Oct. 12, 2011. University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center. Ragan’s Corporate Writers and Editors Conference. One day, eight hours, seven speakers, six sessions, (fiiiiiive golden rings. Sorry, couldn’t help it) and some pretty darned good coffee.
I attended this conference without any preconceived notions. I had no idea what to expect other than what was outlined in the objectives. I was thrilled throughout. The tips, suggestions and presentations could all be immediately and easily applied to my role. Joy!
So, here we go, the top 12 things I learned:
1. We’re not communicating. We’re not entertaining. We’re doing both. It’s called communitainment.
2. My audiences have ADD. They walk and text; they talk on the phone while ordering lunch; and even read news headlines online during lunch breaks. These people no longer want to read articles that span pages. They want information in seconds, not minutes. They want Cosmo-type headlines. We’ve got to act like we’re writing glossy magazine headlines.
3. Great content comes first, great marketing (yes, marketing) comes second, and employee engagement comes third. The story can’t suck. Once it doesn’t suck, you have to sell it. Then you have to provide the story in ways that brings the audience in. Don’t suck, then sell, then entice. Gosh, sounds so simple … yeah, right!
4. People love a good story. If the story is about a human, it’s a bonus. People are drawn to a story. Give ’em what they want!
5. Here’s a prep-write-edit combination that works: 40 percent prep, 20 percent write, 40 percent edit. I prep too long and don’t spend enough time editing because I hate editing. I was told I’m unusual because most people are the opposite. Yes, the publication coach with a strong editing background called me unusual. What fun.
6. A numbered list + a grabby headline = reader engagement. Hence, the title and structure of this article. See, I’m getting it already! I told you this can be immediately applied.
7. Write drunk, edit sober. OK, not literally (although, that would make for some interesting executive communications, wouldn’t it?). What this means is to hold back nothing when writing. Then, when editing, focus on improving your message and grammar.
8. Interview! Don’t let go of your interviewee until you get a story. Get examples, ask the right questions.
9. Be specific. Do this in your interviews, your writing, and even in what you want to write about (see #10 about mind mapping).
10. Mind map your idea and let it all come out. Turn the page landscape, find a specific idea (see #8), and go for it! Nothing is useless, it may lead to your lead.
11. Always measure your audience. Let them drive your content, suggest topics through your website, and rate articles without feeling inhibited. Sure, it’s a risk but it pays off. Your audience will keep coming back for more.
12. And, the final reason this conference rocked. It’s not because I got a free book (which was pretty cool). It is not because they had free pastries, beverages and goodies all day long. It’s not because it was in my hometown. This conference rocked because I can not only use this stuff, but use it right away! There were no huge binders. No materials that you’ll tuck away and never use. This was one of the best conferences I’ve attended because I can (and am) using what I learned.
So, rock on, Ragan!
Now, it’s time to write!
Lisa Frey is an internal communications analyst.