Friday, December 27, 2013

Fantastic Title Block: An Exercise in Creative Marketing

One of the worst problems I have with writing is thinking up catchy titles.
I suck at creative titles. And it’s a major part of my job to think of something clever that brings people in. I want to shoot myself as I sit here, writing this, still struggling for a title to inspire people to volunteer for the free income tax help service that the public library has participated in for its third year in a row.
Coming up with something good is...difficult.

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) is a great program. I hate to gripe, but the best I could come up with was

Feeling taxed? Volunteer to help others with VITA
Which sounds more like the catchphrase on a flyer than for a little news article in a library newsletter.


With creative stories, that’s not such a problem. Perhaps the article is too dry – it’s been reprinted for about the third time.

But clever wordplay is not my forte  - neither is rhyming 90% of the time.
I digress.

And this is the rub of trying to be a journalist/reporter/writer/wordsmith. Clever wordplay is key in drawing in a reader’s attention, regardless of how dry the material is. If you can come up with a funny angle, a worthwhile pun, even a groaner, anything that hooks the reader long enough that they at least pay some attention to what you spent hours agonizing over, your job has been completed. The quality of the writing is another matter. Injecting life into a dry piece of information is much tougher than it looks. And constant rewriting may or may not make what you pounded out better – at least to you when you reread it three or more times.

I neither smoke nor drink, but that's how I feel.

Take Your Taxes to the Next Level – no. What does that even mean?

Handle Sums of money – and make people richer!
            Better, but misleading.

Finding Money for Those Without
Eh…Better, but not gold.

Finding Cash in Tough Times
Hmm…that might work, depending on how I angle the rest of it. Also not great, but that’ll do pig. That’ll do.

Sometimes brainstorming and writing until something comes out produces work that perhaps can be polished with a little spit to look somewhat better.
Here is the original article as it was:

**** is acting as a  volunteer tax preparation site. Volunteers can help low-income families in the local area get their taxes done. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) brings over $1.2 million into the homes of families and boosts their income to help pay utility bills and even afford necessities for winter across the state.
            Last year the program serviced over 140 people from *** and *** counties. Each completed tax return can help to raise a working family’s income by up to $4,800. Full training is available and is freely offered by the IRS.The VITA program is a community service builder that builds confidence and works well as experience for anyone looking to build on their resume.For more information or a Volunteer Application, call ****, or email *****.

And the new and improved *shiny* article reads: 

The last few years have been tough for Americans with low job and economic growth. Sometimes extra cash garnered through properly done tax returns can result in easing the burden placed on low-income families struggling to pay bills or meet daily living needs. *** hopes to remedy that.In 2014, *** will again act as a volunteer tax preparation site by setting up appointments between volunteers and families in need during tax season. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program brings over $1.2 million into the homes of families across the state for winter, boosting their income to help pay utility bills and even afford necessities during the cold months.Last year, the program saw over 140 people from the *** and *** counties sign up. According to the program’s official site, each completed tax return can help to raise a working family’s income up to $4,800.
But what made the program a success were the volunteers who took the time to learn the free coursework to help low-income families. The training is provided at no cost by the IRS. In addition to helping the community, VITA works as a service learning tool that builds confidence and can be used as volunteer experience on a resume.*** hopes to expand the program out with more volunteers this year. To learn more about serving the community through the VITA program as a volunteer applicant, call ***, or email ***.
Sometimes just rewriting and taking out the simple crap – or putting on a new coat of paint on a garage sale find – can really make it better.

Is it Pulitzer Prize worthy? Not really.

But for a newsletter bulletin, it does a decent job. Better job? Possibly. But deadlines are deadlines, and we can’t always make it perfect. Pretty good (ahem, passable) will make the cut.

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