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

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

6 dos and don’ts for effective videos

As they say in the marketing world, video is king. In other words, video content is rapidly growing in prominence as a key tool for effective communications (check out Contently’s survey results and this infographic from IMPACT). Video can engage audiences in ways other content options cannot, and producing video is getting much easier.

As a result, many organizations are jumping on the video bandwagon, but with minimal results. Why? Because they aren’t approaching video production in the right way.

In an article for Contently, Tallie Gabriel shares three dos and three don’ts for producing effective brand videos. Read the summary below or the full article here.

Do tell a unique story

“Even the most dry informational content needs to live within an engaging narrative—if you want anyone to pay attention,” says Gabriel, adding: “If the narrative naturally strikes an emotional chord, even better.”

Need inspiration? Check out the video below.

Do center your videos on human characters

Human stories, as opposed to abstract concepts and statistics, can do a better job in triggering our empathy and making us care.

Gabriel explains: “When we hear a statistic about a disease affecting tens of thousands, for example, it’s hard to conceptualize the size of that story. But when we’re told the story of one patient—her personality traits, family members, hobbies, and values, it’s much easier for us to feel for that single character.”

Do try something outside of the box

The internet is saturated with video, and there’s a lot of competition out there. Stand out by thinking outside of the box.

“Don’t be afraid to have fun and try things that may surprise your audience,” says Gabriel.

Need inspiration? Check out the video below.

Don’t show us talking heads

Gabriel says: “Featuring a human is great, but make sure this human is interesting and actually doing things in your video. Nothing will put an audience to sleep faster than a talking head (especially a talking head rambling on about technical jargon).”

Don’t cut corners when it comes to quality

“Whether it’s thanks to poor sound quality, unfortunate pixellation, or a strange color tone, consumers can tell if a video is low-budget,” says Gabriel. As a result, this may impact negatively on audience engagement. Producing quality video content may cost more than other communications activities, but the cost and time commitment can be truly worth it.

Don’t assume that because it’s a video, it’s automatically entertaining

Gabriel makes some important points:

“Too often, brands think that by creating a video, they’ve automatically made something interesting. But those of us who had to take a middle school health class know that video can all too easily be boring, or worse—uncomfortable. People generally give video two seconds before clicking away, especially on social platforms. If you don’t grab your audience within those two seconds, your video was just a giant waste of resources.

When creating video, you still have just as much responsibility to hook your audience with something they haven’t seen or heard before. Just make sure it’s something they want to be seeing.”

Bonus tip: Don’t assume video is the best solution, but Do use it as part of your larger, targeted communications strategy

Video is certainly on the rise and will be increasingly important and relevant in the future. But it certainly will not be the golden ticket or panacea for every context. Organizations should not be quick to jump on the bandwagon, but instead utilize appropriate strategies and channels that are suitable for their audiences and contexts.

In this article for Medium, Joshua Lasky explains:

“Great digital strategies are a mix of formats optimized for how audiences actually want to read, listen, and watch what you have to say. Before you publish on a subject, ask yourself if it would be easier for your audience to watch or read what you’re trying to communicate. Ask yourself whether a video should be the focus of, or a supplement to, your editorial coverage.”

 

 

 

Great writing tips for authors, bloggers, columnists & journalists

Writing for Inc.com, 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