Adam Fisher
22nd October 2018 - 7 mins read
O

f course, when Mr Zinsser started writing, he had little more than a typewriter for technological support.

Producing and creating content remains difficult, but the modern writer does have access to a range of online tools which can improve their writing and help them find inspiration.

Here are some of our favourites:



Grammarly

This is probably the best-known writing tool, so we won’t spend too much time discussing it.

It is essentially a proofreading tool which automatically spots grammar, spelling, punctuation and even style mistakes.

When it suggests a correction it also provides an explanation. This means the writer can make a well-informed decision on whether or not they will make that change.

You can copy and paste text into Grammarly’s Editor or install a free browser extension.



Cliché Finder

We’re all guilty of including words and phrases in our writing which might be a bit trite or overused.

Cliché Finder is a free, simple, tool which helps you to identify those expressions before your work gets published.

I used it on a blog I recently wrote and it instantly identified the expressions ‘over the years’.  Not only did this prompt me to remove this from the work, but it also means I will be more conscious about using the phrase in the future, ultimately improving my writing.



Hemmingway Editor

This is a bit like the newspaper sub-editor who has been doing the job for years and just knows how to make copy better even when there is nothing grammatically wrong.

The emphasis is on making writing short and punchy by highlighting complicated words, dull sentences, passive voice, and adverbs.

And it is easy to use. If you see a yellow sentence, it needs to be shortened; if it is red it is too complicated; purple means a shorter word could be used, and blue is used to highlight adverbs and weak phrases.



CoShedule’s Headline Analyzer

Headlines are important.

A good one will entice readers to your content, while one that fails to hit the mark could prevent people from clicking – a real shame if the article that sits below is strong.

But constantly producing eye-catching headlines isn’t easy.

The good news is there is help readily available.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer breaks down your headline in terms of structure, grammar, and readability.

Headlines are scored out of 100 with points gained for the use of ‘common’, ‘uncommon’, ‘emotional’ and ‘power’ words and phrases.



Hub spot Blog topic generator

When the dreaded writer’s block strikes, you need to find inspiration.

And tech can sometimes provide the answer.

There are a few blog topic generators around but Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator is probably the best one.

Simply type a few phrases into the boxes and the algorithm does the rest.

Putting ‘words’, ‘content’ and ‘ideas’ into the system came up with the following options:

 

1 Think You're Cut Out For Doing Content? Take This Quiz

2 The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Words

3 Tools Everyone In The Ideas Industry Should Be Using

4 Quick Tips About Content

5 Best Blogs To Follow About Words

 

As you can see, the ideas they generate aren’t always brilliant, but the third suggestion is very similar to this blog.

This tool is free and even if the suggestions do not always hit the mark, it could just come up with an idea you can develop.



Wordcounter

This website offers more than its uninspiring name might suggest.

As well as providing a running total of the number of words and characters – useful if you have a minimum or maximum total you need to reach – its main benefit is showing whether your writing has become a bit repetitive.

The system shows how often you have used each word, giving you the opportunity to provide some alternative options.

Additionally, it provides you with a reading and speaking time for your writing - ideal if you are preparing a speech.  



Power Thesaurus

Once you’ve identified the words you are using a little too often, you may need some help finding alternative options.

There are plenty of online thesauruses, with Thesaurus.com being the biggest. But I prefer the crowd sourced Power Thesaurus for a more user-friendly experience and fewer adverts.



Urban dictionary

Not every definition in the Urban Dictionary is going to be suitable for your writing, particularly if you have an audience which may be easily offended. Some definitions are, let’s just say ‘educational’.

But, if you are looking for a definition of a word or phrase that is new or has different meanings to different people, it can be a useful tool.

When I wrote a blog for our sister company Media First about spokespeople repeatedly using the phrase ‘deeply concerned’, Urban Dictionary provided the perfect definition to give my content a little more edge.

It defined the phrase as: “An expression used in PR, especially political, when the person or organization is expected to care about a situation and comment on it, but they don't actually give a s**t, because the situation in question isn't particularly relevant to them, but it is politically imprudent to say that outright.”



Coffitivity

Sometimes writers just need to find a way of boosting their creativity.

Personally, when I’m struggling for inspiration, or just need some background noise, I plug in the headphones and let Guns N’ Roses destroy what remains of my hearing.

I appreciate though that others may have a different (not better) taste in music, or just need something a little more soothing.

This is where Coffitivity comes into its own. It recreates the ‘ambient’ sounds of a café to create a pleasant working environment. Not only that, but there is a range of coffee sounds to help you get in the mood, including some from Paris and Brazil.



BrainyQuote

Adding pertinent quotes from famous writers, politicians and entrepreneurs can be a great way of adding more depth to your writing and inspiring your audience.

You’ll notice that I included a quote at the start of this blog and in other posts I have quoted the likes of John F Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and Maya Angelou among others.

Of course, it is not always easy to remember who the quote originally came from or whether you recalled it correctly.

This is where BrainyQuote comes in handy. The site not only enables you to check back on famous quotes but also search for more by topics, authors, and people in the news.



Word

It is not just going online that can improve writing. The ever-dependable Word also offers some useful tools.

The Flesch Reading Ease score uses the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in each word to calculate how easy it is to read a document. The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read and ideally you should aim for a score of between 60 and 70.

The second check, known as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, is an equation which tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your content.

The grade score is based on the American grade system and essentially you need to add five to your grade to find the reading age of your content.

To find your score, simply go to the ‘file’ menu, then ‘options’ and then on to the ‘proofing’ tab.

Under the ‘when correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ heading you need to tick the box which says ‘show readability statistics’.

Then when you run a spelling and grammar check you will find the two readability scores.

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

How to make and start a business podcast

Tom Idle 28th February 2020 — 6 mins read
A

ccording to Ofcom figures released in the autumn, 7.1 million people now listen to podcasts each week – that’s one in eight people and an increase of 24 per cent over the past year.

There are currently more than 860,000 podcasts in existence today and half of all the podcasts in existence were created in the last two years alone.

Clearly, more and more people are realising the benefits of creating long-form, in-depth audio content.

With figures like these, you might ask whether the world needs another podcast right now.

Well, as someone who set up and run their own podcast, I think you should, and I feel my experience could help you to get started.

I got into podcasts when I was commuting from Kent to Oxford for work. I was spending a lot of time in the car and podcasts were my salvation.

I listened religiously to several different shows and began to try to work out the functional elements of those shows and how they were put together and how it related to what I was doing.

When I left that job to set up my own business, podcasting seemed like the perfect content marketing tool to promote what I was doing. Not only was I passionate about podcasts, but I was a trained journalist who had specialised in radio journalism at university.

Additionally, no-one else was doing them in the sustainable business area, so there was a huge gap in the market.

So, I launched the Better Business Show. It was a weekly show with new episodes every Monday morning and the idea was to showcase some of the innovators, start-ups, small businesses – as well as some of the legacy businesses – that were working out ways of doing things differently and more sustainably to create better businesses.

It was a magazine show and at the centre of it was an in-depth interview, usually with a start-up and then we wrapped it up with some news and some conversations with consultants and experts in the field. We brought different elements together in a 40-minute podcast.

We launched it in 2016 and I think it is fair to say we achieved some success. We got more than 3,000 listeners, we found some good sponsorship, we branched out into multiple countries and we had lots of repeat listeners (38 per cent repeat listeners). In short, we built a nice community.

Why was it successful?

Well, there were a few factors and one of the key ones was planning and getting ahead. When we launched, we had three episodes which was important in terms of building credibility. If people are discovering you for the first time and you only have one episode, they won’t be sure whether you are serious or whether you are going to come back with more episodes.

In the first few weeks, we worked hard to get our ranking on iTunes as good as we could. Doing this was as simple as getting friends, family, colleagues and customers to give us a five-star review. It worked wonders and we ended up getting on to the ‘new and noteworthy’ section’ of the business podcasts. We stayed there for about three months which built early traction.

I think that consistency was also key. We made sure the podcast came out at the same time every week – 9am on a Monday – and that helped to build behaviour among the listeners where they were looking out for each episode. If you are saying on your episode ‘we’ll be back next week’, then you need to be back next week.

Having evergreen content was also important. Although we included a news section, the rest of the content is still relevant and will continue to stick around.

So, if the podcast was successful, why am I not still doing it?

The main answer to that is that it achieved what we set it out to do. It won me a lot of work and new connections and helped me to grow my business.

It is something I’m glad I did and even now the archive lives on and we are getting new listeners and plays a month.

For me, there is no engagement like having a podcast where you are capturing someone for 40 minutes every week and they are listening to you while they are doing something else like driving, cooking or working out in the gym.

Here are a few tips from my experience to help you get started:

 

Recording device

It sounds simple but you need a decent recording device – I can’t state how important this is. Your content can be strong, but if there is background noise or the recording is just not good enough quality, then listeners will instantly switch off. I carried my interviews over Skype and used a free app to record them. For the interviews that were carried out on location, I used a £100 Dictaphone. But the iPhone technology has moved on so much that I would probably use that more now.

 

Editing equipment

In terms of the edit, I used Apple Garageband, which is easy to use. It was great for splicing and adding music to intros.

 

Hosting the podcast

I hosted my podcast because I wanted to market myself, but that doesn’t mean that sourcing a decent host for your show isn’t important. If you do want to do it yourself, some of the presenting and hosting skills can be learnt and honed from Thirty Seven’s sister company Media First.  

 

Noise

I’ve already mentioned that background news will be a big distraction for your listeners, so make sure you have a quiet office to record your podcast or hire a studio. Failing that, sit under a duvet when you make your recording – it sounds crazy but this is something BBC journalists do often on location.  

 

iTunes

Although Spotify has now entered the podcast market, iTunes remains the main platform. I submitted my podcast to iTunes from day one and I think it was an important part of its success. Once you have done that you can submit it for free to other platforms, like Deezer, to extend your reach.

 

Social media

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that social media was a really important way of sharing my broadcasts. LinkedIn worked particularly well for me. I also created a blog on my website to hold each podcast.

 

Ask for help

If I was to relaunch my podcast now, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for some help. I might look at outsourcing some of the editing, or scripting or maybe someone to look after the logistics of organising interviews.

As a trained journalist I know how to structure podcasts and create captivating audio content. If you don’t then please hire the professionals to help you.

You don’t have to go it alone.

 

Get in touch with one of our account managers to find out how we can help you get your podcast started.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is a podcast or email marketing.

Adam Fisher
13th February 2018 - 4 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.