Guest blogger: Tony Spencer-Smith is managing partner of the Sydney corporate editorial consultancy Express Editors (www.expresseditors.com). He is an experienced corporate writing trainer, an award-winning novelist and former Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest magazine. He trains regularly for the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA).
Everyone knows that content is the new focus for both external and internal communications. But generating engaging, relevant and valuable content is a big step up from boring PowerPoint presentations, clichéd marketing material and humdrum media releases.
It takes good writing. And it means breaking the old corporate mould and replacing it with copy that is much more like high-quality journalism.
Here are seven tips to help you on your way to vibrant content:
Take charge. Many attempts to write good pieces fail because all sorts of people weigh in with comments and editing changes. That’s the way exciting, meaningful, coherent copy turns into stilted committee-speak. You need to fight for the integrity of your copy – politely, of course.
Be clear. Good content needs to be an easy read. Not nursery-school easy; your style should be sophisticated. But cut the jargon, the long sentences, the vague phrases that are like a bog your readers sink into.
Be real. You can make interesting material exciting, but boring is boring. You need a beady eye like a journalist assessing news: is this something really worth covering? And with marketing content: you will ruin this clever way of engaging your customers if it looks as though it is all a disguised plug for your products.
Give them the facts. Prove your case. Show people you know your topic with well-chosen facts. That doesn’t mean burying them in data – then you might as well go back to PowerPoint.
Decide what the story is. What are you really trying to say in this piece? When people hear things, they try to put them in context by asking “what’s the story here.” Being able to answer that in a few sentences is the key to a good structure. Be a story teller, whether it is a brief anecdote or the way your thought leadership piece draws the reader on with a strong narrative thread.
Bring back emotion. There are serious limitations to the effectiveness of objective argument accompanied by lots of bullet points and graphs. People include emotion in all their decisions. Your writing needs to tap into that – and there are lots of subtle ways to do that.
Be stylish. A top blogger or columnist or magazine writer didn’t get there by using language in a flat, droning manner. For good content, you need to have an ear for language, explore metaphors, surprise with contrast, and generally spice up your words.
To sum up: a focus on content is great if it encourages people to write readable, influential copy that enriches and changes the reader. But to do that means it is not business as usual – you’ll need to grab the chance to really flex your writing muscles.
If you would like to learn more about how to write persuasive and sophisticated content, you can enrol now for Winning Words: writing to engage and influence, a full day PRINZ course in Auckland on 29 May 2015.