Before you hit ‘publish’, proofread your work by checking these 8 things

You may have just written a great piece of content and are ready to share it with the world, but if it hasn’t been proofread, stop the presses! Proofreading is essential for all written communications in a professional context, though non-professionals should also incorporate it into their writing regimen. Read more

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.

Featured image: http://klarititemplateshop.com/, 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

#WritingTips: The first question to ask before you write

Here’s a quick scenario: a nonprofit communications department realizes that its organization’s website lacks engaging stories, a key element to any effective communications strategy. “We need more stories!” declares the communications manager.

Following this declaration, the senior communications officer quickly tasks Bob the intern with writing an engaging piece. Bob, new to the nonprofit writing game, is somewhat perplexed: “Where do I start?”, he asks himself.

Bob should start by asking one important question: “What do I want this story to achieve?”

Before writing any nonprofit story, or any story for that matter, it’s essential to clarify the objective of the story. Is it to mobilize funds? To raise awareness about your organization’s mission or strategy? To get people engaged on social media? To get people to volunteer, vote or attend your event?

Whatever the reason, the story will be made all the more effective if the purpose is clarified from the start, including how it ties in to your overall communications and content strategies.

If the purpose of the story isn’t clear, and if it does not fit into the grander scheme of things (i.e. your strategies), you shouldn’t be writing it. Writing aimlessly prevents you from writing well and undermines what the story can achieve.

Writing for his Empower Nonprofits blog, Jeremy Koch explains how this can negatively impact on your audience:

“Put simply, if you don’t know what you want your audience to do after listening to your story then they’re not going to know what to do either.”

Read Koch’s article to explore three ways in which the intention of your story impacts how you tell your story, and why this matters.

Five formats to help you go from wordy to engaging content

Sure, sometimes it’s necessary to publish a long article or report. But most of the time, wordy content will simply turn your readers off.

In today’s attention economy, what you need is content that is accessible, digestible and engaging. Writing for Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog, media relations expert Peter Panepento shares creative alternatives to traditional narrative approaches. Read more below or check out the full article here.

1. A Q&A instead of a profile

Panepento writes:

“…while profiles can humanize your work and provide readers with an easy way to see your organization’s impact, you don’t have to rely on a narrative structure to tell these stories.

Consider instead a Q & A (or question-and-answer) format. Q & A’s offer readers an accessible way to learn about a person and his or her opinions.

Paired with a strong photograph, they can help you tell a story quickly — and they are often easier to put together than a long narrative.”

2. A timeline instead of the standard ‘about us’ text

“You’ll make it much easier for your key audiences to digest and understand your story,” says Panepento.

3. A case study instead of an impact story

Noting that case studies “can be presented as short, bite-sized pieces or long, downloadable whitepapers”, Panepento adds that they “make it easy for readers to understand the impact of your work.”

4. A quiz instead of an article

Panepento highlights the work of the American Red Cross to illustrate how a quiz can be an excellent option:

“The American Red Cross isn’t just about disaster response. Part of its mission is to help the public prevent and prepare for emergencies.

Rather than simply providing written guides and articles about these topics, the organization has developed a series of online quizzes that give readers a way to think about and digest information that will help them prepare for emergencies.

By giving them a tool that allows them to engage with the information, readers are more likely to access and retain the information.”

5. A checklist instead of an article

“Rather than simply writing about how to prepare for or accomplish something, break it into a list and present it as something readers can use,” says Panepento.

 

Featured photo source: Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog