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?

content marketing, copywriting, digital copywriting, technical writing, writing tips

Writing tips – how to master technical writing

Technical writing requires both an in depth understanding of technical concepts, combined with an ability to transform highly jargon ridden instruction into clear, concise and easy to read copy. As the world of content production changes, there is a growing demand for skilled technical writing across a range of industries. You want your content to exude authority and expertise, but, you still want people to understand it. The fact is, when you learn to create engaging technical content, you are gaining a better understanding of your product or service.

From our years working with technical wizards, engineering doctorates and mining authorities, we’ve picked up some tips for getting your technical writing right.

Identify your purpose

This may seem obvious to some, but it is surprising how many times people start rambling before they bed down what it is they want to say. Because technical writing requires such sophisticated knowledge and expertise, knowing your purpose becomes crucial. Technical experts often get caught up in the detail, the functionality or the system itself and consequently lose sight of what this content is meant to achieve.

Why are you creating this document? Where is it going? What do you want this document to achieve? At every stage of the writing process, come back to these questions and ensure that your content continues to address your overall purpose.

You’re the expert – your audience may not be (understand their level of knowledge)

Whether you’ve been creating compelling copy for 20 years, or you’ve never put pen to paper with any confidence, your audience is your number one priority. When you understand your audience, you can effectively cater your writing to meet their needs and capability. This is especially true for technical writing. Your content will often be filled with complicated explanations and functionality breakdowns and by knowing your audience, you can aptly adapt the level of explanation your content requires.

There is no doubt that you are the expert in your field. You need to understand the level of technical knowledge your audience has to ensure you are neither too simplistic nor too complicated.

Strip away that jargon and ambiguity

We often extol the virtues of stripping away your jargon to create effective content. No matter what you are talking about, getting caught up in the industry lingo will only serve to limit the value of your content. If you work in a technical industry, chances are, you’ve spent the better part of your career building your technical vocabulary and learning to understand the hundreds of complicated phrases and definitions that are specific to your industry.

Your audience will likely not have done the same thing. Where possible, simplify your language, and even adopt Plain English. Even other experts in your field will appreciate the clarity of your content.

Table it

Use visual representations to complement your explanations. Tables, charts and graphs can be an impactful way to illustrate your point and show your audience more clearly. You are likely dealing with highly convoluted concepts or practicality and it can be very easy to lose your audience as a consequence. Don’t put your audience to sleep with paragraph upon paragraph of heavy text. Don’t just tell them, show them.

Give credit where credit is due

It is critical that any technical writing you publish in your industry is referenced properly. Know where you got your information, and back it up wherever possible. There are two main reasons for this.

The first is that many incredibly hardworking experts spent a lot of time researching, studying or creating compelling information, and just as you deserve the credit for your hard work, so do they. Acknowledge, reference and credit your sources in a valid and tangible way – don’t throw to a Wikipedia link because you can’t be bothered to find the publication details of their book.

The second is purely self-satisfying. When you reference your sources properly in technical, as with academic writing, you are illustrating your knowledge, expertise and credibility. You will build trust and loyalty with your audience.

Give your content context

Many technical writers spend so much time explaining their concepts that they forget to give any context. Particularly when dealing with something that is highly confusing or convoluted, give an example. Show your audience a practical illustration of your explanation and you will find they connect with your content on a deeper level.

Ask for help

The interesting thing about technical writing is the added value of consulting both technical experts and objective communicators. You’ll naturally consult with other experts to ensure the technical specs are accurate. It is equally important with content, to engage a non-technical reviewer, writer or editor. Their objective eye can help pull out the salient points, clarify the complexities and check your overall language.

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

copywriting, editing, grammar, proofreading, writing tips

Top ten grammar hacks – seriously, can someone please explain that f*&^ing apostrophe?

Ever considered yourself the ultimate “grammar nazi”? Perhaps you’re wildly frustrated by the constant pedantic corrections of the obsessive “Oxford comma” user. Even those well versed in linguistic intricacies are sucked into hot debates about where and when sentence structure should be messed with. Is it the author’s prerogative? Are we just being lazy by not correcting them? I spent years being chastised for splitting infinitives, and using literally figuratively, so shouldn’t everyone else?

The wobbly fluid world of the English language is just not that easy to navigate, no matter how many by-lines you boast. As a team of writers, we are putting our hands in the air in joint exasperation.

We decided to pull together our top ten grammar hacks to help you get it right. We even touch on where to put that dreaded apostrophe (though we are acutely aware how many books have been devoted to attempting to get to the bottom of it).

Where to plonk the colon… or was that a semicolon?

Firstly, we love that there is a website devoted entirely to explaining this, with some excellent examples. As the website purports, there are many varied and appropriate differences between the old dot, dot and the comma, dot. The key thing to remember is that a colon is used to create a pause before new information is introduced (such as a list), whereas the semicolon is used to break up a sentence (kind of like a supercharged comma).

Be active… unless you mean to be passive

This one can be incredibly frustrating. The active voice is more direct. It gets to the point more efficiently. It also gives control to the actor in the sentence. It gives the author authority. We recommend that when you are writing for business that you try to stick to the active voice. The exception is style. The passive voice can be a lovely tool for subtly illustrating a point.

Choose a tense and stick to it

It must have been so easy for the educated in the days of yore. You knew exactly which tense fit in which situation. Today, things are a little more complicated. We experiment with tense depending on the purpose of our content. A lot of the time, it actually doesn’t matter which tense you choose. What matters is that once you’ve chosen that tense, you stick to it. That is of course until there is a reason to change.

Confused yet?

Where do I go? Or was that me?

Many grammar enthusiasts get wildly frustrated when a person uses ‘me’ instead ‘I’. Strangely, this writer’s pet peeve (yes, I am very aware I should not have one) is when people do the opposite. This is a classic case of overcorrection. People have clearly become so concerned that they’ll appear uneducated if they pop ‘me’ in the wrong spot that they avoid using it all together. As a general rule, you can use ‘me’ whenever something is happening to, for, with, at you. If you are the object of the sentence, then it is appropriate to use ‘me’. If you are the subject or actor in the sentence, then you should use ‘I’.

The same goes for whom. Sometimes, it’s who.

As Monica so hilariously pointed out in Friends all those years ago, sometimes it’s who. This is another situation where overcorrection has only served to confuse us all. The trick is knowing who is the object and who is the subject. Here’s a little clue for you: ‘me’ and ‘whom’ are generally used in the same spot. ‘Who’ is always the actor. “Whom” is the object.

How many commas do you really need?

There is really no hard and fast rule about commas. Some people love to break up their flow with a comma, some don’t. The trouble is, the comma serves so many purposes, it makes it hard to know which rule you should be adopting. As a result, it really comes down to style and intent. Commas can add a lovely rhythm to prose. They can also make the sentences sound choppy and disjointed. The key is to work out your approach and as always, stick to it.

How does one split an infinitive anyway?

For those totally lost, when a grammar enthusiast disdains that they have once again broken the cardinal rule of grammar, ignore them!  Sometimes, splitting an infinitive is the best way to effectively get your point across. What is an infinitive? It is the uninflected form of a verb. For example, to walk, to jump, to see. What people mean, when they talk about splitting that infinitive, is when you place an adverb (the word you use to describe the verb) in-between the ‘to’ and the action. If it makes sense, by all means, avoid doing this, if only to save yourself from having to explain. But, like many of these ‘rules’, it’s not nearly as steadfast as some would have you believe.

Seriously, where do I put that apostrophe?

Simon Griffin wrote the hugely entertaining book ‘F*&^ing Apostrophes’ in an attempt to clarify things. The apostrophe and its role in language can be so frustratingly confusing that Griffin is right to infer that it does inspire a foul-mouthed response. The most discouraging thing about apostrophes is that you do have to get it right. If you pop one in the wrong spot, this tiny punctuation mark has the power to change the entire meaning of your sentence. Oxford Living Dictionaries has a great piece on apostrophes, and if you are at unsure, we recommend you bookmark this page.

Who, that or which?

Here, catch this spanner! ‘Who’, ‘that’ and ‘which’ all have traditional roles. Depending on where you live, the rules will change. British English suggests one rule for ‘that’ and American English suggests another. What about us poor Australians, stuck in the middle of the debate again. One thing to remember is ‘who’ generally refers to people and ‘that’ and ‘which’ to things. It really comes down to a preference of style.

Whatever you do, be consistent

English is a changing beast. Rules that were hard and fast years ago, now hold little weight today. You can experiment with language to find the style and tone that suits your purpose. Play with rules and disrupt the status quo. The only rule we think everyone should stick to is consistency. Once you’ve made the choice, stick to it. If you jump between styles, you really will confuse your reader. So, unless that is the intent, please, be consistent.

 

content marketing, copywriting, storytelling, writing tips

The art of storytelling – what Joss Whedon teaches us about content creation

Weaving the right texture into a story can be one of the biggest challenges when creating great content. When you get it wrong, your credibility can fall flat and your audience will split faster than a freshly fertilised egg. The fact is, we learn, engage and connect through story – just ask the scientists. As storytellers by trade, our team here at Make it Peachy are inspired and influenced by some pretty spectacular storytellers. It’s their skill, style and approach that help us create content of the vast range of industries we do. Over the coming months, we plan to pick some of our favourite storytellers and explore just how they can make us all better content producers.

In honour of the 20-year anniversary of one of our favourite TV action dramedies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we have chosen Marvel’s current golden child, Joss Whedon.

 “The main function of the human brain, the primary instinct, is storytelling. Memory is storytelling. If we all remembered everything, we would be Rain Man, and would not be socially active at all. We learn to forget and to distort, but we [also] learn to tell a story about ourselves.”

Arguably one of the most progressive and dynamic storytellers of our time, Joss Whedon has thrilled, amused and enlightened us for more than two decades. The reason? He’s a damned fine storyteller. He has a knack for turning the spectacular into the relatable and vice versa. We’ve identified the TOP FIVE ways Whedon achieves impact.

Have something to say

“I still want to connect with people … The only thing I do know is that if I approach a story with that as my goal, I will not come up with a story. I will come up with a retread, I will come up with a commercial for storytelling.”

We often spend too much time searching for a way to connect with our audience. Don’t get us wrong, that relationship and connection is a key part of storytelling. What Whedon reminds us, though, is the importance of knowing what you want to say before the audience even comes into it. What are you compelled to write about? What is the purpose of your content? When you understand this, you give your story a trajectory that both you and your audience can follow.

Planning and structure are crucial

“I’m a structure nut. I actually make charts. Where are the jokes? The thrills? The romance? Who knows what, and when?”

When you look at storylines such as Buffy or the Avengers, you’ll notice how clear and simple their structure is. Because the structure is so clear, it leaves us as audience members room to engage emotionally with the deeper plot lines and subplots. As content marketers, storytellers or communicators, when the structure is clear, we have the freedom to explore more sophisticated techniques.

Understand your audience and deliver what they need

“Don’t give people what they want, give them what they need.” 

The key to engaging your audience, according to Whedon is the notion that creating the story we think that people want to hear will always end in disaster. Don’t speculate about what your audience wants from your content. Understand your audience to the point that you can design and deliver what they need.

Do the unexpected!

One of the coolest things about Whedon’s writing is his ability to catch us off guard. Don’t take the popular path just because you think you’re going to connect. Buzzwords can serve a purpose absolutely. But, find a new way to connect. Disrupt the status quo. Shock, excite and engage your audience.

Use humour where appropriate

“Humour keeps us alive. Humour and food. Don’t forget food. You can go a week without laughing.” 

Fans of his work certainly appreciate the humour that Whedon tosses into all his projects. Interestingly, his use of humour is a device to disrupt or make us think. It is just as pointless creating a piece of content full of purposeless jokes as it is to create content with no value at all. Embrace humour, and if you’ve stumbled across the ultimate one-liner that will nail your intro, then, by all means, throw it in. Just don’t use it as a crutch.

We could write a hundred more tips that we’ve learned from this master and will continue to learn. The fact is inspiring storytellers are the greatest teachers. Read about them, follow their advice and you’ll become a better storyteller by default.

 

content marketing, content production, copywriting, digital copywriting, ethics, research, writing tips

Newsworthiness versus total tone deafness – how to find the balance

In light of the recent rather tone deaf disastrous blunder, we thought it pertinent to talk about how to get your tone right with your content and content marketing. Seriously, how does a major successful and often entertaining brand get it so wrong? And if they’re getting it wrong, what hope do the rest of us have? Haven’t the experts been telling you all along that relevance and timeliness are fundamental to great content? We certainly have.

The fact is people get it wrong every day. And when they get it wrong, the social media storm descends without hesitation, ready to annihilate every wrong step in its path. It kind of makes you want to curl up and hide – don’t risk it you say. Don’t be crippled by that fear. Creating your own content and offering comprehensive and creative and relevant content solutions to your stakeholders is exactly what will set you apart.

Find your place in the current political or social climate is absolutely crucial for illustrating your value. Profiteering from that climate is stepping into dangerous territory. The key is balance.

Tapping into the local climate versus manipulating it

The world today is under a lot of upheaval. We’re all trying to forge a path amongst the uncertainty and to be fair to Pepsi, they were misguidedly attempting to tap into our burning need for unity right now. The fact is, connecting your message to the wider news and events is a clever tool to show you have both your finger on the pulse and your content is valuable and timely.

What often happens is that instead of embracing the news of the day and finding a place in it, many brands make the mistake of appropriating social, cultural and political catastrophes and inserting themselves where they were never welcome. Thus begins the onslaught of abuse and distrust. With the added bonus of today’s connectivity, your credibility, brand and reputation can be destroyed in mere hours after publication.

Finding an authentic connection

Keyboard warriors the world over are waiting unapologetically to pounce the minute they find a reason. And yes, some of these warriors are nasty trolls that deserve nothing more than a shake of the head and a turn of the cheek. Some of them, however, a genuinely and passionately fighting for what is right, just and authentic behaviour. They are waiting on the other side of that line to make damn sure you know when you’ve stepped over it.

So why test them? Keep your content relevant and respectful. As with any and all communication, the fundamental rule of useful and relevant content is knowing your audience. How will a story about International Women’s Day connect with both your brand and your audience? Are you making reference to a religious holiday? How is it consistent with your news? Is your reference considerate?

By all means, embrace the news of the day. It’s how we connect ourselves to others. But, understand the social ramifications of what you are doing.

You can still push boundaries without isolating people

So what, we just can’t be controversial or push boundaries? Isn’t boundary pushing the cornerstone of comedy and great storytelling? If we are hamstrung by the politically correct are we not just limiting the conversation? Are we not closing the debate?

Not at all! Don’t fall under the misplaced assumption that innovation and creativity have to be offensive. The fact is pushing boundaries is the bedrock of development and progress. Don’t ever lose sight of that, because when you do you lose your audience as quickly as if you’d offended them.

Step out on a limb by all means. The only way you can reach the perfect balance is by knowing where the line is, so embrace boundary pushing in the creative stage. With it you must also embrace self-regulation, conscientious creativity and social sensitivity and awareness.

That tightrope is thin and scary but with your purpose clear and your creatives both socially aware and contemporary you’ll navigate that balance.

Know your core values and stick to them

Another key to ensuring you keep your content on the right side of the line is to ensure that your content always aligns with your core values. If your values illustrate social justice, ethics and unity, then so too should every piece of content you or anyone associated with your brand produce. Of course, you’re going to make mistakes, and if you are being innovative, sometimes you will step over that line. Just remember, if and when you do, your response to that mistake is almost as important.

Find creative experts who will embrace your values

Surround yourself with like-minded souls. Your creative team should fully understand your values and help create content that is in line with those. If you are engaging experts, understand who they are, and ensure their values align with yours. You want to be able to trust your content producers implicitly with your brand. You want to know that they will build your reputation, credibility and brand in a positive and productive light. Choose content producers who value an ethical approach.

Be creative. Be innovative. Be funny. Be fabulous. BUT, be real. Be authentic. Be conscientious. Be kind!

Create by building others up.

copywriting, editing, proofreading, research, typos, writing tips

Research my old friend – the key to credibility

Well, that was embarrassing! By no means the most embarrassing thing to come out of the White House in recent weeks, but for us lowly Aussies, it’s a pretty blatant slap in the face. It just shows how a simple mistake, like not knowing someone’s name can wreak havoc with your credibility (although having said that I suppose that would have to assume Mr Spicer had some to begin with, which is up for debate). As a writer, it just reminds me how critical it is to have exemplary research skills.

What’s in a name?

While we all may take issue with some of the decisions our Prime Minister has made (or not made for that matter), Spicer referring to Malcolm Turnbull as ‘Prime Minister Trumbull’ has put a bad taste in our mouths. Is it that he deliberately got it wrong and is trying to make a statement that we don’t matter? Or is he so grossly incompetent that he can’t check his facts before addressing the media? Either way, it doesn’t sit well.

As a writer, I am always thrown new and bizarre topics and ideas. I am tasked with creating something engaging in any number of industries and fields and write it in the name of the experts. If I muck up the facts, not only I lose face, but so do my clients. What’s in a name? Your credibility that’s what.

Finding credible sources

Don’t get tarred with the unpleasant brush of ‘alternative facts’. Much like we all need to start investing in the validity of the news put in front of us, when you are producing content, make absolutely certain you know where your facts came from.

Don’t take my word for it. I cannot emphasise enough, the need to find credible sources. A little reminder, Wikipedia might give you your quick facts to get you started, but you know anyone can edit their pages, right? Whether you are writing news articles for major publications or editing a bit of content for someone’s website, if you use someone else’s content, please check it first.

book-1421245

Check your facts

Not only do you need to ensure that your sources are credible but more important than that – have you checked your facts? Have you checked your names? Your dates? You may have gone out of your way to find credible sources, interviewed fantastic people and profiled some fascinating event or product. But if you’ve mucked up the nitty gritty, the whole content piece is totally worthless! I’m not even exaggerating. It’s one thing to have the odd typo (even us experienced writers must admit that every now and then something slips by), it’s another thing entirely to call the Prime Minister of a country by the wrong name.

Research can be fun – really it can!

You know the thing I love most about what I do? That I get to step into someone else’s world for a day. For the time it takes me to produce that content, I get to become an expert. And for that time, I do. The cool thing is that other people’s worlds can be amazing, especially when you get to step back into your own at the end of the day.

To make something interesting to your readers, you’ve got to be interested yourself. The best way? Get in and learn. Before I worked for a metal finishing company, I had no idea how cool metallurgy can be. I mean, seriously, check this video out. Science is cool!

Don’t proof your own work

Whatever you do, whatever you write, wherever you plan to publish, don’t proof your own work. Yes, of course, you can ensure you minimise mistakes and check and recheck everything you write. Please remember, you are invested in what you create and sometimes you will miss things. Sometimes significant things. Don’t embarrass yourself the way that a media professional never should. Ask for help.

There are so many things I want to say about research. I am a research fiend. I actually enjoy finding new and interesting ‘actual facts’.

You know what? The last few months have been pretty confronting for a lot of people. There is so much about recent events that if I am honest, I am not even sure how to react. But you know what? I can say this! Do your F$#@ING research!

content marketing, content production, copywriting, digital copywriting, storytelling, writing tips

Create better content with these top tips

Create Great Content
Create Great Content

Australia has thrown itself into the pit of confusion with its latest election. The AEC are slowly determining who’s going to take charge of this fine country, while we all sit helplessly, twiddling our thumbs. Many Australians are disenfranchised, uninspired and unsure where to look to for great leadership. Don’t let your brand fall the way of our major parties. Understand your brand and communicate it with clarity and leadership. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better writer and communicator overall.

Know your message

We can all get caught up in what everyone else is saying and confuse our own message as a result. Much like some of the campaigns rolling around our screens and radios, marketers are seduced by the idea of pulling others down in order to big themselves up. This just pulls everyone into the gutter. It doesn’t matter what the other guy is doing. What do you have to offer? How is it unique or valuable? What do you want your clients, audience or readers to know about you? Answer these questions and you are off to a much stronger start.

Know your style

If your organisation has a communications and/or marketing team, you will likely already have a style guide. If you do not, I urge you to work with your team to create one. A style guide will inform your tone, your approach and your word choices. It can help even the most nervous of writers find the right path. If you don’t have a team to help design a style guide, I recommend you consider working with a consultant, such as Make it Peachy to design one for you.

Design a strategy ahead of time

As we know, there are so many different channels you can communicate through these days and it can be incredibly overwhelming. Sometimes you can get so caught up in the newest trends that you miss the chance to promote your service and product in the most effective way. Understand how the different platforms work, and design a communications strategy that is easy to follow. The Hub created a fantastic infographic outlining 25 great content marketing platforms for your brand. Don’t waste your time throwing your content in every direction, hoping for something to stick. Identify the platforms that best reach your audience and create a content adhesive that sticks every time.

Do your research

What is engaging your industry right now? What are they talking about? What are they debating? Do your research and understand where your industry stands. Where do your audience and clients stand? What are they interested in? How can you show that you offer this? If there is something newsworthy you want to comment on, make absolutely certain you have done your research. Making the time to do your research will keep you abreast of any developments in your industry and help you illustrate your knowledge to your clients.

Strip away the industry jargon

Whether you are designing a presentation, writing an email or creating original marketing content, remember to get rid of that jargon. I wrote a stand-alone blog on stripping away your jargon. As you know, you are the expert in your field, no one else is. The best way to engage people is to make your content as easy to consume as possible. Get rid of your technical lingo and shorten those sentences. Using jargon only serves to alienate people. You can show your expertise with far greater ease when you can explain your point using Plain English.

Don’t forget about your copy

Images and videos are fantastic ways to engage and seduce your readers. People love great videos, emotive pictures, and informative infographics. Make sure you use them where you can. They are a great way to grab your audience. In fact, while researching for this blog, I came across this amusing little video of a professor’s explanation of marketing.

However, ensure you back that up with some quality copy. Your choice of words explains your message and demonstrates your knowledge. Don’t flood your content with images and videos if you can’t back them up with engaging copy.

Educate yourself and your team

You may be the expert. You may have an extraordinary team and some socially progressive, financially sensible policies. The trouble is, if you don’t know how to get that across, you could end up with a hung parliament, or worse, not enough of the market share to actually affect change. If you don’t have the writing or presentation skills you need, don’t wing it – learn. There are thousands of courses around the country that offer up to date advice, tips and tools for you to become a better communicator. If you are looking for writing training, Make it Peachy offers a range  of courses and I can even design a personalised course for your team.

If in doubt, ask for help

If you aren’t confident that you can create engaging content, don’t do it. Talk to your communications and/or marketing team. If you don’t have one, engage a consultant. The only thing worse than not creating any content is creating terrible content. Don’t assume your clients will know you’re passionate and inspiring. Show them that you are.

writing for business
content production, digital copywriting, editing, proofreading, typos, writing tips

Writing tips for non-writers: writing for business

writing for business
Writing for business

Would you like to know how to write purposefully, authentically and effectively in your business? Understanding how to best communicate with your stakeholders can improve business, build credibility and foster excellent relationships. I have plucked a handful of key steps you can take to guarantee an improvement in your writing skills.

Identify a purpose

What is the purpose of your content? Is it internal or external communications? Is it marketing or informative? There is no point spending hours and resources creating content if you don’t know why you are creating it. There are many reasons you might choose to create content, and taking the time to nut out exactly why you want this content will be invaluable to you. It will save time in the long run and will help inform where you want to use the content.

Know where you want to publish your content

Deciding where you want to publish your content should absolutely affect what you produce. Is this content for the web? Is it an annual report for board members? Is it an article for print? Is it an email to a client or colleague? You should take a different approach for each platform. Know ahead of time where you want to publish your content and use that to guide your approach.

Generally speaking, writing for business requires a professional and approachable tone. Be direct, be simple and be clear. If your business has a style guide, you can follow that guide for the right approach.

Identify your call to action

Once you know the desired outcome of your content you have identified your call to action. Make that call clear. Identify it early and always return to it. If any content that you’ve created does not support your call to action – is it necessary?

Know your style

Designing a consistent voice for your business is vital. If you haven’t already, engage a communications specialist, either internally or externally and create a style guide now. This document will help you and your colleagues create consistent, on point, on-brand content for every platform.

Remember to create a guide that includes all the platforms on which you will be conducting business including but not limited to:

  • Emails
  • Reports (external and internal)
  • Website
  • Blog or online articles
  • Newsletters
  • Brochures
  • Social Media
  • Overall printed style
  • Overall digital style

Save your templates

If you have written a great email, or you’re particularly proud of a report you’ve produced, save it. Ensure that you design templates as part of your style guide. This will save time and guarantee a degree of consistency.

Many people do no have experience writing, yet their jobs require writing. Make it easier for them and yourself. Design templates that are easy to follow and save them.

You’ve gotta accentuate the positive

Starting a piece of content with something you can’t do just reminds people what you can’t do. Where possible always lead the focus back to what you can do. Using optimistic language engages your reader on a confident and positive level. Leading with what you can do intrinsically instills your reader with confidence in your ability to do what you need to.

Use the active voice wherever possible. It saves time. It is more direct. It gets your point across in the most efficient way. Unless you are making a specific point, there is no place for a passive voice in business writing.

Get rid of your jargon

When you’re in an industry full of jargon, it’s often difficult to simplify your language and create engaging and clear content. Read my earlier blog for tips on how you can KISS your jargon-filled copy goodbye.

Check it once then check it again.

Pay particular attention to names, titles, gender and dates. By making a mistake this simple you can almost certainly lose a degree of credibility from your reader. Check your facts and then check them again.

Make sure you haven’t made any silly and obvious spelling or grammatical errors. You can refer back to this spelling and grammar checklist for some tips. Don’t just rely on the internet to check your work. Check your content and then check it again.

Ask someone to proofread your content.

Check it one more time.

Ask for help

If you’re still unsure, ask for help. If you don’t have a communications specialist in-house, consider engaging someone like me to help you with your business content.

There are some great courses out there. For a personalised writing training course for your business, get in touch with Make it Peachy for a free consultation.