Tom Idle
20th November 2018 - 5 mins read
T

his was Baptista’s revenge protest against a betting industry he claims regularly exploits people like him—those that have lost thousands of pounds betting on FOBTs and are encouraged to keep doing so, regardless of the consequences.

His actions, while destructive and illegal, garnered a wealth of sympathy across the media, raising serious ethical questions about the validity of FOBTs in high street betting shops. A lunchtime flutter on the horses has become legend across the generations. But offering the option of pouring hundreds of pounds into an algorithm- controlled giant computer is a relatively new phenomenon—and one that has raised concerns, particularly among local councillors and MPs. They continually face questions as to the social benefits (or otherwise) of betting shops popping up on every high street across the UK, especially when two million people are said to be addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem.

Of course, it is a narrative of which the gambling industry is only too aware. Being a socially (and environmentally) responsible business that plays a useful role for people and the communities in which they live, is front of mind for many CEOs—even those running companies in a sector constantly battling claims it is devoid of any positive social value whatsoever.

For those of you still unsure about whether it's worth ‘doing sustainability’ (largely defined as investing in measures to ensure your organisation is fit, proper and able to stay competitive for the long-term), you can stop it right now. More and more evidence suggests that those companies proactively looking for ways to make sure they are viable and attractive entities 50 years from now are already reaping the benefits. Just look at the consumer goods giant Unilever.

When addressing shareholder meetings, the softly spoken boss Paul Polman sounds more like Bono than a CEO, opting for soliloquies on global warming rather than detailed analysis of quarterly financial returns.

For the past six years the business has been building what it calls ‘Sustainable Living’ (SL) brands, such as Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Hellmann’s—businesses with a social or environmental purpose strongly attached to their operations or customers. For example, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s exists to “make and sell the finest quality ice cream” all the while sourcing natural ingredients and making sure its operations have zero negative impact on the planet.

All of the company’s brands are said to be focused on reducing their environmental footprint and boosting their positive social impact. Those that are furthest ahead are tagged as ‘SL brands’ and, collectively, they grew over 50 per cent faster than the rest of the business last year, delivering more than 60 per cent of Unilever’s growth. “Our results show that sustainability is good for business,” says Polman, pointing to a spurring of innovation, strengthened supply chains and reduced costs.

The telecoms business BT is another good example. It has spent plenty of energy and resources in recent years making sure its product and service offering can help its business customers be more responsible and efficient too. As part of its 3:1 goal, BT's consumer operations and products that contribute to carbon savings now represent 22 per cent of annual revenues and are worth more than £5 billion.

Waking up to the realisation that customers, of all shapes and sizes, care about what it is their favourite brands are doing to create a better world, or not, companies should know that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility—or whatever you want to call it) is increasingly valuable.

And that’s largely because the next generation of consumers and customers want to know why companies exist, how they operate and whether their core business is having a negative impact on people and planet. A new study by Cone Communications reveals that 87 per cent of consumers say they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, while more than 75 per cent say they would boycott a product or company if the brand supported an issue contrary to their ethics and values.

It is a trend only likely to grow with Millennials and the Gen Z putting their money where their mouths are, purposefully backing more socially responsible brands over any others. Even if they don’t care about issues like climate change, pressured by peers on social media, they know they ought to so are more easily swayed to ‘do the right thing’.

So, if CSR has real value, why aren’t more companies talking about the good, positive things they are doing?

A lack of confidence and an absence of good, simple storytelling lies at the heart of the lacklustre response by all but a handful of progressive businesses. Ultimately, customers want their relationships with brands to possess the very same qualities they value in their personal relationships: Trust, empathy, respect, openness.

But in a corporate world defined by quarterly growth stats, companies blindly believe that acting more human will destroy any chance of economic success—a view that flies in the face of a growing mountain of evidence.

Maybe it’s too early for the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes to gamble on ripping out their valuable FOBTs, a move that would stake a claim to the moral high ground.

But what might the future CSR payback look like among a consumer base keen to defend and support companies that take an ethical stand? Might we see gamblers flock in unison to any betting shop willing to gamble on first mover advantage in positively responding to Baptista’s argument that they in fact may be destroying the lives of society’s most vulnerable.

In a world of continued divestment from companies unwilling to accept and respond to environmental and social risks, the corporate world can no longer bury its head in the sand.

Instead, it must rise in response to the big challenges the world faces—from poverty and human rights abuse, to global warming and water scarcity. To avoid being left behind forever, companies must change their course. But in doing so they must engage their customers effectively—a task that demands transparency, accountability, honesty and, above all else, fantastic communication and storytelling to bring them along for the ride.



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 February 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.