News flash: Digital Marketing Should Be Specific

In the news business, editors write headlines to be a specific as possible to quickly convey the news and not leave room for ambiguity. They also do it to grab attention. A dull headline just won’t keep the attention of readers. This craft applies to digital marketing.

This practice must be applied to business marketing in the digital space as well. You don’t have much time or space to speak to your target audience. This is why you must be economical with your words. Pick precise words to quickly get your message across.

Remember, you are speaking to a specific audience, not mass media, so there is no need to speak to billions when your objective is to address millions or thousands. Be direct. People don’t have time to dillydally and will scroll past vague wording. A friend of mine is fond of noting “if you don’t say it straight, it comes out crooked.” Even if not crooked, indirect wording is a time waster. In reaching your selected audience, say something of value to them by being instructive with your content.

You are competing for attention in a crowded marketplace. Do you have a browser or two open right now? How many tabs are open? Are you looking at your phone too? digital marketingAll day long, there is a digital barrage of information flying at your audience. To hold their attention, you will need to project: authority, integrity and appeal. Your authority rests on your subject matter expertise. Stick to your knitting. Don’t get way off topic and try to appeal to too many people. For example, why are so many businesses using motivational slogans for self-improvement in their marketing of businesses that have nothing to do with self-improvement? Yes, I like #MondayMotivation, but I’m not clear on what it has to do with pastries, meteorology, animal rights, financial news, etc. We all know it’s a gimmick to rise in the pile of tweets by using that hashtag, but unless you are a motivational speaker or life coach, I would not use #MondayMotivation every Monday or in your Twitter profile. What are you selling? Build your online brand around that. If you sell pretzels, by all means go to town on #NationalPretzelDay, but for the most part most of us do not need to participate in every trending hashtag to garner attention.

When using technical language, elaborate with explanations in layman’s terms. Not only will you endear yourself to someone trying to quickly get up to speed on a topic, but you’re creating more searchable content with the synonyms.

Precise wording will appeal to people who don’t have time to mess around, such as decisionmakers. I just scrolled through my Twitter feed and saw a lot of mumbo jumbo and then two Tweets that were crystal clear. One was a writer seeking to interview ovarian cancer patients, and the other was about the latest debate over transgender rights. Did I click on them? No, but the next one is about business trip savings tips and that grabs my attention. What do these Tweets have in common? They are direct. They are specific. They are precisely worded.

For more communications consulting, contact Katharine Fraser.


Elevating Our Business Language above the Fray, Online and in Person

Call me an idealist. I believe that we should strive to use elevated language in our business dealings to ensure we are clear and effective in our communications. I try not to be dismayed by the lowering of standards in our society, but it’s hard.

Just look at all the trolls on Twitter who have taken over a lot of the political discourse. It seems many are emulating the bullying personas that have become all too prevalent, whether it be teen cyber-bullying, pop culture braggadocio or even mean-spirited tweets by a presidential candidate.

Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of a barrage of angry electronic comments in the social media world, even in business. I was recently asked whether steering clear of social media is one way to avoid all this. Sure, but I don’t advocate becoming a digital hermit in a digital world. I do recommend you respond to cyber critics, but in a kindly way and not in kind.

The best advice I ever heard at a writing conference came from an unlikely source: a retired FBI agent. He had been dispensing advice to newspaper reporters on how to deal with unwilling interview subjects. A reporter related a problem he was having with a cantankerous town council member and how this public official would shout down anyone who asked questions, even perfectly legitimate public policy questions. The retired investigator advised, “never shout back at a shouter. He’s been doing it his whole life and will be better at it than you.”

The advice was to instead maintain poise and an even tone. This tone may just aggravate the shouter, he added. The retired investigator then related a story about a time he patiently sat in a witness box while a criminal defense lawyer shouted at him with questions. The lawyer came closer and closer to the witness, all the while shouting. The witness waited for the right moment and then calmly asked if the lawyer would mind taking a few steps back. Why, asked the lawyer, am I intimidating you? No, came the reply, you are getting your spittle on me. The jury cracked up, the investigator said.

Funny, this writing conference was in the 1990s and back then boorish behavior was considered out of the norm, but today it is all too common. Sometimes people may not even realize what they are saying in business might be crossing a line, even inadvertently. I recently ran into a man at a coffee who was saying something that just didn’t sit right with me.

I wondered if he really meant what it sounded like, so I deployed a simple and effective communications mechanism. I asked him if I could summarize what I thought I heard him saying and, once I related what the message seemed to be, he seemed surprised. This gave him a chance to quickly correct what he really meant. It is a lot easier to give people a second chance with feedback than to dismiss them outright. feedback-796143_1280All too often in today’s discourse, people are too harsh, critical and rude. To rise above the fray, stake out that higher ground and stick to it. Use thoughtful language and tone, maintain professionalism and speak on the level at which you want to be addressed.

For more communications consulting, contact Katharine Fraser.

Words that Give Your Audience a Picture

A picture tells 1,000 words, but we still need words to tell stories. Pictures and words are not mutually exclusive when it comes to effective storytelling, especially when you consider how eye-grabbing images draw in people to read an article or blog.board-1106649__180

Illustrations and images are vital to narratives. Think of any great book you read and you will likely recall the cover illustration or image. Similarly, photojournalism conveys fact in an immediate manner and with memorable impact.

Still, we need words to deliver more complex concepts. We also need words to dispense linear descriptions, such as recipes. Granted, those high-speed video recipes are gaining in popularity for the very same reasons people love to look at still images. They just can’t look away. That being said, imagine making dinner by pressing replay over and over again rather than refer to a written recipe that you can scroll with your eyes.

With descriptive language, you can take your reader on a visual journey. Effective writing makes the audience feel as if they are there in that space from which a narration emanates. On the other hand, excessive use of adjectives creates language clutter. The key is to find the most apt or accurate words for the situation.

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I’ll never forget an exercise from middle school in which the teacher first had us draw monsters of our own creations. Mine was a horned swamp dweller. Next, the teacher told us we had to write a very short story about our monsters with enough detail for a classmate to draw the creature. I was amazed when this kid Robert drew my swamp monster as almost the same image as I had originally crafted.

This may be when I learned the power of effective writing. The reason the descriptive language worked is because I was thinking about how my audience would receive the information. Every time you write, think of who your audience is or who you want that audience to be. Speak to that audience.

In some circumstances, you may have to draw someone a picture, literally. I once grew frustrated with a group that did not follow my instructions and asked my boss how I could better give directions so that they would be followed. He said to draw a picture. I endeavored to write better directions in an email to the group and cc’d him. He was laughing at me when he then advised he literally meant to draw a picture with screenshots and arrow annotations. I did so and the instructions were used.

Think about all the instances in daily life, including business, when we need to tell an audience a story, give instructions or attract sales. Think about what space limitations you have and whether an image will help you get across the right message. See if you can find images that align with your written message in terms of attitude, tone and style.

Ultimately, it will be your words that give your audience the full picture or rendering of what you are providing. The written word is typically memorialized forever in the digital realm so choose your words for lasting impact.

For more communications consulting, contact Katharine Fraser.