“When you write, you make a sound in the reader’s head. It can be a dull mumble — that’s why so much government prose makes you sleepy — or it can be a joyful noise, a sly whisper, a throb of passion.”
Russell Baker, U.S. columnist and journalist
Try a triad of rhyming words
My husband used to leave the room when I turned on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Then he’d stand behind his chair in the living room while I watched. Finally he sat down.
When I saw him spray, delay and walk away, I knew he was hooked.
“Spray, delay and walk away” is a mnemonic Kyan Douglas used to teach men to use aftershave. Instead of dousing yourself in Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme, he suggested, spritz a little in the air, wait a moment, then step through whatever’s left.
But there’s a shorter, sweeter, more engaging way to express that idea:
“Spray, delay and walk away.”
Double your rhetorical power
That’s the approach Lyris used in this slogan for a webinar on social media and email marketing:
“Simplify, unify, ROI.”
Chevrolet used this rhyming triad:
“Eye it, try it, buy it.”
And Wired used a trio of rhyming words to name its department on what’s in and out in technology:
How can you use a trio of rhyming words to make your message short, sweet and neat?
Play with your words
Want to master the art of making your copy more creative and engaging through wordplay?
- Rev Up Readership members: Read the whole article.
- Invite Ann’s team in to handle a special writing project.
- Bring Ann to your organization for a “Make Your Copy More Creative” workshop.
- Work with Ann to make your copy more creative in one-on-one writing coaching sessions.
- Get dozens of tipsheets on playing with your words at RevUpReadership.com.
- Find out about Ann’s next creative writing webinar.
- Subscribe to our free writing tips e-zine.
“Instant gratification takes too long.”
Carrie Fisher, American actress and writer
2 minutes or less online
Two minutes and seven seconds.
That’s the average length of time people spend viewing videos on Twitter, according to “Online Video Best Practices” (PDF), a new study by TubeMogul, Brightcove and DynamicLogic.
The researchers analyzed the average viewing time of more than 100 million random video streams on social networks and search engines. Among the takeaways:
1. Avoid the 2-minute mark.
Twitter was the only video source that broke the 2-minute mark. Average viewing times were:
- 1:54 on Yahoo!
- 1:50 on Facebook
- 1:27 on Google
- 1:09 on Bing
2. Avoid the 1-minute mark.
Talk about short attention span theater. According to a study by Visible Measures:
- Almost 20 percent of viewers abandon an online video after 10 seconds.
- More than 40 percent abandon it after a minute.
Visible Measures studied the abandonment rate of 40 million videos during 7 billion viewings.
Want visitors to finish your video? Keep it short.
Tip: You might also advertise your short video’s length — (1:15), for instance — to encourage viewership.
3. Don’t surprise friends, followers and fans with large files.
Use abbreviations like PDF, VID and PPT to identify links to large downloads.
4. Time it right.
The shelf life of online videos has dropped dramatically since 2008. Your video will get most of its views in the first week. So your time your release right and publicize your video fast.
|Attention drops off steeply|
Online videos reach percentage of 90-day view total sooner
|50% of 90-day view total||6 days||14 days|
|75% of 90-day view total||20 days||44 days|
|Source: “Online Video Best Practices”|
5. Consider your objectives.
Choose repurposed TV spots for awareness, according to “Online Video Best Practices,” and made-for-Web videos for persuasion.
|Made-for-Web videos sell more products|
|Repurposed TV ads||Made-for-Web videos|
|Intent to purchase||.8%||1.4%|
|Online ad awareness||4.7%||4.3%|
|Source: “Online Video Best Practices”|
Targeting young adults? Go with custom content. Some 2.8 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds planned to purchase the product after viewing made-for-Web content.
Write for social media
Would you like to learn more ways to make your blog postings, tweets and other status updates more relevant, valuable and interesting to your readers? If so, please join me at PRSA’s Feb. 22 webinar, “Write for Social Media.” You’ll learn how to:
- Use the 70-20-10 rule for engaging your followers, plus other tips for making sure your status updates are welcome guests, not intrusive pests.
- Pass the “who cares?” test and four other techniques for becoming a resource, not a bore, on social media.
- Get retweeted and liked. Learn a dozen steps for expanding your influence and reach on Facebook and Twitter.
- Tweet like the FBI. Write dramatic, compelling status updates that draw followers and get clicks.
- Make your posts personable. There’s a reason they call it “social” media.
- Tweak your tweets. Get your message across in 140 characters or less. Plus, learn how to make 140 characters go further — and when you must come in under the character limit.
Sources: “Twitter Video Streams Watched for 2 Mins,” Marketing Charts, Nov. 11, 2010
Alex Mindlin, “Drilling Down: Short Attention Spans for Web Videos,” The New York Times, Oct. 11, 2010
“Decoration is death online.”
Cia Romano, usability evangelist
Avoid photo fluff
Online visitors scrutinize some photos and ignore others. So how do you post images that get attention on the Web?
Make sure your images are content, counsels “king of usability” Jakob Nielsen — not decoration.
Avoid ‘visual bloat’
Online, readers are looking for two kinds of images, Nielsen says:
- Product photos that help visitors buy
- People photos that show visitors who’s behind the organization or message
What about photos that just illustrate the idea or message? Cut that fluff. Anyone who’s studied online images knows that people are looking for facts, not pretty pictures, on the Web.
“Visual bloat continues to annoy users,” Nielsen says. So:
- Avoid stock photos of generic people. Don’t use photos as filler or to “jazz up” a page. ”On the Web, jazzed-up = ignored,” Nielsen says.
- Use product photos to help visitors buy. In one study, visitors intensely studied thumbnails of bookcases on the Pottery Barn site, but ignored thumbnails of flat-screen TVs on the Amazon site. Why? ”The TV photos are of no help in deciding between the products,” Nielsen says. “A guy in a canoe vs. a football player? What, because I watch more football than watersports, I’ll buy the TV showing a football player?”
- Offer big photos when asked. When users click to see a larger photo, it should be at least twice as big as the original. Most are just 20 percent larger, Nielsen says. That’s why “inadequate photo enlargement” ranks on his list of top 10 Web design mistakes.
Get the word out on the Web
Want to reach distracted visitors online?
- Rev Up Readership members: Read the whole article.
- Invite Ann’s team in to handle a Web writing or editing project.
- Bring Ann to your organization for a Web writing workshop.
- Work with Ann to polish your skills with one-on-one writing coaching.
- Get dozens of tipsheets on writing better Web copy on RevUpReadership.com.
- Study Ann’s Reaching Readers Online system.
- Find out about Ann’s next Web writing workshop or webinar.
“Budget dust: Year-end money that must be spent before it is swept away by the cold winds of a new fiscal year.”
Invest your year-end money before it gets swept away
‘Tis the season for many of us to use what remains of our 2010 budget … or lose it altogether. Here are five ways to invest your budget dust this year to improve communications for years to come:
- Schedule 2011 writing workshops today. Lock in 2010 prices for 2011 events and save 5 percent when you prepay my speaking fee.
- Make every day a training day with “Rev Up Readership” Gold memberships for the whole team. Enjoy group discounts when your colleagues join at the same time.
- Get a publication or website review: It’s like having a mentor by your side.
- Book one-on-one writing coaching: Make me your personal writing trainer.
- Build a better library with the Power Pack. For those who are serious about developing their skills: Get all my handbooks, reports, cheat-sheets, recommended readings and free bonus supplements — 21 learning tools in all — and save $243.
Want more details? Contact Ann.
Make the photo the story
You don’t have to know me for long to know that the crazy cat lady inside of me is just the tiniest nudge away from getting out. And, were it not for geography, “Sundays at the Shelter” would be that nudge.
“Sundays at the Shelter” is my favorite e-zine. (You can also follow the blog.) I forward it, archive it, respond to its every call to action, review old issues when I’m feeling low. I’ve gone so far as to fail to board with my zone just so I could open it the instant it arrives.
And it’s not just the cats that I love about this e-zine. The format rocks, too — and it’s a format you may be able to steal for your communications.
First, meet the author
Maggie Swanson is an artist so talented that Paper Source prints pieces right out of her sketchbook. You’ll usually find her in her studio, painting her in-demand children’s book and other illustrations. When she’s not working, she might be whipping up samosas on the fly or perfecting a risotto that requires no stirring.
And on Sundays, she heads to PAWS, the local shelter in Norwalk, Conn. There, she cleans the cages, pets the cats and shoots adorable photos. A couple of times a week, she posts one of these photos, along with an amusing headline and caption.
And that’s it. That’s the formula for “Sundays at the Shelter”: headline, photo, caption.
Are you writing about something visual? Could a headline, photo and caption say more about your subject than a million paragraphs?
Low-key calls to action
Once a year, Maggie asks readers to donate to the PAW’s “Bark in the Park” event. Last year, the event earned $44,000.
The shelter doesn’t track the number of cats adopted by people who subscribe to “Sundays at the Shelter” or cats that get adopted right after showing up in the e-zine. But who are we kidding? These cuties sell themselves.
In fact, if I didn’t live 1,250 miles away from Norwalk, Gigi would have a little sister named Sammi. And one named Orion. And Carina. And Hank and Hammie and Mickey and Pepper and Susie and Shadow and Izzy and Bootz and Muffin …
Rev Up Readership
Want to reach more readers by revitalizing your publication, website or blog?
- Bring Ann to your organization for a Rev Up Readership workshop.
- Ask Ann to help revamp your publication, website or blog.
- Get ideas for improving your own publication, website or blog with a communication review.
- Get dozens of tipsheets on planning powerful publications at RevUpReadership.com.
- Read Ann’s Plan Powerful Publications learning tools.
“In 4 hours, I grew as a public affairs practitioner. I had the chance to focus on my craft — and I already have ideas that will pay off.”
Carolyn Jackson, division chief, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
Lock in this year’s fees for next year’s programs
Because of increasing demand for my programs, I’ll be increasing the fees for my writing workshops on Jan. 2. Now, for a limited time, you can lock in 2010 fees for 2011 programs.
To get this year’s fees for next year’s programs, you must complete booking (that is, get a signed contract and deposit to me) by Dec. 31. To book a program, contact me directly.
“Verbs are the most important of all your tools. They push the sentence forward and give it momentum. Active verbs push hard; passive verbs tug fitfully.”
William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well
How to identify the passive voice
Do you have trouble finding and fixing the passive voice? Here are two tips for making in easier.
1. Add “by my grandma.”
If you can add “by my grandma” to the end of a sentence, it’s probably passive voice, agent deleted, says Tim Burnett, who handles Express communications at FedEx.
Example: “A nap was taken … by my grandma.”
2. Make sure the subject is doing the verb.
- Identify the verb.
- Figure out who’s doing that verb.
- Move that subject in front of the verb.
For “A nap was taken by my grandma,” ask:
- What’s the verb? Took (a nap).
- Who took the nap? My grandma.
- Move “my grandma” in front of the verb, and you’ll get “My grandma took a nap.”
Cut Through the Clutter
Want to make every piece you write easier to read and understand?
- Invite Ann’s team in to handle a special writing or editing project.
- Bring Ann to your organization for a “Cut Through the Clutter” workshop.
- Work with Ann to Cut Through the Clutter in your own copy in one-on-one writing coaching.
- Get dozens of “Cut Through the Clutter” tipsheets on RevUpReadership.com.
- Find out about Ann’s next “Cut Through the Clutter” webinar.
- Read Ann’s “Cut Through the Clutter” manual.
Cut your training costs when you piggyback your program
Save money when you piggyback your workshop by scheduling it when I’m already “in the neighborhood.” Book your program the day before or after another organization’s and split my airfare and ground transportation with the other group.
Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:
- Asheville, N.C.: May 5
- Dallas: Jan. 19
- Des Moines: Jan. 26
- Houston: Jan. 12
- Kansas City, Mo.: March 3
- New Orleans: July 25
- Portland, Ore.: March 17
- San Francisco: March 25
Save even more: Ask about my communication association discounts and second-day fee reductions.
Contact me to discuss piggybacking.
Polish your skills at one of these events
Alas, I can’t invite you to the in-house seminars I present for private organizations. But everyone’s invited to these upcoming public seminars in:
- Asheville, N.C., on May 5. “Think Like a Reader,” a half-day workshop for the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association
- Kansas City, Mo., on March 3. “West Point for Writers: How to Win the War for Readership,” a keynote for Kansas City/IABC’s Business Communicators Summit
- New Orleans on July 25. “Make Your Copy More Creative,” a series of breakout sessions for the Agricultural Media Summit
- Portland, Ore., on March 17. “Writing for the Web,” a full-day workshop for the Oregon School PR Association (OSPRA) and the Washington School PR Association (WSPRA)
- San Francisco on March 25. “Web Writing Boot Camp,” a full-day workshop for the Public Relations Society of America
Would you like to attend? Please contact meeting planners directly for details.
Can’t make these events? If you’d like to bring me in for a workshop at your organization, contact me.
The folks at Wylie Communications have been enjoying:
- Writing and editing magazine and newsletter copy for Saint Luke’s Health System
- Presenting writing workshops for FedEx, Unum, General Dynamics-AIS and PRSA
- Presenting webinars for PRSA
Find out when I’m coming to your neighborhood, learn when you can sign up for one of my programs and otherwise keep up with my calendar.
Keep in touch via:
- ComPRehension, PRSA’s blog of public relations strategies and tactics
- Wylie Communications feed, click RSS
- Wylie’s Writing Tips