Adam Fisher
15th January 2019 - 6 mins read
B

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

Time saving Word tips for PR pros

Iain Wallace 20th February 2018 — 3 mins read
W

ell, at Thirty Seven we believe in making content creation as simple and efficient as possible.

Sometimes this involves adopting the latest technology to incorporate interactive games, contests and podcasts into corporate marketing strategies.

And on other occasions it can mean revisiting the tools we have used for years – like Microsoft Word – and finding ways to do things that little bit better.

So in this blog we thought we’d share some of the Word tips and tricks that our content creators love.

Tip 1 – Filling the gap

How many times have you been preparing content in Word when not all the information is immediately available? You still want to do the ground work on the document and check the layout so you need some filler text. There’s only so many times you can repeat the words ‘blah blah blah’ across your document before it looks a bit silly, so for some more realistic looking holding text you can ask Word.

For paragraphs of random text, simply type =rand() or if a bit of Latin is more your thing you can get the same by simply typing =lorem(). The standard is three paragraphs but place a number between the brackets and you’ll get the equivalent number of paragraphs of filler.

Go try it now and see what you get…

Tip 2 – Losing it

It’s very easy to lose your place when editing various sections of a document, especially when you are being continually side tracked by telephone calls, urgent emails and impromptu meetings.

When you finally get back to the work you set out to do, using <Shift> + F5 will allow you to cycle directly to the spots that you have edited most recently. Using the same shortcut on a newly opened document will put you straight back to the location where you were most recently working, allowing you to dive straight back in before the phone rings again.

Tip 3 – Repetitive strain

If you find yourself repeatedly dipping into certain words or phrases in your content, such as the sign-off at the end of blog posts, the clipboard panel could be your answer.

Open the panel using the small dropdown arrow next to the clipboard and the items you copy will stack up one by one, up to a maximum of 24. This gives you an always available list that you can pick from with a single click at any point in your document.

Even after you close down Word completely the full list is still there the next time you open a document.

Tip 4 – A ‘case’ in point

When consolidating background documents written by different authors you can save hours furiously editing or retyping erroneous upper and lower case letters by using the ‘Change Case’ button.

This button allows you to change entire sections of text from upper to lower case and vice versa as well as providing options to capitalise the first letter of each word and so on. What’s more, selecting your text and using <Shift> + F3 will allow you to do pretty much the same thing by toggling through the different case options until you’re happy.

Tip 5 – Not a paintbrush

Format Painter is another supremely handy tool when gathering and combining content from different sources. Far from anything to do with painting as the icon suggests, this button actually allows you to reformat huge swathes of text into your chosen style.

Select some text that’s in your preferred style. Hit the ‘Format Painter’ button and then drag your mouse over the separate section of text that you want to re-format to your chosen style. Quick, easy and a definite time saver.

We love the fact we are still finding out new things about a programme that has become an integral part of daily life for so many of us for so long. What Word features could you not live without?


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.  

Emily Stonham
12th October 2018 - 6 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.