Give it away, give it away now.

by Jeff Ebbing
Southeastern Community College
West Burlington, IA


Here we are.




The holiday season is in full swing and if you’re like me, your brain is in a constant anxiety loop of frantically trying to wrap up that big project (or three) before the all-staff holiday potluck and trying to get everything ready at home in anticipation of the big family love-food-gift-fest.


It’s a LOT!


I had the good fortune to attend a few district conferences back in October (remember those no-stress, lazy days?) and I was again reminded about the selfless nature and well-intended openness exhibited by my fellow NCMPR’rs.


[Side note: can somebody please think of a cool name we can give ourselves – like Swifties – only not that? Please?]


Anyhoo, I participated in said share-fest. I gave a session at the D3/D5 conference in St. Charles where I stressed the importance of doing the hard work of simplifying and optimizing messaging for digital media placements like paid social and Google. There, nestled among AI-generated graphics of Mr. Potato Head doing stuff, was a photo of a faded clipping of a quote from William Safire that has survived two office moves and more bulletin board de-clutter sessions than I can count.


The premise of my entire preso was based on that one photo. Basically, Safire says you have to give yourself space to gather your thoughts and shape them. Then he says, “cut out the confusing parts.” That’s pretty much it. And it only took me 30 minutes and a dozen slides (including one epic pic of Mr. Potato Head at the beach eating a bag of potato chips) to say it.


Ironic? Not at all.


If you judge a successful preso by the number of phones hoisted into the air to snap your slide deck QR code, I’d say the exercise resonated with my audience – that or the conference wifi was so bad, they had all tuned out a long time ago and were just trying to reload their Insta feeds.


In my nearly two decades as a community college communicator, I’ve tripped across a slew of useful things just like that Safire quote that have helped me hone my craft along the way.


This is an actual photo of the actual wall in my actual office. It’s a collection of ideas, quotes, methods, examples, and tips that sorta serve as my copywriting toolbox. It’s pretty extensive if I do say so.


Since I don’t have the time (or the money) to get you all individual presents, allow me to gift you some of the very resources and inspo that helped me be a better communicator, or more specifically, a better marketing copywriter. Maybe they’ll serve you as well on your writing journey as they have me.


I’m channeling my St. Nick-meets-Anthony Kiedis-meets-NCMPR here as I give it away, give it away, give it away now.


Here, in no particular order, are some of my fave copywriting articles along with some quotes for you to add to your own copywriting toolbox.


I wish you only the goodest of vibes this holiday season and in the year ahead. See you in 2024.


William Safire on Writing


My OG buddy’s quote and inspo for my breakout in St. Charles. Print this baby and pin it to your bulletin board! DO IT!


13 Ideas from 13 Dead Copywriters


This rabbit hole is chock-full of simple ideas, delicious anecdotes, and links to other great tips.


Your Audience Doesn’t Read. That’s Why You Have to do This


Tips to keep your writing punchy and reminders to leverage the visual nature of text and images.


A Process for Writing Short, but Thorough, Content


Eddie Shleyner is amazing. I tripped across his novel use of image-carousel-as-notecards on Linkedin a few years ago. You NEED Eddie in your life. I could have added any of his links, really.


ChatGPT Cheat Sheet for Higher Ed


Sorry guys, fall in love with your own cleverness and you’re destined to end up a hermit on the Isle of Irrelevance. Learn to dance with the devil with this simple ChatGPT prompt graphic.


Quotes Jeff thinks you should know


Underpants is 20% funnier than underwear – Matt Groening


The more you say, the less they remember – Francois Fenel


Never use a five-dollar word when a five-cent word will do – Mark Twain


Dig yourself a hole – Seth Godin


If it sounds like writing, rewrite it – Elmore Leonard


When in doubt, look for the fear – Seth Godin


Write for the fence-sitters – Jeff Ebbing


Creativity is just connecting things – Steve Jobs


If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough – Albert Einstein


Jeff Ebbing is the director of marketing and communications at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Iowa, and the past president of NCMPR.

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