride and go where they lead you. Let’s see a great letter in action, and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

Darlene, open the vault, honey, and grab from the swipe file that package by Ken Sheck. You know, the one for THE ECONOMIST.

Here it is. What a gem!

Dear Colleague,

Every Monday morning, a rather unusual publication arrives at the desks of a select circle of individuals in positions of power and influence.

The readers of this discreetly (one is almost tempted to say reluctantly) publicized newsweekly include presidents (of countries, banks, universities and Fortune 500 companies), ranking executives (in business, government and industry) and prominent thinks (in law, science, economics and military strategy).

Now it may not surprise you to learn that the average income of North American subscribers to this singular periodical exceeds $144,800 per annum. However, it may surprise you to discover that despite the enormous clout and affluence of its world renowned readers only a relative handful of Americans are aware of the existence of this exclusive publication, much less the intelligence it provides.

But now with this letter, you are cordially invited to join the extremely select circle of men and women who wouldn’t think of beginning each business week without the incomparable insight and reporting of The Economist.

Now let’s examine what Ken does that separates him from mere typists.

First, let’s notice what Ken doesn’t say. He doesn’t mention anything that’s in the news because by the time the prospect reads this — anything you can possibly say is going to be out of date.

So instead he smartly slants left and focuses on the exclusivity of the pub… the wealth and power of its readers… and, by implication, the upscale club you will join when you, too, become a subscriber.

Also, note the tone he sets at the outset:

Every Monday morning, a rather unusual publication arrives at the desks of a select circle of individuals in positions of power and influence.

He could have said…

On Mondays, the mag is read by big shots like Henry Kissinger and Walter Cronkite.

…but he would have gained less yardage, IMHO. The best way to get a qualified buyer is to capture the tone of the product. In this case, Ken’s client is The Economist, not Newsweek. It requires a little more nose in the air.

Let me now show you how I shamelessly borrowed from Ken to create a package for The Far Eastern Economic Review and kicked some serious direct response butt.

Darlene, where are you honey? Wake up! It’s 9:00am and you’re already lit up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Bring that package over to me, the one that’s by your feet.

Each week a highly influential magazine is quietly delivered to two dozen spy agencies throughout the world.

It is eagerly awaited by prime ministers and presidents… by savvy corporate executives and far-sighted global investors… from Sweden to Swaziland, from Pyongyang to Peoria.

Now, with your permission, we would like to include you among this distinguished group of world leaders. Introducing…

THE FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW

Then I went off in my own direction — still not talking about anything in the news…

Dear Executive:

It was a beautiful summer day at The Clearwater Bay Golf Club, and so far the golf game between the two businessmen had been friendly enough.

Then it suddenly grew tense.

“How could you borrow $400 million to build our new plant at such a high interest rate!” the CEO shouted at the 4th hole.

“I’m sorry… sir…” the executive stammered, missing his putt. “I thought my information was reliable at the time– “

–the CEO cut him off. “Not good enough. The Review has been hinting for months that interest rates would fall!”

Why was the CEO so abrupt?

Why did he not have another second to waste? Because he knew that any businessman who did not take advantage of the “early warning” provided by The Far Eastern Economic Review would miss opportunities and be at a clear disadvantage when trying to negotiate successful (and profitable) business dealings in Asia.

Get the idea? Sometimes it’s better, as Darlene likes to remind me, to keep your mouth shut. If you’re selling a news publication, saying less can be more.

Cheers!

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