Owned Media Sites Inform, Educate and Entertain

The understanding and importance of owned media is growing as brands increasingly put more resources into the media platforms that they own.

Owned media in contrast to paid or earned media is anything under the company’s control. More specifically it includes websites, newsletters and blogs. In contrast, earned media is PR and editorial, paid media is advertising and sponsorship.

Social media is not classified as owned media. Despite the fact that you own your social media channel you don’t control the interaction with your community and the public. Plus, much of the reach now must be paid for, especially on Facebook – so these platforms can now easily be described as being rented, not owned.

What are the key qualities for owned media?

There are many points to consider when setting up your owned media strategy. The key point is to develop content that people will want to engage with and have a reason to follow and be interested in you.

Understanding what people are interested in learning about and sharing will help shape your content calendar and drive your SEO strategy.

Exploring new formats can help you reach new consumers on platforms they care about. Consider branching out into audio books, epub (ebook file format) or a regular podcast. Consumers will consume content in different ways and you may need to explore new ways to deliver your content.

Have you noticed how much video content is now in your Facebook news feed? It’s become the go to medium for message delivery and done properly ranks through the roof for engagement. It can be more expensive but can also influence your SEO, improve trust and help your brand have a position of insight and reliability.

Owned media sites are an extension of your brand and create additional avenues for people to interact with you. When it comes to owned media, as long as you can keep up with providing interesting content there are no real limits to how much you can create.

Importantly, owned media should not be a hard sell but endeavour to attract an audience and then be in a position to convert them after establishing value and trust in their minds.

Owned media strategies create value for people beyond the products being sold.

The three key considerations for owned media content is that it should inform, educate or entertain. Of course it can have more than one of those qualities.

Some leading examples of companies that are successfully turning their owned media platforms into engaged and informed communities are:

ANZ Blue Notes – The ANZ Bank established BlueNotes partly as a response to the cutback in traditional media that weren’t able to cover all the topics they wanted to cover from a business point of view.  It’s produced by their own in-house team of writers with sourced contributed content. It’s not about having ANZ branding thrust into readers feeds, but covering a range of topics including the global economy, technological innovation, Asia Pacific region, business finance, leadership and management, social and economic sustainability, workplace diversity and ANZ news.

Johnson & Johnson – their Baby Center website is a content driven website about pregnancy and baby care. It’s not a hard sell and J&J’s branding is hardly visible. They’re building an audience and positioning the brand as experts in baby care and driving demand for baby care products.

General ElectricGE Reports was set up by GE according to their managing editor Tomas Kellner to tell their side of the story. “The company wanted to contribute the GE Capital perspective to the conversation — but there weren’t enough writers around to be picking the story up from every company that wanted to be heard. So we originally built this platform to tell our side of the story, reactively. Now it’s really a proactive tool where we can tell all the stories we think are worth telling,” he told Brunswick Review.

 

 

Earning Media: How To Dance The Dance Of Publicity

The PR community talks constantly about the concept of earned media. It’s our bread and butter, and we are always ready with an explanation as to how it differs from marketing or advertising, otherwise known as ‘paid media’. Earned media is the result of strategic thinking to bring important news to the forefront. Information earns the title when external parties, namely journalists and the media, have deemed it a worthy offering to bring to the public’s attention.

Sometimes, however, we get caught up in the message or product we are trying to sell, and the concept of earned media can get distorted. In the worst cases, earned media becomes a marketing vessel and the only thing that separates it from paid media is the platform and the price tag.

Here are a few things to consider to help keep earned media grounded in its definition.

Earned media needs a powerful message

A powerful message makes a great story. The focus should be less about ‘what’ you are trying to promote with free publicity, but ‘how’ it will affect people. It doesn’t matter how much money you or your company makes, or how important you think you are – if you don’t deliver a message people care about, you end up wasting everyone’s time.

(Of course a big company name or well-known figure adds weight to any story, but you’d be surprised to see how many shallow media releases are out there that essentially say nothing, but were distributed nonetheless because a big company thought their name alone was enough to turn heads.)

This, however, does not mean your message needs to be pandering or fabricated to make people pay attention. Just be honest, but go deeper – who benefits and who suffers from your information? What are some interesting facts surrounding the topic? Which powerful players are involved?

Why does this story need to be told?

Earned media can be spoiled

Earned media is distinguishable from paid media because its essence of honesty and purity. Journalists, in particular, are more likely to run a story if it can be interpreted as an unbiased piece of information beneficial to the public.

An audience is smarter than the cattle some perceive them to be. They can usually tell the difference between when they’re being informed, and when they’re being sold to. Only the very best marketers and writers and blur those lines, and even then, more people are wising up to PR tactics every day.

When crafting content in the hopes it will become earned media, it’s best to avoid certain behaviours like the overuse of adjectives or using a full weapons chest of empty corporate ‘buzz words’ to make simple concepts sound more amazing.

Keep that powerful message in mind, because desperate, empty and promotional prose is easily identifiable and will often lead to content that sours your message and your brand.

Earning media requires patience

Free press as a result of one great story is only a small part of what makes earned media so effective.

Earned media is also the right to free publicity as a result of a long-term process of establishing trust and building relationships.

Building an effective media relationship, however, is not as simple as becoming friends with journalists who will, in turn, have your back as a contact no matter what. The journalist could be your child’s godparent, but their job is still on the line if you send them terrible media releases and weak news tips in the name of flimsy self-promotion.

It’s a slow burn. Earned media relies on a strong message and engaging storytelling, but the best results come after a long and consistent period of delivering the best content possible. Over time, you will have built a foundation where publishers will see your name and immediately assume you must have something interesting to say.

Building strong relationships takes patience, strategic thinking and realistic expectations, which are words that describe the very nature of earned media to a tee.

What is Your Brand’s Editorial Mission?

In the digital world every single brand, every single company, is a publisher. If you have a website, you are publisher, if you have a Facebook page, you are a publisher. If you send clients technical guides on how to use your products, you are a publisher.

The key to being a great publisher is a strong, clearly-defined and purpose-driven editorial mission. An editorial mission is the foundation of your content strategy and defines what you’re going to talk about and share as a content creator.

What is ‘editorial’?

The term editorial has traditionally been reserved by newspapers for the section of the paper where the ‘editor’ expresses the publisher’s own views and policies on a current issue. It was always separate from the objective news ‘reporting’ of the paper that was meant to be devoid of the personal opinions of the journalist and their editor. As an example, it has long been a tradition of newspapers to use their editorial pages to endorse their preferred candidate ahead of an election. This decision is meant to be the considered wisdom of the editor or senior editorial team and until recently had the potential to swing undecided voters.

In it’s strictest definition editorial content should not be influenced by outside forces. The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) says there is ‘no advertiser influence’ in the creation of editorial features and in all case’s the editor’s decision about content and tone are ‘final’.

Editorial is simply content that has been developed independent of outside influence, for no other purpose then providing the audience with information, insight and understanding.

However, the incredible growth of content marketing and the digital economy has seen many of these walls heavily eroded with the definition of ‘editorial’ content now encompassing a complex array of goals and influences.

Editorial as marketing

Fairfax’s Domain business unit is one brand that has used editorial to grow traffic and engagement. While the business is a relatively simple online listings business, the fact it is owned by Fairfax has provided the opportunity to use editorial as the spearhead for its marketing strategy.

In an interview last year with CMO magazine Domain’s chief marketing and editorial officer Melina Cruickshank explained how the company bought together data-driven decision making, editorial content, audience-oriented marketing and mobile-first thinking to drive a 92% increase in unique browsers in 18 months.

“We needed to bring together the journalists and audience marketers, create a new division called content and audience, and just go for it. It was a huge risk, and completely different to what everyone else had been doing. But I told him (Domain Group CEO Anthony Catalano) it was all about our journalists and our content. Domain’s strengths are mobile and editorial. People are obsessed with property, and if we can communicate to them in an authentic manner about property and gain their trust, we’re going to grow our reach.”

Editorial Mission

Editorial content is no longer the exclusive purview of pure media companies. Every brand that wants to communicate with customers should have an editorial mission that clearly articulates what they hope to achieve from their content. It should define you as a brand and what you stand for in the eyes of your stakeholders, both internal and external.

At the core of editorial and its value to an audience is the substance and integrity of the opinions that it carries. Having an editorial mission that is simply about the  features of your products and services does not count. Having an opinion about the externalities and influences that affect your customers is one of the easiest ways to supercharge your content strategy.

When developing our MBA News Australia website a few years ago we thought long and hard about our editorial mission. We needed to speak to both our audience (potential MBA students) and our customers (the business schools and universities that want to reach potential students). We needed a mission that guided every content decision we made. Ultimately we came up wth three guiding editorial principles:

  • Inform – provide the latest news, views and information about the courses available to people considering embarking on an MBA.
  • Educate – we want to help our readers understand the many options available to them for postgraduate business education
  • Advocate – be a champion for MBAs and the pursuit of management excellence.

Staying true to this mission has seen the site establish a reputation with both readers and advertisers as the first-stop for information about studying for an MBA in Australia.

Taking the time to define what your content means to your audience via an editorial mission is the first step in developing an effective content strategy. So get to it.

13 Words That Will Improve Your Writing

There are plenty of words that get overused in the business environment – narrative, platform, synergy and competency – to name a few. Everybody understands what these words mean but they have become so broad as to be irrelevant in most uses. Often these buzzwords are bandied around to fill the space left by a person’s lack of vocabulary.

In the interests of expanding my own vocabulary 9as well as yours) here are a few rare and common words you should be using more in your corporate writing.

  • Preach – being a powerful advocate for your company and products is an important function of any leader or employee. While most usage has a religious connotation you do not always need a pulpit to preach. We should never be afraid to preach what we practice, or practice what we preach.
  • Oracular – most investors will know instantly who you are talking about when referencing the “Oracle of Omaha”. While not the direct adjectival version of oracle, but still related, the adjective oracular, is defined as resembling an oracle (as in solemnity of delivery). In usage it can appear in a range of forms, including: “Our CEO is the oracular voice of the industry.”
  • Articulate – the ability to speak or write clearly and distinctly often gets lost in a haze of buzzwords. Simply asking a colleague, client or customer to ‘articulate’ what they want is a great way to avoid confusion. Articulating something is simply saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. For anybody with a waffler in the office, a polite request to be more articulate, may go a long way.
  • Concatenate – Concatenate comes directly from Latin concatenare, which in turn is formed from con-, meaning “with” or “together,” and catena, meaning “chain.” The simple definition is to link together in a series or chain (The word chain itself also evolved from catena.)
  • Felicitous – Defined as ‘well suited or expressed’. The prevailing market conditions were felicitous to improving earnings. Felicitous and the noun felicity, meaning “great happiness,” and later, “aptness,” derive from the Latin adjective felix, meaning “fruitful” or “happy.”
  • Neologism – This is the word that sparked this blog. A neologism is a new word, usage, or expression which has been created to reference something .Webinar, malware, netroots, and blogosphere are just a few examples of widely0used and understood neologisms.
  • Because – a relatively common, well understood word that doesn’t get used anywhere near enough. There are many ways to be specific, or more articulate, in your writing. One of the best is simply giving a reason why. And the most effective transition word when giving a “reason why” is because. Why? Because it is.
  • Precrastinate – The opposite of procrastination, it’s the tendency to complete or begin tasks without thinking them through. In one Penn State study, folks were asked to carry one of two buckets to the end of a course. Most chose the closest bucket, despite having to carry it further. In a sentence: “I shouldn’t have precrastinated on that report. Now I have to go back and do it again.”
  • Temerarious – Closely linked to temerity, temerarious is someone or something, that is rashly or presumptuously daring. “More important still—and here he is perceived as either temerarious or feckless—[Pope] Francis has departed radically from his predecessors in that he actively encourages his bishops … to speak boldly when addressing him and in assembly….” — Michael W. Higgins, The Globe and Mail, 13 March 2015.
  • Battle – Like preach from the church, we need to reclaim ‘battle’ from the military. As a noun battle is a sustained fight between large organised armed forces, but as a verb it becomes about struggling tenaciously to achieve or resist something. It is a word that engenders a sense of desperation and the need to fight to achieve a result. Business is a battle in so many ways, we should be calling it what it is.
  • Munificent – Munificent first came into usage back in the late 1500s when English speakers, perhaps inspired by similar words such as magnificent, altered the ending of munificence. With a similar definition to ‘lavish’, munificent means very liberal in giving or bestowing. Twiggy Forrest’s recent philanthropic activities were a munificent gesture.
  • Perspicacity – defined as having a ready insight into things; a shrewdness. My father first taught me this word many years ago after returning from a stint working in the Papua New Guinean highlands. After calling a local labourer a ‘[unrepeatable] dumb [unrepeatable]’ he was forced to check his dictionary after being told to never question said labourer’s perspicacity ever again. It is a bit pompous (the adjectival form, perspicacious, even more so) but still worth dropping into the odd email to impress the socks off the boss.

There are some great sites around that can help improve your vocabulary (many of them were the source for above). Check out:

Dictionary.com – http://www.dictionary.com/wordoftheday/

Merriam Webster – https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day

WorkThink – http://www.wordthink.com/

Oxford Dictionaries – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/explore/word-of-the-day

New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/column/learning-word-of-the-day

 

Fact: Fake News Isn’t New

While fake news isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s fairly worrying.

False stories spread on social media – or, true stories embedded with fake facts and vice versa – have morphed into a modern, more terrifying and more impactful version of what the old-fashioned 1990s viral chain emails used to do (Fig.1).

HAUNTING Fig.1. Early 2000s chain email, apparently from Mother Teresa.

US Politics: The fusion of news and politics has created a whole new news stream

In the US, fake and misleading news is at peak popularity during elections and specifically the run-up. Stories that get the most hits during this time – upwards of 2 million – were stories that “fed into conspiracy theories,” according to a published interview with a fake news website owner.

On May 18, 2017, the US Office of Science and Technology Policy addressed President Trump in a letter stating its concern that “disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration. You previously made the false claim that President Obama ordered your phones to be “tapped” based on false reports which have subsequently been contradicted by U.S intelligence officials,” it read.

In other words, Trump got in trouble for believing and feeding the fake news that was served to him.

Google has cracked down on fake news, illustrating its intolerance by disabling fake news’ ability to attract advertising revenue. However, results of these actions are yet to be reported.

There have even been cases whereby non-researched media stories have been published supported by false facts linked directly to made-up chain emails from previous years.

Facebook’s fact checker: Will it work?

After acknowledging it had been somewhat taken over by fake news, Facebook recently began the rollout of a feature that flags certain posts as “disputed.” In some cases, however, this appears to be having the opposite effect to the one Facebook actually wanted.

Some sources have reported that ‘disputed’ articles are still populating Facebook feeds without displaying warnings. Others have said traffic to fake news posts have increased after Facebook activated the service, which begs the question: Maybe people just want to be entertained? Or perhaps they are actually drawn to conflict?

The new Facebook feature works in partnership with dedicated fact-checking websites from the U.S.

Satirical news sites are also causing a headache for Facebook, with many passive readers unaware of the deliberately-fake content, instead ‘flagging’ the article and commenting disapproval.

Fake news is bad, but it’s part of a bigger problem

Deliberately misleading news – the kind of content that’s not fake – is seen by some to fall into a category of the lowest form of click-bait designed to fool readers, usually prompted by a vague or misleading headline, or even partially ‘missing’ headline – one of the tackier ways to gain attention.

As a reader, It’s important to read past the shocking headline, check the author and double-check any sourcing before committing to forwarding or tagging someone in an article.

Bottom line: Don’t fall for cheap click-bait tactics. You’re better than that!

 

A Toolbox For A Media Spokesperson – The ‘Must Have’ Essential Skills

The media spokesperson is one of the most important players in the media machine. Acting as as a journalist’s primary source, they are responsible for representing their organisation and its message to the world.

To the untrained eye, a spokesperson’s job is simple: Attend interviews and press conferences and provide the media with information for their story.

However, underneath the surface a spokesperson must be armed with a range of skills in order to:

  • Provide the media with a powerful and controlled message, and
  • Maintain their reputation and the reputation of their organisation.

Here are some of the skills that a good media spokesperson must have. They are also the skills that a good PR professional must be ready to teach their clients.

Dress for success

It is important for a good spokesperson to be correctly attired.

Common sense, right?

In the PR world however, correct attire is not as simple as throwing on a suit to ‘look professional’. Clothing should properly reflect the spokesperson’s position and level of authority, and more importantly the environment surrounding the story.

For example, the hard hat, high-vis vest and rolled-up sleeve combo is a much-loved costume for politicians who visit a factory or blue-collar work site on the campaign trail.

Clothing can speak volumes and can convey its own message, so a good spokesperson must ensure they are dressed to match their words.

Do: Consider a lighter, less formal outfit if the story is about (for example) an ‘active families’ program at the beach.

Don’t: Speak on behalf of a multi-million-dollar company unveiling wearing thongs and a band shirt (especially as CEO).

Have something to say

Providing the facts (who, what, where and when) is only the first step. A good spokesperson must also answer these questions:

  • Why am I giving this interview?
  • Why is the media choosing to spend their time with me?

The answer to both of those questions should lie within the story: you are speaking with the media because what you have to say is newsworthy.

In order for a story to be newsworthy, a spokesperson should always be prepared to add necessary layers to the facts. In other words: Here are the facts, but why do they matter? How will an audience benefit from knowing this?

Too many media releases offer nothing more than a variation of the following:

“[Insert organisation] is delighted to be a part of [insert business venture].”

Of course the organisation is delighted. Who cares?* It is vital to bring more than a simple sound bite to the table.

* It is actually quite important to establish the subject’s position. However, the point to take away is that as a spokesperson, your standpoint and the standpoint of your company should be accompanied by rich and engaging dialogue.

Spokesperson Preparedness

A good spokesperson should never walk into a media event with nothing more than the knowledge in their mind.

A spokesperson should be briefed on the position and viewpoint of their organisation, and dressed appropriately (as previously mentioned). They should also have a general understanding of the media outlets they will be speaking to (e.g. are you speaking to hard-hitting journalists? Are there any ‘gotcha’ tabloids in the crowd?), and a working knowledge of the story’s background should a journalist pose challenging questions. A good spokesperson should also have their ‘character’ prepared.

Play the part

A media spokesperson is similar to a character in a play. You must don a personality necessary for the part. This skill normally involves appearing professional and authoritative in front of the media, but it also includes adopting mannerisms that will engage an audience. If a spokesperson has had a bad day, or not necessarily in the mood to talk to journalists, that will all come through in the delivery. It’s imperative to leave personal feelings at the door and become the character the story requires.

Jargon filter

Often a media spokesperson will be the representative for a big company that specialises in a particular sector like finance, government or property development. And with specialised knowledge comes ‘jargon’. Jargon is the term given to words and phrases that are exclusive to a particular group, and not universally recognised as common language.

The true challenge of jargon is to understand that it is not black and white. A good spokesperson knows when to add jargon to their speech, and when more common dialect is appropriate.

Jargon pros:

  • Conveys knowledge and control of the business and its material.
  • Gives the audience faith that the spokesperson is the right person for the job.
  • Audience feels trusted to follow along – jargon can sometimes be interpreted through context and allows an audience to feel like the media spokesperson has welcomed them into their world.

Jargon cons:

  • Too much conveys pretentiousness
  • Jargon at the wrong time may confuse the media and affect the message
  • Heavy jargon alienates the audience

Tightrope walking

Tightrope walkers have superior balancing skills, and so too must a good spokesperson. It is essential that certain aspects of the message never tilt all the way to one side:

  • Be confident, but not arrogant. Journalists and their audience must feel like you’re sharing your insight, not talking down to them.
  • Have a message, but not an ‘agenda’. There is a difference between news and advertising, and most people recoil when the two get confused. A spokesperson’s message must be embedded within the story, and delivered in such a way that engages an audience and allow them to feel as though they came to your way of thinking on their own. Blatantly pushing an agenda breeds hollow words, identifiable bias and a cheap story.
  • Don’t say too much, don’t say too little. Journalists should be offered a rich backstory and plenty of information to sink their teeth into. However, giving too much away dulls the intrigue, bores an audience and runs the risk of journalists walking away with the wrong angle (due to an overload of information). Similarly damning is saying too little, which could result in the perception that there is no story. It’s important to find the ‘sweet spot’.

The last skill is undoubtedly the most vital.

Keep calm.

Own the message. Own the delivery. There are no biting monsters at media events.

What Is Cornerstone Content?

Put simply, producing cornerstone content is about getting your web or blog page to rank highly by Google.

Of course, it is helpful to have informative content for the benefit of your customers and site visitors, but ultimately Google will need to be told which of your articles are the most important – especially where you write a number of posts about similar topics.

Cornerstone content then are those articles (or a static page on a topic) that you feel are the most informative and that you would like to rank highly in search engines. The key then is to create internal links to that page of content or article.  Internal links are an important ranking factor.

It’s possible to have more than one cornerstone page on a website. You may have one for each of several key topics.

cornerstone content

Cornerstone articles can be long, including everything relevant and important for your readers about the topic. Make sure it uses good SEO practice – keyword focused, headings, imagery etc. Smart internal linking can push this article up in the search results. It’s a good idea to update it regularly and expand on it when possible.

You should link all your other posts about a similar topic to that article. An internal linking structure will increase the chance of your content article ranking in Google.

If you’re using the WordPress platform, the Yoast SEO Premium plugin makes it easy for you to identify which are the cornerstone articles and to be prompted to link to them.

Blogging guru Brian Clark outlines the two core goals of cornerstone content succinctly as:

  • The first goal of cornerstone content is usefulness and relevancy to the visitor, no matter how they arrive.
  • The second goal is to make that content so compelling and comprehensive that people are willing – no, make that excited – to link to it.

cornerstone content

Benefits of creating cornerstone content

  • It provides a very informative source and value to readers
  • Google is responsive to these sort of articles and they rank well in search engines
  • Cornerstone content helps you boost your blog’s credibility
  • People will be more likely to share this content on social media
  • It can attract back-links from other authoritative sources
  • Ultimately direct a lot of traffic and hopefully new subscribers and customers.

The benefits of linking can be seen by Fairfax media in all their articles and newsletters where they are constantly linking back to their own stories. They are forming content clusters with their authoritative journalism and feature articles.

cornerstone content

The Australian Financial Review will link back to a feature article (hyperlinked in blue) on the imposition of the big bank levy in all their articles related to this topic – a cornerstone article.

A content article that amazes us on our own blog with the constant traffic it receives is an article about the difference between publicity and public relations. It works because it provides answers on a topic, is informative, responds to a search query, and is shareable. And, as you can see, we will link back to it wherever possible as cornerstone content.

It’s Time To Ditch Lazy Writing And Get Active

Media writing has evolved into its own specialist form – at the heart of the style is active writing. What makes this style so special?

Writing has come a long way. It’s argued that true writing of language itself – not just numbers – was invented independently in at least two places: Mesopotamia around 3200 BC, and Mesoamerica in around 900 BC.

Fast forward thousands of years and writing is an integral part of most people’s daily lives; particularly in media, where ‘active voice’ is crucial.

Writing in passive voice means constructing sentences where the subject is ‘passive’ – acted upon, rather than being the agents of the action. You’ll notice passive sentence structure makes sentences dull and, quite frankly, a bit boring.

Active tense, however, makes things punchy and gets straight to the point.

The ability to compile an informative, enticing and well written piece of news is crucial for media writing. Competition is fierce for organisational ‘real estate’ in news pages, and a company’s media writing or stories should always be clear, accurate and truthful.

It also pays to be creative, fun and ‘punchy’. Having an active voice is crucial for writing with flair, and gains more attention than a dull, passive piece of writing.

In short: Keep it upbeat, keep it short, and keep it active.

So what’s active voice? In active voice, the subject is doing the action.

Let’s take the song “I saw her standing there” by The Beatles as an example of a sentence in active voice.

If you wanted to make the title of this song passive, you would say:

“She was standing there, and I saw it.” Hmm… Not so catchy now, is it?

Other examples

Passive Voice (NO) Active Voice (YES)
I keep butter in the fridge Butter is kept in the fridge
The CEO kept his schedule meticulously The CEO’s schedule was kept meticulously
A cake is being made by me I am making a cake
A lot of coverage was achieved by the public relations company The public relations company achieved lots of coverage.

When is the Right Time To Use Passive Voice? Just to confuse everyone further, there are actually some occasions where it’s okay to use passive voice. We have listed a few of these below:

  1. Changing Focus – When we want to change the focus of a sentence, we can flip the rules a little. For example, “The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci” – in this case, we’re more interested in the painting than the artist, so it makes sense to place Mona Lisa first.
  2. Scientific Writing – “The chemical was placed in the test tube and data entered into a computer”.
  3. When The Action Is Unknown – “My computer had been stolen” – in this case, the agent is unknown.

Clear as mud? Don’t worry – that’s what we’re here for.

Don’t Bury The Lead! Why Structure Matters In Media Writing

The inverted pyramid of media writing is one of the most fundamental aspects of good media writing. Understanding the concept and applying it to almost all styles of writing will help you win friends and influence people.

The pyramid approach is a style of story-telling that guides a writer to arrange their piece so the most important information goes at the beginning.

It’s become more and more important for media writers to craft stories this way, mainly due to the rapidly growing number of news outlets in the world and the diminishing amount of free time in people’s lives. Media writers know that if their stories have not captivated a reader almost immediately, then all their work will have been for nothing.

It wasn’t always like this. Before the end of the 19th century, journalist of the time would write stories that followed more traditional, slow-paced format. An argument can be made that the style was long-winded and unnecessary, but all stories would follow a more linear timeline – they began with a ‘signal’ that something important, useful, inspiring or entertaining was about to begin, and from there the journalist would tell the story from beginning to end, leaving the climax, or the crux of the information, as the conclusion.

Nowadays, attention spans have shortened somewhat, and people are much more likely to scan the first few lines of a story to determine whether it is worth their time to continue reading. That is why it is important to employ the inverted pyramid to capture a reader early.

Writing in an inverted pyramid

Summarise the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ as soon as possible. This is usually done with a strong and engaging 23-25-word introductory sentence that can summarise the entire story in one go. Also try to focus the intro on the strongest news value – often simply the facts about what happened where. From there, the first paragraphs of a story must outline the important parts of the ‘5 Ws’ and include the strongest quotes.

Now that the key information has been identified in a compelling way, most journalists write the body of the story so it flows naturally. This includes telling the story in chronological order. Give further detail (often includes the ‘how’ (which was purposely left to expand on after briefly touching on it in the first few sentences)) and more quotes from sources. Be aware that trying to convey too much information in the body of the story (also applies to the introduction) can be worse than keeping it too brief.

Finally, the last few paragraphs should include the background information, general notes regarding the story, and any final ‘wrap up’ quotes.

While the inverted pyramid is mostly affiliated with the news, it is a powerful tool to wield for any style of writing. Perhaps not in a literal sense for styles like features, blogs or fiction, but the concept of engaging readers straight off the bat means that, in a world saturated by information, people will want read more of what you have to say.

Four Brisbane Companies Developing Killer Content

Like I’ve said before, anybody can create incredible content marketing tactics with access to a bottomless pit of money. But for many small to medium businesses (SMBs) in the current climate doing their content on a smell of an oily rag would require a doubling of their budget!

Despite these challenges there are still plenty of local businesses doing a great job of using content to build their audience, drive engagement and ultimately, increase sales. Here are four of the best currently doing the rounds.

Silver Chef

Silver Chef is a 30-year-old, West End based equipment finance company. With annual revenue pushing past $300 million they are quickly outgrowing the SMB category but remain a great example of content ‘done right’.

The company has done a lot of work researching the needs and challenges of their target audience (primarily coffee shop, restaurant and takeaway store owners) and develops high quality, short form eBooks across a variety of topics. All the resources are conveniently warehoused in a single page on their website and accessible behind data collection points.

The secret to the success of the content is the authentic, authoritative voice and the genuine desire to help customers (and potential customers) improve their business. Some of the topics include;

  • Quick wins to grow your business;
  • Attracting customers using Pokemon Go; and
  • A guide to avoiding common pitfalls for designing your new venue (right)

The other important aspect to the strategy is the marketing of the eBooks across multiple channels, particularly social media. It is no good creating great content unless you tell the world about it!

Technology One

Again, not exactly a start-up but I’ve included for their great use of case studies. Case studies are the most effective marketing tactic, particularly in business-to-business (B2B) sales where larger dollars are involved and the customer journey can take many months. A great case study provides one of the many steps of product validation required to get new customers comfortable with your products.

What makes TechnologyOne’s case studies great? The relatively short length, well organised sections of content and strong buy-in from the customer. The Victorian Institute of Teaching case study is simple, easy to read and to the point while still retaining high levels of data. It lays out the problem, discusses the solution and highlights the value TechnologyOne can add. The supporting video adds a great multimedia dimension.

See all their case studies here.

Research from the B2B Technology Marketing Group, based on a of more than 600 B2B marketing professionals, about the current state of content marketing shows case studies remain the most effective content.

My Place Our Place

Launched earlier this year by the team at Place Estate Agents the My Place Our Place blog is designed to showcase “the places, people and lifestyle that make our city and suburbs so special”.

The crisp, clean layout (using the Squarespace platform), the use of strong imagery in each piece and an editorial agenda that focuses firmly on the people and the places of Brisbane delivers a strong package that puts the Place brand exactly where they want it, at the heart and soul of the communities where they operate.

This is great example of the opportunities presented by blogging technology and demonstrates that with the right writers and the right focus, any company can become a successful media company. This brand publishing opportunity is now more accessible than ever and a great way to not just communicate with your customers, but build a community around your brand.

Outfit

Outfit is a Brisbane startup that has developed a brand management and automation software that allows companies to manage their brand assets more effectively and efficiently.

They are a great example of how even a small company with limited resources can develop high impact content by identifying a key target market and developing engaging, relevant content that builds a deep understanding of how their products can solve the everyday problems of clients.

The Ultimate Guide to Franchise Branding speaks directly to Outfit’s subject matter expertise and covers a range of topics including basic brand theory and more complex topics like the ROI of design efficiencies. All the information is presented in easy, bite-size packages to ease consumption.

Importantly, the company has gone the extra mile and actively promoted the content across social channels (see Facebook ad below)

 

 

All of these case studies have different products, different markets and varied budgets, but all are great examples of what is possible if you take the time to think about how content can be the key driver of your marketing.