communications tips, content marketing, content production, copywriting, editing, grammar, proofreading, storytelling, technical writing, writing for the web, writing tips

Spring Clean – dump these five common mistakes for sharper content

We actually went out one day last week without layers – spring is definitely on its way. Even if it’s taking its time. As we all whip out the cleaning products in an attempt to spring clean, we thought we’d pick our five top content pitfalls. These pitfalls are mistakes even we, seasoned writers, fall for. So, join us at Make it Peachy, and spring clean your content for greater impact today.

Squash the temptation to over decorate

I am a naturally effusive person. It is a character trait that has served me well in business and my personal life. I’m also a card-carrying logophile. There is nothing more exciting as a writer than finding the perfect string of words to convey your intent. As a consequence, I am always fighting my instincts to dress up my sentences with as many descriptors as I can dream up. Adjective here, adverb there, my default is to overdecorate.

While long expressive sentences have their place, try to avoid them. People are reading your content for information. Give them that information as directly and simply as you can. Sure, if you find a lovely turn of phrase, don’t be afraid to throw it in, but don’t give your readers extra work.

Avoid those unnecessary exclamation points

As the emergence of emoticons has illustrated, tone can be painful to convey. We’ve all been there. You open a work email from a colleague and they’ve answered every question and addressed every problem yet you walk away feeling totally offended. In a bid to avoid offending others, many of us have resorted to excessive punctuation. Not a great move in business.

Overusing the exclamation point may convey your enthusiasm, but it can also diminish your credibility. When you’re communicating with colleagues, clients or customers on a professional level, tone is crucial. Think about what you’re saying. Are there any obvious alternative connotations? Can you reword your content to make it simpler? Don’t assume a level of intimacy until it has been established.

Don’t leave your readers hanging

We’ve all been conditioned to think that the ultimate cliffhanger is the best seduction. Serial storytelling has sucked us all in at some point. The trouble is, when it comes to effective storytelling and content writing, leaving your audience on a cliffhanger is more likely to annoy them. There is a fine line between suspense and frustration and it’s generally better just to avoid it.

You don’t want your audience to want to skip ahead. You want them to relish everything you give them. Make sure every piece of information you give them is useful and valuable.

Get rid of your clickbait

For those unfamiliar with the term, clickbait is the manipulative tool some businesses adopt to seduce readers into clicking on their content. They pick a deeply sensational heading to ensure maximum click-through and then fail to deliver on authentic content. As appealing as those numbers may be, they are not accurate.

As we all become savvier digital readers, our patience wears thin when we feel short-changed. Don’t do that to your audience. By all means, be creative and controversial with your headings. However, if you want a satisfied audience, ensure that you walk the talk.

Stop trying too hard

We know the world is flooded with content, good and bad. We also know that the only way to reach your audience is to ensure your content adds value to the pool. Those two things can sometimes lead us to try too hard. You don’t have to be the funniest, most original or quirkiest every time. What you do need is authenticity.

You know your business and/or purpose. You know what value your information will add. If you find a unique way to communicate that, then fantastic. If you don’t, don’t despair. Create useful, real and honest content that people can genuinely connect with.

We all clutter our content with the above, and I am no exception. Rejuvenate your content this spring by weeding out these pitfalls and you’ll find your content blossoms.

business tips, communications tips, content marketing, copywriting, editing, storytelling, writing for the web, writing tips

What sporting movies can teach us about writing for business

This writer is not a great follower of competitive sport. Don’t get me wrong, I love to play, and if I’m honest I do love to win. The trouble for me is watching. As the UK Premier League Football (yes, soccer) season kicks off, I begin my nine-month TV compromise with the husband. As he immerses himself in the early season drama and politics I am quietly drifting off thinking about my all-time favourite sporting movies. The romance of Fever Pitch, the determination of Remember the Titans, the calculated yet extraordinarily inspired planning of Moneyball. All wonderful stories told beautifully through the lens of competitive sport.

I am reminded just how useful a tool this genre can be in communicating authentic, engaging and emotive stories. I am reminded of how a well-oiled team is always greater than the sum of its parts. What’s that go to do with writing you ask?

When it comes to creating exceptional content, you might have the juiciest salacious news, but if you relay that news incorrectly, you can lose your audience in a second. On the same page, like Brad Pitt’s Oakland A’s, you could have some relatively dry, technical information, but when you structure that content right, you can win audiences you thought were out of your league.

Not sure how to ensure your content hits the ball out of the park? Learn from some of my favourite sports movies of all time.

Moneyball – Get the structure right and win

Moneyball is such an unexpectedly great lesson in structure. We follow the journey of Billy Beane, the washed-up player/coach as he discovers just how idiotic it can be to pin your entire strategy on the skill of one or few. With the help of economics graduate Peter Brand, he learns that by understanding the true value of every player, he could build a much stronger team.

How does this translate to content writing?

You may not be sitting on the most seductive product or content. What you have is a unique set of skills, knowledge and services and when you understand each piece and its overall value, you can construct a story, article or content piece that highlights those things and suddenly you’ll find you reach your desired audience.

Remember the Titans – Embracing diversity will always set you apart

What a scarily relevant story to think about today. In a world where diversity should be part and parcel, we have been recently horrified by the disgraceful behaviour of few. This throwback film from 2000, is a inspiring reminder of how diversity can add true value to a team and outcome.

How does this translate to content writing?

Research overwhelmingly shows us that diversity in business increases productivity, morale and reputation. You can illustrate this in the way you talk about your business. Create content that explores diversity, challenges your unconscious bias and promotes equality.

Fever Pitch – Show your passion inclusively and your audience will follow

Adapted from the passionate semi-autobiographical book by British author Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch is the story of how one sports obsessed super fan negotiates love and romance outside his passion. He must learn to use and share his love of the sport with the woman he loves or risk losing them both.

How does this translate to content writing?

You are the expert. You know the value your product or service brings. When talking about your service, product or industry be careful to translate your passion in an inclusive way. Find a way to connect your audience to your content and share your passion that way.

Field of Dreams – If you build it they will come

This is a slightly bizarre eighties iconic tale of a corn farmer who is inspired to build a baseball field in his corn field. It might sound odd to the uninitiated, but it’s actually a truly delightful story about believing in yourself and pursuing your dreams regardless of how impossible they may appear.

How does this translate to content writing?

For us, this is a lovely reminder that nothing happens if you don’t try. Things may seem impossible, but when you start creating, unimaginable things can happen. Your elusive audience, potential client or partner won’t just come to you blindly. When you create extraordinary content – you’ll attract extraordinary things.

The Mighty Ducks – When you know what drives you, you’ll inspire others

For any child of the nineties, this is a sporting classic. A lonely lost lawyer is ordered to rediscover his love of ice hockey and in turn, inspire a ragtag group of misfit tweens. It’s a story about both passion and teamwork and as cheesy as it may be to some, its message is pretty timeless.

How does this translate to content writing?

The two greatest takeaways for writing great content are:

  1. Connect with your audience by showing your genuine connection to your content and product overall
  2. What drives your audience? Find a way to connect on a personal level and you’ll find you make much richer and more robust connections.

So, there you have it! The invaluable lessons some of my favourite sporting movies have taught us about writing great content. Now, to convince the husband that re-watching The Mighty Ducks is pretty much the same thing as watching the next live football match. Right?

business tips, communications tips, content marketing, copywriting, editing, ethics, productivity, running a business, Uncategorized

Why ethics is so important to us

I was having a chat with some peers about writing recently and the topic of ethics popped up. We’d all been trained at reputable institutions and most of us had sat through at least one dedicated subject around ethics. What we learned in those classes varied enormously. Sure, we were all taught what our legal obligations were. But it was what we were taught to do with this knowledge that varied. There were recollections of teachers who actively encouraged and guided us to find the best legal route to disruption. Ethics, it seemed played no part.

As a passionate writer, I have always believed that my own personal code of ethics comes above all other obligations. I will never compromise those for a job, win or a handful of clicks, and I ensure that all of my writers are the same. There are people that win work over me because of it, and being scooped in certain circumstances is part and parcel of maintaining one’s moral compass. You know why? Sometimes cheats win – but in my book, that’s never a reason to join them.

As a business, we will never sink below our standards for a quick buck and here are five practical reasons why that’s a good thing.

We have enough grey in the world – it’s the right thing to do

With all that has been happening around the world, so many of us are searching for positivity. Whether it’s the emergence of bigots and racists, rearing their shockingly normal looking heads, or our leaders failing to make the right choices for all our citizens, there is a lot of hate and manipulation in this world. Let’s not add to it!

We are drawn to sensational things and as writers, it can be very very seductive to twist and shape our stories to highlight this. Finding the dirty sexy angle, no matter who it might hurt, or creating inaccurate content to pull in the hits, seems to be the norm for some content producers. But you know what? If you’re a great storyteller, with your audience’s best interest at heart, you can engage and entertain, and do the right thing.

You actually attract a higher quality clientele

Who wants to be in a working environment where your judgement is constantly being called into question? When you show yourself to be ethical in business, you attract like-minded people. It may seem like a stupid idea when you turn your back on a potential client, who is encouraging shady behaviour. In the long run, however, you are holding yourself and your business to a higher standard and you will find that businesses with the same values will see this and be more likely to work with you in the long run.

When it comes to writing, manipulating the truth for one quick win, only goes to show that you are willing to sacrifice your own integrity for a short term gain.

Your reputation and credibility are enhanced

There is nothing more valuable in business than your reputation and credibility. Once lost, they can be near impossible to claw back. In this digital age of social media warriors, this could not be truer. Online reviewing, social networking and online forums have suddenly given a voice to the masses. Sidestepping the trolls, who can cause unparalleled chaos in their wake, angry, disgruntled or wronged clients can easily be as damaging.

When you hold your business operations to a higher standard, all you are doing is building a positive reputation. When you create informative, authoritative, engaging and accurate content, your audience, clients and potential partners will know it.

Business and personal relationships that include trust are stronger

Customer loyalty is crucial in business. Ensuring that your clients remain your clients for as long as their needs match your service is the key to a fruitful business. The key to loyalty is building trust. You want your clientele to be able to rely on the service or quality of product you provide. When they know you’re reliable, they’re more likely to stick with you.

Practice responsible, reliable and transparent business, and your relationships will be stronger and more robust in the long term. When it comes to writing, I ensure every client or partner we work with know exactly where we stand at all times, that way they can rely on our expertise and our ethics.

My team actually appreciate it and work harder

A lovely added bonus to conducting business this way is productivity. My team is far more committed in the knowledge that we don’t cheat, lie or weasel our way through business. They know that I will always treat them fairly and with respect and as a consequence, they treat me and my business with that same level of respect. They work hard because they know I work hard. They know they can hold me to the same high standards that I hold them.

The fact is, there is always an ‘easy’ way to do things. While it may initially show you short term benefits, it’s not going to stick. At Make it Peachy, we ensure every project we take on is delivered to the best of our ability. We are honest, transparent and ethical in business and expect the same from everyone we work with.

 

business tips, communications tips, content marketing, copywriting, editing, writing for the web, writing tips

Writing Tips – create engaging content for the web

For the time-poor among you (so basically, everyone), we’ve put together a slideshow, with some great tips for writing for the web. If you’re new to digital content, have a read and as always, if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask!

MiP writing for the web

business tips, communications tips, content marketing, content production, creativity, productivity, running a business, writing tips

Comic-Con – A lesson in business and communications

It’s that time of year again – where the once geekiest event of the calendar has become the go to celebrity event of the North American summer. Enter San Diego Comic-Con 2017. Stars from across the globe take a break from their vacations and summer projects to give the people an extraordinary experience.

In 1970, the convention was held in the basement of one of the dodgiest hotels in town. In 2017, the convention, and its sub-cons have descended upon the city, with somewhere in the vicinity of 200,000 visiting fans. That doesn’t come close to the number of enthusiastic followers around the world who have bought, booked and signed on for exclusive digital content.

How did such a humble event become so popular? What can we, as business owners learn from their ascent? As avid con nerds, the team at Make it Peachy have plucked the top five things we have learned about business and communications from San Diego Comic-Con.

We all just want to feel connected

One of the most salient messages of so many comic books and science fiction novels, films and TV shows is the notion of feeling included. Traditionally creators and fans of this style of entertainment have been outsiders; nerds searching for their own sense of belonging. Naturally, a lot of their content is designed around these same themes. Think X-men, or even Superman, the ultimate outsiders, desperate to feel included. The cool thing is that because Comic-Con created an event designed to make people feel included, more and more people have found their voice and place.

This is a great lesson for us. Create content, services, products with the intention of including, rather than excluding. When your audience feels connected, they will return to you and bring their friends.

If you build it, they will come

Comic-Con and its brother and sister events around the US are designed to connect their audiences to the latest, greatest and most interesting activities, products and events. They do their research and understand what their audience is looking for. With that research, they build more and more impressive events every year. They’ve created something that more and more people want to be a part of, and now cosplaying and mainstream blockbuster fans stand side by side in applause for an event well created.

Research. Understand. Create. Engage.

When you create a product, a piece of content or a service people genuinely want, they’ll come to you. But, as Joss Whedon said, “Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”

Be confident without being cocky

Back in 1970, the founders of Comic-Con were wildly searching to nab some impressive industry types to add a little spark to the convention. According to Rolling Stone, they’d tracked down Sci Fi legend and Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury and were angling for him to attend. When Bradbury agreed, for the scary equivalent fee of US$30,000, the boys were stuck. Still, in its infancy and without a real purpose, they were in the unique position of establishing the convention as a not for profit – so without thought, that’s what they became. Bradbury came for free. They saw an opportunity and jumped, adapted and changed to get where they needed to.

It’s so important to be confident in your capability. If something seems out of your realm, don’t immediately close your mind to it – learn, adapt and work to expand your capability.

Embrace change

Comic-Con was built by a group of comic book dreamers, intent on creating an engaging experience for fans. What that involved as evolved a thousand times in the last 47 years and as a result, its popularity just keeps rising. One sad story told in the Rolling Stone article is that of founder Sheldon Dorf. Dorf was instrumental in networking and schmoozing the right people to get the convention off the ground. Many nod to him as the creator and ideas behind it all. But Dorf was also a jealous man, set in his ways and approach. As Comic-Con grew, Dorf isolated himself and refused to change. While the convention soared, Dorf licked his wounds and walked away.

We all need to remember that times, needs and ideas change. We know from the giant splash made by social media and digital communications that people change the way they communicate. As business owners, we need to be able to move with those needs. Just because the same old has worked until now, does NOT mean it will tomorrow.

The cyclical nature of trends – keeping up with the…who even knows who to keep up with anymore

The final lesson we are taking away from the success of Comic-Con is about awareness. Awareness of the ever changing, ridiculous and cyclical nature of trends. It’s important to understand what is trending and where. It’s important to understand what people are following and illustrating your knowledge of those things. But you know what else? Trends come and go. Comic-Con has built itself on the notion that fandom, whatever form it takes, is valid and cool in some way.

By all means, find a way to connect with your audience. Let your passion and your interests and your knowledge guide that. Authenticity matters more than manufactured trends.