Month: October 2015

Marketing to the 21st century reader

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Changes in technology have led to a major change in the way people approach text and reading. You can see this in several places, from blog posts to today’s bestselling novels.  Although there are still plenty of big, thick novels and long blog posts out there, there’s been a fundamental shift in the way those posts and books are written and formatted.

The 21st century reader is one who skims, who wants whatever it is she’s reading to get to the point quickly. Today’s writing has been largely influenced by social media, which, with its character counts and limits, has shortened what people can say. It’s also been influenced by the introduction of screens. Reading on a laptop, mobile device or e-reader is a very different experience from curling up with a book or newspaper.

In today’s marketing world, you not only want to think about the message you’re presenting to customers. You also want to think about how you convey that message and the best ways to do it.

Think Vertically

Before people began to read on screens, the experience was linear. To get to the next part of an article or story, they’d have to flip a page. Today’s reader is more likely to experience text vertically, meaning he or she more likely to scroll up or down a screen while reading or skimming.

Designing your writing with the vertical reader in mind helps make the text more attractive to that reader and can make him or her more likely to read to the end. One way to embrace the vertical is to use lists, particularly bulleted lists.

When someone is scrolling down a page, a bulleted list is much easier to absorb and take in than a block of text in traditional paragraph form. Bullet points also give the reader the chance to pick and choose the information that’s relevant to him or her right away, versus having to sift through a dense paragraph to find what’s useful.

Break Things Up

Bullet points are just one way to break up the text and make it easier for the modern reader to digest what’s on the screen. It’s also important to aim for brevity, in terms of the length of sentences and paragraphs.

While in previous centuries, a reader might have been OK mentally digesting a large paragraph, today’s reader finds two to four sentence paragraphs much easier to process. Short paragraphs also help guide a reader through a blog post or article. When text is presented in small blocks, with a lot of white space around it, it’s easier on the eyes. People are more likely to keep reading from one paragraph to the next.

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A similar thing occurs in books. Shorter chapters appeal to readers and make them more likely to finish a book. In 2013, the New York Times reported that people are 25 percent more likely to read a book with short chapters until the end.

Don’t just aim for short paragraphs. Go for shorter sentences, too. In an interview with the International Association of Business Communicators, writer, editor and consultant Jeff Herrington lists long sentences as one of the most common mistakes he sees in business writing. Don’t lose a reader in a 60 word, multi-clause sentence. Keep it simple.

Leave Out What People Skip

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It might seem facile to say leave out the boring stuff, but in the age of lots of content, it’s crucial. Don’t bore your readers with long descriptions of places or people. Either let them use their imaginations or trust that they can Google something if they aren’t sure what it is. In a blog post, a link can substitute for lots of descriptive text.

There’s also a lesson to be learned from social media here: That’s to only include the most relevant information to get your point across. Give yourself a limit, such as 140 characters, and see if you can convey your message within that limit.

Read More

One last piece of advice when you’re looking for writing help or ways to modernize your marketing. Read as much as you can, whether it’s marketing material and articles from those in your industry, or entertainment blogs.

Pay attention not only to what the writers of those materials are saying. Look at their format and style. Something about it appeals to you. Once you figure out what it is, try to copy it in your own writing to make it appeal to the 21st century reader.

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Effective PR Strategies

Over time, the concept of public relations has evolved and the most effective PR strategies have changed with it. The official definition of public relations, updated by the Public Relations Society of America in 2012, is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” When you are developing a PR strategy, whether it is for a new customer or a new product launch, keeping the focus on relationship building can help you build a better and more effective strategy.

Know Your Goal

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Knowing what the goal of a public relations campaign is isn’t the strategy in and of itself; rather, it’s an essential component of any strategic plan. When you are putting together a strategy, ask yourself a series of questions to help you better map it out.

One crucial question is “who is the audience you are trying to reach?” If you don’t know who you are targeting, it can be difficult to put together a plan to reach that person or demographic. It’s also worth asking what the message is that you want to send to a customer or your target audience and what you ultimately want that person to take away from your campaign. Once you have the answers to those questions and have a defined goal, it becomes easier to put together effective strategies.

Partner with an Influencer 

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A survey published in January 2015 by Millenial Branding offered a close look at the habits and wants of the millennial consumer. The survey asked 1,300 millennials, chosen from the readership of “Elite Daily,” a number of consumer focused questions. The results revealed that the millennial generation is more likely to use information gleaned from blogs when making a purchase, rather than advertisements and other, more traditional forms of media. Along with friends and family, millennials were most likely to trust “online experts” when getting advice on a product or service.

That suggests that a useful PR strategy is for a company to find and partner with an online influencer, such as a blogger or vlogger. Not just any blogger or online content creator will do, though. Ideally, you’ll want to find an influencer whose interests and subjects mesh with the product you offer. If you’re working on a campaign for a financial services company, for example, it can be helpful to partner with an accountant or CFO who also maintains a popular blog. Getting the stamp of approval from an influencer people in your niche trust will give the product or service you’re offering a boost.

Create a Story 

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Every PR campaign needs to have a “why” behind it. Whether you’re working with an online influencer or a reporter from a traditional media outlet, people aren’t going to want to give a company, product or service coverage “just because.” Think beyond advertising when pitching a campaign and instead focus on the story you have to offer.

When coming up with a story, think of the various angles you can use. If the product or service your company offers solves a problem that no other similar product or service solves, that can be one angle. Another is to tell the story of why your company exists. It could be the that founder or CEO came out of adversity or built the company after a frustrating situation in his or her life. The story can also focus on the positive impact your product or service has on customers or other businesses.

Go For Exclusivity

Remember that PR is about building relationships. For that reason, an effective strategy is often to focus on one influencer or one media outlet and to offer that outlet exclusive access to your company’s stories. Think of it this way. If you send a press release out to 15 magazines, newspapers and other media outlets, and all 15 of them publish something very similar about your company, the impact is diluted, as the same story is disseminated in the same way, across 15 different outlets.

But, if you were to offer one reporter an exclusive interview with the company’s CEO, and that reporter publishes the story in a magazine that directly targets your company’s core audience, the impact is of the story is likely to be greater than if that reporter had published a generic story about your company that was similar to the stories found in other media venues.

Offering exclusivity doesn’t mean that you need to only work with one outlet. It simply means that you can offer one angle or story to one particular outlet and a different angle or story to another. Choose the angle based on the focus or interest of that magazine or blog’s audience to maximize the impact your story has and get the most from your campaign.