Let’s Take the “Corporate” out of Communications Writing

Today I attended an awesome Ragan Communications workshop on advanced writing and editing for corporate communicators with Mark Ragan (@MarkRaganCEO) and Jim Ylisela (@jpyjr). The day was jam-packed with advice, interaction, examples and materials. Here a just a few takeaways from a must-attend event for anyone that is writing comms materials.

(1) People don’t necessarily care about our stuff. There is so much competition and audiences are suffering from information overload. Your target’s attention span is shorter than ever, which is why your writing must distinguish itself from the “rest”.

(2) It’s time to get past all the corporate “boilerplate” stuff. You can tell when a piece has been written by committee. There are often too many approvers and too much meddling and negotiation. “We’re fighting all the wrong battles – the only battle we should be fighting is the battle for readership.”

(3) Out with the boring, in with the authentic. Your writing should be conversational, user-focused, visual and stripped of corporate speak. Inject personality into your writing to make something that is unreadable, readable.

(4) Our job has extended far beyond what it was. With organizations taking on a publishing role, we have a chance to really have an influence. Corporate communicators are brand journalists, advisors and teachers. On the other hand, “we have to stand up and make some noise” and go up against “the way we’ve always done it.”

(5) Simplicity and clarity is key. We need to be more human in our writing and stop listening to internal clients with misguided agendas. Good writing is the way you talk with your family and friends. Your writing should be stripped of jargon and corporate speak.

(6) Write awesome headlines, leads and quotes. These should entice and pull in your readers. They should answer the question: “what’s in it for me?”. Headlines should be specific and sexy. There is no reason why they can’t look like the ones we see on newstands.

(7) If you don’t ask questions, you won’t get info. Sometimes we have trouble writing because we just don’t have good enough materials. So much of what we are writing comes from the top. We need to find out what it actually means to those that are coming to work everyday and inject life into what we are writing.

(8) Be a reporter in your organization. First, ask key questions: What’s the urgency? Is it worth our audience’s time? Who are the key players? What are the big issues? How do I get plugged in? Follow the paper trail and get info on the history and context to produce a richer story.

(9) Show me, don’t tell me. Use examples and people in your stories. Take something abstract and show readers what it actually looks like. Find a human in your organization that we can care about and root for.

(10) Packaging matters. Think about the best way to convey your material. Photos, infographics, videos, quotes and different formats can add value to your writing and make it more interesting. Make sure to look at all the different ways you can use to get people’s attention.


Alternatives to the traditional article

It’s no secret that audiences are increasingly consuming concise, media-rich content. This tendency toward shorter bits of information means we must work harder to make our branded content more interesting. 

With the array of tools, formats, and applications available, content marketers are looking beyond the traditional article and using creative ways to tell their stories. These variations can highlight different aspects of our content and make it more intriguing and easier to repackage it for sharing across multiple channels. 

If you haven’t already started rethinking the old-school article and blog post, here are a few formats you can use to diversify the content on your website:

  • Lists. I love lists. They are easy to scan, useful, and to the point. I’m pretty sure almost any organization can use lists to deliver their content in one way or another.
  • How-to pieces. People often venture to your website to solve a problem. How-to pieces that show customers what they need step by step can efficiently meet their needs.
  • Q&A pieces. A timely Q&A with a third-party expert can add credibility to your company website and mix things up format-wise.
  • Infographics. Infographics are a great way to show stats and visually convey material that might otherwise be boring. They are also a convenient format to display a lot of info in one place.
  • Videos. Studies showthat customers are drawn to video because it transmits rich information and emotion. Short segments can liven up your page and add a human element to your content.
  • Photo and caption. Instagram. Need I say more? A photo with a caption (or hashtag) is a great way to quickly share something cool about your organization and its people. You can make it more interactive by inviting your audiences to share theirs.
  • Opinion/contributor pieces. Customers increasingly like engaging with the brands and organizations they love. Invite customers and/or third-party experts to submit pieces related to your brand. It’s a great way to get them involved and collect interesting content.
  • Storify. Including a Storify feed in your articles enables you to collect insights and quotes from your social media connections. It can showcase the social “pulse” of an event or topic that surrounds your organization.

There are lots of creative ways to convey what your organization is doing. The important thing is to consistently feed your audience’s desire for unique content and find innovative ways to tell your story. 

This post first appeared on PR Daily: http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/16436.aspx