Why buzzwords deserve the axe

Like it or not – and I’m not happy about this – jargon continues to haunt us. And recently, an irritating number of “buzzwords” have been in frequent use.

So I was pleased to see a PR company has been making a concerted effort to purge press releases and other pieces of writing of “business-speak” and the latest buzzwords.

Yes, employees at some firms may walk around enthusing over the joys of “re-purposing” (which really means adopting something for a different purpose) and the need for their services to be “valued-added”. But it’s a long way from writing in plain, simple English.

Clear, uncluttered phrases mean your communication is always more likely to be better understood and hence successful. Especially in a pressured business environment when time is precious.

Get to the point and move on. I’ve also noticed a disturbing trend, especially on the web, of employing words and phrases some consider to be trendy. For instance, describing someone as being “super excited” about something new or using “awesome” as an adjective.

Writers might may believe they are being “cool” (another such phrase) but these terms are likely to put readers off.

Including these phrases in your copy might make readers think the writer and their organisation need to grow up.

In terms of other personal bug bears, I find so-called “mission critical” activities (since when has everyone been trying to rival the NASA Space Programme?) irritating.

And I would love to see the phrase “reach out” be banned. As in: “Thanks so much for reaching out to me,” or similar jarring equivalents, which we hear all too often now.

What is wrong with approaching someone or talking to them instead?

  • Want help in writing clear jargon-free copy that gets results? Contact me.

Reaching your audience with Twitter

With over 280 million active users worldwide, Twitter can be a great place to share your messages.

Here are four key tips for using this popular social media channel:

• Plan some of your content in advance and schedule it by using a tool like Hootsuite. But keep your Twitter feed up-to-date with some ‘live’, spontaneous tweets, too
• It’s easy to gain followers. But are they right ones? Use the correct

iStock_000045402090Small buzzwords and hashtags and look at the kind of content your customers like to follow. Look for what’s trending this week, or today
• 140 characters per tweet means just that. Keep it snappy. Use plenty of pictures, video links, and shortened links to other web content to drive up interest and gain followers. Use tweets to link to your own blog
• Remember, no-one likes to be sold to directly on social media. Entice your prospective customers by posting lots of interesting, relevant content, and start the conversation with them on Twitter. Then work to keep them engaged!

These are far from the only tips about using Twitter as a communications and marketing tool. Contact me for more thoughts or tweet me at @bennettwords.

• Did you know? The Twitter team are very fond of hard-boiled eggs. At their HQ, they eat 1,440 eggs a week.

Don’t be boring! How to write to engage your audience

Here’s a quick question. When was the last time a piece of business writing – be it copy on a website, some advertising copy, or a press release – really grabbed you?

There are some great examples of those kinds of writing out there, but it is also easy to turn your audience off in just a few lines.

So what’s the secret of great writing? In a nutshell – don’t be boring! There are many ways to engage your customers, company’s staff or the media. In fact, one of the worst marketing crimes is where a piece of communication goes unnoticed. That means your efforts have failed.

Here are a few tips to add some punch to your copy:

1. Be interesting. Maybe you think what your company does isn’t very intriguing. Well, there is usually a way of making it so. You manufacture paperclips? Well, how about adding a factfile on paperclips (where relevant) into your copy – for instance, calculating the number of paperclips it would take to reach from Earth to the Moon; who was the inventor of the paperclip and add in unusual uses the paperclip has been put to. Immediate interest!

2. Be succinct. Some of the best advice I saw was on writing for the web. Basically, write your article as briefly as possible. Then cut out half of what is left. Readers drown in too much text and quickly loose interest.

3. Thinking visually. Work with a good graphic designer. Whether for digital use – or print – great imagery and imaginative design concepts work wonders in getting your ideas across. And the copywriter should help generate them – does the phrase I used above about ‘adding some punch’ might give you a few visual ideas and conjure up any images?

4. Think customer. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in your own organisation’s achievements. But how do they reflect on your approach to customers and what you can do for them? Being a company founded 37 years ago and having eight directors on the board is all well and good, but, what does this tell your customer? And, without wishing to be rude – try applying the ‘so what?’ test to the statement above. See my previous advice on writing press releases for a further explanation, but this is just as applicable to other forms of business writing.

5. Imagine you are the reader. This takes point four a step further. It’s helpful to think of your intended audience as a real person. So, what are they like – male or female, young or old, where do they live, what do they buy, what work do they do, what interests do they have and so on? What do they like and what would turn them off – in short ‘what’s in it for them’ with your proposition? Don’t be afraid to cut to the chase here. If you can put yourself in the mindset of this customer, then you will be better equipped to tailor your words and images to their needs (give them a name, that will probably help).

I will be returning to the theme of engaging customers, the media, and other audiences, through great writing, in my next few blogs.

http://www.bennettwords.biz

 

Helping property specialist’s messages hit the mark

Slater & Brandley has ambitions to become a major force in the West Bridgford and Nottingham property scenes, and the company expanded rapidly during 2013.

Who better to help it achieve its marketing goals than PR and copywriting specialist Bennettwords, which has a proven track record in delivering effective communications for SME clients, as well as for some bigger household names?

Slater & Brandley added an estate agency arm to its existing residential sales business last year, and communicating this new venture to customers and the wider public was a priority.

A press release written by Bennettwords gained coverage in the Nottingham Post property pages, a key media outlet for the company. Shortly after this, the firm was asked to give the Post its views on a proposed national cap on house prices, leading to Slater & Brandley’s MD being quoted alongside other property gurus from well-established firms.

More recently, more successful PR was gained with coverage of another Slater & Brandley story. The company had just moved to a new base in a distinctive building in West Bridgford, a story which appealed to both the Nottingham Post online (nottinghampost.com) and the West Bridgford Local News. Plans are now being drawn up for more PR and publicity during 2014.

Garry Slater, MD of Slater & Brandley, commented: “Andrew Bennett of Bennettwords brought a raft of fresh ideas to the table on how best to create the maximum exposure for our business and we were very pleased with the final result.

“Andrew engages in his subject with a real passion and is more than prepared to push for the very best outcome for us.”