Articles Tagged with newsletters

Make it easy

With businesses pumping out so much information in press releases, newsletters, blogs and tweets, how much of it is clear?

Clarity is important when readers have so much to read. If they can’t understand something, it needs to be very important for them to take the time to re-read it or contact you for clarification. Most likely they won’t bother and will move on to the next item, possibly from a competitor. If that is easy to read and understand, you’ll have lost out.

When you’re close to your business, you understand the complexities: how everything fits together. It won’t be so clear to someone who doesn’t know your business. Often, people give up if they find something confusing.

Sometimes it isn’t necessary for customers to know about complex issues which are important to the internal processes of your business. If that’s the case, don’t mention them or you’ll add unnecessary complexity.

Where you do have to mention complexity, such as different brands or subsidiaries dealing with different products or services, make sure that these are explained clearly. If not, customers won’t know who to contact about what and they could feel it is easier to go to a competitor.

Why am I writing this? Because I am trying to write about a company which appears to have a similar sister company offering a similar product and I have had to ask them to clarify the set-up. Not everyone would bother to ask.

It’s not what you want to hear

I started my career at British Airways in the days when it was the ‘world’s favourite airline’. I loved working there and loved talking about how great it was. How I must have bored people!

If we’re not careful, it can be the same with business. We love what we’re doing and want to tell people about it, but other people don’t always want to hear. Perhaps they have different interests and needs.

That’s why, when producing promotional material, it’s best to consider what customers find exciting rather than what interests us. Something which appears mundane to us, such as a way of reducing costs, could excite our customers considerably and that’s what we should focus on.

We can only find out what our customers are interested in by building relationships and developing conversations. We can do this through activities such as web site forums, printed and online newsletters, questionnaires, surveys and, of course, speaking directly on the phone or face-to-face.

Perhaps our interests are the same as our customers, perhaps not, but we have to find out. Once we know, we can tailor our communications to meet what they want.

After yesterday’s blog, have you started or reviewed  your communications plan?

z2zine next week: Finding your voice

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Managing long documents effectively

When commissioned to proofread magazines, newsletters, reports, manuals and web sites before they are sent to print or published on the internet, often we find major inconsistencies throughout the document, which require considerable rewriting or editing. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to do this and the document is produced with only the worst errors and typos corrected.

Anyone producing a long document can avoid this by assuming the role of editor and managing production from start to finish. By using style guides for both the visual and written content, you can ensure consistency through contributions from many writers, illustrators and designers. 

And because you’re monitoring progress all the time, you won’t be faced by the need to make impossible changes just before going to print or publication. 

It’ll save you time, money and hassle, and also result in a better publication.

Download our free prompt sheet on managing long documents effectively or if you want someone to edit your long document for you, call us on 0845 200 7830 or email us.

Why is copywriting important?

No business can function without words. Whenever you draw up a contract, give an instruction to an employee or answer the phone, you use words to communicate.

But you can’t use any old words.

Often, a few, well-chosen words will convey a message more effectively than pages and pages of text.

Appropriate communications

Just imagine the shopfloor of a department store. You probably won’t see a sign saying: “Please select the goods you wish to buy, place them in your shopping basket, then go to the checkout next to the fire exit where our staff will scan them, take payment and wrap your purchases.”

But you probably will see a sign saying:

“PAY HERE”

The first sign is more accurate, but when you’re scanning the horizon for a checkout it’s unlikely to catch your attention, whereas the shorter, less comprehensive statement actually tells you all you need to know at that stage.

The “pay here” message works because it is appropriate. This is important, because there are so many ways we can use language to communicate and in each case the writing must suit the purpose.

Adopting a suitable style

For example, a business producing two newsletters – one for its customers and another for its employees – will probably use different styles for each audience. It is likely to adopt a more serious tone for its customers, to ensure it appears professional, while the employee newsletter will tend to feature more light-hearted, even irreverent articles to entertain staff.

But that does not mean that customer newsletters shouldn’t include light-hearted content or that employee newsletters should not include serious articles about the company. Generally, each newsletter will adopt a tone finely tuned to its specific audience. And this is where the skill of the copywriter comes into play. Understanding the message that needs to be communicated and the style most likely to succeed with the target audience is crucial.

After all, a brochure aimed at selling music to a teenage audience is unlikely to succeed if it is crammed with long paragraphs of text, while a magazine aimed at readers of epic literature is unlikely to be filled with jokes and gags.

Targeting

So knowing your audience – or your market – and the best way of communicating with them is very important.

In business, people like to receive their information in different ways – from business magazines to web sites, text messages, brochures and detailed technical documents. If we are trying to communicate with a specific group of people, we’ll have more chance of succeeding if we use the method of communicating that they find works best for them.

Can I write it myself?

Yes. Why not?

Some people are perfectly capable of writing good copy. Others may find it more difficult or not have the confidence. If you can write good copy yourself, there’s no reason why you should not write your own text for your brochures, web site or press releases, other than whether it is the best use of your time. Do you do your own accounts, your own legal advice, selling or IT support? Probably not, because you don’t have the time to do them all. You’ve got to run your business.

Tips for good writing

• Develop your own style. See how other people write, by all means, but the best writing comes from ourselves.

• Don’t use jargon. Assume everyone reading your copy knows nothing about the subject.

• Keep it short. People are bombarded with so much information these days that many will not even bother to read something that looks long-winded. Length does not guarantee quality.

• Check your spelling: it does make a difference. Use a dictionary rather than a spell-checker.

• If you’re unsure of your grammar and punctuation, start writing in a simple style and develop it as you become more confident.

• Sometimes grammatically correct writing does not sound right. It’s nearly always better for your writing to sound natural, so learn the rules, but know when to break them to avoid clumsy-sounding text.

• Check your writing by reading it aloud. Does it sound natural? Or ask a colleague or friend to read it. It’s better that someone close to you spots any mistakes before you send it out to the rest of the world.

Words are a powerful tool

Always remember that words are a very powerful business tool. Whether you’re writing text for a brochure or a presentation or speech, words can achieve a lot – often at little cost to yourself.

Although you may not have a big budget, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to communicate more effectively than your competitors, and many small businesses are better at communicating than bigger ones.

• You can find more practical advice and prompt sheets at www.editorialresources.co.uk

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