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.

Press Release – The Pieces That Make It Perfect

A great press release doesn’t write itself. They are built, piece by piece, until you have something that satisfies a host of requirements.

A press release is one of the key tools that PR practitioners will use to convey a news story on behalf of their organisation or client.

Often you will have only one chance to get the attention of a news editor or journalist so you need to make sure the release is constructed properly and contains essential information. Otherwise it may get overlooked or consigned to the scrap bin.

It doesn’t have to be a time consuming or daunting task provided you follow some rules and stick to a time tested pattern of laying out essential information. A press release that makes it easy for a journalist will ensure your news is duly considered and that they trust your information.

Press Release Key Requirements

Header – The header is the first section of the press release from the top down and usually features some key elements.

The words FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE are included to signify that the news is able to be reported on now and not subject to any form of publication embargo – used where a news release may be given to a journalist in advance of an announcement timing so they are able to prepare their story ahead of an impending deadline.

The date of the announcement must be included and it’s usual for the company logo to be added which can leverage off their branding for attention and to stamp it as an official company release. Often you may see a combination of the words ‘Press Release’ or ‘ASX Announcement’ (for listed company updates provided to the exchange) to signify the intended audience.

Headline – The headline is immediately below the header and acts just like a headline in a newspaper. A good headline should draw attention and convey the key point of what the press release is about. Try to keep it fairly brief; 8-10 words should suffice. A compelling headline can make a big difference to editors bombarded with competing news items to sift through.

Dateline & Lead – A dateline is the name of the city where the news is emanating from – often the head office of where the organisation is based and is entered in CAPS. The lead sentence is extremely important and must include the most critical facts of the news story. If someone only reads the headline and lead they should have a firm idea as to what the story is about. This summary of critical information is known as Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

The Body – The body of the press release follows and allows you to flesh out the story further with more details and provide quotes from key personnel related to the story. Media outlets can use those quotes in their reporting as direct quotes from the people attributed. Rules of thumb – no more than two people quoted in a release and restrict to about two quotes per person. After the important details are included in the body, background information can then be included to provide context.

Correctly formatting quotes:

  • Use quotation marks (” “) around quotes in the press release
  • Separate more than one sentence in a quote with ,“said [Ms Xx].”
  • Use a comma after the first sentence of a quote; do not use a period e.g. “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit,” said Ms Watkins.
  • Media convention is not to close the quotes at the end of each successive quoted block – just at the end of the last quote.

End – To signify that the reader has reached the end of the press release itself you can either include the word ENDS or some hashtags underneath the last sentence ###.  Also it is important to include organisation contact information for media to contact someone for further information or queries. This would usually be the communications officer or MD.

Boiler Plate – An optional inclusion is a boiler plate that is a simple short paragraph that provides a description of the company or organisation and what it does. Don’t expect everyone to be familiar with who you are.

The Inverted Pyramid

Below is a diagram of what is known in journalistic circles as the Inverted Pyramid and describes the flow of ideas in a press release.

It documents the order that releases should be written in, from ‘most newsworthy information’, to ‘Important details’, to ‘other general or background information’.

By following this plan your readers should be able to find the critical information at the start of the release without needing to read the whole thing. For those who wish to read on they will be able to gain additional information.

Final thought: Edit and spell check! There’s nothing worse than a rushed job with mistakes. Have more than one set of eyes read the press release.

press release

The below press release summary has been modified from a template from eRelease.com:

pressm release

 

Main image copyright: alexskopje / 123RF Stock Photo

A Few Things To Consider When Developing NFP Content

The not-for-profit (NFP) sector is a unique beast when it comes to communication.non profit

Their audience is broad, ranging from organisation members, volunteers, board members, media, politicians and policymakers. Not to mention the wider public in many cases.

Their work is centred towards a cause, with no mind towards profit or personal gain.

The content is continuous, versatile and needs to be engaging, and always leads back to the main underlying message that drives the organisation.

Every NFP will have their own communications and engagement strategy, but there are a few universal truths to consider when developing not-for-profit related content.

Good NFP content is more than just words on the page. Those who subscribe to a not-for-profit cause are often looking for information, resources and benefits that will help their interests and the interests of the industry they support. It’s important to provide that through content which, unlike a media release, can house such opportunities. Online NFP mediums like blogs, newsletters, web pages and even online in-house news pieces should be abundant with images and videos that illustrate a point, as well as links to other websites and attachments (i.e published PDFs) that can provide further reading and scope to the information. By providing this, an NFP exhibits a level of commitment to stakeholders, and shows the content they provide is a one-stop shop for all the information anyone could want on their subject.

Some content ‘receivers’ have other things to worry about. Often an NFP is made up of volunteers and members who have their own lives and businesses outside of the organisation. It can get quite frustrating when a lot of time is spent on developing great content and no one seems to respond. You have to ask yourself, ‘how will this content affect the reader’? NFP content is not usually recognised as randomly generated news pieces and web posts for people to stumble on and say, ‘hmm, that’s interesting’, before going about their day. NFP content has to strike a chord; it has to entice; it has to make people feel personally invested. Using links to useful resources as previously mentioned is great way to start, as well as adopting catchy and insightful headlines and headings, but the next step is to develop content that really hits home.

For example…

Writing a fact sheet to convince businesses to contribute to an NFP cause may include content around the following:

  • What is in it for the business?
  • How will the business be affected?
  • Why is the NFP the right group for the cause? What are their goals and how do those goals translate to the business?

Understanding the audience goes a long way. More important to content distribution, understanding who the audience is helps to determine how to provide them with content the way they like it. This might sound a little pandering, but, for example, you would not develop an NFP event invitation that looks like spam and then email it to a group of busy executives twice a day for a month. It’s important to know the receiver, understand their communication channels, and interact with them in a way that keeps them on side and receptive to the message. Knowing the audience also helps with the tone of content. Continuing with the ‘busy executives’ as my example group, these individuals may prefer a professional manner from an NFP, rather than a youthful and off-the-cuff conversation tone. Just like travelling to another country and speaking to a local, NFP content is most effective when it is in the right lingo.

NFP content should have something to say. Consider the following paragraphs for a hypothetical media release, written by a hypothetical NFP organisation:

[INSERT NFP ORGANISATION HERE] is in full support of [INSERT INITIATIVE/PLAN/NEW LAW] established by [INSERT SEPERATE ENTITY HERE].

“This is a great step forward and [INSERT NFP ORGANISATION HERE] is excited about what it will mean for the future,” said [INSERT NAME OF NFP HEAD HERE].

This approach is often taken to tell the world that an NFP is aware of a situation, and usually comes off as self-promotion. When creating content, an NFP should consider the benefit of others first, and their interests last. An insightful report of the information and what it means for others should be the first priority. Once readers are made clear of the news and what it means for them and their interest, then an NFP can round out the message with the pledge of support and whatever future actions they may take on the public’s behalf.

Ultimately, it comes down to understanding the definition of a not-for-profit – an organisation that does not operate for their own personal profit and gain. NFP content should reflect that, and be written and distributed with the interests of others in mind.

How Corporate Communications Is Evolving

The role of Communications Director in both global and local organisations has historically focused on a number of key traditional strategies to drive the brand forward. These roles include managing public image and reputation, distributing media releases, statements and alerts, responding to crises, writing speeches, engaging with stakeholders and managing the corporate website, among other tasks.

But now, today’s tech-savvy consumers and the way they seek products calls for a lot more than what the traditional corporate communications executive has previously delivered.

Today’s comms landscape brings social media, and with that, social media management, where companies must distribute their narratives proactively, respond almost instantaneously to negative public feedback, all throughout several different social media channels.

An alarming statistic that featured in this year’s World PR Report, or ‘The Holmes Report’, revealed that by 2020, only 17 per cent of a communications budget will go towards paid media; that is, advertising.

But, the same respondents in the report also said that they expected the biggest budget increase in the future will go toward shared media.

Shared media intertwines with ‘owned’ media* – but is still a relatively new concept, and forms only as a result of a brand and customers or fans interacting and mutually creating content.

This response doesn’t add up, given that social media postings must be sponsored (paid) and targeted perfectly to achieve any real reach or value on shared media platforms.

So what does this tell us?

Frankly, it says that many communications professionals don’t fully understand social media.

Content creation, video production, engaging and creative ideas will propel the most effective media engagement going forward, with 81 per cent of industry leaders flagging a future driven by content creation. Brand reputation, measurement and evaluation, and traditional media relations also ranked highly.

But while the tech side of communications is moving fast, it doesn’t mean the core skills of journalism go anywhere. In fact, they’re more valuable than ever in getting short and sharp content through (in 130 Twitter characters or less!)

‘Writing’ was in fact ranked as more critical than strategic planning (84 per cent), social media expertise (76 per cent), and multimedia content development (76 per cent) according to The Holmes Report.

This means that by far, writing is what the public uses to first judge a company: this includes professionalism, value to market and intellect.

*Owned media: Includes company-owned websites, blogs, social media accounts etc.