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 live event reporting can boost your content strategy

Adam Fisher 20th July 2018 — 5 mins read
S

o let’s take it back to the beginning. Live event reporting is essentially what journalists do every day, but now are doing for a specific organisation and event rather than for a media outlet.

It involves them being paid by the client (typically a brand) to cover an event such as a conference, trade show, charity fundraising initiative or new product launch and providing live updates, interviews, social media content and videos.

Let’s say you are an insurance company and you sponsor a sporting event such as a triathlon. That event will demand promotion, regular updates and will attract competitors and spectators all with stories to tell, providing a potentially rich vein of human interest content.

You may have already seen live event reporting in action through Apple and Tesla product launches, but more brands are starting to embrace it.

Here is why we not only think it should be added to your content marketing strategy but also how it will bring added value to your next event.

 

Build anticipation

Carefully crafted internal messages and social media posts can have a big impact on creating interest and excitement in your event before it kicks off.

A designated live event reporting team which is entirely focused on the event can help to enthuse not only those who are attending but also those who cannot make the event in person.

The posts can promote speakers, the topics which will be discussed, and offer a behind-the-scenes look as final preparations are made.

It may sound odd, but there are a lot of football clubs who do this well, building anticipation among their fans who cannot attend the match by sharing photos of players and coaches arriving at the ground, the warm-up routine and the starting team announcement for example.

A key point here is to have a single specific hashtag for your event if you are going to use social media channels.

This will make it easier for people to find what you are sharing and join in the conversation.

 

Wider audience

For some organisations, no matter how hard they try or want it to happen, it can simply be logistically impossible to get everyone together in the same place at the same time.

And it can be hard to capture the attention of those unable to attend.

But live reporting, with blogging and video coverage can give those unable to make it a sense of what is unfolding as it happens, creating a level of engagement that a traditional post-event report could not achieve.

 

Extending the buzz

For many events it can be important for the reach to extend beyond the four walls of the conference room or the event location.

It may be of interest to stakeholders, customers and potential customers.

Using social media channels to tell other users you are reporting live from an event can create a real online buzz and help amplify reach.

The word ‘live’ is important in these types of social media posts. It adds urgency and importance to messages and can help cut through the noise.

 

More than just a one-day event

There is a misconception that live reporting stops being useful once the event comes to an end.

But in our experience, this couldn’t be more wrong.

The interviews and footage gathered at the event can provide a rich pool of content which can be used throughout the coming weeks and months for both internal and external audiences.

For example, interviews can be used for the basis of blogs, or they can be turned into short video clips which can be used on social media channels.

 

Stand-out

Live reporting an event is something which can really make an organisation stand-out and highlight it as a brand with industry expertise.

It is still a relatively new concept, which means that using it can help organisations differentiate themselves from their competitors and show their ingenuity.

It could also lead to further speaker opportunities for your spokespeople, potentially helping the business to grow.

 

Better feedback

Not only does live reporting of your event increase its longevity, but it also increases the opportunity for constructive feedback.

The repurposed content you gain from the event can be used to elicit ideas on what went well and what people would like to see changed for the event.

Not only could this generate some good suggestions, but it also helps position the organisation as one which is willing to listen and embrace opinions which may help it improve.

 

Why use journalists for live reporting?

Live reporting can be challenging and exhausting.

We believe journalists are best placed to meet the demands of this format.

They will be able to carry out independent and newsworthy interviews with senior leaders, speakers and audience members.

They are skilled at gathering and filtering huge quantities of information and quickly getting to the heart of a story and are used to producing content quickly.

And they can self-edit and have the ability to adapt and reuse content for different channels – a crucial skill in maximising the impact and life of live event reporting content.

If we think back to the insurance company sponsoring a sporting event, which we mentioned at the start, could their comms team, which is likely to be stretched with managing the media around the event, capture all that potentially great content? Or would a team of experienced journalists, parachuted in to focus purely on that event, be better placed?

 

Get in touch to find out how our live event reporting team can add value to your next event.

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.

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.