Crates representing the concept of content.

A Plea Against Content

Please don’t call it content. It’s a story, a narrative, a digest of valuable information. Content just sounds like some stuff you shoved into a space without much consideration that the stuff should be interesting or helpful.

The word content did not spring from the mind of a writer. Similarly, the word blog is short for web log. A log is usually a register of data in chronological order, such as the captain’s log on a ship. Those logs do contain valuable information, and in some cases, compelling narratives.

A few years back, I was working as an editor (not a content reviewer, mind you) and a company that historically was in the publishing business. It evolved into an information provider. A colleague was walking guests across the floor (used to be called a newsroom) and swept his hand in our direction, pointing out we were the content creators. I cannot help but note that the website of this company still touts its news, data and analysis. See? News, data and analysis are specifics, while content is a bland blob of something.

What exactly is content?

A lot of people don’t know what content is. I once encountered a guy who asserted that social media and content marketing are different things. Note: he is in a different business. I’m still scratching my head if he thinks social media posts go out without any content in them. People are confused because the word content is unclear to them.

For content marketing, it is essentially marketing copy. You are telling your customers what you do, why you do it, why you do it better than the competition and how what you do is valuable. This can come in the form of a special offer, a personal story, an educational article about a product or current event or even beautiful images related to your product or service.

I agree wholeheartedly with the story told here by the Content Marketing Institute about content marketing failures. This entity even claims to be the first to call it “content marketing.” Because some people have heard of that, I will use the term myself, but I really don’t like it. For one client, I recommended we call the blog section of their website “Stories & Videos.” It is specific and it far more inviting for a click than “Pile of Content Here.”

Yes, I call my blog just that, but when you land on the page, I talk about tips and insights. I am sharing perspective, advice and experiences. Will I continue to use the word content? Sure, but begrudgingly so.

Words have jobs to do and they should serve very specific roles.  A word like content is just terribly vague. When I was a kid, my family hosted an exchange student from Spain. One day we walked into CVS and the store was having some kind of inventory blowout. There were stacks of products and big sale signs. My sister remarked, “wow, look at all this stuff.” Our guest was not fluent in English and asked for a definition of stuff. My sister was stumped. Stuff, you know, stuff. It’s stuff you have and put somewhere. It’s stuff. Sounds like content to me.

Mobile phone next to credit card indicating an online purchase.

Social Media Engagement is a Two-Way Street

In social media, what do people want to watch and read about a product or service? Are you giving the people what they want?

Reflect a moment on your own social media habits. Which businesses do you like and follow? Are you liking a business or ad you see on Facebook, only to not see it again? By contrast, do you often see the posts of businesses you regularly engage with? What is engagement?

When you comment on a post, you are engaging with that business, which tells a little algorithm birdie you want to see more of that kind of content. For example, I personally like many businesses, but will always see the ones about cooking because I comment on the posts by cooking and lifestyle magazines I follow. I like a handful of them so much that I told Facebook (via newsfeed preferences) I want to see those businesses posts first in my newsfeed.Mobile phone next to credit card indicating an online purchase.

What can you do to reach such elevated status with your following? Are you giving them how-to information? That how-to can serve as an intro to the rest of your expertise. Or, it may compel them to hire you to do it all for them.

You want to stay front of mind so when they hear a friend say, I’m in the market for a new widget, your audience says, hey, I saw this great video from a widget maker you may like.

The video can be as simple as one of your subject-matter experts speaking to the camera with an explanation about a product or service. The expert should be approachable.

Are you friendly? Do your written posts speak in a friendly, fun voice? Remember you are trying to reach people when they are in a recreational mode (surfing social media).

Numbers Tell the Story – Check Your Analytics

When it comes to social media and other content marketing, including website content, review what’s working and what’s not working. Social media provides analytics for businesses to see which posts perform well and which get less traction. Seize the data. Look at trends over recent months and seasonal periods. Be sure to look at the interplay between social media analytics and the Google Analytics for your business website.

When it comes to the content in your social media, give your target market something concrete, tangible, specific and, most importantly, actionable.

What is the point of telling people you are a master craftsman of widgets if you don’t give them a way to buy the widget. This does not mean you should plaster tacky ACT NOW buttons all over your social media posts and website. Instead, you are giving them options for engaging:

  • Promote an event, such as an open house
  • Offer a free or lower-priced consultation
  • Provide a link to a digital coupon or limited-time special offer

What are you selling? Yourself, especially if this is a small business. What is it about your background and best practices that provide the value people get for what they are paying? Answer those questions in your content.

Video is Eye Catching

Remember when Facebook first started autoplaying video and consumers freaked out because they thought it would eat into their mobile data costs? Well, that was resolved and now when people scroll, they naturally stop at video. The movement and colors really pop off their phones.

I really love creating videos for clients, especially one with music and backdrops because I can use still photos of products or scenes in such slideshow-based videos. There are apps and programs you can use to create and edit videos. Of course, Facebook wants you to use its video ad builder, but it is not as advanced as other set-ups. That said, the Facebook video ad builder is a useful platform I have used and seen good results.

What is you favorite video editor? Your favorite platform or venue for watching video?

For more content marketing ideas, contact communications consultant Katharine Fraser of Adroit Narratives.

A smart phone revealing a lack of authenticity.

Death of Credibility, Draw of Content Authenticity

The best content you see on social media is truly from a real source. Remember the Chewbacca lady or the guy singing about the Patti LaBelle sweet potato pies? I personally love The Pioneer Woman and if she isn’t writing those Facebook posts herself, I will be shocked. At the same time, though, our world is awash in fake content.

As a former journalist, it’s disheartening to see the growth and success of fake news sites, which popped up like mushrooms after a rain during the U.S. presidential election season. Instead of being dismayed, many people are plucking these fake stories and serving them up to all their friends on Facebook.

For its part, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg maintains that fake news is a miniscule portion of the content shared on the social network. In a Facebook post, he also warns that “I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.” Granted, it doesn’t want to become a giant editorial operation arguing finer points of facts, satire, context, etc. with millions of armchair auteurs.

Real news will have to combat the hucksters. In the free marketplace of ideas, it’s up to the truth purveyors to push out the falsity. Remember that fake story about an FBI agent found dead after investigating Hillary Clinton’s email? I absolutely loved that the Denver Post, a real news organization, not only rebutted the story, but revealed that the fake news outlet has a physical address for a tree in a parking lot. Indeed, the Denver Post slapped a great headline on that exposure: “There is no such thing as the Denver Guardian, despite that Facebook post you saw.”

Beware of feel-good fake stories

The paradox is people who believe the click bait bull dookie may also love authentic stories, but they may not always be able to quickly tell the difference. A friend in Houston posted to Facebook a feel-good story about Clint Eastwood praising the good folks of Plainview, Texas, for helping him with rental car troubles. I smelled B.S., especially given the poor quality of the article writing. I googled the matter and found that Clint Eastwood purportedly had the same wonderful things to say about the good people of Lake Jackson, Texas, as well as Florence, Kentucky. If you go to the websites with these stories, you will see a whole bunch of other headlines that make the National Enquirer look like The New York Times. Snopes found a whole host of similar hoax stories about celebrities and car troubles:

This is why it is critical to make sure that you only share real articles for your business Facebook page or other social media account for your marketing. If your business shares a fake story, then your credibility is on the line. Customers would think you are either gullible yourself or trying to put something over on them. Either way, you would end up looking bad.

sell the truth: BE yourself

Besides fake stories, there is another category of inauthentic content on social media: pre-packaged content used for business sectors and used again and again and again. Unbeknownst to a local veterinarian, the company that used to manage his animal hospital’s website was for some automated reason still posting to Facebook for its account. A smart phone revealing a lack of authenticity.This content publisher was also posting to the Facebook page of a competing animal hospital nearby. And, surprise, surprise, the content was identical. The exact same posts made to the Facebook pages with the exact same blog links. Would the pet parents who like either page really learn something from the blog? Maybe.

Would it be better to have content created specially about that business for that business? Yes. For example, I share articles on home design for a home renovation client. We also share pictures and videos of remodeling job sites to show how beautiful his company’s work is. What was one of the most successful posts ever for this client? I linked to the About Us section of the company’s website, used a picture of the business owner and posted about his customer service philosophy. It took off!

Why? Because it is real. Because it is specifically about that particular business and how it delivers. Because it is authentic. Sell yourself when it comes to content marketing. It makes you credible and validates your business. That is what you want people to buy.

For more information on content creation, contact consultant Katharine Fraser of Adroit Narratives.

Swipe Files: Are They Really Your Content Bestie?

You want your business to break through the digital marketing clutter and stand out, so why use someone else’s material in your social media content?

There are some best practices that are quantifiable in terms of response rates and conversions. Most people are more likely to click on Learn More than Buy Now! Also true is that some wording is really good and can be used again.

Back in my news writing days, when on a breaking news assignment, I would always go back to the “morgue,” or digital library of previously published stories, to refresh my memory on what the facts surrounding a situation had been. This way, I could supply background and give the context around a major change. In other words, looking at the original story gave me the ability to tell the readers why is this news and what does the newest information mean to them.

But, here’s the caveat. Something in the original story is likely outdated. The worst possibility would be to repeat a mistake. The old story should be a guide, not a gospel. Worst of all – and this applies to marketing copy – people will recognize the wording as canned. This is a sure-fire way to lose people. Oh, I’ve seen this before, and poof, they have clicked away.

Write gripping content

As an aside, in a world where we are awash in content, we don’t always recognize something we have read before. I have had the experience myself of reading an old news story from prior years and thinking it seemed familiar, only to then see my own byline. Still, if you are trying to be fresh and relevant, rehashing old content is not exactly gripping.

Even worse, it is possible to “swipe” copyrighted content, which is a no-no. You can emulate the style of swipe files you think will work for your business.

Granted, you can repurpose content. That is, your own content. Perhaps you have extensive collateral material on your business website and in handout marketing materials that identify your core product or service, how it works and why it is of value to customers and clients. This copy can be repurposed into your social media and blogging content. Indeed, it must so that your brand is recognizable in all settings. This is known as “omnichannel marketing.” Take the tidbits in that content that really pop and use those phrases in the social media content.

If you are a small or big business, you want the customer to immediately recognize the product or service experience when they are at the point of sale because they already became acquainted with you online. Analogously, your LinkedIn profile should come across as if someone is meeting you in person in a boardroom setting. Your product and service should come across online to perfect strangers who find you on Twitter, in their Facebook feeds, etc.

SOCIAL MEDIA BEST PRACTICES

But, if you are using swipe files, how can you distinguish yourself? You can blend your own branding with ad copy wording that is known to work. You should review Facebook ads swipe files and similar resources (just Google). Checking out the look, feel and wording will inform how you decide to write your social media posts and sponsored content (ads). See what you like and what you dislike. Think about what will inspire or intrigue your ideal customer. You want to write the ad to speak to that target market.

For more content writing tips or to inquiry about Adroit Narratives’ content marketing writing services, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

How to Write Quality Content for Websites and Social Media

There’s an old story about a dog who chased cars for years and when he actually caught hold of a bumper, he had no idea what to do with it. Same goes for businesses that are singularly focused on SEO [search engine optimization] but don’t have good underlying marketing copy, or content, to keep people on their website. A knowledgeable SEO provider can get you a higher ranking in SERP (search engine results pages), but that’s no good if your website content is boring, or worse, shoddy. Another problem apparent in some website content these days is content written by software for SEO purposes. Quite frankly, a dramatic reading of this content requires a robotic voice. It’s bad enough if a typo is on your website, so why allow horrific grammar and awkward wording to be on there? Instead, you can pair good SEO practices and good content writing. After all, what is the point of driving traffic to your website if the content on it is embarrassing or uninformative?

Pros and Cons of SEO Writing

You’ve probably seen or use a blog plugin for SEO writing that advises you if you are properly using your keyword and supplies other pieces of pragmatic advice. But that doesn’t allow for nuances. Note how the word content is not in the first sentence of this blog. Well, technically, that is a no-no, but then how would I have given you the analogy of the car-chasing dog? What would be more memorable – the visual of the dog grabbing hold of a bumper in its mouth or the use of the word “content”? As an aside, I’m not even a fan of the word content (which is dreaded in certain writing circles as dull and meaningless) but I use it nonetheless because it is a word I know people are using in web searches as it has a specific meaning. Here is where old-fashioned good writing and SEO writing actually align: use specific words. Always be as specific as possible. This is good for traditional writing in that specificity provides clarity. It is also good for SEO because key words are findable.

Don’t Make Perfect the Enemy of Good content

I hear from a lot of people that they have an idea for a blog or for their website but they are not ready to post it because it doesn’t seem perfect. If you were striving to win a literature prize, this inertia would be understandable. If you are a business owner looking to announce a new offering or provide background on what you company does, please do not hold back. Start writing. Give yourself parameters to make it approachable, such as:

  • setting aside 30 minutes to give the writing your undivided attention
  • just write 500 words per blog or webpage
  • segment the content into business categories by services/products, seasonal campaigns, etc.

Proofread

For the love of Pete, please proofread your writing before publishing. Ask a colleague or employee to edit it. Print it out and re-read it with fresh eyes. Walk away from it for an hour and return to review it anew. Proofread for typos and grammar woes by reading the content from the bottom up, starting from the last sentence. You are more likely to catch errors this way than if taking it from the top only to read right past your mistakes.

Own It

Take the same pride in authorship as you do in your business. Writing for the web about your business is no different than standing up at a local business breakfast to give an elevator pitch about your company. Put the same thought and consideration into what you write as what you say to customers and prospects.

For more writing advice, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

dictionary

tools of the trade: real writers check dictionaries and style guides

Sharing is Caring in Social Media, Pass It On with Business Posts

There’s an old saying in the news business – if it bleeds, it leads – that points to a reality in human nature: bad news travels fast. We also see that everyday in social media and it can serve a purpose when it comes to the greater good. For instance, news about a physical danger, such as summertime thunderstorm systems racing across a region or resources in an emergency, should travel fast and social media is hard to beat when it comes to immediately reaching a vast audience. We also see how outrage is easily contagious and you’ll see a rash of angry posts with people sharing a news story about situation that is truly terrible. Or, maybe the story isn’t quite accurate. Either way, the outrage is real and prompts people to like, comment and share. And so on and on and on. What about your small business posts? They are not likely to become as viral as the outrage of the week, a major news story or a video of a dog riding a unicycle.

Compel your audience to share your posts

Compel your audience to share your posts

Your customers probably like your page, but if they are not liking and sharing your posts, it is not enhancing your digital profile as much as you might like. Once customers and employees share a post, an array of new audiences unfold like petals on a blossoming flower. Suddenly, hundreds or thousands of people who don’t like your page or even know your business are seeing your post in their news feeds. Moreover, they are seeing it sharing by a trusted source: one of their friends.

Why should people care about your content?

While I do think there is a lot of value to buying Facebook ads and other sponsored posts (Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.), arguably it may be more meaningful for people to see organically shared content. Now, for the content itself. You want it to represent your company culture and brand. If you are sharing an article from another source, put some thought and your own voice into the introductory wording that explains why you are sharing this article and what it means to you. Don’t just do this for the sake of posting. Spare your audience something vague, e.g., “check this out!” They will tune you out. What does it mean to your business and how is it valuable to them. In newsroom parlance, why do we care? When creating the content yourself, write clearly and succinctly in social media posts. Read your draft out loud. Does it sound natural? Does it illustrate who you are and what your approach to the market is? Does it answer an implicit question: why should someone buy products from you? You will want to convey that you are a friendly, approachable subject-matter expert. This is not necessarily an immediately gratification game. You want to keep dropping a line here and there to stay front of mind. For example, I receive a regular newsletter from a garden nursery. It’s not the cheapest garden center in town, but I feel loyal to it because of the free advice the newsletter dispenses. Here’s the funny thing, however, about social media: unlike a newsletter, a page’s posts will not keep coming to everyone who likes a business page. To stay engaged, the audience needs to show it cares. If they don’t like your posts, subsequent ones are likely to drift out of the slipstream of their newsfeeds.

Liking and sharing To See It

Ever notice that issue with posts and groups you think you follow? If you don’t participate in a group’s ongoing chatter, you might not see notifications about it anymore. To test that proposition, last night I posted a video to a closed group I’m in but have not seen notifications from in aeons. Today, the notifications from that group were revived. It’s as simple as liking the posts from a page to keep it percolating in your stream. This is why you want to craft content that people will feel spurred to like and share. You even see like and share contests. I just voted for a dog’s picture in a like and share contest for a dog treat bakery. I went as far as to like the bakery’s company page even though it is in a far away state. Why? Because I felt connected as a fellow social media marketer who wanted to help their efforts. Besides, I love dogs. Share the love on social media and be sure to like and share posts by businesses you support. As for you business page, make sure your best customers and new fans are also liking and sharing. Give them something to love and share.

For more information on content creation, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

How Public Speaking Helps Your Business

I bet you think you are not an orator, but how often does your work require you to hold forth? Each time you give your elevator pitch, contribute in a meeting or handle a client relations call, you are indeed presenting. Ask yourself, how much preparation and thought do I put into this speaking content and can I do better?

The term public speaking conjures up an image of a speaker addressing the masses. When I say public speaking, do you envision Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial? Intimidating, right?

Or, perhaps you think of an executive delivering financial results to an assembly of hundreds in a darkened hotel ballroom. Maybe not as inspirational. Then again, that content should be engaging if the executive is as committed to the audience as he is to the subject matter itself.

The reality is we all have daily opportunities to deploy public speaking skills.

Ever been in a meeting getting off track until a good speaker pleasantly took command?

Do you want to excel in giving presentations?

Have you ever turned around a difficult customer service call – either as the customer or the company representative – by using a different tone of voice and the power of persuasion? Congratulations, you are well on your way as a public speaker.silhouette-774834_1280

There are techniques you can add to your verbal skills repertoire. Also, I encourage you to enjoy listening and watching how others speak, and see how effective some practices really are.

So much of what we convey in public speaking is in our body language. Where we are standing. What expressions cross our face. Our vocal variety. Some folks may be so enthused in these categories that the audience is distracted by criss-cross pacing, rapid-fire use of a laser pointer or, in the case of some politicians, excessive laughter at their own jokes.

It’s really not that complicated. Let’s break down the basics. You have your topic and should organize which material must be included. Consider how you are going to share this as a narrative. At the outset of the speech, you may give the audience a little verbal agenda to let them know what to expect. You’ve probably heard this approach and the reason it is widely used is it is often quite effective. It also shows the audience you care about their participation in your speech as listeners. They will appreciate a road map in advance as you embark on a verbal journey.

Now that your topic is organized, your role as speaker is that of an advocate. You may be selling an idea or a product, but using softer skills than the OxyClean guy. You want to place your topic in the audience’s minds as something that is contributing on some level to an authentic purpose. If not the greater good or a charitable cause, than at least something that is useful and worthy of respect.

Sounds great, right? Some of you, though, may loathe the idea of standing up to give a presentation. Perhaps you are somewhat shy. Some of us prefer to deliver well-honed and polished written material. Some people may have developed an aversion to Powerpoint.

For those of you who are shy, consider how your reserved nature may actually benefit you. You are not at risk of saying the wrong thing or going to far.

I’ve never been shy. When I was two years old, a family friend pinched my cheek and remarked “what cute dimples you have!” I was so delighted I was compelled to reciprocate with a compliment and told the chubby man, “And you have a fat face!”

Thus, I became active in the practice of public speaking to learn how to edit myself. I wanted to learn not only how to be more disciplined in my speech, but in how I listened and learned from other people’s speech.

Let’s review some simple steps to make giving a speech approachable, easy and painless.

  • Pick a topic you know or have time to research. Possessing a strong command of the subject matter will give you confidence.
  • Write the speech ahead of time.
  • Read the speech out loud and tweak things that sound funny.
  • Read the speech out loud to someone who cares about you and will praise what you are doing well and give an honest appraisal of what might not be working.
  • Turn on a stopwatch and read the speech out loud. Are you fitting within the allotted time you have been given? Edit accordingly.
  • Read the speech out loud, over and over. Consider different delivery styles with vocal variety and your placement on stage. What hand gestures are you using?
  • Read the speech over and over until you feel you know it and are very comfortable giving it.

Public speaking is not just about speech. It is about listening. The practice of speaking makes us more attuned to what we are saying and, in turn, to what are others are telling us. Once engaged in your aspiration to become a better speaker, you will find yourself more actively listening to others. Consider what words they chose, or should have chosen. Watch their body language and hear the tones. There are some techniques other people are using, consciously or not, that you can learn from. Emulate good habits. Cut people some slack in ordinary settings when you hear them flub their speech and listen for what they were trying to say. This thought process will help guide you as you improve your speaking skills.

Perhaps you already prepare for speaking by crafting bullet points ahead of a meeting. This is the same kind of groundwork that goes into speech writing. Think about what you want to accomplish in conversation, whether a speech, a presentation, a meeting or call, and how you will go about it. Have that bullet-point list, but also have a list of things to listen to in others. Did you hear vocal varierty and emphasis? Purposeful pauses? Strong vocabulary words?

Take steps to improve your public speaking in creative and constructive ways. Put yourself in the practice of speech by volunteering to give a presentation or run a meeting. Take every opportunity to get up to speak. Once engaged in this practice, you will become a daily orator. Strong verbal content will also improve how you convey your message elsewhere, including with social media. The most powerful driver for strong speech is crafting your ability to persuade.

For more communications consulting, contact Katharine Fraser.

Don’t Be Shy in the Digital Realm – Get Out There with Content

The more you put out there, the more you get back. When starting or revving up a brand, the more you update the website content and post to social media, the more presence you have in the digital atmosphere. If you remain silent, you are dormant.

This is analogous to face-to-face networking. You pick and choose which business events to attend and which to avoid. The same goes with content marketing. By thoughtfully choosing your words, and yes, hash tags, you can speak to certain target audiences.

There are metrics to show how much reach you have attained. A main driver should be searchability. Can someone find you in an online search? Again, the more content produced in your brand’s name, the more likely you are to show up in search results.

Now, the actual content matters and I argue it should be written in a tone consistent with your corporate culture. A lot of digital clutter is created when content writers use the same techniques and wording (think of lists with phrases like Top 10 Hacks.. or Companies Killing It…). Distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace with original content.

Moreover, each time you blog anew, it ideally is topical enough to be considered fresh, notes Search Engine Land. In addition, each blog is an opportunity to get noticed by search engines due to indexing, notes HubSpot.

Great, eh? Now what do you want to blog? Often we are so immersed in our work and business, we are too close to see all the subject matter that can be promoted in blogs. Start with a list of questions, issues, challenges and requests you hear from clients and prospects. These are the same things that people search for online. Your blog content should address those interests and answer those questions. You should incorporate those query words into the blog and show how your business provides solutions and offers the products and services that solve problems.

Include specifics and even anecdotes about your customer service. Once the person reading your content (yes, we want people to actually read the content) sees a real-life example of how you provided a product or service, then they will decide they want that too. Give them reasons to pick you over a competitor. But, to be part of that marketplace, you need to pipe up and blog. For more blogging insights, see more by consultant Katharine Fraser.

Why How To and Checklists Hold So Much Appeal

If you clicked on this headline, then it worked because people are looking for solutions that pave the path of least resistance through an increasing number of challenges in our work and our lives in general. If you want to put your business out there as the answer to people’s problems, then you may want to consider creating content that addresses their needs.

If someone is searching online for, say, how to reset the cycle on a washing machine and you have content that addresses that challenge, you are presented as a subject-matter expert and better yet, a useful resource. I have clients in service industries that have retained me for this kind of blog writing for that very reason: they want people in their markets to find them and hire them.

How the How To List Emerged for Capturing Content

How the How To List Emerged for Capturing Content

Consider as well the Top X list’s success. More than 20 years ago, I was researching and compiling Top 25 companies lists for a local business newspaper. No matter what business sector was featured that week, the Top 25 list was always a popular item, especially for the participants who wanted to be in that spotlight in front of a targeted audience. Nowadays, we can leverage the web to find target audiences and the list format is widely popular. Granted, some so-called listicles seem silly, but they are effective in attracting readers.

A How-To primer or checklist provides utility and places the author as front of mind as an industry leader. You want to be position yourself as someone who is solving a problem, whether it is something as monumental as revamping infrastructure or as relatively mundane as a home improvement.

Perhaps you are concerned about giving away too much for free. Remember you are selling your experience and know-how, and that builds good will. Frankly, someone planning to DIY won’t buy your product or services in any event, but there is a large market of people who do not want to do-it-yourself legal, medical, construction, etc. They do want to know your approach to your product and service and a How To blog shows that you are top notch in your field and appealing. Plus, there are likely to be things on a checklist that your target audience cannot or, moreover, does not want to do themselves. A regular, ongoing blog series should be a mainstay to your online marketing presence.

For more information on blog writing, please contact consultant and editor Katharine Fraser of Adroit Narratives.

How-to Guide for Media Messaging

There really is no mystery in media training. For starters, it can be distilled into some simple do’s and don’ts. Before I give you the rundown, allow me to disclose I am a proponent of transparency. I don’t advocate for that as a former journalist wanting to help reporters get stories, but as firm believer that markets are more efficient when they operate on valid information.

If you opt to remain silent in today’s real-time marketplace, then fold your arms and watch rampant speculation fill the void. If you like market inefficiencies, then you’ll love the outcomes. Dark markets are the province of manipulators. If you would rather define your business yourself instead of having others paint an unflattering or inaccurate picture, then let’s carry on with how to position your messaging.

Don’t hide. It’s become fashionable to omit from press releases contact names and information for media representatives. Make it easy for reporters to call or email you. If you’re not ready to answer the phone, let them leave a message. Now you know what the word on the street is.

Don’t exclusively rely on social media. We all need and use social media on a constant basis. But, don’t let it supplant verbal and email communications. Yes, you can tweet updates in a crisis, but do include a link to a FAQ page that you can continually provide clear, elaborative details. Relying on tweet sound bites alone could create ambiguity. Allow for the possibility that there is a question you left unanswered and let people reach you directly for clarification.

Be direct. Leaving room for misinterpretation opens the door to misreporting, be it by journalists or anyone who tweets. They say it’s impossible to unring a bell — imagine trying to unring all those retweets.

Calibrate and re-calibrate your content, depending on your audience. Not all reporters are the same. Even in this day of listicles, many reporters, especially those working for trade publications, are substantive and warrant attention. Ask the reporter follow-up questions about their questions to gauge how much they already know. Know your audience and speak to it accordingly.

Be proactive. Have you ever had your congressman call you? I was thrilled to receive a telephone call from a live town hall meeting being held by my congressman. Being a policy nerd, I was delighted to hear his voice, letting constituents know what issues are on his radar and where he looks to act. Make yourself available to those who are open, available or targetable for your messaging. Promote such an event ahead of time with social media, or instead, post podcasts or videos. Also, don’t assume you should only reach demographics you know already agree with you. In the free marketplace of ideas, you’re missing opportunities to persuade if you don’t speak more broadly.

Provide education on your business. People outside your industry generally don’t know a thing about it, but may think they know it. Use a background piece to illustrate and explain your business. This approach gives you the opportunity to frame your products and services in context.

Granted, there will be times when you may not disclose information. Don’t be shy in saying that is the case, whether it is because of pending litigation (or threat of litigation), nondisclosure agreements, regulatory limits or you simply don’t have the information. You decide how much of the reason you want to cite. By all means, if deemed necessary, leave it at no comment. No comment at this time is fine.

Finally, establish relationships with people who are covering what you do. There may be a time when you want to readily reach those people and vice versa. Don’t be a stranger. Be a part of the discussion.

For more information on enhancing your business communications, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

Adroit Narratives