Have you noticed how bone-crunchingly boring some companies’ media releases and news items are? They do little to grab attention and even less to retain it.
There’s a very small window of opportunity for enticing a reader to study an item with a reasonable degree of care. That is why a strong heading and introductory paragraph are so vitally important.
The headline – and pictures – guide the eye to the start of the story. If the copy works past this point (80 words in) people will probably read further. But those lost by now may be gone for ever.
Don’t let the fat finger of criticism point in your direction because if it does your company’s efforts to produce compelling content are more like to spawn simple discontent. Readers will certainly be less likely to make an informed decision to buy your products or services.
What I’m talking about are the PR pieces that kick off with a torrent of corporate self-glorification, leaving readers gasping for breath long before they reach the real news. For example:
[Company], part of the European Division of [Group], is pleased to announce that its award-winning Research and Development Division, based in [place], has completed an exhaustive pre-launch testing programme for our new [product] …
Ouch! Real-life examples abound on low-budget websites and in trade magazines where editors are either too busy or too unenterprising to edit submitted material.
On the other hand, here are six simple steps for copywriters and corporate scribes to make content more effective.
Write for the reader
Start with the benefits the reader could enjoy from the product or service, then discuss its features and finally add a bit of background information.
Surprise the reader
If you can leave the reader thinking “Wow! I didn’t know that!” you are well on the way to getting him or her to talk about you to colleagues and customers.
Don’t repeat yourself
Sometimes repetition of content is inescapable – so, wherever possible, rewrite as much of it as you can. Messages often gain strength from rewriting.
Get your facts straight, be meticulous about spelling and grammar and, above all, don’t exaggerate or make rash statements
Vary the recipe
Within the confines of grammar, language offers huge possibilities for variety. Be bold – experiment! Spice up your message!
Think of it as a game. Have fun massaging the message into an eye-catching shape. Be enthusiastic and you’ll never be boring!
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 16 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.