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

Six benefits of employee advocacy on social media

Adam Fisher 2nd May 2018 — 6 mins read
W

hat this means is that ‘employee advocacy’ is more than just some trendy buzzword.

It is something that businesses should strive for on social media and something with lots of possibilities. It is also something which some of the country’s leading brands are already doing as we will show you later.

 

Reach

Arguably the biggest reason to strive for employee advocacy on social media is one of mathematics.

The simple fact is that if your employees share your content it reaches a much bigger audience.

Many of us have Facebook accounts. In fact, there are around 32 million user accounts for that network in the UK alone.

The interesting bit is that the average number of ‘friends’ for a user currently stands at 338.

So, if you have 10,000 employees and just five per cent of them started sharing your company’s social media posts, your content would reach an extra 169,000 people – that’s a lot of extra people who could be seeing your content.

And if you have younger members of staff they will have significantly bigger networks. 27 per cent of 18-29 year old Facebook users have more than 500 friends.

If your employees are on Twitter, the reach is equally impressive. The average user there has more than 700 followers and, if you take out the accounts with more than 100,000 followers, then that average is 453.

If your staff are active on LinkedIn then they could potentially have a bigger audience, as 27 per cent of us have between 500 and 999 connections.

These numbers alone tell you that your employees are one of your most powerful social media marketing tools.

 

Trust

The great thing about your employees sharing your content is that potential new customers are seeing it through people they have a connection with and invariably trust.

In the age of fake news, it is perhaps not surprising that research has shown people’s trust in content on social media is stronger if they know the person who has posted it.

Additionally, the 2018 Endelman Trust Barometer showed that ‘a person just like yourself’ is seen as the third most credible spokesperson, showing that people typically trust their peers.

Tellingly, ‘employees’ also scored significantly higher than ‘CEO’ or ‘Board of Directors’ in the credibility stakes.

This all shows that content is trusted more when it is shared by people rather than broadcast by brands.

 

Industry experts

Not only can your employees help to spread your content and messages on social media to a wider audience, but they can also start to become seen as experts in their field and thought leaders.

The more they share, comment and discuss relevant topics on social media the more they will showcase their expertise and knowledge.

This is a mutually beneficial process. 

The organisation stands out as a brand with talented employees willing to share their thoughts and expertise and as one which is open to new ideas and collaboration.

Meanwhile, the employee benefits by building their personal brand and network, as well as from feeling trusted to talk about key issues.  

 

Empowering

It was only recently that I worked in a place where all employees – other than me who was managing the corporate social media accounts – were denied access to social media channels through the organisation’s computers.

Not only did this not feel particularly trusting, but it was also a largely pointless exercise, as technology had overtaken the decision makers and the vast majority of people had access to smartphones.

I felt at the time, and I still feel now, that a better approach would surely have been to encourage employees to talk about their work on social media channels, blogs and even forums and allow their expertise and passion for their roles to shine through.

 

 

Consistency

Some of your employees may already be posting and sharing stories about your organisation.

But is it what you would want them to share? Does it include the most up to date information, for example?

A more structured approach to employee advocacy will help ensure the right messages get out without losing that all important authenticity.

 

Attractive

Many of us have worked in places, or at least seen job advertisements, for companies that speak eloquently and glowingly about their culture.

But those messages are much more authentic when they come from current employees.

Employee advocacy can, therefore, help you attract the best talent and people who will add value to the organisation and make it more likely you will retain them.

 

Employee advocacy in action

Retailer John Lewis recently carried out an employee advocacy trial.

Just before Christmas around 100 ‘partners’ from six stores were selected to share specific content on Instagram and Twitter.

Using the hashtag #wearepartners, the three-month trial generated nine million impressions.

Meanwhile, Sky is using employee advocacy to showcase its position as an employer of choice. The hashtag #LifeatSky is regularly used by people across the organisation, including some of its big name presenters, to highlight the perks of working for the broadcaster.  

Your employees tell the best stories, they're authentic and you should be encouraging them to share on social media. #employeeadvocacy via: @37agency

 

The challenge

But employee advocacy is not without its challenges and it would be amiss of us not to mention them.

Firstly, employees are going to need some great content to share, so a solid content marketing strategy needs to sit behind this approach.

Another issue is that while some people will embrace this enthusiastically, others will be more reticent. One of the biggest factors here is a fear of doing or saying something wrong which could see them face disciplinary measures. The key to tackling this particular challenge is to have a clear social media policy and guidelines in places.

Others may not feel motivated to share content, so it is important that personal benefits, such as wider personal networks and the development of their own personal brand, are explained to them.

It is also important that leaders buy-in to employee advocacy and lead by example. If they are not active on social media and are not sharing content why should the employees? It is particularly important that middle managers, who are often more visible than the senior leaders, embrace the programme.

Finally, there is the issue of trust. As I hinted at earlier when discussing my own experience at a previous employer, if you can’t trust your employees to have access to social media at work then you can’t realistically expect them to share your social media output.

 

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, informative and shareable so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a Whitepaper.

Additionally, our sister company Media First offers bespoke social media training courses

Aimee Hudson
2nd October 2017 - 8 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.