Live Conference Blog: A man and his blender: The power of the “Will it Blend?” campaign

Couldn’t make it to Ragan’s Corporate Communicators Conference in Chicago? Follow our live blog for hot tips from a stellar line-up of speakers.

Please excuse typos. This is a live blog.

George Wright– @wrightorama –on Twitter, and creator of the “Will it Blend?” campaign, shows the Ragan audience how to whip up a powerful campaign. Have you ever wondered if a blender can take on golf balls? George Wright has.

Blendtec’s wildly successful campaign shows off its powerful blenders in a creative, compelling and exciting way. Within the first week of launching “Will it Blend?”, the campaign scored one million views.

So how did Blendtec do it?

The audience

  • The campaign was originally created to foster pride for Blendtec’s blenders within employees
  • Wright wanted Blendtec’s employees to actually know–and care–about their own product
  • Employees shared the videos with their friends and families
  • Blendtec shared it with existing customers, too

The strategy

  • Wright made it fun. Tom Dickson, the person in charge of blending objects like 2x4s, gathered quite a crowd internally when he was ‘extreme blending.’
  • Wright put the videos on YouTube and the company’s homepage

Key components

  • The video is worth watching
  • They have a business objective
  • Find sponsors
  • Make it real. Tom Dickson, isn’t an actor and the blender really works!
  • Interactivity. They ask people to suggest things to blend

Why was WIB successful?

  • The campaign embraced a change in marketing
  • It was obvious – it focused on what Blendtec does best, blend!
  • Take advantage of tools, like social media
  • Content -“It is impossible to keep awesome content from spreading,” says Wright.

WIB results

  • Huge increase in sales, up 700 percent
  • Brand awareness: Retail and commercial
  • Now Blendtec is a premier, recognized brand

It doesn’t end after the success

  • Make strategic adjustments where necessary -Use measurement to explore this
  • Stay focused on your objective -Beware of scope creep, don’t let people creep back to the old way of doing things
  • Take maximum advantage -Do everything you can to accelerate your success

And yes, it will blend.

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Michael Smart– @MichaelSmartPR on Twitter—Principal for MichaelSMARTPR, shares hot tips for winning over journalists, customers and your bosses.

The media’s most common complaints about PR writing:

  • Irrelevant
  • Too wordy
  • Too much hype
  • Takes too long to get to the point

The good news is, when you don’t write like this, you stand out. To get to the point quickly, use imagery and creativity. Smart shares that one of his most popular press releases used Dwight Schrute of the popular TV show “The Office” to help make a point.

“Almost every time you write a press release,” says Smart “Step away from it, come back and you’ll probably be able to delete the first sentence.”

Cut hype, but boost persuasiveness of your writing:

Cursed words:

  • Landmark
  • Revolutionary – unless you’re overthrowing a dictator
  • Groundbreaking
  • Breakthrough
  • Turnkey
  • State of the art
  • Best in class
  • Cutting-edge

Show, don’t tell

  • Let nouns and verbs do the work of adjectives and adverbs
  • This lets the reader conclude what you would have told them. Let them decide things are revolutionary, innovative or beautiful. Don’t tell them that they are.

Get buy-in from bosses BEFORE they edit your releases

Bosses are looking for:

  • Marketing message so your company can make money!
  • Sometimes self-promotion
  • Promote deals
  • Reinforce the brand

Review this checklist with approvers before you write the release:

  • Business purpose -Never “to get coverage” Good example: To sell tickets on Southwest’s new flight from BWA to Philly
  • Key audiences -Not “media and bloggers”
  • Gatekeepers necessary to reach that audience -Could even be “Google” if SEO-only
  • Main message -Supports business purpose
  • Hook or angle -Grab attention of gatekeeper and audience

Then bosses understand why the VP of Marketing’s quote is at the bottom and the newsworthy part is at the top of the release. 5 ways to cut words without losing meaning

  • Cut the background
  • Unless proper names add values, cut or save them
  • Eliminate common redundancies
  • Replace “to be” verbs with stronger verbs
  • Shorten common expressions
Smart leaves the audience with this tip: “Be ruthlessly brief. The one gift everyone wants is time.”

———————————–

Michael McDougall– @MikeMcDoug on Twitter–Managing partner of McDougall Travers Collins, teaches the Ragan audience how to hyper-target audiences for high-impact communications.

10 steps for hyper-targeting critical audiences 1. Embrace your ignorance

  • Know that it’s not just about you. You need to communicate with your other teams.
  • Pull in sales, pull in your legal team, regulatory, HR, customer service, trade associations.

2. Sacrifice for the greater good

  • You can’t talk to everybody
  • Think about your primary audience first and foremost
  • Create a 1 to 10 score sheet of how important each audience is to you

3. Know your local audiences

  • Know how people talk
  • Find someone in your market to help communicate this

4. What would my competitors do?

  • It’s okay to emulate your competitors
  • If you’re looking to run a program, you can likely find someone else who’s already done it

5. Get on the grid

  • Know the number of messages you want to distribute and target your audience
  • Create a strategic grid for message delivery
  • Be willing to create different documents for different message sets

6. Don’t let things fall through the cracks 7. Cross-referencing

  • Think about how certain groups can influence one another

8. Refine

  • Even after creating a great plan, it’s essential to refine
  • You can plot message carry

9. Tap new tech

  • JitterJam cross-references your data, knows who’s influencing you and who you’re influencing
  • Geocommons or GeoIQ pulls in social media data and give you a geographic map of what’s happening

10. Analytics

  • Track not only what happened, but what you predict. So know predicted, actual and insight gained.

———————————————

Dr. Joe Trahan, President of Trahan and Associates, explains the essentials of handling a crisis situation.

“It’s not if, it’s when,” says Trahan of crisis situations. Is your company prepared?

The Crisis Leadership Core Principles and Values are:

  • Be first
  • Be credible
  • Be accountable
  • Treat everyone with respect

Trahan urged the audience to remember that, “A crisis plus a slow response equals a reputation failure.”

When you wait to respond, you allow the message to shape you and your company, rather than your company shaping the right message it wants to communicate with its audience. Because, as Trahan says, “Rumors and lies move faster than facts.”

Take home tips from the presentation include critical ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ for any crisis situation.

Dos

  • Have a crisis plan
  • Practice and update your plan
  • Have buy-in from senior leaders
  • Have one–and only one–spokesperson. Speak with one voice, not many.
  • Have one—and only one—crisis communication center
  • Go ugly early! Get it out there early, don’t wait.
  • Understand the 3 C’s – Control, Competence and Concern. In a media interview, never lose control. Tell your people to stay in their lane (competence). Concern “must be on your face, in your words, and everything you do.”
  • The top dog must bark first
  • 24/365/7 staffing
  • Have an after action report

Don’ts

  • Never-ever speculate!
  • Don’t let a story drip out that can be stopped in the beginning
  • Never say “no comment.” It means you’re guilty.
  • Don’t minimize the problem
  • Don’t play favorites
  • Don’t give exclusives
  • Don’t attempt to capitalize on the media

And some bonus tips!

  • Never forget your internal audiences
  • Notify the rest of your primary, secondary and special publics
  • Remember the media is one of your numerous communication channels, but they must be fed!

———————-

Paul McClay – @PaulMcClay on Twitter–Director of Strategy and Media at Definition 6 and AJ Brunstein, Senior Global Brand Manager at The Coca-Cola Company explain how they created a global phenomenon in the form of their “Where Will Happiness Strike Next” campaign.

Coca-Cola decided that its campaign should focus on happiness. Why? Because:

  • The biggest driver of happiness is human connection. Coca-Cola understands the role that social media plays in connecting people and how it could be leveraged.
  • People have a desire to find more authentic happiness.

Brunstein called Definition 6 with these ideas in mind and specifically asked for video content. Coca-Cola wanted to know the secret to creating viral videos and searched the Web to find the ingredients that go into that formula. Here’s what Coke discovered: There are four ingredients:

  • Unexpected
  • Relatable
  • Emotional
  • Gotta see it

The viral video ‘JK Wedding Entrance Dance’ is a great example of this. Brunstein challenged McClay and Definition 6 with the following conditions: The concept needed to be:

  • Fantastic creative
  • Cheap
  • No paid media

Because it was experimental In turn, McClay responded with the three conditions (translated by the agency):

  • Enjoyable to watch
  • Authentic
  • I could be part of the story

The pitch:

  • Important to be able to, at a very early stage, convey the idea to the viewers
  • The room should find it fun, as the audience eventually should

And here’s what they came up with for the “Where will happiness strike next campaign.”

Now that they had something good, they had to get it out there, and remember, Coca-Cola wasn’t going to pay to distribute it. So they used Coca-Cola’s Facebook page, which fans had created initially, and other tools. They activated the employee base at Coke and sent the video to the media. The idea was that because it made people happy, they’d share it with their friends to make them happy.

To learn from the experiment, Brunstein explained that they learned:

  • Top 1 percent of all Coca-Cola ads ever tested. No.1 highest scoring English language Coca-Cola ad ever
  • They learned that longer isn’t better
  • They learned that the four ingredients worked.

The idea spread globally and the delivery, literally, became more and more creative. From a Happiness Truck in Brazil to a person dressed as a Coca-Cola vending machine distributing Cokes on the beaches of Hong Kong, delivering happiness has become a global phenomenon. Through this, they had an understanding of why we share:

  • To give value and entertainment to others
  • To provide a sense of who we are to others
  • To stay connected and build relationships with others
  • To creative personal involvement with others

“Learn from the patterns out there,” says McClay. “Know when people are most likely to tweet and share things. But understand that at the end of the day, it’s all about content. Understanding the patterns and behaviors is only as good as the content itself—and it needs to align with the audience and invoke the right emotional response.” Key takeaways:

  • Stick to your formula
  • Content + context = conversations, produce good content
  • It’s not free
  • Know your audience
  • Plan effective seeding strategies for your content
  • Build on past success
  • Be authentic

——————————————

Mark Ragan — @MarkRaganCEO on Twitter–CEO of Ragan Communications, tells you why you need to have a strong understanding of brand journalism—that is, if you want your business to succeed.

“Getting the company story out has never been more important than it is now,” says Ragan. Ragan describes brand journalism as “the company offering to customers, clients and stakeholders news nearly indistinguishable from the content in a trade publication, a news site or even a general circulation magazine.”

But before we dive in, here’s a little ‘math’ to keep in mind: Great content + engagement=success. So how do you create this success?

Understand your new role as chief content officer. You’re a:

  • Content producer
  • Reporter who ferrets out stories
  • Conversation starter
  • Community manager

Always be innovating

  • Always know more than anyone else
  • Always be building the business case
  • Have fun: Always let a thousand flowers bloom. Constantly think about the business and what you can do to make it better.

“We can’t bore people in corporate communications anymore. Everything we do has to engage,” says Ragan. Understand what consumers love to read. They want:

  • Compelling video
  • Personality
  • Companies with personality
  • Social media integration
  • Conversation
  • Integrated customer service (through social media, too)

Understand what’s wrong with your corporate site

  • Is there too much content, not enough filters?
  • Is the navigation clunky?
  • Do you lack a grumpy editor making the tough choices of what stays and what goes?
  • Are your social media efforts spotty or inconsistent?
  • Does your writing fail to get to the point?
  • Is your company confused about what it wants to be when it grows up?

Ragan emphasizes the idea of ‘company as media outlet’ and poses this question to the audience: “Traditional newsrooms are in decline and media is now more fragmented than ever. Why not fill the void?” What you need to foster:

  • Credibility
  • Trust
  • Great story tellers
  • Breadth of coverage
  • Timelines
  • Integration with social media

Curate content:

  • “Content curation is way to leverage all of the content out there in the world, and act as a filter for people in an engaging way,” explains Ragan.

How to assemble a dream team:

  • Editorial team headed by managing editor and team of reporters
  • Publisher: Manages all business aspects of the sites and acts as bridge to senior management
  • Social media editor: Integrates content into all social media platforms and manages communities both inside and outside the firewall
  • Director of measurement and search engine optimization

——————————

Jeremy Epstein– @jer979 on Twitter –Chief Marketing Navigator for Never Stop Marketing shares tips on how to create and sustain solid relationships with new media. Epstein explains how difficult it can be in today’s fast-paced social media world to connect in a meaningful way with your audience. “Your biggest asset is a community of people outside your company,” says Epstein. “They can be deployed and activated to defend your position. You need to build that community before you need it, in a world that’s challenged by the attention economy.”

Pampers, for example, quelled a social media firestorm after a mom blogger suggested a Pampers diaper gave her baby a rash. How did they do this? They tested out a new product with an already loyal community of mom bloggers that they cultivated relationships with six months prior to the firestorm. In doing this, they created a positive where there was a negative. “You have to build and reinforce a foundation of trust,” says Epstein. “We are all one Google or Bing search away from finding a thousand people who might say ‘this person or company is full of garbage.'”

But first, you need to understand what motivates your audience. Daniel H. Pink wrote a book called “Drive” that talks about motivation. The 3 things people are motivated by are:

  • Autonomy – People who are motivated to shape their own future. Captains of their own ship.
  • Mastery – The people who want to be the experts
  • Calling – Motivated by a higher purpose

Do you know what motivates your audience? Get to know your audience. Spend time connecting with them on social media. So how do you get their attention? “People don’t actually suffer from information overload,” says Epstein. “The real challenge is, as Professor Clay Shirky calls it, ‘filter failure.’ We don’t have filters holding us back. And we contribute to the noise.”

To get attention and break through the clutter, connect with your audience in an emotional way. “If you can take a set of facts and inject emotion into it,” explains Epstein, “You have changed how that information is going to be recalled. Our job is to figure out what that emotional angle is.”

For example, Mercedes-Benz shared a touching video about how a Mercedes car saved a mother and child’s life. Mercedes could’ve just created a commercial pushing its product, but they found a story that appeals to people’s emotions.

Epstein suggests another book, Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath that talks about emotionally connecting with your audience. Find the inherent drama in everything. Even if you’re a company that makes toilets, you can come up with something clever.

———————-

Shelly Kramer– @ShellyKramer –CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, explains how content marketing can change the way you do business—for the better.

Kramer describes content marketing as the “boatloads of content” that you already have at your disposal in the forms of social media, video, podcasting, email marketing, case studies, webinars and more.

Traditional marketing, Kramer explains, is push marketing. You push what you’re trying to sell out to a targeted audience. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is pulling people in. Kramer likens digital marketing to spreading breadcrumbs on the Internet to lead people to your designated “home.” Home can be your website, a specific landing page with a promotion, Facebook, anywhere, really.

This digital marketing of your content through social media and other tools drives business. Here’s what you need to understand: Blogs “Blogging is the No. 1 business driver for many companies,” explains Kramer. “They are a reputation management tool, a vehicle for brand awareness. Blogs are content marketing.” Kramer cites HubSpot saying, “The cost per lead of inbound marketing is 60 percent lower than outbound marketing.” That’s hugely significant! When you create a blog—and a blog with good, solid, informational, shareable content—you’re giving your audience the opportunity to help you become a thought leader in your field. And when they share your blog posts, they’re boosting your SEO. As Kramer puts it, “Done properly, content marketing can drive new business.” It’s no coincidence that the Fortune 500 fastest growing companies have public-facing blogs. Google is your client “Google has a voracious appetite for content, and it’s picky,” says Kramer. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is “the art of helping Google figure out what you’re talking about.” Kramer warns against simply tossing keywords into your copy instead of actually making it readable and interesting. Google has changed its algorithm to ensure that the “SEO wizards” who have learned how to manipulate links for better SEO are not being favored. A basic rule of thumb: “If it’s good for people, then it’s good SEO,” says Kramer.

Spidering

Kramer explains that: “The goal of a spider is to save every bit of content it crawls for the future benefit of searchers. It’s also gauging how relevant that content is to the words that searchers use when they want to find an answer to something.”

So what does this mean for you? It means that the more you blog—create relevant, interesting, readable content—the more search engines will come back to your blog.

Links “Links are Internet gold,” says Kramer. “The more incoming links your site has, the more valuable it is in Google’s eyes.” Search engines want to know that you’re connected. Make sure to link in and link out to credible sites. Linking out to credible sites not only shows that you know what you’re talking about, but, potentially, creates a relationship with that site. It’s paying it forward. Tips for linking out:

  • Link out to relevant content early in the body copy
  • Link to relevant pages approximately every 120 words of content
  • Link to relevant interior pages of your site or other sites
  • Link with naturally relevant anchor text

To get links, keep it simple: Share great content on a regular basis. The goal is to become regarded as an authority in your field. Keep your company and its content front-of-mind to your audience. Then people will create content linking to your content—the magic of link-building! Write great content As previously mentioned, simply creating SEO-heavy copy with no real informative, engaging content won’t do you any good. You need to create content that:

  • Doesn’t have corporate speak
  • Uses contractions
  • Is written like people talk
  • Is dumbed down (no, really!)
  • Is scannable
  • Is a minimum of 300 words
  • Is a maximum of 600 words

Use tools

Google Analytics – Allows you to monitor activity on your site as it’s happening and incorporates analytics for social media platforms Tynt – Allows you to improve SEO, use keywords more effectively, measure user engagement and more Scribe – Allows you to optimize content faster, choose great keywords, build quality links and more GetClicky – Lets you monitor, analyze and react to visitor traffic in real time DivvyHQ – A content planning tool

————————————- Luke Boggs, Director of Leadership Communications at The Coca-Cola Company, shares 35 quick tips to help make your next speech stand out. 1. Make the most of each opportunity 2. Write it out -Thoughtfully consider what you’re going to say 3. Prepare -After writing it out, spend some time with it 4. Say something memorable 5. Stay on the shorter end of speeches 6. Leave people wanting more 7. Have something to say -Have a clear point of view and message in mind

8. Know your audience -Know what they’re interested in, what motivates them, and align your message with the audience 9. Make it personal -You can tell a story with passion and conviction when it’s your own story.

10. Fit the occasion -You can’t fit the occasion if you don’t know precisely what the occasion is 11. Be humble and self-deprecating -Particularly valuable for execs as cultivating likeably is one of the most important things a leader can do

12. Start well -This establishes a tone and sets a speaker up for success

13. Finish strong -Ask yourself this question, “Does it have a ‘Wow’ finish.” – Quote from Casablanca

14. Create a connection with the audience -Are you in the same company, industry, profession? Are you working toward something similar? 15. Local shout outs -People never tire of speakers being excited about their town

16. Make a historical connection -Make a list of things that you can use in speeches with historical significance

17. Don’t make a grotesque historical reference -For example, war.

18. Cast your audience in heroic terms -Look at what makes your audience special and talk about it

19. Say something positive about your audience 20. Use humorous stories -Useful at the top of a speech when you’re seeking to put your audience at ease and connect with them 21. Have fun at your own expense -“There aren’t a lot of people can you safely joke about,” says Boggs. 22. Don’t use PowerPoint -Boggs says it’s overused and takes attention away from the speaker 23. When PowerPoint is unavoidable, use it as best you can -Keep focus on speaker, less is more and use a clean design 24. Introduce yourself, if necessary 25. Speak confidently about what you know -“Say what you think and don’t over rely on expert opinions,” says Boggs. 26. But it is okay to use expert opinion 27. Use quotes, but sparingly -Meaning historic quotations being used within a speech

28. Create your own memorable phrases -Here, a strong point of view is essential 29. Issue a call to action, if appropriate 30. Use short sentences -Not exclusively, but writing for the spoken word is different than writing for print -Punchier is always better

31. Unleash the power of three -“Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

32. Avoid jargon -Use plain English 33. Use pauses -“Silence gives people time to process what you’re saying,” says Boggs 34. Use speed and volume changes 35. Use simple words, whenever possible

—————————– Michael Sebastian– @MSebastian on Twitter–editor of PR Daily, helps you with the daunting task of writing headlines. 7 types of headlines

  • Newsy – “Company Name creates 52 jobs.” Tip: Remember to inject personality, when appropriate. If your CEO was fired in a disgraceful manner, adding personality probably isn’t something to consider.
  • Question – When using questions in headlines, you’re immediately engaging with your readers–you’re inviting them in. Tip: Remember to be provocative when you can
  • The bold statement – This needs to have punch. “Jobs are scarce in Fulton—until now.” Tip: Remember to avoid crying wolf. People will tune you out.
  • The ‘how to’ – “How to get a job in Fulton.” The pitfall of the ‘how to’ is a lack of specificity. The New York Times had a headline entitled, “How companies learn your secrets.” Forbes aggregated the article and did it better with, “How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did.” Tip: Remember to avoid vague descriptions and weak language
  • The Teaser – Flirt with your reader. Entice them to click through. “The city with the most jobs in the state is….” Tip: Make sure not to over promise. Deliver.
  • Quote – This can be simple if you’ve done a good interview. “Ultimate example of how not to engage in PR.” Tip: Don’t choose a dry quote
  • The list – “33 animals who are extremely disappointed in you.” “10 reasons to buy a home.” Tip: Remember to be as specific as possible.

———————————— Steve Crescenzo– @Crescenzo on Twitter–understands the plight of the writer forced to weave a tired, dull story into verbal gold. He shares his top tips, in the form of his H.A.C.K. Formula, with our audience. The H.A.C.K. Formula Headline: Make sure people know what the story is about after reading just the headline Abstract: Write a very concise summary of the story making every word count Content: Storytelling, quotes ,examples and people Killer content: Use social media, multimedia, additional links, conversation, community Applying the H.A.C.K. Formula to a typical corporate story: Crescenzo uses the example of an employee, John Smith, winning an award. Headline (or subject line or link)

  • Look for key words
  • Make every word count
  • Does it tell what the story is about?
  • Are you being too cute?

Hot tip: Writing a headline after you’ve written the story is dangerous. You’re bored and you may end up relying on cuteness. Going back to our example: A bad headline: John Smith wins Chairman’s Award A good headline: John Smith saves xyz $14,000, wins Chairman’s Award Abstract Summary (tweets or news leads)

  • Good writing is about what you leave out, as well as what you put in
  • What can wait until the next level? Pretend this is all they are going to read
  • Write it out, then edit

The abstract should work with the headline. An example of a good one is, “Innovative approach to software development yields big savings and a more efficient system.” Hot tip: “All good writing is editing. Write it out, then chop it down,” says Crescenzo. Content: Tell as story

  • Start with an anecdotal lede
  • Include tension and drama. -“John Smith had a decision to make. He could do things the established way, the safe way…….
  • Give information
  • Get a great quote. Ask enough questions until you get a the quote you are looking for
  • End the story with the “nut” graph, or the summary

Killer content (example one): A video sidebar?

  • Ask questions that will draw out emotional answers
  • Get them to reveal their passion
  • Get to the person behind the story -“What did it feel like when you knew you were taking a huge chance in an effort to save the company? Were you scared?”

Killer content (example two): A blog?

  • Strive for ” Three Way Communication”
  • Start with something personal about yourself -“I’ve never been much of a risk taker.”
  • Move to business at hand -“That’s why I’ve always respected people who take chances.”
  • Give an example – Weave John Smith’s accomplishments into the conversation
  • Ask people to join the conversation -“I’d like to hear from other heroes.”

————————————-

Ann Wylie – @AnnWylie on Twitter – CEO of Wylie Communications, shares hot tips for writing for readability.

Are you creating long, complex messages or are you helping your audience read, understand and remember your message?

Readable copy improves reading—people will read more of your copy and more often. “Making your copy readable is the No. 1 way to improve readership,” shares Wylie. It also improves comprehension and retention. And people aren’t likely to act on what they read if they can’t remember it!

The top two ways to improve readability are short sentences and shorter words.

Here are some additional must-know tips to improve readability:

Storytoolz

  • A great, free online tool
  • Put copy into box and you’ll get information about your copy like average length of sentences and the verbs you are using most.
  • 14 or less words per sentence are optimal
  • Words should be 5.0 characters or less

Know your readers’ reading levels

  • “Only 3.5 of Americans read at an 11th grade level and up”

Understand the piece as a whole

  • As you add words, you decrease understanding and attention
  • People are more likely to read more of a shorter story than a longer story

Paragraphs

  • 2 sentences or fewer per paragraph when writing for the Web
  • Passive voice reduces readability – object, verb, subject “Dog was bitten by grandma.” You should say “Grandma bit the dog.

Sentence structure

  • Pronouns: use about two per sentence
  • Interrogative pronouns: 1
  • Subordinating conjucntions make sentences more convoluded and longer. Try not to use them.
  • Conjunctions at the beginning of the sentence: Yes! It’s a way to split up sentences.

Word usage

  • “Have you committed verbicide?” Wylie suggests you ask yourself. “Have you sucked the action out of your words?”
  • Auxiliary verbs like “to be” to have, shall, will, may, can
  • Stop “ing-ing” says Wylie. “Understanding Cloud Computing” is an example of a bad headline.
  • Nix nominalizations. Find the verbs buried in your nouns.
  • Conjuctions improve the ability to link ideas, making your words easier to understand. But, don’t go overboard with them and make sentences too lengthy.

Ultimately, work on your content, design, style and organization.

And, just for fun, a great quote from George Orwell that Wylie shared with the #RaganCWE audience:

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turn, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlesifh squirting out ink.”

—————————–

Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications – @MarkRaganCEO on Twitter – , kicks off the conference with a must-know tip: “Headlines are speed bumps for the eye.” What does this mean? Headlines are essential to your writing. Why? Because without a good headline, you’re losing readers.

So how do you create compelling, enticing, sexy headlines? First, let’s start with what not to do.

Don’t write headlines that: -Are mind-numbingly boring -Don’t sell the benefits -Are filled with jargon and acronyms -Are too conservative -Are not informative or fun

Think about headlines as a marketing person would a product–you have to sell your product. And to do that, “You need to practice refrigerator journalism in all that you do,” says Mark Ragan. So what is refrigerator journalism? “It’s the term I use,” explains Ragan, “for content that is so good, so compelling so useful, so brief, and gets to the heart of the issues that you just want to cut it out and put it on your refrigerator.”

In brief (as your headlines should be): -Think newsstand. You want readers to be compelled to “grab that story off the newsstand.” -Sell the benefits. Know what your audience is looking for. -Don’t wait too long. Stories must be timely. -Start with the National Enquirer and tone down. Have fun with your headline. -Collaborate. Work with other writers and departments. -Get rid of acronyms! Use “we” or “us” or “you” in place of a long company’s name. As Ragan says, “We are a very informal culture.” -Use lists. People like to scan. Make it easy for them.

Examples: 10 ways to get ahead at Boeing 5 facts about our new CEO Good news: Sales are up. What this means for you.

And remember:

Specificity is the key to all good writing.

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