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

The unsexy content which needs to be part of your communications strategy

Adam Fisher 13th February 2018 — 4 mins read
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ther forms of content, such as the less formal eBooks, blogs, infographics and interactive games appear more exciting and attractive and ultimately seem to have become more popular.

You could be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that whitepapers have had their day and are just another victim of digital progression.

But there is another school of thought – one which we subscribe to at Thirty Seven – that whitepapers are alive and well and continue to play a crucial part in effective content marketing strategies.

In fact, we believe they have an integral role in providing the comprehensive, detailed material which is all too often missing in other parts of content marketing.

It is the perfect long-form content medium in which to position a brand as a genuine authority in its field and take a deep look at the issues which matter to its clients and potential customers.

Here are a few more of its strengths:

Whitepapers have longevity

A whitepaper which successfully tackles an important issue will be saved and printed out and people will refer back to it again and again when they make important decisions.

Whitepapers are shared

They may not go viral in the social media sense, but whitepapers are typically shared by colleagues and teams and can travel extensively within just one organisation, greatly increasing the size of the audience and spreading awareness of your brand. My boss, for example, will regularly share whitepapers with me that he has downloaded and found useful and I often pass these on to other colleagues and even people in other organisations.

Content that can be reused

A common concern organisations often have about whitepapers is that they require considerable time and effort for just one piece of content. But actually that isn’t the case. A good whitepaper can typically be sliced and diced into a series of blogs. Not only is this fresh content, but each resulting blog can be used to encourage the reader to download the whitepaper for detailed analysis of the wider issue.

Whitepapers create strong leads

Whitepapers are not for the casual reader – they require too big a time commitment from the consumer for that. So, when someone signs-up to receive a whitepaper they are looking for a solution to a particular problem and they are trusting your organisation to provide it.

If whitepapers have all these benefits, how can you ensure yours doesn’t fall into the ‘unsexy’ trap?

Tackle a topic which matters to your audience

As with all content marketing, understanding your audience and the issues that matter to them is pivotal.

For your whitepaper to gain the interest of your customers it needs to tackle both an issue they want to be resolved and offer a unique perspective.

This involves detailed research, information being verified and experts being interviewed - and a clearly communicated argument.

Improve the visual

One key way to improve the image of whitepapers is to make them look visually better. Page after page of text is only going to cause readers to lose interest and stop reading, no matter how well it is written.

Photographs, infographics, charts, pull-out quotes and even coloured boxes all have a role to play in adding a creative touch and making whitepaper content more visually appealing.

Length

Even though whitepapers are long-form content a careful eye needs to be kept on length.

A 10-15 page document should easily be enough to construct a credible and persuasive argument and will be much more digestible and less daunting than something double that length.

This means that writing needs to be sharp, concise and waffle free.

Use variety to spice it up

If you’ve already got whitepapers as part of your content, try using different templates and styles to make new ones stand out. Find different ways for readers to test what they have learnt in different sections of the paper, add bullet point summaries after specific sections and use different layouts.

Produce an attention-grabbing headline

No matter how strong the content of your whitepaper you still need to find a way of ensuring you customers are going to read it.

The headline is key to ensuring that your whitepaper stands-out, generates curiosity and promises the solution to a problem.

Enable people to preview whitepapers before they download

Allowing customers to preview a few sample pages of the whitepaper before they need to enter their details and download it is a great way to entice readers and highlight the quality of your document. If it is good enough for Amazon and the books they sell then I think it is something we should all consider.

Check out this example we created for Every Angle.

Whitepapers may not be sexy. They may not provoke instant excitement. But get them right and your customers will find them hard to resist.


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
13th February 2019 - 9 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.