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, 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