Adam Fisher
15th January 2019 - 6 mins read
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ut it is not just those in content marketing who face the pressure of having to write quality content on demand.

Journalists have to create attention grabbing-content every day.

So what skills can we steal from them to make our content better?

 

Keep it simple

One of the lessons I learned as a young journalist which really stuck with me was the need to keep my writing simple.

Good newspaper articles are concise, contain simple language and use basic sentence structures.

The simpler an article is to read the more people will be able to understand what it is saying. The average reading age of the UK population is generally considered to be around nine years.

And this is pertinent to content marketing.

All too often organisations inadvertently opt for content which creates barriers to comprehension and detracts from the message.

Let’s take something I saw from Lloyds Banks just before I settled down to write this blog. It was a quote in a document from chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio.

It said: “Our differentiated, customer focussed business model continues to deliver with our multi brand, multi-channel approach, cost leadership, low risk positioning, investment capacity and execution capabilities positioning us well for sustainable success in a digital world.”

There is so much about that sentence I don’t like. But the key issue is that no matter how often I read it, it does not make sense. And that is a real problem. If people don’t understand the content you produce they won’t stick with it.

So lose the big words, keep the sentences tight.

 

Write how you talk

This follows on quite nicely from the importance of keeping writing simple, because one of the best ways to do that is to focus on using the same language you use when you speak.

If I’m struggling to write something I think about how I would say it.

The other benefit of this approach is that it creates a chatty, informal style and natural flow – something journalists strive for in their stories.

To help achieve this, grammar rules sometimes go out of the window. For example, sentences can often start with ‘and’.

 

Research

In many cases, for journalists, the writing is actually the shortest part of the process of putting a story together.

Reporters spend lots of time gathering, looking at and assessing the validity of information in search of a story. This could be sourcing facts and figures, studying data and interviewing experts.

The more research you put into your content the more it will tell your readers things they don’t already know.

And that is a crucial way of ensuring it will stand out from all the other content which is available. 

 

Interview

Here’s a question. How many blogs do you see which include comments from a real person? How many newspaper stories do you see that don’t feature people?

One of the key differences between content and newspaper stories is that the stories always feature people.

And people are predominantly brought into stories through interviews.

Whether it is people in your own organisation or key influencers in the sector, getting the views, opinions and personalities of other people into your content can offer your readers something strong and different, as well as breathe life and add fresh impetus into existing content ideas.

A journalist’s contacts book is something they rely on heavily. Look through your contacts and consider who you could interview for your content.

You can find out more about using interviews in your content in this earlier blog.

 

Human

The way we consume stories and content has changed. Newspaper sales are in decline and people increasingly rely on social media and the internet to find out what is going on in the world.

But despite this evolution there is a constant – people still want stories about other people.

Human interest stories remain as powerful as ever, which is why ‘how does this affect people?’ is still the phrase you will hear most often in a newsroom.

And it is a key in producing content which draws in readers and keeps them engaged.

 

Inverted pyramid

The inverted pyramid is a writing model used by journalists to show how stories should be structured so that they get the most attention.

Essentially it shows that the most newsworthy part should be at the beginning. So; who, what, where, when, why and how are the questions journalists will look to answer in their opening paragraphs.

The next stage of the inverted pyramid structure is the important details and supporting information, including quotes and statistics. And the pyramid base is the general and background information.

The beauty of this structure is its simplicity which ensures stories are easy to follow for readers. If people can’t follow what you are writing then they quickly lose interest.

The only change to this structure for a content marketing point of view is that the last part of the pyramid should include some form of a call to action.

 

Focus on what’s new

If you consider what makes something newsworthy, then timeliness or topicality would be one of the crucial components.

We want to know the latest news and the latest trends. We are not interested in a rehash of something we already know.

So, look to bring your readers something new. Perhaps some new insight or a new way of looking at things. Or look to use topics that people are currently talking about to show how your product or service could have made a difference.

 

Thesaurus

A thesaurus can be a valuable tool for a journalist, but it’s one that comes with a note of caution.

A good reporter will use it to avoid annoying repetition in their writing, by finding alternative words.

But it is crucial it is not used to find more complicated words to make your writing appear more intelligent.

As a content marketer you are writing to inform and generate interest. But that will not happen if the audience does not understand the words you use.

 

Edit

Always ask yourself whether you could say the same thing in your writing without using as many words.

Journalists look to make their copy as tight as possible and similarly, you should look to edit your own content without fear.

This doesn’t mean you should always produce short-form content. It is about ensuring the words you use are the most effective. For example, the word ‘very’ often isn’t needed. ‘Many’ is tighter than ‘a lot of’.

I don’t think I have ever seen a journalist read their writing aloud in the newsroom, but if you can find somewhere quiet this is a good tip. If you find yourself falling over your words and struggling for breath then you need to simplify and rework your sentences. 

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.

Marketing

Six benefits of employee advocacy on social media

Adam Fisher 2nd May 2018 — 6 mins read
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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

Tom Idle
19th 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.