Month: February 2021

Content marketing: when less IS more…

I’m Emma Hayward, one of the new trio of journalists turned content creators at The Power of Words B2B copywriting consultancy.

As I child I was glued to ‘John Craven’s Newsround’. That shows just how long I’ve been a news and information junkie.  As a journalist in local, national and international news, I’ve covered elections, conflict, health, the environment, arts and just about everything in between. I’ve also spent many hours standing outside Westminster talking about UK politics. I’ve always felt it’s a huge privilege when ordinary people share their stories during life’s highest and lowest moments.  

Simplifying the complex

To get people to listen to these amazing stories, fully digest them, and to feel any emotion, I would need to whittle down complex subjects to what sometimes felt like next to nothing. As a reporter, my entire story would often be about two minutes. That’s hardly anything and yet ample, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron.

SEO vs readability

Translating this for B2B content, clear, compelling copy is the best way to win over your clients and customers. Of course, that’s not always the case. If you’re wooing Google and trying to improve your rankings through long-form, then that’s a different conversation. Although we’d still argue that it needs to have a useful purpose, solve problems and not be written that length for the pure SEO sake of it.

Chop, chop, chop

At The Power of Words we write, re-read, chop, chop some more and chop again, until we’ve whittled the copy down to its smallest, yet most powerful form. The old adage ‘the best things come in smaller packages’ is true, in our book.

Fatbergs?

What I’ve also learnt though during two decades in the business is that the most interesting stories aren’t always the ones that everyone wants to do.  One of my favourites was filming in a Victorian sewer under central London with the man in charge of clearing the mini mountains of wipes and grease known as fatbergs. Exploring the bowels of London was a dizzying and somewhat enlightening experience, and one I’ll never forget. 

Secret writing weapon

In content marketing, headlines – or titles – are your secret weapon, whether for entire campaigns or individual blogs and articles. And for this, you need to channel your inner journalist. In badly written material, the real story can get buried on page 2 and by that time, your potential audience has already pressed the snooze button.

On that note, I won’t keep you a moment longer – except for some quick content pointers.

The Power of Words’ content tips:

  • LEARN SOME JOURNALISTIC TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Consider training up your junior marketers or PRs to write more in-house content.
  • CREATE WOW HEADLINES: Take time on these – they are as important as the 1,000 words that follow.
  • AVOID ACRONYMS: KWIM?: (Know what I mean…?) They’re alienating and confusing.

Why waffle wastes golden opportunities to engage.

As you heard in our previous blog The Power of Words is now a B2B copywriting consultancy (always selling). Well, I’m Jess Watson, part of the new writing team – one of a trio of journalists turned content creators – and today, dear audience, I am on a rampage about waffle.

“Energetic, enthusiastic, tenacious and talented. Hire her in a heartbeat,” one client said of me. That’s very flattering, of course. He said it because the truth is, I don’t stop until I’ve unearthed the most attention-grabbing story that will get a B2B client’s message heard in the noisy online space.

In the business world, that golden nugget is usually hidden behind the corporate waffle, my number-one enemy. Strip it out and there’s almost always a story to be found that will strengthen your brand and get you noticed.  

So why is there still so much puff and padding doing the rounds almost 80 years since Winston Churchill said, ‘this report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read’?

Why does verbiage permeate so much of our lives?

Waffle: the number one enemy of clear thought

When I moved from the newsroom to corporate comms, it was a luxury having no daily deadline. But in its place was a far more stressful challenge: navigating the waffle and lingo.

I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one struggling to understand what things meant. While researching for a report I was writing for the NHS, I encountered a website that had been set up by trainee doctors specifically for the purpose of helping their peers translate the confusing jargon, acronyms, phrases and different job titles used in the health sector. It had become a learning module in its own right, alongside the usual stuff you’d expect a junior doctor to be taught – like clinical specialisms, medicine and surgical procedures. The website became a useful resource that I drew from when writing my report.

A clarion call for clarity

While all specialisms use their own language at a certain level, my view is if you don’t contain it at that level, it’ll filter through an organisation like Japanese knotweed and cause just as much harm. Untamed corporate language is a massive turn off for everyone: the employees you need to keep motivated, enthusiastic and inspired, and your B2B audience, whoever they are.

In 2021, there’s an urgent need for clarity. Not only will digital audiences leap off your content in a matter of seconds if it doesn’t grab, but we are in a climate of acute distrust. People crave authenticity and expertise. Information that’s authoritative and easy to digest (i.e., doesn’t tax the brain with flowery words and poorly constructed sentences) and is written by a specialist in a certain field will make far more compelling content.

My advice to clients is: once you’ve established your message and what it is you want to say, try to keep your language as simple as you can. Figure out your area of expertise, then write as much about it as possible while addressing it to a six-year-old child. Or your friend from school whose job is very different to yours.

It’s surprisingly liberating shaking free of corporate waffle and your readers will like you that much more. So go out and grab those golden opportunities with simple content that engages, not overwhelms. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with three easy tips to digest.

The Power of Words’ content tips:

  • JOG ON JARGON: If your nan doesn’t understand your copy, don’t distribute it to the world.
  • IDEAS ARE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT: Think like a journalist and explore many intriguing ways of telling and selling your stories.
  • DON’T BE AD HOC: strategising how your content pans out for the months ahead makes savvy business sense.

Next week, in the final part of our introduction trilogy, you’ll hear from our third writer (but by no means third wheel) at The Power of Words, Emma Hayward – a master of headlines and less is more enthusiast…

Hello TPW

Listen up: We now have triple the power to transform your content.

Goodbye, TPW. Hello, The Power of Words B2B Copywriting Consultancy. And it’s time to meet the new team: a trio of female journalists turned content creators (a.k.a. the people who can transform your content in 2021)…

For now, we are going to do exactly what we advise all our clients not to do: namely, write about ourselves in shameless pieces of self-promotion. However, never fear, we will also be tackling the problems we solve for you with some top tips from our team of writers.

First up, TPW herself: Founder & Head of Content at The Power of Words – hater of the term ‘stakeholder’ and lover of things in threes…

In the spirit of just that, I will tell you just three things about my professional self and my modus operandi as a B2B content expert.

  1. Storytelling, above all

As a former broadcast journalist (ITN, Al Jazeera English) I’ve written about a lot of things, from the ridiculous to the momentous. From bullfighting, sheep racing and what not to feed hedgehogs, to serious stories on religious conflicts, contested elections and natural disasters, I’ve been around the block a bit when it comes to writing content. What this means is I know how to pique the interest of audiences with intriguing narratives and refreshing angles. In my world, there’s no room for ‘churnalism’; there’s always a new hook to explore.

  • My own USPs

Seven years ago, having already hopped from news to comms, I leapt once more – this time, going solo as a copywriter. My first client was Save the Children. However, TPW the ‘brand journalist’ of all those years ago, is very different to the one writing this blog today. Back then, I never said no to a writing job, no matter the sector, style or subject matter. Over time, I’ve understood my own messaging, my unique expertise that makes me stand out from other writers (there are many of us) and, importantly, my niche audiences (clients in financial services, green industries and tech sectors). Before TPW’s team of writers put pen to paper, this is what we always ascertain with our clients.  Only then will your content marketing fly.

  • Believe in the process

I am a Virgo, and while I am far from spiritual, I do like a process. It sounds so boring! But The Power of Words uses a tried and tested approach that leads to content that’s anything but. Through years of experience dealing with our wonderful clients, we know they also appreciate planned creative content. Unlike my days in the newsroom when it was a fly by the seat of your pants-style scenario most days, at The Power of Words, we’ll take you through certain steps – from brainstorm to interviews, research to drafts and amends (read about said steps here). And there’s one thing we can promise you: the word stakeholder will never feature.

The Power of Words’ top content tips:

  • Ensure your team is singing from the same song-sheet when it comes to all your external comms. From your emails to your blogs and press releases, if your messaging and tone of voice is not in tune, it’ll be confusing for your audiences – and also internally.
  • Make 2021 the year to shake up your content formats: from infographics and videos to blogs, thought leadership articles and research reports.
  • Repurpose your content. We often see a long thought leadership article distributed online just one. And yet, there are plenty more bites of the cherry to be had after such time and investment.

Next week, you’ll hear from TPW writer, Jess Watson, a self-confessed waffle warrior, and her call for clarity…

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