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.

Adam Fisher
21st June 2018 - 7 mins read
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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 favourties:



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 respond to negative comments about your content

Adam Fisher 26th June 2018 — 5 mins read
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ome will be genuine complaints from customers, others may be from rivals and then, of course, there are the dreaded trolls.

I’m no stranger to online criticism, having previously managed social media accounts for public sector organisations.

People have also, on occasion, taken exception to blogs I have written in my current role, including an ITN newsreader who really didn’t take too well to something I wrote for our sister company Media First.

The key is to accept that you will face negativity at some point and focus on how best to respond.

Here’s what I have learned from my own experiences and the different ways some brands deal with negative comments. 


Keep calm

This is advice I constantly have to remind myself about.

Whenever someone criticises something I have put out, and I don’t think it is justified, my first reaction is to quickly put together a stinging instant response.

But then I think back to a training course I went on years ago where we were told not to send work emails when we were angry.

And I think the same applies here, whether you are responding to a blog comment, a Twitter post or any other form of audience interaction.

The reality is that responding emotionally when your blood is still boiling will typically make the situation much worse. And you really don’t want to get involved in some form of ongoing argument in a public domain.

It sounds obvious, but it is important to compose your thoughts, consider the criticism, and let any heat die away from the situation before responding – even on social media where speed is of the essence.


Avoid the copy and paste approach

One of my hates on social media is when a brand receives some criticism and it responds by continually copying and pasting the same couple of generic lines over and over again.

It is something I see regularly. 

When Nectar was widely criticised on social media for announcing a partnership with the Daily Mail, it stuck rigidly to pre-agreed corporate lines, which it copied and pasted relentlessly.

Here it is: “Hi (insert name), we’re sorry to hear you’re not keen on the partnership. The primary factor in any new partnership is our current customer base. From our data and research, we know that there is a large crossover between our customers and Mail readers. Hopefully, you can take part in other offers which you find more appealing. Thank you for the feedback anyway.”

It looks cold and robotic and only really serves to make the customer more frustrated. It also suggests the brand actually isn’t all that bothered about complaints from customers.

While it may feel a little risky, social media teams should be given the freedom to move away from pre-approved corporate lines when an organisation is being criticised and add a human touch to responses.

If you are facing a real social media storm and don’t feel you have the time or resources to personalise responses, it would be better to stick to regular updates rather than trying to reply to everyone with the same corporate line.


Humour

You need to tread carefully here, but humour can be a great way of turning a negative comment into something positive.

Not only can it diffuse potential issues, but it can also show a fun, lighter side to your brand.

But it is not going to be appropriate in all situations and each one needs to be judged independently.

Virgin Trains found itself in the middle of a social media storm earlier this year when it responded to a passenger complaining about being called ‘honey’ by a train manager with a poorly judged joke.  While Thameslink found itself threatened with legal action after comparing its poor service to ‘Poundland cooking chocolate’.  

My advice would be to run any humorous responses past a colleague just to check that they are actually funny, right for the audience and also tasteful before they are published.


Sometimes a private reply can be better

You are not going to keep everyone happy, even if you follow all of the above advice.

Some people will continue to post negatively, but it is important that you don’t get drawn into an ongoing conversation with them.

The best approach is to ask them to send their contact details to you through a direct message or your email address so you can arrange for someone to give them a call and discuss the issues they are experiencing.

This is something which worked well for me in previous roles and at times resulted in a dissenting voice later going on to post something positive about the organisation.

Even if they persist with their criticism, other customers will be able to see the effort you have made to try to help them.


Don’t delete

It can be tempting to delete negative comments and criticism, particularly if you feel they are unfair.

But this needs to be avoided.

Not only does it show a lack of transparency and suggest the organisation may have something to hide, but it is also likely to encourage the critic to post more negative comments.


You don’t always have to say sorry

Another one of my regular frustrations with the way brands respond to negative comments is they always apologise, even when they have nothing to be sorry for.

Take train companies for example. Any commuter will tell you that these guys have a lot to apologise for. But look at their Twitter accounts and it is one apology after another.

The website Sorry for the Inconvenience shows that rail operators have already issued more than 200,000 apologies this year alone. While many of those are completely justified, some are for really minor issues like plug sockets not working.

The huge rate of apologies only adds to the reputational damage. The key for other companies is to be selective about when to say sorry.

Sometimes a better approach is to take control of the narrative and laugh about the issue, like Joe Dough’s Sandwich shop did in this brilliant example.




Finally

The final point is that a negative reaction doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing.

I want the content I produce to cause a reaction and even a negative reaction can get other people talking.

It’s far better than talking to a completely passive audience.

 

 

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.

 

Adam Fisher
2nd February 2018 - 5 mins read