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

Long vs. Short

Mark Mars 19th February 2018 — 3 mins read
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n the other side you have the bigger, older warrior, still looking to give readers a more rewarding, informative and educational experience.

And you would be forgiven for thinking this has increasingly become something of a one side battle, with more and more content dipping below the 1,000 word mark.

At Thirty Seven, we believe brands should act like a publishing house producing a mixture of long and short content.

But we also strongly believe that long-form content is greatly underrated, that its strengths are perhaps not as widely appreciated as they should be and that it is not ready to be backed into a corner or hit the canvas just yet.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some great short-form content about. But it is ubiquitous and consequently it has become really tough for the good stuff to be seen and heard.

I passionately believe the quality has gone out of the industry and that too many agencies just churn out short content because it is the fashionable (and easier) thing to do.

This content almost always lacks depth and leaves the reader craving more detail. I’ve lost count of the times I have clicked on something with an interesting looking headline, only to be left disappointed as I find it consists of around 300 words and offers little or nothing I don’t already know.

In some cases the content is actually closer to the 280 characters of Twitter than anything really meaningful or educational.

And, I’m not alone. Studies have shown that the desire for long-form content has never gone away. More specifically, there has been a trend towards longer content in non-fiction long-form storytelling. From documentary form factors such as ‘The Journey’ from Amex, serial podcasts like Stories of the InterContinental Life, and through social media ‘story platforms’ or a well-worked blog series.

Creating compelling long-form storytelling content is not easy, nor should it be.

Investing in long-form content is sometimes perceived by sceptics as a gamble because of our supposed shrinking attention spans, the time pressures of modern life and a fear of giving away too much knowledge.

But it is a myth that we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. The statistic sounds great and gives agencies an easy 'out' but it’s just not true and it is damaging content marketing.

Our attention span is changing, becoming more intensive, more efficient and hungrier for information. Human attention spans are nowhere near satisfied with eight-seconds of ideas or content. They want more and according to a recent BBC report, we can all vary our attention spans according to the task at hand.

And actually longer content does not take as long to read as some people believe. It actually takes just seven minutes to read 1,600 words - a length considered by many to be the optimal blog length.

I would argue that this is actually the shortest form of long-form content and that really effective long-form content goes beyond the written word. It is also about video documentaries, podcasts and stories told across various content formats.

 

Long-form content enables brands to take a much deeper look at a subject and really showcase its expertise in an area increasing its credibility and positioning itself as a thought leader ahead of its competitors.

And because people like it, they tend to share it more. Research from Moz and BuzzSumo has shown that despite 85% of all content on the internet being less than 1,000 words, content over that threshold consistently receives more social media love.

As well as resonating with readers it is also rewarded by search engines.

Don’t get me wrong, short-form content certainly has its place, especially when it comes to driving traffic to a website. But it is the longer form which really builds relationships and turn readers into customers.

Of course, it’s harder to write and requires much more research, but get long-form content right and it can deliver a knockout blow for your brand.

 

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
19th December 2018 - 7 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.