Some years ago, I went to a dentist that showed The Life Channel in the waiting room.

Its programmes consisted largely of short films about the improving and maintaining of health, and it was rather easy to ignore it while listening for your name to be called out. As I was undergoing a lot of procedures at the time, I was there with regularity.

Then an advert began appearing in the breaks for a service called My Favourite Directories, which seemed much the same as the Yellow Pages. At first, one of its two variations would be broadcast once in a while, then in subsequent weeks, they would run over the entire break each time.

It felt as though the company was deaf to how the audience would react to this repetitive messaging. I vowed that if I ever needed a plumber or an accountant, the last place I would look is My Favourite Directories.

Yet you don’t have to go far to find writers who employ the same tactics, seemingly unaware of how it comes across.

I’m in a popular writers’ page where one particular member has posted almost every day like clockwork for the last month to promote her books. The text reads like marketing copy rather than an attempt to engage the other page users.

And that shows in the responses. Over the course of the month, hardly anyone has engaged meaningfully with these posts with written responses. It feels like we’re being talked at, not talked to, so these daily updates have effectively become background noise. One saving grace, however, is that this author has a good seven or eight books, so the marketing copy does change daily.

When I’m announcing my monthly open-mike, one of the groups it’s promoted in has a rule: each member can self-promote a maximum of once a week.

In practice, I usually update every fortnight, but I make a conscious effort to differentiate each post from the last. They all contain the same basic information such as the date, the time and the format, but I’ll sometimes start off with a joke or make reference to a big news story.

If humour isn’t your style, even switching the order of the paragraphs or refreshing some of the phrasing can work. It shows you’ve made an effort to engage with your audience and aren’t simply feeding them an advertising line.

Look at My Favourite Directories. They haven’t existed for some time now, and I like to imagine that’s because everyone boycotted them after their blanket coverage.

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