Adam Fisher
26th November 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.

Marketing

How to make and start a business podcast

Tom Idle 28th February 2020 — 6 mins read
A

ccording to Ofcom figures released in the autumn, 7.1 million people now listen to podcasts each week – that’s one in eight people and an increase of 24 per cent over the past year.

There are currently more than 860,000 podcasts in existence today and half of all the podcasts in existence were created in the last two years alone.

Clearly, more and more people are realising the benefits of creating long-form, in-depth audio content.

With figures like these, you might ask whether the world needs another podcast right now.

Well, as someone who set up and run their own podcast, I think you should, and I feel my experience could help you to get started.

I got into podcasts when I was commuting from Kent to Oxford for work. I was spending a lot of time in the car and podcasts were my salvation.

I listened religiously to several different shows and began to try to work out the functional elements of those shows and how they were put together and how it related to what I was doing.

When I left that job to set up my own business, podcasting seemed like the perfect content marketing tool to promote what I was doing. Not only was I passionate about podcasts, but I was a trained journalist who had specialised in radio journalism at university.

Additionally, no-one else was doing them in the sustainable business area, so there was a huge gap in the market.

So, I launched the Better Business Show. It was a weekly show with new episodes every Monday morning and the idea was to showcase some of the innovators, start-ups, small businesses – as well as some of the legacy businesses – that were working out ways of doing things differently and more sustainably to create better businesses.

It was a magazine show and at the centre of it was an in-depth interview, usually with a start-up and then we wrapped it up with some news and some conversations with consultants and experts in the field. We brought different elements together in a 40-minute podcast.

We launched it in 2016 and I think it is fair to say we achieved some success. We got more than 3,000 listeners, we found some good sponsorship, we branched out into multiple countries and we had lots of repeat listeners (38 per cent repeat listeners). In short, we built a nice community.

Why was it successful?

Well, there were a few factors and one of the key ones was planning and getting ahead. When we launched, we had three episodes which was important in terms of building credibility. If people are discovering you for the first time and you only have one episode, they won’t be sure whether you are serious or whether you are going to come back with more episodes.

In the first few weeks, we worked hard to get our ranking on iTunes as good as we could. Doing this was as simple as getting friends, family, colleagues and customers to give us a five-star review. It worked wonders and we ended up getting on to the ‘new and noteworthy’ section’ of the business podcasts. We stayed there for about three months which built early traction.

I think that consistency was also key. We made sure the podcast came out at the same time every week – 9am on a Monday – and that helped to build behaviour among the listeners where they were looking out for each episode. If you are saying on your episode ‘we’ll be back next week’, then you need to be back next week.

Having evergreen content was also important. Although we included a news section, the rest of the content is still relevant and will continue to stick around.

So, if the podcast was successful, why am I not still doing it?

The main answer to that is that it achieved what we set it out to do. It won me a lot of work and new connections and helped me to grow my business.

It is something I’m glad I did and even now the archive lives on and we are getting new listeners and plays a month.

For me, there is no engagement like having a podcast where you are capturing someone for 40 minutes every week and they are listening to you while they are doing something else like driving, cooking or working out in the gym.

Here are a few tips from my experience to help you get started:

 

Recording device

It sounds simple but you need a decent recording device – I can’t state how important this is. Your content can be strong, but if there is background noise or the recording is just not good enough quality, then listeners will instantly switch off. I carried my interviews over Skype and used a free app to record them. For the interviews that were carried out on location, I used a £100 Dictaphone. But the iPhone technology has moved on so much that I would probably use that more now.

 

Editing equipment

In terms of the edit, I used Apple Garageband, which is easy to use. It was great for splicing and adding music to intros.

 

Hosting the podcast

I hosted my podcast because I wanted to market myself, but that doesn’t mean that sourcing a decent host for your show isn’t important. If you do want to do it yourself, some of the presenting and hosting skills can be learnt and honed from Thirty Seven’s sister company Media First.  

 

Noise

I’ve already mentioned that background news will be a big distraction for your listeners, so make sure you have a quiet office to record your podcast or hire a studio. Failing that, sit under a duvet when you make your recording – it sounds crazy but this is something BBC journalists do often on location.  

 

iTunes

Although Spotify has now entered the podcast market, iTunes remains the main platform. I submitted my podcast to iTunes from day one and I think it was an important part of its success. Once you have done that you can submit it for free to other platforms, like Deezer, to extend your reach.

 

Social media

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that social media was a really important way of sharing my broadcasts. LinkedIn worked particularly well for me. I also created a blog on my website to hold each podcast.

 

Ask for help

If I was to relaunch my podcast now, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for some help. I might look at outsourcing some of the editing, or scripting or maybe someone to look after the logistics of organising interviews.

As a trained journalist I know how to structure podcasts and create captivating audio content. If you don’t then please hire the professionals to help you.

You don’t have to go it alone.

 

Get in touch with one of our account managers to find out how we can help you get your podcast started.

 

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 a podcast or email marketing.

Mark Mars
3rd October 2017 - 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.