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

Six benefits of employee advocacy on social media

Adam Fisher 2nd May 2018 — 6 mins read
W

hat this means is that ‘employee advocacy’ is more than just some trendy buzzword.

It is something that businesses should strive for on social media and something with lots of possibilities. It is also something which some of the country’s leading brands are already doing as we will show you later.

 

Reach

Arguably the biggest reason to strive for employee advocacy on social media is one of mathematics.

The simple fact is that if your employees share your content it reaches a much bigger audience.

Many of us have Facebook accounts. In fact, there are around 32 million user accounts for that network in the UK alone.

The interesting bit is that the average number of ‘friends’ for a user currently stands at 338.

So, if you have 10,000 employees and just five per cent of them started sharing your company’s social media posts, your content would reach an extra 169,000 people – that’s a lot of extra people who could be seeing your content.

And if you have younger members of staff they will have significantly bigger networks. 27 per cent of 18-29 year old Facebook users have more than 500 friends.

If your employees are on Twitter, the reach is equally impressive. The average user there has more than 700 followers and, if you take out the accounts with more than 100,000 followers, then that average is 453.

If your staff are active on LinkedIn then they could potentially have a bigger audience, as 27 per cent of us have between 500 and 999 connections.

These numbers alone tell you that your employees are one of your most powerful social media marketing tools.

 

Trust

The great thing about your employees sharing your content is that potential new customers are seeing it through people they have a connection with and invariably trust.

In the age of fake news, it is perhaps not surprising that research has shown people’s trust in content on social media is stronger if they know the person who has posted it.

Additionally, the 2018 Endelman Trust Barometer showed that ‘a person just like yourself’ is seen as the third most credible spokesperson, showing that people typically trust their peers.

Tellingly, ‘employees’ also scored significantly higher than ‘CEO’ or ‘Board of Directors’ in the credibility stakes.

This all shows that content is trusted more when it is shared by people rather than broadcast by brands.

 

Industry experts

Not only can your employees help to spread your content and messages on social media to a wider audience, but they can also start to become seen as experts in their field and thought leaders.

The more they share, comment and discuss relevant topics on social media the more they will showcase their expertise and knowledge.

This is a mutually beneficial process. 

The organisation stands out as a brand with talented employees willing to share their thoughts and expertise and as one which is open to new ideas and collaboration.

Meanwhile, the employee benefits by building their personal brand and network, as well as from feeling trusted to talk about key issues.  

 

Empowering

It was only recently that I worked in a place where all employees – other than me who was managing the corporate social media accounts – were denied access to social media channels through the organisation’s computers.

Not only did this not feel particularly trusting, but it was also a largely pointless exercise, as technology had overtaken the decision makers and the vast majority of people had access to smartphones.

I felt at the time, and I still feel now, that a better approach would surely have been to encourage employees to talk about their work on social media channels, blogs and even forums and allow their expertise and passion for their roles to shine through.

 

 

Consistency

Some of your employees may already be posting and sharing stories about your organisation.

But is it what you would want them to share? Does it include the most up to date information, for example?

A more structured approach to employee advocacy will help ensure the right messages get out without losing that all important authenticity.

 

Attractive

Many of us have worked in places, or at least seen job advertisements, for companies that speak eloquently and glowingly about their culture.

But those messages are much more authentic when they come from current employees.

Employee advocacy can, therefore, help you attract the best talent and people who will add value to the organisation and make it more likely you will retain them.

 

Employee advocacy in action

Retailer John Lewis recently carried out an employee advocacy trial.

Just before Christmas around 100 ‘partners’ from six stores were selected to share specific content on Instagram and Twitter.

Using the hashtag #wearepartners, the three-month trial generated nine million impressions.

Meanwhile, Sky is using employee advocacy to showcase its position as an employer of choice. The hashtag #LifeatSky is regularly used by people across the organisation, including some of its big name presenters, to highlight the perks of working for the broadcaster.  

Your employees tell the best stories, they're authentic and you should be encouraging them to share on social media. #employeeadvocacy via: @37agency

 

The challenge

But employee advocacy is not without its challenges and it would be amiss of us not to mention them.

Firstly, employees are going to need some great content to share, so a solid content marketing strategy needs to sit behind this approach.

Another issue is that while some people will embrace this enthusiastically, others will be more reticent. One of the biggest factors here is a fear of doing or saying something wrong which could see them face disciplinary measures. The key to tackling this particular challenge is to have a clear social media policy and guidelines in places.

Others may not feel motivated to share content, so it is important that personal benefits, such as wider personal networks and the development of their own personal brand, are explained to them.

It is also important that leaders buy-in to employee advocacy and lead by example. If they are not active on social media and are not sharing content why should the employees? It is particularly important that middle managers, who are often more visible than the senior leaders, embrace the programme.

Finally, there is the issue of trust. As I hinted at earlier when discussing my own experience at a previous employer, if you can’t trust your employees to have access to social media at work then you can’t realistically expect them to share your social media output.

 

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, informative and shareable so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a Whitepaper.

Additionally, our sister company Media First offers bespoke social media training courses

Aimee Hudson
3rd October 2017 - 6 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.