Marketing to the 21st century reader


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.


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


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.


How to make the most of content marketing


As more and more people are able to skip or otherwise avoid the commercials that play during TV shows or bypass ads online, marketers have gotten smarter about the way they reach out to consumers. With content marketing, the focus is on providing useful information to a consumer, instead of directly pitching a product or service to him or her.

When well done, content marketing builds trust with consumers, ultimately converting them into customers. Selling isn’t the direct focus of content marketing, even though the goal is to win people over.  Although it can be more effective than traditional marketing and advertising, there are a few potential issues with content marketing.  For one, it’s getting to be a crowded field out there, so it can be tougher to make your company’s content stand out. There’s also a tendency to “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” when it comes to content, instead of figuring out which methods make the most sense for your company. Whether you have been using content marketing for some time now or are just getting started, there are ways to make it work best for you.

Find the Balance Between Quality and Quantity

There was a time when having the most content was better than having the best content. But, now the focus is on quality over quantity. That said, there is still some value in finding the best ways to reach your audience and in trying multiple approaches. For example, putting out one blog post per month, even if it is well-written and fun to read for your audience, is probably not going to help you  make the most of your content.

Along with producing top-quality content, you need to find the way to get it in front of your customers. That can mean writing a blog post, then promoting it over social media and email. It can also mean turning the subject of an excellent or popular blog post into a video or a podcast, so that it can reach an even greater audience.


Know Your Audience

Different demographics consume content differently. For example, as this infographic from NewsCred shows, the Millennial generation is most likely to find content through a Google search or on Facebook and is most likely to share content they like on Facebook. That means that if your goal is to reach people in their 20s and early 30s and you’re not focusing on Facebook, you’re missing the a big part of your intended audience.

Focus on the Memorable Aspects of Your Content

Once you know who you’re directing your content to, the next step is to find a way to make your content memorable or to make it stand out in what’s most likely a very crowded sea of content marketing. The best content does three things:

  •  Tells a storyContent that tells a story not only stays with a customer longer, it also creates a fuller picture of what your company is doing and makes your business more relatable. When reading a story on your blog, a customer might be able to put him or herself in the shoes of the person the story is about or otherwise relate to it.
  • Uses descriptive language or imagery. Descriptive language or eye catching imagery also makes your content worth reading.
  • Sparks the customer’s imagination. No one wants to read a blog post that’s just a bunch of numbers or raw data. They want something that sparks excitement and something that helps them imagine what working with your company or otherwise being part of the story would be like.

Measure Your Marketing

If you aren’t measuring your content marketing in some way, you have no way of knowing how it is performing or whether it is worth your time to keep going in the same direction. One way to measure your marketing is to look at who is coming to look at your content, how long they are staying, and whether or not they take the time to look at other pages on your site.

One tool that can help you measure your marketing’s data is Google Analytics. When you placing a tracking code on your webpage, you are able to see what types of content are doing the best and what sources are directing the most people to you.

Although it’s a useful tool, content marketing can be a big waste of time if it doesn’t ultimately convert readers into customers. Finding what works and measuring results allows you to maximize your content marketing without putting too much stress or strain on your company.

How to Keep Good PR and Marketing Campaigns From Going Bad


Sometimes, campaigns with the best intentions don’t end up succeeding in the way the people behind them had hoped. What looks good on paper can end up being a mess in reality. While you might feel pressure to rush a campaign to market to coincide with a launch of a new service, product, or idea, it many ways it pays to take some time to fully evaluate a campaign, to make sure that nothing can go wrong.

 Figure Out How to Implement It

Public relations and marketing can be a touchy, sensitive area. A campaign is about more than just putting an idea out there, it’s about putting the idea out there in such a way that people aren’t immediately turned off by the concept. It’s not just how the message is conveyed, it’s the timing of the message. Generally, an experienced PR and marketing company will understand the importance of implementation and will recommend the most appropriate way to introduce a campaign to an audience.

Part of implementing a campaign is figuring out the right tone to take and the right tactics to use. If your company is trying respond to a serious issue or is using its campaign to bring attention to a social topic, it can be more appropriate to go in depth when putting the campaign into practice, rather than to try to be coy or to tease the public. For example, let the public know what is behind the idea by having the CEO of your company sit down with a journalist and fully flesh out the details of the project instead of using short ads or catchphrases. An in depth look behind the scenes will let people know that your company not only believes in what it is doing, it also understands the issue at hand and is willing to tackle it head on.

Know Your Audience

The team behind a PR or marketing campaign should  have a clear idea of who its audience is, what the audience wants and how that audience will respond. Understanding your audience goes hand in hand with determining the best way to implement your campaign. For example, if your target audience mainly gets their news from the web, you’ll want to reach out to writers and journalists who publish online, rather than in traditional print sources. If your audience doesn’t contain many readers, you’ll want to consider other ways to get your message out, such as videos, visual ads, or social media posts.

Along with figuring out the best way to reach your audience, you want to understand what they want. For example, if your latest campaign is to engage your customers in dialogue about a topic, it helps to get the timing right so that you reach the customers who are the most willing to engage and interact with your campaign. Trying to get someone to participate when all they want to do is buy a product and go is going to lead to a campaign that backfires.

Engage the Community

Corporations aren’t usually known for their community efforts, which is why partnering with a community or non-profit organization is often a great way to launch a new campaign, particularly one with a social focus. The partnership tells the public that the business cares about a social issue and that it also recognizes the work a particular organization is doing and wants to support that work. If your latest campaign tackles a social issue, find out what organizations work with the issue and reach out to them. In many cases, partnering with a community organization will not only give your campaign backbone, it will also increase your company’s profile in the eyes of the public.

Don’t Be an Ostrich

 Every company makes mistakes from time to time, even marketing professionals. What’s most important to do, especially in the face of a campaign that’s not going the way a company intended, is to own up to it, come up with a new solution, or move on. One of the worst things to do is pretend that the campaign never happened or to completely shut your company off from criticism. Although it might seem like a remote possibility now, in a few months or years, a campaign that goes wrong might be something your company is able to use as fodder for jokes or even for a future PR or marketing project.

When creating a campaign, people neglect to think of strategy. Great ideas can only go so far when  a company doesn’t have the resources or the PR savvy to figure out the right strategy for a campaign.

Creating B2C sizzle with a B2B campaign


By now, you are probably aware of the power social media and the Internet have in the modern marketing and public relations landscape. Those in PR are no longer dependent on the traditional media to build awareness of a brand or to spread a brand’s message, as this 2012 Fast Company interview highlighting updated best practices for B2B PR explains.

While many B2B companies are launching social media and other campaigns to better reach and interact with their customers, a few obstacles stand in the way. One is that B2B products and services tend to be fairly commonplace, and thus not necessarily very exciting. Another is that B2B marketers often forget that they are talking to actual people, even though they are targeting their company and product to a business.

You might not be able to be as creative or casual with a B2B campaign as you would be with one for a B2C company, but that doesn’t mean you can’t borrow a few tricks from the B2C toolbox to spice things up.

Add Personality

There are two things to remember when working on a B2B campaign: you, a human, are creating it, and it will be looked at by other humans. Few, if any, people want to look at something that feels as if it has been created by a machine. If you’re trying to create something that is very formal and stiff, you’ll start to bore yourself, too.

You can add personality to a B2B campaign in a variety of ways. A look at successful campaigns from other major companies can give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Olivia Perek over at the New Breed Marketing Blog highlights campaigns from General Electric, as well as one from American Express and another from a shipping company. As Perek notes, GE’s campaign focus on the people behind its products. A series of videos featured people using GE products for the first time, such as a pregnant woman in a remote location, receiving her first ultrasound. To promote its new smart air conditioner, the company focused on the man who came up with the concept, adding humanity to what would otherwise be a fairly dry topic.

Think of it this way: The people at the companies you are trying to reach might benefit from using your product or service. But, they might not be able to see the benefit of that product or service until you show how others who are similar to them use and take advantage of it.

Get Culturally Relevant

Should you make a pop culture reference in a B2B campaign? Absolutely, especially if you can tie that reference into what the company is offering. Stay on top of what’s going on in terms of breaking news and culture, and use what works with your company.

Along with borrowing cultural references from B2C campaigns, you can also look to a few to see what not to do. Some B2C companies have made major missteps when trying to work current memes or hashtags into their marketing (see: DiGiorno’s tweet from September of last year). Before you work anything that’s trending into a campaign, be sure that you know exactly what the trend is referencing.

Move Beyond Text

B2B PR is traditionally very text based, from white papers to press releases. But, text isn’t the only way to convey a message, nor is it necessarily the best most effective way to reach your audience, as screens get smaller and attention spans shorter. Think beyond white papers, press releases, and blog posts and try experimenting with images, such as infographics, to get your message across. Podcasting, which is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, thanks to the popularity of Serial, can also be a great way to bring B2C techniques to a B2B campaign.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when trying to add some B2C pizazz to a B2B campaign is that it’s all about balance. You don’t want to be stiff and formal, but you also don’t want to risk alienating the business community by being too relaxed and informal. Aim for funny and engaging, but stop short of looking as though you are trying too hard.