Great writing tips for authors, bloggers, columnists & journalists

Writing for, Andrew Griffiths provides some excellent writing tips for authors, bloggers, columnists and journalists. This is all based on experience writing 20 books and 3,000 articles over 20 years!

My favourites include:

  • Always visualize a person who is your ideal niche whenever you write
  • Don’t waste a whole session on a piece that isn’t working
  • Keep an anecdote and story list
  • Figure out when you write your best words

Check out all 10 tips here

Harnessing the power of emotional engagement

In aiming to ensure your content really inspires your audience and mobilizes them to take action, research shows that emotional engagement is key.

As Ashley Taylor Anderson writes for the Content Marketing Institute, brands can harness the power of emotional engagement by understanding the science behind it and using this understanding to create artful content that really appeals to their audience in a meaningful and real way.

The science

Neuro-imagery has shown that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions rather than factual information. Moreover, research has shown that emotional engagement is affected by several principles related to content creation:

Design: Designs that evoke the greatest emotional response tend to involve something out of the norm. Elements of surprise can prevent content from being filtered out by the brain.

Colour: Studies have shown that colour can increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80 percent. Moreover, using specific colours can have a significant impact on mood. For example, red often evokes strong emotions, yellow evokes happy feelings, and blue is associated with calm and trust.

Images: Many research studies confirm the emotional power of visuals, and there is data out there stating that 90 percent of all information transmitted to the brain is visual. Images can increase trust and belief in the information being conveyed and evoke specific emotional responses.

Branding: As Anderson’s article notes, most consumers have an unconscious aversion to being persuaded, and they can become immediately resistant to a message that is overly branded. The key too success is subtlety. Experiments have shown that a more subtle inclusion of branding can increase views by as much as 20 percent.

Here are two excellent examples from Apple that incorporate some, if not all, of the above aspects:

The content

So, how does one turn this science into impactful and engaging content? Before getting into that, it’s important to note that delving into the science behind emotional engagement can tempt brands to “misuse psychological levers”, as Anderson puts it, in order to persuade or have an impact on their audience. Resist the urge to go this route and ensure that you do not cross the line into negative and unethical audience manipulation. Instead, focus on strong emotional engagement by considering Anderson’s tips below:

1. Start with your audience’s motivation
What does your audience really want from your content? Find out and cultivate your emotional content based on these motivations.

2. Inspire trust with a believable story
As Anderson notes: “Content from brands is particularly at risk for a knee-jerk emotional shutdown because consumers are used to manipulative advertising tactics that play on their emotions. To engage viewers, your story has to be relevant, and it has to be genuine.”

3. Invite people to actively participate
When audiences actively participate in your content strategy, this can potentially create a deeper emotional connection. As Anderson says, “With interactive content, you can put people in the driver’s seat, allowing them to follow their own path, answer questions, drill down for more information, and explore topics through multiple lenses or perspectives. This, in turn, provides you with insights on what your audience cares about.”

4. Create a full emotional arc
To maintain your audience’s interest tell a story that builds up the relevant emotions and takes audiences on an emotional journey. Below is an example of an effective ad with a full  and simple emotional arc.


5. Use data to optimize your approach
When you publish emotion-driven content, analyze your performance metrics to see what’s working and what isn’t. You need to constantly test and refine your approach to emotional engagement, so that you can create content that truly resonates with your audience.

Want more examples of effective emotional engagement? Check out my previous posts on the #LikeAGirl campaign and powerful social development videos.

Navigating the attention economy

Researchers and strategists including Herbert SimonThomas Davenport  and Michael Goldhaber have deduced that we are living in an attention economy. Why is this? It stems from the fact that in this day and age there is an overabundance of information due to the rapid growth of web/digital media and technology. As early as 1971, Simon effectively articulated how an overabundance of information impacts attention:

“…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

In our information-rich world, attention is a scare and valuable commodity. So, how do we navigate this attention economy?

Surviving and thriving in the attention economy

Writing for The Media OnlineDavid Smythe notes that never before have brands had to work so hard for an audience’s attention.  “We’re moving away from a supply based media system influenced by marketers, to a demand-based media world driven by consumers … Before a brand can entertain or inform, its communication needs to be noticed,” he says. 

Smythe highlights various trends that can help marketers survive and thrive in this world:

  • Harnessing the power of Storytelling, storymaking and storybuilding. “Information that has been humanised and enriched through storytelling is persuasive and has greater memorability,” Smythe says. My previous post touched on the power of storytelling.
  • Ephemeral/momentary marketing. It can be reasonably assumed that attention starved and time deprived consumers will probably respond well to branded content that is fleeting, yet relevant. The rise of Snapchat is a good example. “By devising temporary marketing schemes, brands are appealing to a desire amongst people to consume smaller forms of content in a way that is both easy and efficient,” Smythe says.
  • Me marketing. Smythe notes that a prevailing trend suggests that every individual is now a marketer, and we all want to be marketed to individually. “There can be no more powerful way for a brand to capture attention by speaking to the consumer as if they were an individual with their own unique wants and needs … It speaks to the use of personalisation to guarantee sustained attention.”
  • Easing the consumer decision journey. Consumers are faced with too much information and are time-deprived. This leaves them feeling that they are not always making the right choices. Smythe notes that brands that become known for making the decision making process a little simpler will secure disproportionate attention ahead of the average.
  • Brand sacrifice. Smythe notes that in the 21st century, brands that sacrifice, or display some form of altruism, enjoy disproportionate attention ahead of the average. “More millennials than non-millennials integrate their beliefs and causes into their choice of companies to support, their purchases and their day-to-day interactions,” he says. “Sacrifices can be large or small; they can change the world or just the consumer’s world.”

Who are ‘attention workers’? 

In a paper for the Innovation Journalism journal, Vilma Luoma-aho and Saara Halonen describe the role of ‘attention workers’, or professional brokers of attention. They emphasize that as attention becomes increasingly scarce, the influence of attention workers rises. In this context, attention workers can include journalists, public relations practitioners, marketers, advertisers, lobbyists and other actors. They are professionals who aim to distribute information and knowledge effectively, increasing social capital in the process. Identifying and cultivating these attention workers could go a long way for organizations.

Look out for my next post, where I’ll touch on some challenges associated with the attention economy.


Photo: Copyright woodleywonderworks, Flickr

Content strategy vs content marketing, and other musings

Last week, I began exploring the wonderful world of content strategy, an evolving approach that deserves more recognition. An organization’s content strategy is essentially a blueprint that lays out exactly how its content will be used to accomplish organizational goals.

With that in mind, how does content marketing fit into all of this? One might ask, aren’t content marketing strategy and content strategy the same? Nope! A content strategy is a blueprint for all content communications approaches required, which can include marketing, public relations, journalism, knowledge management, fundraising and so forth. Content marketing on the other hand is just that, a marketing approach. Content strategy is all-inclusive, while content marketing refers to a single part of an overall content strategy. As such, content strategy is the foundation for content marketing. As Greg Secrist explains for Search Engine Journal, “this foundation helps to align branding, messaging, and pretty much all aspects of content marketing to the overall content goals of your company before you begin to actively market it.”

Content strategy vs communications strategy

As if the differences between content strategy and content marketing weren’t confusing enough, additional complications are generated when communications strategy is thrown into the mix. How do we reconcile this?

Essentially, a communications strategy is the overarching strategy for communicating the organization’s positioning and goals. In this context, a content strategy should be seen as a blueprint for deploying the editorial or information elements that support the communications strategy and move it forward. For those in the international development and humanitarian sectors, these tips could prove useful in developing your communications strategy.

An issue I look forward to exploring further is how best to link the development of communications and content strategies, and how best to structure each one. Should a content strategy always be a component of the larger communications strategy? Or can both strategies be separate products that support and reinforce each other? Can organizations pick and choose which strategy to develop, or are both always necessary? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.

Tips for incorporating music into your marketing mix

My previous post touched on why music is a powerful marketing tool. Now let’s look at how organizations can harness that power. Here are some ideas:

Incorporate music into your long-term marketing strategy

As Russel Wallach points out in an article for Fast Company, music should be thought of as a language and culture that connects your brand to stakeholders. He adds: “The success of using music content as a way to gain consumer mindshare parallels the traditional metrics of media success. If you want to create a long-term bond with music fans, you need to make a commitment for the long haul to retain authenticity.” In harnessing the power of music, marketers need to focus on creating an authentic connection that consumers respond to, be it through social experiences, mobile devices, content or loyalty programmes, says Wallach.

Enhance branding through advertising or public service announcements

In an article for LinkedIn, Collin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, says: “Having a great song, jingle, or score makes [an advertisement] create positive emotions in the minds of your customers. It gives your brand promise a foundation built on good memories. From there, you can build the brand to attract them to your business.” However, the importance of authenticity should once again be stressed here. Whether it’s online, on TV, on the radio, or live, there are many ways to share your musical ads.

Harness the power of digital music communities

Today’s music fans are not just passive listeners. They have created diverse online communities on streaming sites like Spotify, as well as other social media channels including Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Marketers should therefore incorporate social media into their music marketing strategies, using digital communities as a means to help customers engage with their brand.

Apple bought Beats By Dre for $3 billion mid last year. This landmark deal has so far proven to be a music and marketing success story and a win-win for all involved. Apple capitalized on an opportunity to significantly boost it’s brand reach/engagement via the Beats/Dr. Dre fan bases. Oh, and Hip hop icon Dr. Dre became Hip hop’s richest artist, en route to become the genres first billionaire. Photo: Zennie Abraham/Flickr
Apple bought Beats By Dre for $3 billion last year. This landmark deal has so far proven to be a music and marketing success story and a win-win for all involved. Apple capitalized on an opportunity to significantly boost it’s brand reach/engagement via the Beats/Dr. Dre fan bases. Oh, and Hip hop icon Dr. Dre became Hip hop’s richest artist, en route to becoming the genres first billionaire. Photo: Zennie Abraham/Flickr

Maximize artist affinity and loyalty

Wallach recommends leveraging artist affinity and providing exclusive and added value such as free downloads or face-to-face meetings between fans and artists. Says Wallach: “Music fans are among the most loyal and passionate people in the world; they will travel far and wide to support the artists they love the most.” With that said, Wallach stresses the importance of matching the right artist with the right brand. “Music can be a powerful component to your marketing mix, but must be handled with care to convert music-loving fans to brand-loving customers,” he says.

Analyze consumer data

Wallach adds that marketers should consider unlocking and analyzing the plethora of data available today. This can help them understand music fan preferences and triggers, in order to create a successful music marketing strategy. It goes without saying that accessing such data should be done so ethically and legally.

Run music-centred campaigns/initiatives

As mentioned above, music is a powerful tool for mobilizing social action. This power can be demonstrated through campaigns centred on music projects, programmes or artists. An article by Macala Wright on Mashable cites two examples. One was an Amnesty International programme called ‘The Power of Our Voices’ which educated students about protest songs and using music to bring about social change. The other was the ‘#AbsolutGaga’ contest during Lady Gaga’s tour last year, devised by the manufacturers of Absolut Vodka. Fans were encouraged to share ideas via social media on how they would transform their community. As thanks for their ideas, certain fans were given special access at Lady Gaga’s shows.

ReverbNation’s ‘Music For Good’ is also notable. Every artist that sells music on the ReverbNation site chooses a charity they would like to support. Half of the proceeds from music sales go to the charity, and half to the artist. As stated on the ‘Music For Good’ webpage, “every time a fan buys a song from a ReverbNation artist, they’re demonstrating their support for indie music and a worthy cause.”

I’m From Barcelona performing at the Dour Festival, 2009. Photo: Kmeron/Flickr
I’m From Barcelona performing at the Dour Festival, 2009. Photo: Kmeron/Flickr

Go live!

We are social beings that enjoy experiencing music live – whether it’s for the people, the ambiance, the acoustics, or an opportunity to get closer to favourite artists. That’s why music festivals – from Coachella to Roskilde to Tomrrowland – are so popular, especially with millennials. As Wright highlights, “Music festivals have become lifestyle experiences where millennials blog, take selfies and create videos and other content to broadcast on their digital channels.” That’s why such venues can be an excellent way to market your products and, according to Wright, “achieve quality and quantity in terms of reach and possible engagement.” With this in mind, it’s worth noting that products marketed at these venues should be relevant and valuable to the target audience. To determine such relevance and value, research will need to be done beforehand.