“There’s an I in Twitter and a ME in social media.”
— Brian Solis, social media thought leader

Spread yourself thin

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.

DON’T SELF-DESTRUCT Referring to yourself reduces retweets.
In one study, tweets that went viral had only half the self-references
of those that did not. Chart by Dan Zarrella

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.
“I’m not on Twitter to hear about you and your life,” Zarrella writes. “I mean, unless we’re friends in real life, of course. I’m on Twitter to get information that will either benefit me, or help others (and by extension, benefit me). … So stop talking about yourself, and make content that others can relate to and get value from!”

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:

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?

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“[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

Divide and conquer

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:

GIVE ME A SIGN Want to increase reading? Break copy up and make it look easier to read with subheads.

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?

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“To generalize is to be an idiot.”
— William Blake, English poet and artist

Cast in concrete

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.

CONCRETE JUNGLE Concrete details — those that readers can absorb through their five senses — are easier to remember.

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?


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

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“The trouble with measurement is its seeming simplicity.”
— Anonymous

The right stuff

Are you measuring the wrong things?

Why do we measure click-thru rates? Web analytics? Follows, comments, likes and shares?

DESPERATE MEASURES Do you measure what’s important? Or what’s easy?

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?

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“Excellent! Refreshing. Inspiring. Great take-a-ways and application for my daily work.”
— Darcy Himes, senior communications specialist, Swedish Medical Group

Ann’s running out of time

Last chance to book a date with Ann in 2012

Have you been thinking about bringing me in for a writing workshop this year?

SO MANY GREAT CLIENTS, SO LITTLE TIME Ann’s running out of dates for 2012 workshops.

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!

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“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

Ann’s touring schedule

Polish your skills at one of these events

Alas, I can’t invite you to the in-house seminars I present for private organizations.

COME ALONG FOR THE RIDE Catch Ann at one of her upcoming workshops.

But everyone’s invited to these upcoming public seminars in:

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.

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Where in the world is Ann?

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.

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What are we up to?

The folks at Wylie Communications have been enjoying:

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Keep up with my calendar

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.

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… with two of your colleagues by directing them to our current issue. Better yet, invite them to subscribe to Wylie’s Writing Tips. They’ll thank you — and so will I!

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For more info

… about my seminars, publication consulting or writing and editing services, please contact me or visit my website.

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