Adam Fisher
2nd November 2018 - 5 mins read
B

ut there are some themes which run through content that makes people stop scrolling, think differently and take action.

In fact, we believe there are seven critical factors that all written content should strive to include. A piece of writing doesn’t necessarily have to contain all of these elements but consideration to each should be given before you put pen to paper.

 

Emotional storytelling

Humans have been communicating through stories for more than 200,000 years. 

And today, while ‘storytelling’ has become something of a content marketing buzzword, good stories still stand the test of time.  

Compelling content features personal stories which readers can relate to, that stirs emotions and takes them on a journey.

People want to hear stories about other people – humans bring stories to life.

If you think about the stories we consume every day through newspapers and broadcast media, they are all about people. And the first question journalists ask themselves when working on a story is ‘so what does this mean to people?’.

Strong content harnesses this human interest in the same way.

At Thirty Seven, we use journalists to tell captivating stories in the digital world

The ‘so what’ factor

Strong content often excites, shocks and causes people to think differently.

Often, great content is original. Even the best writers will struggle to make the same tired arguments interesting for an audience that has heard it all before. 

It is the same principle that makes a story newsworthy. Journalists are always looking for something unusual or new to write about, whether it is an opinion, some original insight or a new product. Stories that include these factors will get more airtime and newspaper coverage.

To stick with that journalism theme, and to use an old adage, dog bites man is not a story, but man bites dog certainly ticks the unusual box.

Just ensure that any new, unusual or bold claims in your content can be backed up. Oh – and just because something is ‘new’ does not make it interesting. Consider this carefully - why should people care about your content?

 

Make it personal

Often the real strength of content lies in how much of themselves the author is prepared to share.

Personal anecdotes add real credibility to content and can bring the message you hope to get across to life.

Referencing problems, issues and frustrations that you have overcome, and how you solved them, shows that you are ideally placed to be producing this content.

In the blogs I have written for our sister company Media First, it is the ones where I have drawn on my experiences in journalism and communications which get the biggest response and the most interaction.  

You can also make content personal by writing the way you speak. I’m a great believer in trying to write the way I would tell the story if I was talking to friends in the pub – just without the bad language.

When producing quality content, draw in on your own experiences. People want to relate to what they're reading. - Via @37agency

 

Originality

Let’s face it, there is a lot of content out there, so to stand out and grab attention in a really crowded marketplace you need to offer something different.

Essentially, your content needs to add something new, whether it is a different perspective or opinion on a topic. This means you need to know your subject inside out, through extensive research and interviews and also know what other people have previously written about it.

Including personal experiences and examples can certainly help boost the feeling of originality and authenticity.  

 

Educational

Valuable content often provides answers to the questions your customers are asking.

This means that in order to produce meaningful content you need have a really good grasp of who your audience is and what the issues are that matter to them.

For some brands, the concern with this approach is that they are giving away their knowledge and expertise with no guarantee of a return.

But those who can see past this and can help customers address their challenges become trusted, are viewed as being credible and tend to build long lasting business relationships.

 

Strong headlines

A strong, interest-sparking headline, can be the difference between someone reading your carefully prepared work or it heading into the content abyss.

But what makes a compelling headline?

Numbers are an important tool – take another look at the headline of this blog. But, we are far from being alone in our use of numbers. If you look around on the internet you will find lots of content headlined ’9 reasons why…’ or ‘7 steps you must take…’.

Relatively low numbers can suggest your content is succinct and incisive, while it is widely considered that odd numbers work better in headlines. They also suggest authenticity because, rather than rounding up advice into a neat ten, for example, you are just giving them the information they need to know.

And as much as it pains me, as a former journalist who was taught to always spell out the numbers one to nine, using the actual digits appears to be more powerful in web content headlines.

 

Bold statements are another good way of ensuring headlines stand out and can add intrigue while asking questions in the title can leave readers wanting more. If you look at the Daily Mail website – the most popular English-language site in the world – you’ll notice it regularly uses questions in headlines to draw readers in.

 

Simplicity

An often overlooked factor in strong content is simplicity.

Readers want content which is easy to understand and consume. They will quickly lose interest and switch-off if they can’t understand what you are trying to say.

This means it is crucial that your content uses the same language your readers would use in everyday conversation.

Short paragraphs and sentences are important factors here, while jargon and unnecessarily complex or decorative words should be avoided – remember, you are not producing content to impress colleagues with your vocabulary.

You can read more about the importance of simplicity in content marketing in this recent blog.  

 

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

Are you striking the right tone?

Graham Jones 19th February 2018 — 5 mins read
A

fter all, I might be saying this with a smile on my face, in a light-hearted way so you’d know that I was mucking about. On the other hand, I might have a stern look, wagging my finger at you and making you realise I was rather forthright about this topic.

The written word can only communicate part of the way. Without vocal tone, facial expressions and body language, it’s all too easy to get the wrong end of the stick when we read something.

These days we write and read more than ever before. Emails, tweets, Facebook posts, blogs—the list goes on. Nowadays, the typical office worker actually writes around 20,000 words a week. That means you are writing the equivalent of a novel every month.

The result is that every office worker will have developed a style of their own; a way of writing that is unique to them. And therein lies the problem for business communication.

It means that the way in which one member of the team writes on social media, for instance, can be vastly different to the style used by another staffer. That leads to inconsistency among the readership and the followers; they are confused about your company’s personality.

Many firms realise this and so they develop a corporate style guide or tone of voice document. And that can often lead to another problem; the company’s communication on social media in particular is no longer human. Corporate style allows things to be consistent but it turns most text into boring, business-speak.

Companies are often afraid that if they allow their style to be more human they’ll be in danger of trivialising themselves on social media. They get a sense of the more human approach devaluing their operation.

These firms worry that you might get maverick behaviour, with staff saying things in all kinds of negative ways on Twitter or Facebook. They don’t want to be like Channel 4, for instance, that Tweeted “BREAKING: It's definitely better to be nice to people and not be a dick. We'll update you as and when we have more on this story.” Or, perhaps, the Tweet from KFC in Australia which said “Something hot and spicy is coming soon” above a picture of a woman looking down at a man’s genital area.




Social media activity like this seems fun and human, but it is the kind of tone of voice that puts off the corporate style police. That, though, is a problem. It means that millions of social media messages are just plain boring. People skim straight past them, meaning they are a complete waste of time for the companies in the first place.

So, is there a way out of this conundrum? How can your company come across as human without people going bananas?

One way is to train people in writing skills. Given that the typical office worker is producing a novel’s worth of material each month, it’s worthwhile taking stock and thinking “are they trained for that?” People get trained in the technical skills of using email, for instance, but how much training do people get for writing? These days, writing is one of the most common activities for office workers and few are trained in this skill.

A key feature of learning to write well is understanding how your material sounds, so that even though the reader cannot see your facial expressions they can still get a jolly good idea of your meaning through the way you use phrases, sentences and punctuation.

Staff that are well-trained in writing are going to be much less likely to make the mistakes of businesses trying—and failing—to strike that human tone on social media. That’s because trained writers tend to stop and think more before they commit finger to keyboard.

It’s also about seeing the reader in your mind’s eye. Professional writers visualise the people for which they are writing, rather than just focusing on the words. Skills like this can be taught and learned and can create a significant advantage on social media. That’s because, with everyone trained, the personality of the company can shine through and the maverick behaviour can be diminished.

Essential to getting it right is understanding your audience very well indeed. Taco Bell, for instance, does this brilliantly. Its social media posts are light, fun and humorous, reflecting the fact that what the company offers is a fast snack that is usually eaten socially.

Similarly, the airline JetBlue manages to strike a good balance between fun and being serious. It doesn’t trivialise air travel but it does emphasise that travelling itself should be fun and enjoyable. Its Twitter feed is consistent in that it contains a sprinkling of humour among the more serious tweets.

Another good example is the bookstore Waterstones. It provides informative social media posts as well as humour and conversation with its followers. It has a consistent tone that is light when needed and serious when talking about something that demands it. In other words, it understands the connection between the topic and the reader very well.

Fundamentally, what these companies share is a solid understanding of their readership. They may well be using trained writers, but their social media posts reveal that they truly understand their audience. You can only write in the right tone if you understand who is going to read your material and their motivations.

For some companies this will mean you can be light, fun and entertaining. For others it will mean that you need to be conversational and witty. And for a few it will mean you need to strike a balance between serious and light. The only “right answer” about tone of voice on the internet is “it depends”. It depends on your product, your sector and your audience. Two things will help you get this working properly—trained writers and a solid, well- researched understanding of your target 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
6th April 2018 - 5 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.