Adam Fisher
7th November 2018 - 5 mins read
T

o put that quantity in context, according to TrackMaven, over the past five years, the average number of blog posts published per brand per month increased by 800 per cent. 

Everyone wants their written content to engage, entertain and entice their readers, but with this content overload – or ‘content shock’ as I have also seen it called -  it is increasingly hard for your words to stand out.

So how can you ensure your written content gets read?

 

Adopt a conversational style

It might break certain grammatical rules, but adopting a conversational style when writing your content will help your readers feel you are talking directly to them.

When I write, I always try to use the same informal language I would use if I was talking to a friend.

That doesn’t mean I write exactly how I talk, but, to adopt a quote from American novelist Elmore Leonard, I don’t want my writing to sound like writing. Formality is boring.

I avoid long words and unnecessarily complicated language and I place a lot of emphasis on the words ‘you’ and ‘I’ because I want to make it personal. I want to foster familiarity and for you, the reader, to believe the content you are reading has been produced specifically for you and not everyone on our mailing list.

And I ask a lot of questions. Why? Well because conversations are full of questions. The only difference in my writing is that I also (hopefully) provide the answers.

 

Make your writing look appealing

Inserting picture and infographics and including lots of white space into your content will certainly help, but there are other subtle techniques you can deploy to make your written content more appealing.

Readers find huge paragraphs and big blocks of text daunting and ultimately off-putting. If you look at newspapers, and yes I know print circulation figures are in decline, almost every paragraph consists of just one sentence.

Similarly, long sentences can be a big turn-off. If your sentence is longer than 30 words it needs to be split up into smaller sections.

You may have been told at school not to start sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’.  But now is the time to break those rules because there is nothing wrong with this in the grown-up world of content. And it is a great way of keeping sentences short and snappy. (See what I did there!)

Pull-out quotes, click-to-tweets and sub-headings are also great ways of breaking-up large sections of text.

 

Show you are human

People are interested in stories about other people.

The human touch lights up content and prevents the author sounding distant, detached and boring. It also builds connections with your audience.

I often include experiences from my career and even parts of my home life to illustrate points in my writing and the content which includes these examples and anecdotes is often the best performing.

Why? Because it make the content more relatable and also validates why I should be in a position to offer advice.

Strong personal opinions can add the human element we look for in an increasingly automated world.

At Thirty Seven, we thrive on creating authentic content which is original, credible and packed with human interest. Via: @37agency

 Offer something unique

Type ‘content marketing’ into Google and it returns more than 33 million results.

So your content needs to offer something different to stand-out from the noise.

That doesn’t mean you can’t write about the issues that other people in your sector have already been speaking about. But you need to offer a different perspective, point of view or an interesting twist.

You need to be able to add to the conversation, not repeat it.

Narrowing your subject down will help. I blog a lot on media training issues for our sister company Media First.

That is a broad subject area, so I often break it down into specific areas where it can be easier to add something unique or unusual. For example, I have written blog on how to handle specific types of questions, such as personal ones, and particular types of interviews, such as doorstep interviews.

 

Know your audience

The best way to attract readers is to ensure you know who you are trying to appeal to.

If you don’t know enough about your readers and the questions they are looking for answers to, it is unlikely you are going to be writing on topics that are relevant.

 

Spend time on the headline

The headline is obviously crucial for attracting people to your content. It is the gateway.

But it is a balancing act.

Over promise and you are in danger of creating click-bait which could result in people visiting your website and leaving again almost immediately (this is known as a bounce rate).

Under-sell it and you are not going to attract the number of readers your content deserves.

So how can you get the headline right?

Numbers are a good tool, particularly odd ones, and questions are enticing – just look at how often the Daily Mail uses a question in a headline on its website.

Words like ‘how’, ‘why’, and ‘who’ also have reader appeal. 

And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, keep it short.

Sites like CoSchedule will analyse your headlines and give tips on how to improve them.

 

Nail the intro

The introduction is a crucial part of any written content - it is the hook to get people to invest time reading the rest of what you have written.

The first thing I would say here is don’t repeat your headline in your introduction. This is something I see quite a lot of and it is incredibly dull and pointless.

It is also a good way of ensuring readers will quickly lose interest.

To entice the reader your introduction needs to show them they are going to read something relevant, timely, unusual or controversial (without offending them).

As with the sentences in the rest of your content, you need to keep your introduction short.

 

Promote, promote, promote

As much as I would like to tell you it is all about the writing, promoting your content properly is vital.

Email marketing, social media, PR, guest blogging and paid promotion are just some of the tactics you can consider to attract more people to your work and ensure your content marketing works.

 

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

Why simplicity is vital to content marketing

Adam Fisher 2nd February 2018 — 5 mins read
W

e can probably all recall investing time to read something that grabbed our attention with an enticing headline, only to find it was convoluted and tricky to follow.

Perhaps it is the quest to create something original and valuable that drives organisations to inadvertently opt for content which creates barriers to comprehension and distractions from the main message.

Maybe it is a fear that they will not be seen as an expert in their field that leads them on a path to complicated language and clunky phrasing.

Whatever the reason, it is hugely frustrating for both the reader and the author. Ultimately, if people can’t understand what you are trying to say they also won’t know how you expect them to act.

But this situation is solvable.

Simplicity is the key to understanding and therefore should be the foundation of all written content.

Newspapers and journalists know this.

The average reading age of the UK population is generally considered to be around nine years.

The Sun has a reading age of eight, while the more highbrow Guardian has a reading age of 14. That doesn’t mean they think their readers lack intelligence, it means they know where to set their writing so that the vast majority of readers can understand it.

But how do you make your content simple to understand while still producing something valuable?


Lose the big words

The important thing to remember about your content is that you are not producing it to impress your colleagues with your vocabulary.

And very few of us have time to reach for the dictionary when we’re reading. Invariably if we can’t follow what is being said we quickly give up and disregard that content altogether.

This means that when producing content we should always think twice about the more decorative words we could use and consider if there are simpler alternatives. For example, use ‘start’ instead of ‘commence’ and ‘near’ instead of ‘close proximity’.


Short sentences and paragraphs

One of the first lessons drilled into any young journalist is the importance of using short sentences.

At the start of my career I was told to keep mine between 20 and 30 words long and it is something I try to stick to now, 20 years later.

The reason is that long sentences and those with multiple clauses invite unnecessary complexity.

Similarly, long paragraphs can be daunting for readers and cause them to switch-off and lose interest.

Again if you look at a newspaper or magazine, very rarely will you find paragraphs consisting of more than one sentence.


Avoid the jargon

A regular frustration with much written content is that organisations often fall back on jargon to explain what they do and the messages they are trying to get across.

The problem is that often these words and phrases mean little to people outside that industry or particular company – instantly turning off readers.

But use of jargon in content also suggests that you don’t know the subject perhaps as well as you should or think you do. Remember the famous Albert Einstein quote - “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

It also implies that you have nothing new to say to the reader (in which case why should they read on?).


Stick to everyday language

The key with written content, even with the more formal style used in whitepapers, is to use the language that you and your readers would use in everyday conversation.

When I’m writing content I try to use the language I would use if I was explaining the point to a friend or family member in a pub or café – just without the swearing.


Reading out loud

One of the tricks I use to test the simplicity of my own content is to read it aloud. Sure, it generates some funny looks in the office, but it’s a good way of identifying words, phrases and sentences which may be confusing.

If I stumble over parts of it, or find myself having to reread certain paragraphs, then it is fair to assume my content isn’t as straightforward as I intended.


Test the readability of your content

There are easy to use tools you can use to test the simplicity and readability of your content. Word offers two useful measurements.

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.



As you can see, in the above image my reading ease is 60.3 and my grade level is 9.7, meaning a 14-15 year old should be able to understand it. It’s also worth highlighting that the average length of a sentence in this post is under 20 words.

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.

Simplicity is a very effective content marketing strategy. It is not about dumbing down or insulting the intelligence of your readers.

It is about ensuring your content is easy to understand for as many people as possible. And that takes skill. But, it is well worth it.

Steve Jobs famously once said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”



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 May 2018 - 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.