Want to really engage your readers? Make your writing more conversational

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a place for formal writing – take reports or technical  and research papers, for example. But in this day and age, a more conversational approach in your articles, social media posts, webpages and other communications will likely go a long way in truly engaging your audiences.

“Writing less formally just makes it easier to read,” says Kristina Leroux states in her post for Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog. She adds: “And easy is always best when it comes to asking people to do things like give their money or volunteer their time.”

So, if you’re trying to make your writing less formal and more conversational, read Leroux’s tips below or her full article here:

1. Read Your Writing Out Loud

“Does it sound natural to you? If not, do some editing and try again,” says Leroux.

2. Talk to a Friend

Write like you’re writing about the topic to someone you’re comfortable with, like your best friend.

3. Use Contractions

In your less formal communications, replace “will not” with “won’t”, “she is” with “she’s”, etc.

4. Address Your Reader Directly

Leroux says: “What’s the number one rule of donor centric writing? Use “you” and “your” when referring to the reader. You should also refer to yourself by using “I” or “we” and “my” or “our” instead of “the organization” or other more institutional-sounding words.”

5. Start with Social

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are perfect for practicing a more conversational approach in your communications. Once you’re comfortable on social media, you may then decide to apply a more conversational style to other types of communication.

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7 fixes for common writing mistakes

Most media and communications professionals have to write for their job at one point or another, and some are more writing-inclined than others. But everyone who writes will at one or more points be faced with a challenging writing project or stumble into some of the common writing pitfalls.

So, what are these pitfalls and how can you avoid and navigate them? Writing for the Content Marketing Institute Blog, Ann Handley examines the pitfalls through practical examples, and offers concrete solutions. Read more

Need more writing tips? Check out my previous blog posts below:

Photo credit: Hometown Beauty, Flickr Creative Commons

Six tips to conquer writer’s block

Ah, writers block. Many writers out there will attest to the perils of this dreaded state of affairs. Writer’s block ramps up anxiety and stress, especially when working in a professional environment with tight deadlines. It can also dampen creativity, making writer’s resort to plagiarism and other shenanigans.

Writing for the Content Marketing Institute blog, Alex Jasin offers six quick tips to beat writer’s block:

1. Look for inspiration in keywords

Use keyword research tools like Google Trends and Google AdWords to discover the most popular keywords in your niche market. But don’t overdo it, as this can easily distract you from your core task at hand  writing.

2. Tap into the power of headline generators

Get out of your head and look for suggested headlines via headline generators like Tweak Your Biz Title Generator and Portent.

3. Research what your audience is talking about

As Jasin notes: “If you know your audience well, then you know where they like to hang out online. You know their influencers, the communities they visit, and the forums they frequent.” These platform can be great sources of inspiration for articles and blog posts. Sift through or participate in discussions to find out what your target audiences are talking about. A platform like Quora is great for this.

4. Talk to your audience

If you really want to know what’s on your audience’s mind, it doesn’t hurt to just ask them directly. Post questions to them on your website, newsletter or social media channels, or send out a survey. Analyze the responses and incorporate them into your content strategy and editorial calendar. Jasin adds: “By talking to your audience, you not only get topics to talk about but also improve your relationship with them, boost your credibility, and ultimately, build a loyal customer base.”

5. Repackage content

Repackage your content so that it fits into another format and is adapted for different channels. For example, you can turn a piece of long-form content into a video, expand on a short piece, transform a podcast or video into a blog post, and extract content from your white papers, case studies and annual reports. However, before going this route, ensure that any repacking exercise makes sense in the grander scheme of things i.e. it aligns with your content strategy.

6. Consume great content

“You can’t expect to create ideas and write great content if you don’t read great content,” notes Jasin. Find inspiration and keep up with trends and emerging themes in your industry by reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, following relevant organizations on social media and subscribing to newsletters. Consuming great and relevant content will enhance your creativity and help you provide real value to your audience.

Featured photo: Nate, Flickr Creative Commons

8 ways to create a brilliant newsletter people want to read

Live video, interactive content and social media are great, but when it comes to building a loyal following, look no further than the humble newsletter. Writing for the Content Marketing Institute, Mark Walker sums up the strengths of the newsletter nicely:

“For senders, newsletters are a powerful way to stay top of mind with readers, providing a direct route to getting their attention. The best newsletters — the ones readers value the most — get an almost automatic open because readers want to see what goodness is inside that day.”

With that said, how can you create a newsletter that gets opened every time you send it? Walker offers these eight strategies:

1. Go super curated

There’s an overabundance of information out there, which means that the truly high-quality content might get lost in the crowd if it is not marketed well enough. Curate unique content from around the web to really stand out.

2. Let your personality shine

As Walker notes, “newsletters feel inherently more personal”. Stay true to that personal feel by letting your personality shine through with a unique tone, anecdotes, personal stories and observations, and humour.

3. Offer value 

What benefit do people get from your newsletter that they can’t find elsewhere? How does your newsletter positively impact on people’s lives? Offer value.

4. Make it personalized 

Personalize your content based on your readers’ behaviours and preferences. This will likely require research and comprehensive audience analysis, but it’s worth it.

5. Keep it fresh but focused

Ensure that your newsletter consistently provides quality content on a specific field, so that your newsletter is considered a reliable source and authority on that field. But this doesn’t mean you can’t include new, fresh and unique examples and perspectives in each edition, while still staying true to your focus.

6. Go niche

“Newsletters, perhaps more than any other format, allow you to go really niche,” says Walker. “[You] don’t need huge audiences for your newsletter to be valuable, you just need the right people — those who care and who are engaged.” Enough said.

7. Be exclusive

Getting people to pay for your newsletter — even if you’re a nonprofit — could be an effective approach. As Walker notes, “most people tend to be more committed to things they’ve made an investment in, particularly a financial one”.

Nonprofits can ask readers to pay a small subscription fee that will go towards a social change programme that the organization supports. Reports, testimonials and human interest stories can be shared periodically in the newsletter itself, to update subscribers on what their funds have helped achieve.

However, any organization taking this route — nonprofit or otherwise — must ensure that their newsletter offers strong value for money.

8. Keep it pure

Newsletters offer a “chance to have a pure, honest conversation with your readers, and if they appreciate it, they’ll reward you by opening up your newsletter each time it’s sent,” says Walker. He adds: “You don’t have to write with SEO in mind or in a click-bait way to rise above the noise on social media.”

Truer words were never spoken. Newsletters can be a great platform for passionate writers to flex their writing and creative muscles, while promoting their organization as truly authentic.

Featured image: Dennis Skley, Flickr Creative Commons

 

Effective communications depends on effective stories: Here’s why

Jeremy Koch: “The most effective approach to nonprofit marketing is simply telling great stories. Great stories have a vivid setting. Great stories have three-dimensional characters. Great stories are full of struggle and tension. And, most importantly, great stories are filled with emotion.

If you want your readers to listen to you, if you want your readers to learn something from you, if you want your readers to take action, then you need to tell them great stories.”

Read more