Tag: content

How to conduct a great interview

February 14th, 2017   •   no comments   

You have to be all ears

Interviews are a rich source of content –  for your website, content marketing campaign or background research. Asking the right questions opens the door for the people who matter to your organization to tell their story: an employee talking about what makes their job unique, an expert sharing insight into the challenges of your industry or a satisfied customer telling us why they bring you their business. Whoever is answering the questions, interviews give a human face to your content.

Throughout my writing career I’ve conducted dozens of interviews. No matter who you’re talking to – from CEOs to engineers, scientists, medical professionals and people-on-the-street – each interviewee has a unique story to tell. Your job as the interviewer is getting them to share it. Sometimes the goal of the interview is just one good sound bite; other times you want to scratch the surface and discover the deeper story. No matter what the objective, each interview is different, as is each individual’s personality, story, mood and agenda.

One key quality of interviewing that should run throughout the discussion is empathy. The ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes will enable you to ask the right questions: the ones your audience wants answers to, and the ones the interviewee wants you to ask. That, combined with a certain killer instinct for probing questions, is the hallmark of the great interviewer.

Conducting a successful interview requires some advance planning and a lot of listening. Here are five tips to ensure you make the most of yours: read more

5 reasons to hire a writer

November 25th, 2015   •   no comments   
5 reasons to hire a writer

Let’s talk about that project that’s been sitting on your to-do list. It could be updating the company website, planning a content marketing campaign or writing a thank-you letter to the team. You could always write the copy yourself. You know the brief and besides, it’s not like writing is rocket science or even graphic design – both of which would obviously require a professional. That kind of thinking is why so many communications arrive late, lack focus or fail to provide an intelligible message.

Here are 5 reasons why you should consider hiring a professional writer for your next communications project.

  1. We put our thinking caps on
    You may have noticed that writers ask an annoying number of questions. Who is your audience? What is the news? Why are you communicating about it? Without clear answers to those questions, your words are just a bunch of characters strung together to form sentences. Writers put their thinking caps on before they start to write. They look at your project from an unbiased angle and ask all the right questions to make it shine.
  2. Because spellcheck
    No tool can replace a good pair of eyes and a sharp red pencil. Lest you think we writers are highfalutin intellectual types, let’s acknowledge the importance of editing and proofreading. This involves more than dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s – a good writer edits not just spelling and grammar but context. This will prevent you from making fatal communications errors like these.
  3. Return on investment
    No matter what the platform, every penny you invest in having a writer hone and polish your message pays big dividends. Perfectly written, engaging copy reflects well on you and your brand. And here’s a deep, dark secret: the services of a professional writer will not cost as much as you expect. In the grand scheme of things, writing is cheap. Far less than a rocket scientist.
  4. No one needs to know
    The reason they call it ‘ghost writing’ is that most professional writers work behind the scenes. Basically, we do the work and you take all the credit. PR writers like myself ghost for fellow communicators and top management, among others. We are a go-to resource when time and budgets and tight. And there is one very good reason for this…
  5. You’re better at something else
    Let’s face it: we’re all good at something. A few people are fortunate enough to be good at more than one thing. I know other communicators who are inspirational speech-writers and great presenters but who hate having to sit down before a blank page. Some of them are my clients. They come to me because my strength is the written word. Yours may be decoding data, managing a global team or selling ice cream to Eskimos. Whatever you do well or bring value to should be what you spend your time on.

I’ve got my thinking cap on now.

5 things blogging has taught me

May 12th, 2015   •   no comments   
5 things blogging has taught me

I am a writer. Ever since I was old enough to hold a pen, I’ve used it to put my thoughts on paper. From telling stories to selling widgets — you name it, I’ve written it.

As a writer who has honed her skills on just about every form of the art, I didn’t expect to learn much about the craft of writing from blogging. I was wrong. Since starting a personal blog in January 2013, my writing has improved immensely. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Blogging is a form of writing that requires a specific focus and edge. It is not enough to have something to say: sharing useful information with your audience is necessary but far from sufficient. You also need to share your personal point of view. Even if you are an expert in a particular field or niche, you need to get your point across in a voice that is uniquely yours.

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How cats won the internet

February 10th, 2015   •   no comments   
How cats won the internet

And what they can teach us about content marketing.

When it comes to grabbing attention online, we are all competing with cats. That is a fact that you are entitled to find offensive – but it’s a reality of the world wide web. Cats are the consummate content marketers. They manage to steal attention away from topics far more worthy of our time. They can upstage even the most sophisticated marketing launch. So how do they do it?

Here are 5 things about content we can learn from cats.

  1. Cats are entertaining
    Those feisty felines offer a click that rarely disappoints. You will never be bored by a cat. Either you will get to see them taken down a peg or two, or you will be forced to admire their inspired camouflage techniques, hunting prowess or unbearable cuteness.
  2. Cats are clever
    They have something to teach us. Their content not only entertains but informs. That is true value.
  3. Cats are cool
    They don’t try too hard to be clever. Or jockey for attention (like dogs). They just are. That’s authentic. And that’s one of the secrets to creating great content.
  4. Cats are timely
    They know how to wait. And when the time is right – they pounce! That impeccable sense of timing serves them well on the web where timing the publication of content can be critical.
  5. Cats are a little….subversive
    There you have the secret ingredient of cat-driven content. Subversiveness is the certain je ne sais quoi that fascinates us about cats and helps differentiate their brand. You know they’re up to something no good and that is the part of the draw. Good content offers something a bit different, an experience that veers away from the mainstream.

 

Additional links you may find helpful:

Ten-and-a-half thoughts about content marketing from The Writer

 

Bonus: Here’s a real life example of what we are up against. Why I am showing you this? Guess I’m a cat at heart.

The Moral of the Story

December 4th, 2014   •   no comments   
The Moral of the Story

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the fact that storytelling is making headlines:

 

Harness the power of storytelling!

How to use story to improve customer buy-in!

Top storytelling techniques to build your business!

 

If you’re like me, you’ve wondered: why is it suddenly okay to tell stories?

As a child, storytelling was frowned upon – unless it happened in the library, where you sat in strict silence, listening to an adult read a book. Or when you wrote a story as an assignment for English class. Telling stories was quite another matter.

“Somebody’s been telling tales out of school!” I remember being told when I ratted out one of my siblings. Being a tell-tale was not cool. Also heard: “That’s a tall tale if I ever heard one.” “Somebody has an active imagination!” (Not necessarily a good thing, judging by the looks exchanged between adults). The message? It was a short step from telling stories to perjury, prison and life as a hardened criminal.

So when did storytelling become acceptable? As an advertising copywriter back in the 1980s, any attempt to bring story to copy was tough. Long copy had gone out with David Ogilvy. Splashy art direction with short headlines ruled the day. As far as the marketers were concerned, the product was the hero of any ad; in retail it was often the price point itself. The consumer was the target market, the audience, and if he got involved at all he was often portrayed as the chump.

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Corporate Speak: Are you guilty?

October 31st, 2014   •   no comments   
Corporate Speak: Are you guilty?

We all do it: say ‘leverage’ when we mean use, talk about ‘granularity’ instead of detail, refer to deliverables, low-hanging fruit, moving targets, key learnings. But what about the more serious culprits? Where we use euphemisms like ‘headcount’ for people, ‘change management’ to suggest restructuring – which is not to say downsizing, efficiencies, or heaven forbid, job cuts.

It can be tough to avoid using buzzwords and jargon in the world of corporate communication. Part of our job in PR is getting tough messages out on behalf of our bosses and clients. And after all, a good catch phrase or a cliché can get an idea across faster than trying to invent something new. Can’t it? read more

My rule for creating content that delivers

June 18th, 2014   •   no comments   

One rule I try to live and work by is: ‘Always deliver on your promises.’ The bottom line is if you can’t deliver, don’t promise. This policy may not always win friends and influence people but it will definitely not make enemies or leave disappointed clients grumbling behind your back.

The same thing goes for effective communication. ‘Tis better to under promise and over deliver. Sound obvious? This can be a tough sell when it comes to marketing messages. I find people often all too willing to believe their own B.S. But if your product isn’t really going to change society, transform lives, or even amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, as Bogey said to Bacall in Casablanca, there’s little point in promising it will.

That’s even truer when it comes to creating content that delivers. My current bugbear is the post with the killer headline, designed to draw you in according to tried-and-true copywriting techniques:

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What’s all the buzz about content?

January 31st, 2014   •   1 comment   
What’s all the buzz about content?

Content is more than just another digital buzzword. Seems it’s just about all anybody talks about these days: content marketing, sticky content, how to write content that engages your audience.

But what is content, anyway? And why is it such a big deal?

There are different ways of defining content. As a student at university, I first encountered the philosophical debate around content versus form: which was more important to our appreciation of art? Later, when I worked in advertising, the debate resurfaced between us copywriters and the art directors who wanted to design an aesthetic layout with as few words as possible.  It all comes down to the same question: is it what you have to say or how you say it? The medium or the message? read more

How to tell a compelling story

November 26th, 2013   •   no comments   
How to tell a compelling story

A story is the shortest distance between you and your audience. How can you make storytelling work for your business or brand?

With the rise of social media, everyone with a smartphone has a picture to post, a point of view to blog about or a new link to share across the digital world. The explosion of so much content makes it all the more challenging for brands to cut through the clutter.

You can create compelling content that will engage your customers and keep them coming back. Content marketing has transformed the way brands interact with their customers – and storytelling is an essential tool for building relationships.  What’s more, your business is brimming with stories just waiting to be told. Stories that are relevant, timely and worthy of sharing.

To do this successfully requires a basic understanding of the art of storytelling. And that begs the question: how do you tell a compelling story? read more