Two secret words to make your readers blub (with joy/happiness/connection)

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I have one question and one opinion for you.

Neither relate to marketing or selling stuff online (YESSSSSS! they roar).

Both are pro-ductive and anti-pasto. (What is pasto? And why are oily tomatoes and artichokes against it? That's not the question, but if you know the answer - please share.)

The question is:

Are you a goldfish?

I am. Tell me you are, too.

Here's how to know:

> You forget things instantly, like *bloop*.

> You swim in circles, stuck in a loop of procrastination and snacking - despite having learned lessons, read books and stepped into your power at Tony Robbins seminars. (Ew. Squelchy.)

> Your body has scales.

> When you cry, your eyes inflate like bilious blisters and affix to the side of your head - similarly to those weird bobble-eyed goldfish. What is WITH that?

> You've always had a secret urge to taste fish flakes.

Did you say ME TOO! to any of those?

If so, you're sliding nicely into the second part of this post: the opinion bit.

I've been thinking about the power of words a lot lately, and I reckon ME TOO are two of the most potent words out there.


They connect. Salve. Soothe. Defuse.

Me too offer the sweet solidarity every confused and deeply anxious human needs - and wants to hear.

Me too reassure, calm and connect. They remind us that our pain and awkwardness, our neuroses and irate inner monologue, our intense cravings for fish food and propensity to pick boogers in secret is probably universal.

Saying me too sticks customers to you like velcro.

WHOOPS. YEA SHE DID. SURPRISE! This post IS about marketing. Ha!

Being able to communicate the exact problem your (ideal) customers face, then saying - you know what? Me too! is the best - the BEST - way to generate rapport, connection and conversions online.

Even better if you offer a solution *WINK*.

If you want to sell stuff that is.

But if you're anything like me, you just want to swim around inside a tank flirting with bubbles and gazing at your fins in the glass.

Goldfish, hey.

Do you agree with me on this?

Are you using the power of me too in your business?

What's your favourite moisturizer? (You know...for the scales.)

Thanks for reading such a fishy post.


Is your writing a tow-away zone?

I did a daft thing on the weekend.

I drove into the city for dinner. Drove; not walked, not rode, not Uber'd.

It's Adelaide! I reasoned. There's always a park - as per the rules of country towns masquerading as capital cities.

But, during peak Fringe festivities AND at the precise moment Adelaide's blood sugar was collectively dropping (around 7:35pm) parks were impossible to come by.

After slow-drip driving my way ‘round the CBD six times in succession - seething and starving - I finally found a park within hiking distance from where I needed to be.

I *thought* it was a park.

I desperately wanted it to be a park.

Other cars were parked there!

But it wasn't a park, because there stood a sign that explicitly said so.


It was a special, event-edition sign with arrows pointing in either direction to dissuade hopeful puller-upperers like me.


Surely that sign didn't apply to me.

Me? Catie Payne?

It would have said something more specific like:

'Seriously Catie, this ain't what you think it is. Nope. Not a chance. Read it and weep, sister. Try the next block over.'

But all it said was 'Tow-away zone' with a couple of arrows.

The message was so ho-hum, so generic, so lacking in personal relevance that for a moment, it didn't compute.


Are you SURE, sign?

You don't sound very convincing.

So I decided to ignore it.

I hopped out, bleep-locked my car, walked 40 meters… visualized a $300 impound fee fluttering on the windshield, sighed, and turned my hungry torso the hell around.

Slithering behind the wheel and reversing in a rubbery huff, I gave the sign a sign of my own and kept driving.

Eventually I found a legal park, but not before I'd had some semi-relevant thoughts on marketing and communications.

Here’s where the anecdote is relevant to you and your biz.

I didn’t respect the TOW AWAY ZONE sign because it was so impersonal and boring.

In fact, I was poised to defy it.

And your online readers do the same thing.

They’re so jaded with commands, calls-to-action and sales cliches that they’ve morphed into petulant brats, ignoring whatever hackneyed phrases you throw at them.

Bland messages no longer cut through.

Beige words carry zero potency and punch.


They crave empathy and emotion and stories about your embarrassing incontinence (and how you solved it with those yogic breathing exercises).

They want to be educated, entertained - or both.

Not told that they’re parked in a tow away zone.

Where’s the poetry in that?

Whether it's a street sign or your brand tagline, overused phrases bounce right off the psyche and become totally ineffective.

Instead, choose to side-step the same same and:

→ Upend cliches.

→ Address the reader directly using words like HEY, YOU!

→ Be funny.

→ Be personal.

→ Get irreverent.

→ Push your tongue firmly into a cheek pocket and let your readers in on the joke.

→ Avoid industry buzzwords like a festering fibroid.

→ Tell stories, ask questions, start a goddamn conversation.   

→ Ask - is my copy a tow-away zone?

Now, park your ass on a seat and write with unshackled originality.


[BREAKING NEWS] Pavlova boosts email open rates by 300%

Edible image by Epicurious

Edible image by Epicurious

My spin teacher brings a cowbell to class.

She uses it to convince us - her herd of hamster cyclists going nowhere in darkened room decked out like the guts of a spaceship - that we’re actually real cyclists, charging up a mountain in regional France.

As we sprint along the imaginary flat, round the imaginary corner and crank the resistance to replicate a hill, our mad instructor starts ringing her red cowbell.

Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!

We, her lumpy lycra-clad subordinates, hear the bell and rise in unison, pumping and pedaling and proudy passing the checkpoint like we’re Cadel bloody Evans.

She’s conditioning us:

Hear the bell.

Feel the burn.

Climb the mountain.

And even though our fitness is utter fiction, we obey the angry middle-aged lady and her cowbell.

We love spin class!

We love mountains!

We worship the bell!

This afternoon, as my legs pedalled up a particularly precipitous indoor incline, I got to thinking about the power of association.

Our spin teacher uses association to inspire action: hear bell > stand up > push harder.

But there are sweeter ways of training people.

Like using Pavlova.

You’ve heard of Pavlova conditioning, right?

(You know… the famous dog whisperer with the whistle and the liver treats? Yeah yeah, so maybe his name was Pavlov. But I like ‘Pavlova’ better. Double the patriotism. Double the cream.)

Pavlovian/Pavlova training uses a signal in combo with a delicious morsel to influence behaviour.

And you can use it to train your audience, too.

“Why would I wanna do thaaaaaaaat?” you yelp like an unruly pup.

If you’re running a biz, it's safe to assume that you're emailing people and trying to grow your list.

But those impassioned emails that took you HOURS to craft? It's increasingly difficult to get ‘em seen.

A scabby 17% of people open what you send them.

The rest? Busy. Jaded. Poorly trained.

HOWEVER, by sending PAVLOVA with every email, your biz/brand will be associated with sweet, creamy, dream-whipped dessert.

Boosting open rates.

Bumping engagement.

Bagging you cash (ethically, yeah?).

Just so you know, the PAVLOVA technique has had me sitting pretty on a 59% open rate for the past year. [It's my blog and I'll brag if I want to.]

How to send pavlova via email

(Just so we're clear, the pav is figurative. It’s the sweet association that counts. Positive reinforcement. You with me?)

Reward your audience by making every email delicious and readily CLICKED.


→ Using conversational language makes your reader feel like a friend, not a sales prospect.

→ Opening with an anecdote.

→ Sharing kooky, colourful, interesting info that separates you from all the other beige vomitus spewing from email subscription services. (Blerrrgghh.)

→ Telling jokes.

→ Sharing great advice that will actually interest your audience. Recommend things. Review stuff. Give the inside scoop.

→ Making them laugh.

→ Offering actionable advice.

→ Taking a load off by keeping it short.

→ Telling the bitter truth where others sugar coat it. (I know, I know - that’s the opposite of sweet, but complexity and contradiction is rife in life and I ain’t gonna hit backspace now.)

→ Be yourself, be friendly, be enthusiastic. Dare I say it? Be AUTHENTIC.

→ Stop with the selling.

→ Erase all traces of bullshit.

Voila! Sweet emails that people will actually want to read.

Send fun, friendly and delicious emails consistently - like Pavlova did with those tech-savvy dogs - and I guarantee your open rates will skyrocket.

(Lucky rule #13 - avoid hyperbolic words like ‘skyrocket!’ and ‘guaranteed!’)

Over to you. Do you go to spin class? Is your instructor nuts? Do you send slabs of pav with your fortnightly mail out? Tell us in the comments!

Illiterate insects and an anthill of inspiration.

bookie work

Why write? you ask. Here are some silly and spontaneous thoughts, from me to you. 

Writing is a weapon against loneliness, anxiety, depression, hopelessness.

Little black letters marching with purpose across the page, hauling compassion from one confused soul to another.

You’re not alone in there, with those thoughts.

You’re a perfectly normal weirdo in a palpitating anthill full of other weirdos. (Note: they’re acting busy to trick you).

Writing evenly distributes the burden.

Once written, those thoughts ain’t so heavy. Everyone’s carrying them.

So, my sad, sunny, insane friends - make like an erudite ant, shoulder that universal burden - and write. About your experiences, your trials, your tears, your fears, your inexcusable Jason Derulo fetish, your moments of ecstasy.

Lift yourself and others with words; words like a hoard of empathetic ants.

And don’t blame me if they bite you on the ass. Some people like that kinky arthropod stuff.

David Attenborough does. He won’t mind me telling you.

Hey, thanks for reading. Go write something. 

5 free tools to make your life easier. [For small business owners & entrepreneurs]

My little brother flew interstate to see me for the school holidays.

He’s 14. And brilliant. And uses a lot of words I’m not familiar with.

Yeah, those kind.

But also words like ‘tool’.

Nope, not that kind. The handy, silvery type that every adult should own.

Within 10 minutes of arriving, lil bro was tinkering with my bike; an osteoporotic specimen named ‘Alice’ propped next to the compost heap.

He held out his palm out like a surgeon: Wrench? Phillips head? Where’s your toolkit, Catie? You AT LEAST have WD-40...right?

I jangled some junk under the sink to make my search sound convincing.

But emerged empty handed. There were no tools in my house. Nada. Zero. Zip.

If something should ever need unscrewing, like a wailing smoke detector at 3am, it’s a butter knife or bust.

Bro said: All this bike needs is a tighten, tweak and a spritz of magic handyman juice and she’ll be back on the road.

So we went immediately to the holy-grail of hardware. The place that starts with a ‘Bun’ and ends with a $2 sausage sizzle. Stocked up on tools, stole some paint samples and returned home.

True to his word, brother magically resurrected Alice in under 10 minutes. Something I could have done 6 months ago if i’d had, like, a spanner.

Me = tool.

Now, the bit that’s relevant to business.

As I took Alice for a long-awaited spin, I got to thinkin’: How many business owners aren’t actioning newsletters, blogs, content and social media campaigns because they don’t have simple tools on hand?

Like me, perhaps you’re just not aware how easy it is to DIY.

Also like me, you don’t have big bucks to spend on outsourcing to fancy designers, programmers, hell - even copywriters.

Don’t outsource, fool. Get thrifty with free tools!

Luckily for us, the Internet provides. With free (or allllmost free) apps.

Ka-ching! That’s the sweet sound of you saving money. With just a little elbow grease.

Tool yourself up with these 5 awesome apps

Creating content, graphics for social media and email marketing campaigns is easy if you know which apps to use. Here are 5 of my faves.

1. Canva

What: A free app that’s like word processing and graphic design rolled into one.

How to use it: Every time you need to create a fancy text + image thingo.

The one at the top? Made using Canva.

For when you need:

  • a logo

  • a flyer

  • a menu

  • an infographic

  • a poster

  • graphics for an eBook

  • a picture to whack up on facebook

  • website headers

  • feature images for your blog

  • something as simple as: a round picture. Like your headshot. For your bio. Yep. It’s the little things that can stump you. Not with Canva. Tally ho!

All you do is: head to the website, create an account, choose a template and get dragging, dropping... and rendering graphic designers everywhere obsolete. Ooops.

2. Mailchimp

What: An online email marketing tool. What I use to get in touch wit y’all.

You need it if: You want to send periodic emails or newsletters to your database.

How to use it: Look, I’m in Mailchimp kindergarten. I won’t attempt to tutor you on the finer points because, frankly, I don’t know them. But! All you need to do to get started is head to the website and open an account.

They have all kinds of monkey-could-do-it tutorials. Go bananas.

It’s free if: you have fewer than 2000 subscribers.


  • use images you’ve created in Canva to add interest to your emails. Add headers, logos, in-text pictures.

  • schedule your emails to be sent at a later time so you don’t look like a creepy nightwalker doing business at 2am.

  • IMPORTANT: don’t peeve people by sending spammy emails, or anything they haven’t signed up for.

3. Evernote

What: keeps your ideas together. You can create lists, tasks, collaborate with coworkers and teammates, keep track of your to-dos.

How I use it:

To keep running lists of topics for blogs & newsletters.

I use the el basico free version to plan out upcoming blogs & newsletters. I also share projects with clients so they know what’s in store, content-wise. They can add notes and chat with me, live. Pretty spesh.

It can help you:

  • map out your social media posts & topics

  • map out blog & content themes, topics, calendar events

  • keep your team abreast of what’s happening in your biz

  • delegate tasks

4. Google Docs

What: the love of my life.

It’s Word, Excel, Powerpoint - all safe in the cloud.

How I use it:

For all my work. Full stop.

Right now I’m typing away in Google Docs, cos if my ancient iMac falls asleep in the armchair, I know my work is instantaneously saved. I’ll then paste it into my blog, and always have a copy for my records.

Why you’ll love it, too:

  • No more incompatible file types.

  • Share documents with people via a link.

  • They can ‘hop in’ and access the document, but you get to specify whether they can comment, edit or simply read it.

  • If you’ve given someone permission to edit your doc, they’ll be assigned their own little (ridiculously cute) animal icon. Changes will appear in a different colour as ‘suggestions’.


  • duplicate everything and keep originals - so your words don’t get whittled away into nothingness.

  • make folders and keep shi* together.

  • download important docs onto your computer and back them up, like any sane person. Just in case, zombies.

5. 1Password

With all these nifty tools for nailing your content, there’ll be passwords. A swag of passwords that you’ll instantly forget and spend minutes - precious minutes! - trying to crack at the log-in screen. That’s how receding hairlines happen.

Now, there’s 1Password.

What: a completely secure app for not only keeping your passwords together, but generating new & robust ones, too.

Why you’ll love it:

  • easy to use

  • looks preeeeeetty

  • sync it with all your devices (only if you want to)

  • assign emergency contact peeps

  • more secure than Gringotts.

Caveat: only the trial is free. After that, it’s around 50 bucks to have it for keeps.

Right. You’ve been officially tooled.

(And I’m all outta jokes. Timing!)

Oh, and just so ya know, none of these big ole companies are sponsoring me or anything. I just genuinely love their work. If you’re reading though, Google, wouldn’t mind an invite to your next networking event with the floating ping pong tables and hologram ponies. Ta.

Do you have any particular favourite tools? Share ‘em!

Santa's 8 ridiculous reindeer and their rules for better writing.

There's no snow in 'Straya and copywriters live behind screens for a reason. But, here we are - wishing you a Merry Christmas!

There's no snow in 'Straya and copywriters live behind screens for a reason. But, here we are - wishing you a Merry Christmas!

It’s all happening.

My family materialise from interstate, tonight. Christmas is doing warm-up calisthenics in the corner. My birthday is tomorrow - and I haven’t even had the chance to get to know 27 yet.

Plus, it’s hot. Real hot. Aussie hot. Call-a-prawn-a-shrimp-and-flame-grill-it, hot.

How you holding up? Do you thrive or wilt during December? Are you sticking with family or sailing solo during the hols?

Festive interrogation, over.

Onto the reindeer!

Tis the season to make readers cringe with hackneyed christmas references.

Which means that any ‘better writing’ tips I give during the month of December must mention fat dudes, backyard cricket, 20/20 cricket, fat dudes playing backyard 20/20 cricket or inedible cake (Santa ate the good stuff).

As I was pondering how the heck to relate Christmas and writing, I glanced at my dog.

My dog Daaave the greyhound.

Daaave the greyhound with elongated features and extendable limbs and an uncanny resemblance to… REINDEER!

Eureka! Santa’s reindeer were the perfect metaphoric vehicle for my sleigh of better writing tips.

Tenuous? Is that tenuous?

Well, the reindeer are here to stay - and this is their advice for better writing in 2017.

Dasher - Write fast.

Dancer - Write bubbly.

Prancer - Write like you know what you’re talking about.

Vixen - Seduce your reader. Get emotional. Get naked.

Comet - Blaze a trail through the darkness and light up the freakin’ internet.

Cupid - Shoot down your darlings with an arrow. Cast a spell on your audience with magically refreshing content.

Donner - Tell stories about some chick called Donna to keep it human.

Blitzen - Detonate truth bombs. Be honest, be real, be a clean, clear voice in the wilderness. Tell it like it is about your industry. Make your readers think, blink and say - BOOM!

Clever reindeer.

Questions? Hit reply! I’m a few cinnamon sprigs short of eggnog, but I can answer your curly copywriting queries.

In the meantime, enjoy yourself these holidays. It’s what they’re for! And let’s reconvene next year to talk words. 

Thank you so much for your support, kind emails, pep talks and eyeballs this year! Big December gratitude. 

Catie & Daaave the grey-deer.

What my rusty push mower taught me about perseverance.

Dave in the long long lawn.

Dave in the long long lawn.

Every Saturday I do the same thing.

Pull on my red op-shop boardshorts, squash a cap on my skull and stride into the backyard with purpose.

I stand with feet hip-width, surveying the lawn: a patchy pre-teen beard with renegade tendrils and bald bits.




The previous tenants left us a push mower as a gift in the back shed, and after the initial warm fuzzies, I came to suspect that their generosity was enlarged by the mower’s undeniable uselessness.

It rips, tears and flattens.

It rolls, squeaks and snags.

It makes a sound like a mechanical sheep, bleating in distress.

Yet every weekend I wheel it out and take to the grass like a beautician, possessed.

I must manicure, trim, make beautiful.

Surely one of these Saturdays, it’ll work?

But every time, the same result.

Rip, tear, flatten.

Roll, squeak, snag.

When I’ve finished clanging and stuttering my way over the lawn, I grab the rake to consolidate the clippings into neat piles.

Only, there are no clippings, just embattled stalks - crazed and leaning and tattered after another weekend assault. They grow stronger, thicker, more tenacious each time.

I end up getting down on my knees with scissors and beheading a few tufts for effect.

Days pass, it rains, it’s sunny, the grass goes nuts, next Saturday arrives and I’m re-possessed by the spirit of garden maintenance.

You seeing the pattern here?

The strange thing is, this Saturday my brainless perseverance paid off.

The bloody push mower worked.

The conditions were right.

The grass was dry.

There were fewer twigs to stunt rotor function.

And I’d learned how to push it at just the right speed and precisely the right pressure to generate maximum twirl.

Chrrrr chrrr chrrr chrrrr.

Repetition and perseverance delivered, and I enjoyed a moment of blinking satisfaction as I looked at my close-shaven lawn.

So I applied the lesson to life and business - because you gotta capitalise on this profound horticultural shit.

Repetition and perseverance.

Skills you can’t seem to master; ideas that won’t ignite; impenetrable roadblocks - sometimes, with enough chip chip chipping away, suddenly open up. Catch fire. Just flippin happen. When the conditions are right. When you’ve imperceptibly shifted your skillz up a notch.

Repetition and perseverance.

So, keep pushing.

Go back for more.

Stick with the thing that feels like it *should* be working, but isn’t - at least, not yet.

Get out there, daily, in your gardening dungarees.

Expect that your business, idea, strange dream that no one understands, is one day gonna whir and hum and generate interest.

And sometime in the future, after all that effort, your rusty push mower will work.

You’ll gain traction.

Your idea or business or crazy dream will grab hold.

You’ll cut through.

(Failing that, there’s always a Bunnings within 5kms).

Do you talk a lot of crazy shit? (Why to ditch the jargon and speak plain English instead)

Much Confusion

Just got off the phone to {anonymous internet provider}.

My eyes are glazed, my mouth is dry, and my ears are manufacturing wax at an alarming rate.

All I wanted was to connect The Internet to my new house, man.

But something something line something cable rah rah rah technician call-out squawk mew boo hiss sorry, you’ll have to wait another month.

… is what I heard.

Crazy shit.

Crazy technical shit.

As a daft consumer, I have zero comprehension of what goes on in Internet land.

All I know is:

I want Internet.

I need Internet.

There are emails I gotta open, attachments I gotta download and missed episodes of The Bachelor I gotta stream.

So gimme Internet.


When I’m talking to a prospective provider, my only concerns are:

How much?

Words to do with codes, lines, cables, copper or what your technicoloured spreadsheet is telling you about the viability of our address is irrelevant.

Please don’t share your crazy technical shit.

I just want to know how you can help me.

And your customers feel the same.

Don’t be that baffling internet provider who becomes the butt of a copywriter’s irate blog post.

Instead, keep the jargon to a minimum.

Connecting with your customers, clients and followers - both online and in person - starts with speaking their language.

Using words they’re familiar with, understand and associate with your service.

Otherwise, you’ll lose ‘em.

(Hey, if you’re anything like me, you’re guilty of slinging technical terms around like a scholarly cowboy and leaving your clients in a whorl of dusty confusion. So, no judgement.)

Ditching the jargon doesn’t mean:

  • Treating your audience like a bunch o hicks.
  • Dumbing down your brilliance.
  • Failing to educate people about the cool shit you do.

It does mean:

  • Keeping things simple.
  • Explaining unfamiliar terms.
  • Staying conscious of what matters to your audience.

How to avoid slipping into jargon/crazy shit mode

Ask of every piece of written and verbal communication:

What question am I answering?
Who’s asking?
What’s the simplest way I can respond?
What words do THEY use to describe the problem?
Are there any technical terms that need explaining?
If so - what analogies or simple metaphors can I use to paint a picture?

You may slip up and blurt antidisestablishmentarianism in a moment of technical enthusiasm, but don’t despair; by always returning to the needs of the person in front of you - reader, follower, customer, client - you’ll keep your crazy shit to a minimum, and comprehension to a maximum.

And comprehension breeds connection.

And connection makes people see cartoon love hearts.

Try it and tell me how you go!  Doooo it.

How my dog Dave used great words to woo his target audience (and score a sweet media cameo).

Dave chilling

Even dogs know the value of great communication.

You can only say ‘woof’ so many times before people’s eyes get all squinty and they hit you with a jet of squirty water.

Yes. Dogs need creative ways with words, too.

And that’s precisely what my greyhound Dave realised when faced with rejection from a real estate agent.

We’d spied our dream rental.

It was a retro hipster cottage, fit for a gal and her hound. Bright white spaces, high ceilings and a backyard bristling with shrubbery for Dave to defecate in.

We wanted it.

We had to have it.

We’d stop at nothing!

But then, the inevitable: No dogs allowed.

We barked our indignation.

Sniffed as many butts as possible for a divine sign.

Rolled over and played dead.

What to do?

In the end, it was obvious.

We needed to hook ‘em with good words.

Dave and I workshopped a cunning plan over liver jerky and bone broth. We’d win their canine-hatin’ hearts with a well-worded doggie resume and references.

Dave is, after all, an inert-sack-o-potatoes. He’s the perfect domestic fixture.

So I forwarded the real estate agent a Canine CV + glowing reference from my last residence.

Want to read it?

Be my guest.

The owner did, and revised her no-pets policy.

So not only am I typing this from my new bedroom - double doors opening onto a cobbled courtyard, pretty plaster ceilings and snoozing dog in the corner - but I’m once again marveling at the power of words.

It’s all in the way that you say it.

In business, life, love, rental rejection, the right words win hearts, make sales, build relationships and get your paw in the door of that previously pet-unfriendly property.

Oh, and the media cameo?

A friend-of-a-friend - who’s a radio presenter for Adelaide’s main pop station - heard about our rental win and featured Dave’s story on her morning show.

Pretty sure he got an extra three Instagram followers outta that.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Dave legs

NOW YOU! Have you ever written persuasive and perfect words to score something you wanted? Tell me in the comments! Dave reads each and every one.