“There’s an I in Twitter and a ME in social media.”
Brian Solis, social media thought leader
Self-reference is not retweetable
The more you tweet about yourself, the fewer retweets you’ll get. Or so says Dan Zarrella, HubSpot viral marketing scientist.
In research published in 2012, Zarrella compared tweets that had been retweeted with those that had not. Non-retweets had nearly twice the number of self-references of tweets that went viral.
Count me out.
Plus, the more you talk about yourself on Twitter, Zarrella’s research shows, the fewer followers you’re likely to have.
The corporate equivalent of self-reference is tweeting about mundane activities like:
- XYZ company moves to new office space.
- President of XYZ company to present conference speech.
- XYZ Company launches new product.
- XYZ company hires new VP.
Write about the reader.
Instead of tweeting about your organization and its stuff, try tweeting about the reader. If you’ll write to and about “you,” your tweets are more likely to go viral.
That’s another finding from Zarrella’s 2009 research: “You” is the most retweeted word in the English language.
“You” writing is effective on Twitter as well as in other channels because it puts the reader first and focuses your message on reader benefits.
Tweet like JetBlue.
JetBlue is a master this approach. The airline’s Twitter feed focuses on the reader. Sample tweets:
- “If you’re traveling today, be sure to check your flight status. Weather in the Northeast is causing delays. http://bit.ly/jbalert”
- “Grab fares for yourself from just $44. But your first bag always flies free on us. Terms apply. http://cot.ag/OWP5ly”
- “Traveling with kids? Check out some of our tips: http://jetblue.com/kids What are your #KidTravelTips?”
This reader-centric approach helped earn JetBlue a place on Time magazine’s list of the “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011.”
On Twitter as in so much else in life, better “you” than “me.”
Reach readers online.
Want to get the word out on the Web?
- Get it off your desk: Bring Ann’s team in to write Web copy for your organization.
- Polish staff skills: Bring Ann to your organization for a Web writing workshop.
- Boost your own abilities: Work with Ann to polish your Web writing skills with one-on-one writing coaching sessions. And find out about Ann’s upcoming webinars on writing for the Web and social media.
- Learn more: Read Ann’s Web writing learning tools. And get free writing tips every month when you subscribe to our e-zine.
- Join the club: Get the whole story in the latest issue of Rev Up Readership. And find dozens of tipsheets on reaching readers online at RevUpReadership.com.
“[Subheads] act as road signs on a reader’s journey through the text. They give direction and highlight key information and points of interest. If your signals are clear your readers can quickly see what’s most important and what they want to read.”
Jacqueline Howard, author of “12 Key Parts of a Newsletter,” Tuscaloosa City Schools
Get the word out with subheads
Subheads — those short headings that appear within the body copy to break the piece into smaller sections — are important. With well-written subheads, you can:
1. Keep readers reading.
Do tired readers keep reading or stop? Sometimes subheads can make the difference.
“Subheads increased reading for skimmers and for those whose attention was beginning to wane,” according to The Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack III study of online behavior.
2. Lift messages off the page.
Subheads help you convey key ideas to flippers, skimmers and others who won’t read your paragraphs, no matter what.
3. Draw readers in.
Subheads function as hooks that can lure skimmers and transform them into readers.
4. Break copy up.
Subheads break up long blocks of copy into bite-sized chunks. And when your copy looks easier to read, more people will read it.
How can you improve communication with subheads that break copy up, draw readers in and lift ideas off the page?
Rev Up Readership
Want to reach more readers by revitalizing your publication, website or blog?
- Get it off your desk: Bring Ann’s team in to write readable copy for your organization.
- Polish staff skills: Bring Ann to your organization for a Rev Up Readership workshop.
- Boost your own abilities: Work with Ann to polish your writing skills with one-on-one writing coaching sessions.
- Learn more: Read Ann’s Plan Powerful Publications learning tools. And get free writing tips every month when you subscribe to our e-zine.
- Join the club: Find dozens of tipsheets on planning powerful publications at RevUpReadership.com.
“To generalize is to be an idiot.”
William Blake, English poet and artist
Tangible news stories get remembered
People remember concrete news stories 60% better than abstract ones, according to a study by a professor at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.
Adding photos to news stories increased recall by 65%.
For the study, professor Prabu David had 24 journalism students review 32 100-word news stories. Half were abstract; half, concrete. Half of the stories had photos; half did not.
The students recalled, on average, 10 stories. Of those:
- Students remembered an average of 6.21 concrete stories, but only 3.88 abstract ones, a difference of 60%.
- They remembered 6.29 stories with photos, but only 3.8 without, a difference of 65%.
- They remembered 1.95 more concrete stories with photos than those without, but only .54 more abstract stories with photos than those without — a difference of 261%.
How can you make your stories more memorable by making them more concrete? And how can you add more concrete images to your news coverage?
Make Your Copy More Creative
Want to communicate better with creative copy?
- Get it off your desk: Invite Ann’s team to handle a creative writing or editing project.
- Polish staff skills: Bring Ann to your organization for a Make Your Copy More Creative workshop.
- Boost your own abilities: Work with Ann to Make Your Copy More Creative in one-on-one writing coaching. Or find out about Ann’s next Art of the Storyteller webinar.
- Learn more: Read Ann’s learning tools on storytelling, metaphor and human interest. And get free writing tips every month when you subscribe to our e-zine.
- Join the club: Find dozens of tipsheets on creative copywriting at RevUpReadership.com.
Sources: Prabu David, “News Concreteness and Visual-Verbal Association: Do News Pictures Narrow the Recall Gap Between Concrete and Abstract News?” Human Communication Research, Vol. 25, No. 2, December 1998, pp. 180-201
“The trouble with measurement is its seeming simplicity.”
Are you measuring the wrong things?
Why do we measure click-thru rates? Web analytics? Follows, comments, likes and shares?
Because they’re there. We measure them because they’re easy to measure.
Some of these measurements can be helpful. Click-thru rates, for instance, might help us make the link between, say, an e-zine article and increased sales.
Other measurements can actually lead us astray: Do we really want, for instance, employees to spend more time on an intranet page? Does that mean the page is more useful? Or does it suggest that it’s so poorly written that the reader must burn extra seconds finding and figuring out key messages?
More employee time, after all, costs more money.
Measure the cost of communicating.
The goal of corporate communications is to help the organization achieve its business goals — make money, save money or save time, for instance.
So most of our measurements should evaluate outcomes (Did we sell more Greek yogurt sundaes after the e-zine came out?) instead of inputs (Was that not a totally awesome Greek yogurt sundae e-zine I put out last week?)
But in your zeal for evaluating outcomes, don’t neglect measuring communication efficiency. If you reduce the cost of communicating, after all, you’re directly contributing to the bottom line.
Case in point: If it took 7 minutes of your employees’ time to read the United Way campaign message last year, and you can get the same results in only 5 minutes this year, how much does that save the organization?
That’s a question all employee communicators should be asking — and answering — as part of their annual reviews.
Quantify communication efficiency.
Here are the numbers you’ll need to answer that question:
- Average hourly salary. To figure this out, get your organization’s average hourly compensation. Let’s call it $60 an hour.
- Average hourly cost of staff time. Then add the cost of benefits and overhead. (Just have the salary? Multiply salary by three to cover benefits and overhead.) Let’s call it $180 an hour.
- Average per-minute cost of staff time. Divide by 60 to get the per-minute cost: $180 divided by 60 equals $3 a minute.
- Word count. Divide the word count of your piece by 200 to get average reading time, or ART. If your intranet article is 400 words long, for instance, ART would be 2 minutes.
- Number of audience members. Let’s say 2,000 employees have a chance to read your intranet article.
Now do the math:
$3 a minute x 2 minutes = $6
x 2,000 employees
= $12,000 cost of communicating
Does that seem like a reasonable tab for getting the word out? If not, adjust the word count or drop the piece entirely.
Side benefit to writing tight
Shorter articles are more effective, as well as more efficient. So weirdly, you may well achieve more bottom-line business goals while reducing communication costs.
And that’s worth measuring.
Plan powerful communications
Want to master the art of effective communication planning?
- Get expert counsel: Bring Ann in to help review, launch or redesign a communication vehicle.
- Learn more: Read Ann’s learning tools on communication planning. And get free writing tips every month when you subscribe to our e-zine.
- Join the club: Get the whole story in the latest issue of Rev Up Readership. And find dozens of tipsheets on communication planning at RevUpReadership.com.
“Excellent! Refreshing. Inspiring. Great take-a-ways and application for my daily work.”
Darcy Himes, senior communications specialist, Swedish Medical Group
Last chance to book a date with Ann in 2012
Have you been thinking about bringing me in for a writing workshop this year?
If so, let’s act fast.
My schedule gets fully booked earlier and earlier each year. At this point, I have open dates for only two more onsite workshops in 2012.
If you’ve been planning to bring me in this year, please contact me today. By the end of the month, I will most likely be completely dated up for the rest of the year.
Too bad this never happened to me in high school!
“I’m excited — and afraid — to go back to the office and analyze the material I’ve written based on Ann’s benchmarks.”
Kim Kaul, marketing coordinator, AHBL Kitsap Counties
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:
- Green Bay, Wis., on Oct. 23. Catch Your Reader, an afternoon workshop for PRSA Northeast Wisconsin
- Miami on Dec. 7. Writing that Sells, a one-day workshop for PRSA
- New York on Sept. 21. Web Writing Boot Camp, a one-day workshop for PRSA
- Portland, Ore. on May 9, 2013. Your Copy More Creative, a workshop for the TOCA annual conference
- San Francisco on Oct. 14-15. Write for Social Media, a half-day pre-conference program, and Make Your Copy More Creative, a breakout session, at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) 2012 International Conference
- Spokane, Wash., on Sept. 27. Catch Your Readers, a morning workshop for PRSA Greater Spokane
- Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4-5. Catch Your Readers and Write for the Web, two one-day workshops for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)
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.
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:
- Austin, Texas: Nov. 8-9
- Green Bay, Wis.: Oct. 23
- Kansas City, Mo.: Christmas week
- Memphis: Dec. 11
- Miami: Dec. 7
- Mountain View, Calif.: Nov. 1
- New York: Sept. 21
- Portland, Ore.: May 9, 2013
- Raleigh-Durham: Nov. 15
- San Francisco: Oct. 14-15
- Sonoma County, Calif.: Nov. 2-5
- Spokane, Wash.: Sept. 27
- Tustin, Calif.: Oct. 12
- Washington, D.C.: Oct. 4-5
Save even more: Ask about my communication association discounts and second-day fee reductions.
Contact me to discuss piggybacking.
The folks at Wylie Communications have been enjoying:
- Writing and editing brochure and newsletter copy for Saint Luke’s Health System and Mediware
- Presenting writing workshops for General Dynamics-C4S, Waddell & Reed and PRSA Puget Sount
- Presenting webinars for PRSA
- Providing one-on-one writing coaching for individual communicators
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