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

Before you begin – top ten questions to ask yourself before you start creating content

We work with some of the most interesting professionals around Australia. Some are avid communicators, enthusiastic marketers and lovely storytellers. Some are clinical experts, with an awe-inspiring level of knowledge of their industry, who have no idea how to impart that knowledge. No matter who you are or what your piece of content is meant to achieve, we always, always, always implore you to prepare! Get to know your content before you create it. Below are the top ten questions we ask our clients at the beginning of every project. They’re a great way for you to get your head around your audience and your overall purpose – two things you need to create great content.

What is your service/product and what has changed?

We know you know who you are, but forcing yourself to put it into words will help guide you to be clear on your overall purpose.

How does this piece of content fit into your overall story?

Do you have a content strategy? Is this content to stand alone? Where and when will you publish or share this content? This can help to identify where you may have strategic gaps and inspire you to bed things down.

What is your purpose? Inform? Compel? Change views?

Know and understand from the outset what you want from your content. If it’s just to inform, why have you chosen the platform you have. If it’s to compel action, what is that action and how will the platform you’ve chosen help this along?

Who is your audience/potential audience?

Get to know your audience as well as you can. Who are they? What drives them? How will your content add value to them?

Does your audience have an intimate understanding of who you are and your offering?

For those in a business or technical environment, this question is key. How much does your audience know about your offering? What is their technical knowledge and capability? Knowing this will help you pitch your language at the right level.

What does your audience currently think of your business and what do you want them to think?

Knowing where your audience stands and comparing it to where you want them to stand is a great way to give your purpose context.

What are three things you want your audience to take away? Call to action

Summarising your content down to three points will help you define and refine your purpose and get clarity on your call to action.

What is the tone of your content? Friendly? Casual? Technical? Formal?

Does your brand have a style guide? If not, do you know the kind of tone you want? It’s important to find that tone before you begin because it will inform how you communicate your message.

If you could describe your offering in three words what would they be?

This is another great way to help you refine your message.

What has been successful/a disaster in the past and how does this content reflect that?

It’s incredibly valuable to understand your past successes and failures in communication. What content has resonated with your audience and why? How are you adapting your current content to continue this relationship?

Answering these questions can help give your content structure, shape and purpose. When you combine this with great storytelling, you can develop compelling content.

 

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.

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, 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.

copywriting, editing, proofreading, sub-editing, typos, writing tips

Don’t let silly mistakes spell the end of your credibility

We’ve all been there. You’ve spent hours working on the perfect pitch or article and in a proud state of exhaustion, you publish without a second thought. Only then do you, and all your colleagues and followers, realise that you’ve made some key mistakes. Mistakes you could have easily fixed. Mistakes that just chip away at your credibility as a knowledgeable resource in your field. Mistakes I can help you avoid.

I have created a basic checklist that should help you avoid some of the common mistakes. Use it wisely.

There vs They’re vs Their

It is so easy to mix these up.

There has a number of meanings. It can be an adverb, a pronoun and adjective or a noun. It generally refers to a place, but not always. For example

My cup is over there.

Is there anybody out there?

My cup there is empty.

We’re going over there.

Their is a possessive adjective. This means it is indicating that you own something. For example

You can borrow their ball to play soccer on Thursday.

They’re is a contraction. This means it is a shorter way of writing they are. For example

They’re coming over for dinner after the game.

If you would like a more detailed explanation, read this article on E Learn English Language, which explains it all in more detail.

Loose vs Lose

This is an incredibly common mistake, which can fundamentally change the meaning of your sentence.

Lose is a verb to describe the loss of something. For example

I lose my keys if I don’t leave them in the same place.

Loose is an adjective to describe the opposite of tight. For example

When I lose weight my trousers become loose.

Desert vs Dessert

Mixing these two up could be the difference between a delicious chocolate mud cake and eating sand.
Desert has two meanings and two pronunciations. The first is a noun describing a dry, baron land. The second is a verb to describe abandoning someone or something. For example

I thought I found an oasis in the desert, but it was just a mirage. 

A loving mother does not generally desert her child.

Dessert has just the one meaning. It is the noun to describe the tasty treat you have, or shouldn’t have, at the end of a meal. For example

My husband forgot to share his chocolate dessert with me because it was too delicious.

You’re vs your

Your is a possessive adjective. This means it shows that you own something. For example

Did you bring your book to class?

You’re is a contraction. This means it is a shorter way of writing you are. For example

If you’re going to go for a walk in the rain, I suggest you bring an umbrella.

Everyone’s favourite pedant Ross Geller explained it his way when breaking up with Rachel.

The dreaded apostrophe

The apostrophe is a mean and complicated beast. Knowing where to put it can have even the most engaging writers stumped. There are many ways to use and misuse the apostrophe and Scribendi have written a really comprehensive article on the proper use of apostrophes. One of the most common mistakes people make is in relation to plurals. Plurals that are not possessive do NOT require an apostrophe. For example

I play football on Thursdays.

Don’t let your computer do all the work

By all means use tools such as spell check and grammarly. Please don’t let that be your last line of defence. The great thing about these tools is that they will often pick up on major mistakes or incomplete sentences, but they will never be able to pick up your intent. You need to read over your work to make sure you haven’t altered your intent with a well-spelt typo.

Is your spell check on the right region? It’s easy to forget that even though we are speaking the same language, sometimes our spelling is specific to our country.

Read it aloud. If it doesn’t sound right when you speak the words, chances are, it’s wrong. Reading it aloud will give you a realistic feel for the rhythm and feel.

Finally – NEVER PROOF YOUR OWN WORK.

Even experienced editors and proof-readers follow this rule. When you are personally invested in the content it is so much harder to pick up the small mistakes. Always ask a colleague or friend to give your work a once over, just to make sure.