Normally, my reaction to most listicles that begin with ‘XX tips for…’ is to immediately scroll on. Especially when in the increasingly weird world of engaging online content, some of the lists are not only hitting the 70s or even 100s, but come littered with so many ads they are rendered unreadable.
So, at risk of ruining the SEO of the title, I’d like to add a pre-tip – a bonus if you like – to the list of five, and that is keep it short, keep it relevant, and keep it clear. Your readers will love you if you’ve paid attention to the aesthetic of the (web) page, and the information provided is clear, concise and useful. No-one likes click bait, right? So, having established a somewhat rambling pre-amble, here are five tips my team adheres to when we (try to) create newsworthy social media posts and content…
- Be authentic
Too many people get caught out on social media, from ever-present trick photoshopping scandals, to posing in a store with expensive jewellery or watches, pretending you own them. A good brand – whether internal or client-based – frames its content with an authentic voice. To be authentic, of course, you have to have a solid grip on what the brand identity is. In these cynical times, as soon as content is being served from a brand, people are suspicious of its motives. Align content with brand values, and you begin to win the battle for eyeballs. I’m thinking of words like aspirational, dynamic, trustworthy and reliable.
- Deliver the human interest angle
PR 101 is understanding that good journalism revolves around human interest. You might be trying to grab attention for a new sink washer; but think how that sink washer might help real people live a better life (non-dripping taps, for starters!). It’s our job to make the readers, viewers, listeners feel why the product or service is important. These days, we have all the tools available to create beautiful brand stories. Emotion sells, put bluntly. Think of a memorable campaign, and chances are it tugged at your heart strings, right?
- Lose your assumptions, PDQ…
Day one in any newsroom, and you’re taught to never assume your dear readers know anything about the subject. The same applies to PR content. Litter a post, a pitch or an article with acronyms, and you’ll quickly lose interest. Esoteric and arcane language loses people fast. Of course, there’s also an element of judging the audience you’re trying to communicate with. If your client is purveying cloud-based solutions to network data engineers, for example, there’s a strong chance they’ll completely understand technical language. Don’t assume, but don’t patronise. It’s a tightrope, but manageable.
- Go the extra mile
Value is key. A story well told is more engaging and memorable in the telling. In other words, providing information in a well-crafted post, article or blog generates more value for a reader. Readers want to feel engaged, interested and ultimately, we need to aim to make an emotional connection or solve a problem to which people can relate. Key takeaways here are how is the information of significance or relevance to the readers? Go the extra mile to provide comprehensive details, more expert opinion, and your efforts will be rewarded.
- Man bites dog
We need to find the unicorn, the man biting a dog, the angle that makes the content unique, interesting or quirky in some way. Building on the last point of trying to hunt out complete, comprehensive information presented in a compelling way, nothing beats an angle. We focus on certain specialisms as an agency, which gives us an angle and a competitive edge.
A company might wish to convey what is huge news for them, but the average member of the public might be completely disinterested. I’m reminded of a client in a former life who made nuts, bolts and rivets. On talking to him, I discovered those tiny pieces were specialised items made for oil rigs, and his products made the difference between a rig being safe or not – literally saving lives – and ensuring rigs began production on time, potentially avoiding the loss of millions of dollars.
We started with a bonus tip and I can’t resist concluding with another crucial one. Speak to the media, speak to your audiences, the client stakeholders, people who use the product. Our game is as complex as chess, but if you get to know all the pieces and players, it’s as easy as checkers. Content might well be king, but understanding your audiences is vital.
Ananda Shakespeare, founder and CEO, Shakespeare Communications