Make These Four New Year’s Resolutions For Your Written Content

21 Jan Make These Four New Year’s Resolutions For Your Written Content

books-3It’s mid-January, so I’m assuming most of you have already created your New Year’s resolutions for 2016 (you have, haven’t you?). But beyond “lose weight” and “save more,” have you given any thought about your PR resolutions for 2016? Specifically, your PR writing resolutions?

You should, because anyone’s writing can always get better. That’s why we make resolutions in the first place – to continue to improve ourselves, year after year. Do we break them? Yes, most of us do. But that shouldn’t stop us from at least trying.

So, before we get into February, and completely give up the resolution ghost, I’d like to suggest a few things you might want to try to do consistently with your written content in 2016.

Resolve to understand and target a specific audience. All too often, we try to be all things for all people. If you think about it, though, when you write something you’re more often than not only talking to one or two groups of people in a single blog or article.

For example, a new product announcement may be of interest to both customers and partners, but the messages you wish to convey to those two very distinct groups will likely be different. If you want to reach both, you might need two very different pieces of content. Perhaps you create a blog post that talks to your customers about the key features of the product, while developing an email to partners that addresses why this product is important to them.

The key here is to make sure you customize your writing to your audience. It may require more work, but it’s also far more likely to pay off.

Resolve to keep your writing concise. Writers like to write. Some of them like to write…and write…and write. They like to use flowery language and alliteration. They have, as Stephen King once wrote, “diarrhea of the word processor” (gross, but a pretty good way of putting it).

When you write for your customers, or partners, or employees, you’re writing to groups of people that simply do not have the time or inclination to wade through a thousand words. Unless you have specific writers’ guidelines requesting an article of that nature, try to keep your written prose clear, concise, and short. There’s generally no reason why you can’t get your point across in a few hundred words. And for the love of Ernest Hemingway, get your key points out early – establish your message in the very first paragraph, and let the rest flow from there.

Resolve to make it interesting. How about this for an opening? “The cloud has revolutionized business as we know it. It is possibly the single most important thing that’s happened to the enterprise since the invention of the commercial Internet. The cloud…”

Zzzzz. Zzzzz. Zzzzz.

Oh, sorry, I nodded off for a minute. That opening that I wrote – while it may be true — wasn’t telling me anything new. Most likely, whatever follows wouldn’t, either. It’d be dry, dull, and the opposite of insightful.

You want to be a thought leader, and one of the first steps toward doing that is writing down some interesting thoughts. Make sure they’re unique, and intriguing, but don’t just stop there. Get creative in the way you express those thoughts. Have fun with the written word. Make comparisons to popular culture and other things readers may have a passing familiarity with. If appropriate, use a conversational tone. Write as if you’re talking to a friend. Engage – don’t bore.

Resolve to keep it high level. When writing about technology, it’s easy to go so far down in the weeds you create something that may make sense to a certain subset of readers while alienating everyone else. And while it’s fine and advisable to make sure your article is targeted to a specific audience (see resolution number one), it’s also a good idea to make it general enough so that laymen can understand what you’re trying to say.

Not everyone who reads your stuff is going to be a technologist. Some might be potential investors or partners. Others might be job candidates. While you’re not specifically writing for these groups, you should also keep in mind that they are out there.

As such, keep your writing on point, but also make sure it’s high level enough for a more general audience to comprehend. This is especially true if you’re writing an article for a publication, which may have various types of readers at different levels.

I read somewhere that the reason most people break their New Year’s resolutions is because they make them too hard to achieve (“lose 50 pounds by Friday!”). These tips, however, should hopefully be easy to put into practice, and help your writing become even sharper and more compelling as the year marches on.

Pete Larmey
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