Creating Online Content that Connects
Whether we are blogging, creating newsletters and e-blasts, updating on Facebook or tweeting out 140 characters, we are creating content and looking for ways to connect with one another. But for communication to be effective, it needs to send a clear message that resonates with readers.
In many ways, being an editor is no different than being an event producer, wedding planner, caterer or florist — you have an audience and your goal is to please it. However, the skill set required is very different and the biggest challenge is content. By being so close to the material in a blog newsletter — virtually BEING the story — it can be hard to organize everything in a way that doesn’t come across as self-serving. This is where stepping back and becoming your own editor begins.
(NOTE: For the purposes of this post, I’m mainly concentrating on e-newsletters that have multiple stories, but much of this applies to blog content as well.)
ONE Just like a magazine or newspaper editor, your mission is to educate, entertain and inform. As such, think of your newsletter not as must a promotional piece, but as a way to communicate and CONNECT with your reader.
AND TWO Welcome to the world of hard choices. Every editor is faced with the challenge of fitting all the content he or she wants into a certain number of pages. No matter how fortunate she is to have a magazine fat with ads, there will never be enough pages to include everything.
And to be brutally honestly, not everything should be included.
Approach every idea you have with a critical mind. By “critical,” I don’t mean negative, but selective. We sometimes fall in love with an idea that just won’t work, no matter how hard we try. Be prepared to give up your darlings (whether that’s a story, an image or a sentence) for the sake of a stronger product that sends a clear message.
There is an axiom that it’s better to be fast than good when it comes to 2.0 communication. That is true in many respects but at some point, to engage, keep and increase your audience, you’d better also be good. This applies to content and to writing.
All good writing is in the editing.
And if you think editing and writing comes easy to some, think of what Mark Twain said: “The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.”
Create a Tone for Your Newsletter
Is it helpful, inspirational, friendly, informative? All of the above?
All of the above is great, but if the content is not well organized, your main message can slip through the cracks. One way to organize your content is to assign certain themes to certain months and have each of the stories reflect a certain aspect of it. For instance, if the theme is holidays and you are a caterer, consider enlisting your chef to write about new food presentation ideas, your marketing director to give tips on invitations, and an outside design partner or vendor to give tips on décor (more about involving vendors later). Try to choose stories for which you have images and include a headshot of the person who is writing the item. Photos and captions help draw readers in.
Lead with a Strong Story
Start each newsletter with a lead story idea. This can be the season, news from your company, a food or design theme, or overall industry happenings such as an upcoming conference at which you are speaking or attending or an award you’ve won.
Keep your Audience in the Front of Your Thoughts
Remember to approach and write everything with the reader in mind. What will he or she get from this information? If the lead story is about an award you’ve won for an event, highlight some of the great points about it, give the reader an insight into your design philosophy, the challenges you faced or something important you learned while producing the event.
Include Images but Be Selective
We all know that photos say a lot, but make sure they are good photos. View them with a critical eye. If they are blurry, not lighted well or just plain unattractive they can do more harm than good. And as for images, mix it up a bit and also include video from time to time. But same rule applies — make sure the video is of good quality in terms of audio and visual.
Be selective when it comes to content and photo quality but be inclusive when it comes to creating stories. Involving vendors, venues and even clients in your newsletter will widen your readership and create more varied editorial voices and content.
Set up a schedule for the year and assign stories and deadlines that are taken seriously.
Write Tight and Bright
Have fun with the lead paragraph but remember to have the “who, what, where and why-is-this-important-to-the-reader?” all answered in the first couple paragraphs.
It’s All In The Details
Check and double check spelling and grammar.
Always put links to your web or blog and always put your phone number in strategic places (i.e. the end of an article or at the very end of the newsletter depending on how you set it up graphically).
In the world of 2.0, it’s all about making a TWO-WAY connection. As you progress, find new ways to engage the reader and to create feedback and interaction. Perhaps a give-away for the first three people who send back an e-mail comment, or a value-added promotion on certain items in your newsletter. Or you could solicit ideas from readers on how they have used your product, or ask readers for their favorite holiday recipes and publish those that you found most interesting.
Finally, by consistently creating exciting, interesting and relevant newsletters, you will never have to worry if your readers will be irritated by receiving them. In fact, if they are done right, you’ll find people actually asking you when the next one is coming out. And as you begin to get more feedback, good and bad, you will begin to understand the impact your communication has on your reader. Then you truly will be an editor!
What has worked for you? LEAVE A COMMENT to add to my list of tips and techniques. Or, leave a question you’d like answered regarding your own online communications. Thanks!
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