Blog

Can PR Be Automated?

Can PR Be Automated?

As politicians bicker about job growth and immigration, it’s become increasingly clear that the real threat to our current economic and social structure is automation and robotization. In the wake of this realization, workers around the world are asking the question: Will I be replaced by a machine?

Can PR Be Automated?

In PR, the answer is not immediately obvious. We’ve seen an increase in prospective clients in search of systematic PR results. They expect PR work and thought leadership messaging to produce immediate, specific results in the form of business leads, controlled media placements and calculable profits. Though these demands partially represent the public’s general confusion about the difference between PR and marketing, they also reflect the conviction that anything can be turned into data. The A.wordsmith team is confident in our ability to deliver on certain metrics and prepared to outline strategic goals for our clients. Nevertheless, much of our work remains subjective and qualitative.

That’s good news for the PR industry, which is at relatively low risk of being replaced by robots anytime soon. This is according to a team of researchers at Oxford University that analyzed the world labor market and determined how likely various fields and industries are to be replaced. They found that likelihood most highly correlated with the need for workers to

  • Come up with clever solutions
  • Personally help others
  • Negotiate
  • Squeeze into small spaces
Can PR be automated?

npr.org

Some of the findings are fairly predictable — a preschool teacher, for example, is only 0.7% likely to be replaced by a robot, while telemarketers have 99% chance of being substituted. Public relations professionals have only a 17.5 percent chance of being replaced. Though we tend not to spend much time in crawl spaces, this scoring process does highlight some of the unique strengths of PR that often go unrecognized or misunderstood by our clients.

PR is all about relationships

It seems obvious, but our success is contingent on our ability to maintain positive relationships with clients, the media, the public and our peers. PR is a service industry, and we dedicate time to maintaining strong relationships with our clients, many of whom need education guidance in the communications process. No algorithm can substitute the value of strong personal media connections, nor can it replace a candid, personable connection with consumers and the general public. Finally, we’re all about enhancing your relationship with the public — that is, after all, our title.

Creativity is an integral part of our work

Skilled PR work requires mastery of creative thinking and expression. We’re trained as versatile writers, because if we can’t tell a message well, our outreach and content will fall flat. Campaigns require creative thinking. Sloppy pitches are a non-option, and thought leadership experts are also often responsible for crafting articles, blogs, POVs and white papers. We’re creating content, concepts and even art, and machines just aren’t there yet.

PR is guided by opinions, not facts

We’re managing images and reputations, which by definition can’t be calculated. When we do research, our best discoveries come from qualitative findings: surveys, focus groups and investigative research into industries and relationships are the most productive for our purposes. We’ll keep on top of clicks and views, but public opinion is determined by emotions and perceptions, and that’s hard to robotize.

All this said, we shouldn’t get smug. The technology we use today was unimaginable a decade ago — there’s no telling where we’ll be in another ten.

Top Reaction Gifs for the format’s 30th Anniversary

30th anniversary of the GIF

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the GIF this week, Facebook has added a GIF button directly to the comment bar – making it easier than ever to interact visually on the platform. It’s hard to deny the impact that GIFs have had in recent years on modern social media culture, no matter what side of the pronunciation debate you stand on (personally, I think it’s JIF, like the peanut butter). Take a look at a few facts that make GIFs so powerful for social sharing:

 

30th anniversary of the GIF

Need a few GIFs to get your sharing started? Here’s some of our favorites:

 

Peggy from Mad Men

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Jimmy Fallon Happy Dance

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Captain Picard Facepalm

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

JACK NICHOLSON WOAH

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

High Five

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Raven Symone

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Jennifer Lawrence OK

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Simpsons MWUAH

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Computer Kid

30th anniversary of the GIF

 

Kermit at Work

30th anniversary of the GIF

The Difficult Relationship Between Brands & YouTube Creators

youtube advertising

Every day, YouTube users watch nearly 5 billion videos. Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has become a culture-shaping video mecca that has created a new category of “celebrity.” Brands have jumped into the YouTube pool with both feet, taking advantage of those 5 billion daily views with ad buys on the videos of popular YouTube Creators and branded content of their own. From gaming “Let’s Plays” to beauty tutorials to snarky commentary on politics to the latest viral meme, influencers are creating content that brands want to be a part of. And YouTube creators have made lucrative careers from the brands’ ad dollars: in 2016, the highest earning personality was PewDiePie, who brought in $15 million last year.

But in 2017, all has not been well in the YouTube land. Due to several controversies (including one surrounding the aforementioned PewDiePie), the relationship between advertisers and creators (and the relationship between both of those parties and YouTube itself) has become strained. The issues could have far-reaching implications for net neutrality, influencer marketing, and the future of video on social media. Both creators and brands need each other to win the YouTube game, but struggle to define who is truly in charge.

StockSnap_1J6AHTQEPH

The “Adpocalypse:” Creators need brands

In March of this year, YouTube and parent company Google had a full blown crisis on their hands: major brands were pulling their advertising due to Google’s inability to ensure that their ads didn’t end up playing in front of racist and offensive content. However, the issue wasn’t as cut -and-dry as advertisers wanted it to be; part of the issue is how Google can define and label offensive content.

Some videos are obviously offensive – those that contain extreme violence, gore, harassment, and blatant racist content are videos that advertisers (and probably the general public) don’t want to see monetized. However, in YouTube’s efforts to soothe brands’ fears, some of their most popular creators suddenly found their ad revenue tanking. Creators complained that the new “hate speech” algorithm was blocking their content unfairly, and taking video titles and content out of context. Several also pointed out that while their videos were being demonetized for things like violent content in a video game or “jokes” they said were taken out of context, the YouTube channels of news outlets that often show violent imagery and music videos with overtly sexual content still had ads attached.

YouTube creators are most successful when they create and share content with authenticity and connection to their audience. Sometimes, this includes content that isn’t “PG-13,” and brands may not want their logo and name associated with it. Staying true to their audience can come at a cost for creators, especially those who rely on YouTube for their livelihood.

youtube

Cutting the cable cord: Brand need creators

According to a survey in 2016, younger generations watch 2.5 time more internet video than cable TV. In fact, YouTube is the most viewed platform among this demographic – also beating out Netflix, Facebook, and Hulu. Millennials and Generation Z are spending their time with their favorite influencers on YouTube, who are more likely to personally connect with them on social media than an A-list celebrity in the newest show on AMC. They trust these YouTube creators because they can connect with them on a personal level.

As Generation Z comes of age and begins wielding more purchasing power, brands are realizing they need to reach these consumers where they live. Consumers aren’t seeking out brands anymore, and they don’t like traditional advertising. Longer ads on YouTube often come with the option to skip them, but most users will still see a few seconds of an ad before skipping it to get to their video. A well-made ad can still make an impact in those few seconds, and potentially be seen by millions of users when played in front of videos by YouTube’s most popular personalities.

For brands looking to build an even stronger connection, product placements are alive and well on YouTube. Influencer partnerships can take time to build, and creators are often picky about the brands they work with – the products need to be authentic to their persona on YouTube. Not every popular YouTuber is a fit for this type of promotion, either. Those who don’t focus lifestyle content may not have audiences that expect or even accept product promotion.

Companies who pull regular advertising due to concerns about the content on YouTube can run into a new challenge as well if they want to work with these influencers directly. Creators affected by a lack of ad revenue due to brands pulling their campaigns might not be inclined to partner with brands in other capacities – why would they support the brands that don’t support the platform their career is based on? If ad revenues continue to dip or stay stagnant, many popular creators will be seeking greener pastures, and diversifying their careers. There may not be creators for brands to partner with at all in the future.

The balance

Google and YouTube have the difficult task of balancing the authenticity and creativity that made YouTube so popular with the need to assure brands that their reputation isn’t at risk by purchasing ad space. The second half of 2017 will likely define YouTube’s future, as well as the future of influencer relations in marketing. The current situation is sticky – all three parties (creators, brands, and YouTube) need each other, but also need to put their own interests first. Internet video is still a bit Wild West – and YouTube will have to find a way to balance the creators’ desire to keep it that way and brands’ desire to reign it in.

 

Tools to Help Copywriters Find Their Flow

Tools to help copywriters

In an ideal world, copywriters would have time to let inspiration strike. We would get to brainstorm, let ideas incubate, bounce them back and forth with fellow writers. You know, just like Peggy Olson and Don Draper did on Mad Men. In the real world though, copywriters often have to come up with creative and compelling copy on the spot, alone and sometimes even without a proper brief.

Like most writers, I’m a pen hoarder. But through the years I have compiled a set of tools to help copywriters that make the writing process easier and more enjoyable. The following free apps and websites have rescued me countless times when deadlines were creeping up. Let’s take a look.

Thesaurus.com

I’m going to start with this one even if you roll your eyes because sometimes having a reliable thesaurus by your side makes all the difference. I use Thesaurus.com as often as I reference the AP Style Guide and I’m not ashamed of it. Plus, it’s the most comprehensive thesaurus online and a cool mobile app, and it has never failed me.

Words to Use

This tool may sound like it works as a thesaurus, but it does a lot more than grouping words by their meaning. Words to Use groups subject-related words by parts of speech like nouns, verbs and phrases. The list was created in 2008 by copywriter Amy Pogue, and it continues to grow as a resource for anyone who writes.

Un-Stuck-It

I write a lot of B2B materials and sometimes I unintentionally carry business jargon to less formal, more conversational pieces. Un-Stuck-It is a free web app with a sense of humor that helps you find words that flow better and that may resonate more with your audience.

Free Dictionary’s Idioms Dictionary

Though I would never advise a fellow copywriter to use idioms, I do encourage them to search Free Dictionary’s Idioms Dictionary as an exercise to find new meaning in those overused and trite words. Who knows, you may find a brilliant pun that actually works!

Rhymezone

I never thought I would ever have to write copy in rhymes, until it happened. A client wanted a TV spot to sound like a Bob Dylan poem read by a cowboy in the voice of the dude from the Big Lebowski. Turns out, I was only able to make one of those things happen and I owe it all to Rhymezone.

Live-Keyword Analysis

I see a lot of brands stuffing keywords onto their pages. Over-optimizing SEO is a dangerous game and can get some websites penalized. Plus, contrived SEO is as bad as terrible writing and your audience will quickly notice it. Live-Keyword Analysis helps you calculate the density of keywords in your text so you can reach that sweet spot.

Hemingway App

When Ernest Hemingway’s real estate in Cuba was cleared, his family found some notes he had seemingly written to himself, in pencil. One reads: “You can phrase things clearer and better.” And the other: “You can remove words which are unnecessary and tighten up your prose.” The creators of the Hemingway App took his notes to heart and developed a program that highlights overly complicated words and suggests alternatives. The app also calls out adverbs, difficult-to-read-sentences and passive voice. The way Hemingway himself would’ve liked it.

Cold Turkey

If you’re like me, you get easily distracted when you’re writing. You go to a site to do some research and before you know it, you’re on a news site or reading emails. Thankfully, there’s help. Cold Turkey helps you quit this terrible habit by locking you out of certain sites or apps for a period of time. While there are many other distraction blocker sites out there, I find Cold Turkey to be the most customizable and easy to use.

Writefull

Writefull is a neat add-on that uses artificial intelligence to improve your writing. The app checks your writing by running it against a database of correct language. It helps you hear how your text reads, translates text in any language into English and finds out which words you’re using most often.

Urban Dictionary

Have you head of galories? They’re calories women consume when you go out with your girl friends. Not to be confused with palories, the calories men consume when they’re hanging out with their pals. Trust me, you’re not getting old, language is just…evolving. Urban Dictionary has been around for ages and it has saved me from sounding like I live under a rock multiple times.

Tools to help copywriters

Happy writing!

 

Your Most Underutilized PR Resource: Your Employees

your most underutilzed pr resource

 

Listening to your customers via social media, review sites, website comments and other digital forums has become second nature for most businesses, but many aren’t always the best at listening to their own employees’ stories. That means many businesses are missing out on a major internal resource for their PR efforts. Your own employees can be an excellent source for compelling stories that humanize your brand, engage your customers and add authenticity to your marketing. Here’s why you should consider sourcing stories from within your business:

 

Why are employee stories important for PR?

Sometimes the most effective way to tell your business or product story isn’t through the CEO or the voices of your customers, but by sharing the experiences of your employees. According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, employees are trusted between 16-38 percent more than CEOs on issues ranging from financial earnings to innovation. Today’s audiences can tell when a story is a little too sleek. In the age of social media and constant digital connection, authenticity is key to connecting with customers. Adding the right internal voice to your PR efforts lends credibility to your cause and showcases that your company practices what it preaches.

A product designer may have a fascinating reason why a feature was added to a product, or an engineer might be the best voice to debate a hot topic in your industry. Do you have employees that volunteer their professional skills in the community, or have inspiring stories about how they came to be where they are? These are all good starting points to begin connecting with your employees and start working their stories into your PR strategy.

 

The payoff

Sourcing stories from your employees can provide a big payoff for your PR campaigns. Take for example this Business Insider story of two Google employees who lived in their van for two years, which highlights the unique culture and opportunities the company provides. Or this Portland Business Journal story about a Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield team investigating fraudulent Medicare billing, which drives up costs for their customers. By mining stories from their internal teams, both companies leveraged new ideas that share their message and lend an extra air of authenticity to their brand story.

 

How do I start uncovering these stories?

There’s a simple way to start gathering employee stories: listen. Your business likely already has a variety of methods for this, from regular team meetings to staff recognition programs. Start mining those existing efforts for new story ideas. Your team managers and HR will be your best friends here – start a regular dialogue to help them start thinking in “story mode.” Since they spend the most time interacting with employees, it’s paramount to get them thinking about PR as an everyday activity and start sharing stories that could be good candidates for PR outreach.

Customer Service on Snapchat

snapchat customer service

In its short history, Snapchat has grown from a novelty app to a social media platform in which brands are eager to pioneer new styles of social media campaigns. From branded lens and geofilters, to influencer “story takeovers” and specialized in-app ads, there’s a multitude of ways for brands to utilize Snapchat. Users on Snapchat tend to be digital natives, younger and turned off by traditional advertising. They expect personal connections from the brands they love and buy from. Snapchat is a natural platform for these connections, and some brands are taking it to the next level by using the app as a customer service tool.

Brands have already discovered that Twitter makes a great customer service tool and allows for quick responses – but it doesn’t allow for voice or face-to-face conversations. Early adopters of Snapchat are discovering that the platform offers the direct connection of Twitter, with the added benefit of video to help solve customer issues, and puts a friendly face on customer service. Here are three ways brands are elevating customer experience through Snapchat.

customer service

Troubleshoot customer service problems with video

For certain consumer and B2B brands, troubleshooting product issues can be difficult over the phone. But busy consumers often don’t have time to come back into the shop, ship the product back, or make an appointment to have their defective product looked at. Forward-thinking companies like iOgrapher are experimenting with applying Snapchat’s convenient video messaging to their troubleshooting process. Customers with concerns can make a short Snapchat video describing the problem and send it directly to the business’ account. This is convenient for both customer and business: The consumer gets a quick, easy way to send in a “support ticket,” and the business gets a physical look at what the problem is, rather than trying to decipher the issue over email or phone. While this might be difficult for one customer service rep to manage for large corporations (and the multitude of customer issues they respond to daily), small to mid-size startups and businesses can use the platform as a free tool to connect to consumers where they are and respond in a more personal way.

Phone calls without a call center

Occasionally, customers don’t need (or want) to use a video to discuss the challenges they’re having with a product – a phone call can suffice. But some call center systems can be frustrating to deal with, and no one enjoys listening to hold music for 20-30 minutes while they wait to speak to an actual human. Using Snapchat’s phone call feature, brands can connect with customers on an app they’re already spending time on. Brands need to connect with their audiences where they “live” – and that probably isn’t on an automated phone system.

Tutorials and guides

Particularly with beauty, food and health products, consumers love to see real people using and explaining products before they make a purchase. Whether it’s showcasing the variety of ways to use a hairstyling product or sharing a recipe using a new food item, brands can build goodwill by helping their customers learn how to use what they sell more efficiently. Snapchat is a perfect platform for tutorial videos. Brands can use their own staff or partner with popular influencers and offer tutorial videos for their followers. When advertised beforehand on other social platforms, brands can ensure an audience for their Snapchat story (which will only stay live for 24 hours).

 

Though still in its early stages (and facing strong competition from Instagram’s Stories), Snapchat is still growing in popularity, especially among the younger age set. Brands who jump in now will be ahead of many companies, and will be able to experiment and pave the way in this new field of customer service. Customers will continue to demand personal, authentic connections, and brands that adapt to these needs will only benefit.

Celebrity Endorsements: The Risk for Brands

celebrity endsorement

Celebrity endorsements have been used by brands since the 1760s, when a savvy pottery and chinaware company used endorsements from royalty to promote their products.  In more recent decades, celebrity endorsement has become a staple for many large brands, like Michael Jordan’s partnership with Nike. As social media has grown into a part of everyday life, the celebrity endorsement has adapted along with the digital world. With this shift has come new ways for brands and the influencers they partner with to connect with their audiences – and new ways for their influencers to crash, burn, and create a crisis.

Social media is all about personal connections, and it allows celebrities a chance to offer a sneak peek into their real life (or at least the sanitized version of their real life). It helps their fans relate to them in ways that regular advertising can’t, and creates a golden opportunity for brands. Brand endorsements, when presented through the lens of a celebrity’s personal, authentic recommendation on their personal social media channels can be a powerful form of marketing. But with this power comes the risk for it to fail on an epic scale when transparency and authenticity aren’t a key focus.

Fyre Festival’s lack of transparency

In April, the “luxurious” Fyre Festival made history – but not for the reasons they’d hoped. The “festival” basically didn’t even exist, and the exceptional music, food, and fun that their celebrity brand influencers promised were nowhere to be found. As the word spread, the organizers weren’t only faced with the obvious issue of not delivering the promised product – all but one of their hired influencers conveniently forgot to mention that their social media posts were sponsored.

While a brand and influencer may worry that tagging their sponsored post as the ad it is could harm the audience’s perception, the opposite is often true. Social media users don’t like to be lied to, and are still receptive to influencer content even when it’s clearly called out. Though the festival organize claim to be trying again next year, the damage caused by the lack of transparency by their influencers is already done – and the pending lawsuits for FTC violations aren’t helping matters.

“Bow Wow’s” lack of authenticity

While rapper Shad Moss (also known as Lil Bow Wow) wasn’t promoting a brand when he posted on Instagram about the flight he was taking to NYC via private jet, brands he’s worked with in the past could be at risk thanks to the reveal that he was lying.

Moss was indeed on a flight to NYC, but it wasn’t via private jet. Unfortunately for him, a fan of his noticed him on the flight, and noticed the post he’d made – and called him out on Snapchat.

The internet soon piled on to make fun of Moss’ photo with the #BowWowChallenge. There might not be a ton of animosity toward the rapper for fudging the truth, but it’s hurt his credibility, and could hurt the brands he partners with in the future.

The solution: micro-influencers

So, how can brands still get the benefit of social media influence, and collapsing on a large scale when their celebrity partner slips up? There’s three keys to consider:

  • Insist on transparency. All sponsored content must be tagged as such, no exceptions.
  • Carefully vet the influencers chosen – does their history match your brand values?
  • Consider micro-influencers instead.

Micro-influencers don’t have the millions of followers that some celebrities do, but this could actually be a plus for brands. They’re able to connect with their fans even more closely, and are likely to hold transparency and authenticity in high regard because of this. Money isn’t the only thing they’re concerned about – they also vet the brands the work with to ensure that the partnership is a match for their image too. And, if they do have an unfortunate flub, it’s probably not going to be on the same scale that an A or B list celebrity would. Brands should consider their influencers close partners, and require that they uphold the brand’s values – and influencers should do the same for the companies they work with.

Why Learning Another Language Makes You a Better Writer

LEARNING ANOTHER LANGUAGE MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER

Most of the time, language is effortless. Despite the labyrinth separating the thoughts in my prefrontal cortex from the words in my mouth, I can ramble all day without thinking twice about the process.

Language is effortless, that is, until we encounter a new one. In a foreign language, finding the right words suddenly takes work, and we’re forced to dissect sentences, rethink our message and consult the dictionary.

This exercise of searching and editing mirrors the process of writing. Skilled writers attempt to construct language in particular ways — clearer, richer, more visual, funnier, shorter, longer — that may not immediately flow to our fingers. Language learning is like interval training for writers; in fact, learning another language makes you a better writer and may be one of the best ways to enhance writing skills.

Descriptions get more creative

When we first learn a language, our vocabulary is limited. At times, we have to be creative to get our message across. For example, imagine that I want to tell someone that I bought a vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, I don’t know the word for “vacuum cleaner.” How can I say vacuum cleaner without saying vacuum cleaner?

  • A thing that cleans the floor that is not a broom
  • A broom that sucks dirt
  • A broom that breathes
  • An electric broom
  • A carpet cleaner without water
  • A floor sucker
  • A mop for the rug
  • Something that washes the ground with air

 

It’s like a particularly painful game of Taboo in which I can only use the words I don’t need. Yet by going through this awkward process — saying the words “floor sucker” while making a whirring noise — I’m stretching my mind to build new, concise definitions and clever descriptions.

There’s a whole new world of idioms and metaphors

Metaphors and idioms add spice to language and help readers grasp abstract or complex concepts. They’re also often unique to languages and cultures. Learning another language makes you a better writer because it gives you a whole new reservoir of metaphors.

Russians use the phrase “spitting at the ceiling,” to describe sitting around and doing nothing. The closest parallel in English might be “twiddling your thumbs,” but that phrase doesn’t deliver quite the same punch that the Russian does. Used in English, “spitting at the ceiling” could add an interesting if icky visual to any prose.


LEARNING ANOTHER LANGUAGE MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER

Foreign languages give new insight into familiar words

Learning another language makes you a better writer by forcing you to examine your native vocabulary in new ways. In English, the word “know” is simple: It has one core definition, and even small children recognize and use it. However, Italian dictionaries offer two different translations of “know”:

  • The first is sapere, which means “to know” something that can be learned or memorized, like a fact or a skill.
  • The other is “conoscere,” which expresses familiarity, personal insight and recognition in the way you might know a song, a person or a place.

 

I took “know” for granted my entire life. A single language lesson led me to reconsider it and has changed the way I use this simple English word. Rather than using “know,” I now seek out terms that add more clarity to the narrative.

It’s English Grammar 101

Even people who sneer at the “AP Stylebook” and “Strunk & White” depend on the English grammar systems. When we use our native tongue, however, we have little appreciation for its complexities.

For example, in English, the word “the” is always placed before a noun, and it always looks the same:

German grammar (6)

Foreign languages learners learn a new grammar system from scratch. In German, the shape of “the” depends on the role it (and its noun) plays in the sentence. For example,

Why Learning Another Language Makes You a Better Writer

In these German sentences, “the” takes multiple forms (der and den) depending on who is doing the biting. The main subject (the biter) takes “der; the object (the bitten) takes “den.” This kind of differentiation between subject and object actually exists in English, but its usage is limited to pronouns:

LEARNING ANOTHER LANGUAGE MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER

To speak German, I have to learn to recognize the role that “the” (and the noun it modifies) plays in the sentence, and doing so forces me to reflect on a facet of English grammar that most of us never consider.

Learning another language makes you a better writer

There’s some irony in the fact that a new tongue is the best way to understand your own, and that learning another language makes you a better writer. Yet for those of us who spend our days surrounded by words, it’s a powerful way to expand and grow as  writers, messengers and thinkers.

Conversational Writing: The Art of Keeping it Real

Conversational Writing

How often do messages on websites or marketing emails make you wonder if a human wrote them? A lot of content supposedly “targeting” us completely misses the mark. The writing is not conversational. It doesn’t sound like us. It doesn’t make us want to engage, and it lacks personality altogether. Some brands still confuse professional with formal and corporate with serious. Others forget how important it is to tailor content for each medium, coming off stiff and dated in social media and blog posts.

What is conversational writing?

Conversational writing is the kind or writing that makes readers feel you’re talking with them, not at them. It’s meant to keep things fresh and casual, and to help establish a brand’s voice across their website, social media, blogs and contributed articles.

Is conversational content better?

Conversational writing works better in some contexts. When we read content that sounds like us, we immediately feel a connection. As content marketers, our job is to inform, connect, persuade and inspire. We focus on finding the right “voice” for our audience and then on tailoring messages for each medium so they are more likely to convert. Sometimes this may mean relaxing our tone in client’s website’s landing page to establish trust and open opportunities for more personalized connections. Sometimes it’s about writing friendlier, shorter emails with one ask instead of five. It’s not about ignoring all brand guidelines, it’s about tweaking them to match how readers speak in different touchpoints. Some industry experts view conversational writing it as a form of copywriting UX, a way of using language to create more engaging experiences for readers.

But what about the serious technical and business stuff?

There’s still a place and a purpose for jargon and technical writing in formal business pieces like case studies, reports, RFPs and white papers. But don’t expect visitors to stay on a website that reads like an obscure instructional manual or to click on a link inside an email that sounds like a bank’s automated phone system message.

writing, conversational writing, copywriting, audience engagement

Can we write conversationally and still respect grammar rules?

Most regular rules don’t apply in conversational writing because it’s often full of slang and crutch words, creative punctuation and sentence fragments. It’s personable and unpredictable. While it’s never okay to sacrifice clarity for the sake of style, it’s okay to start a sentence with “and” or “but” to match your natural cadence in a blog and to use contractions or #hashtags on social to keep your messages light and your character count low.

A few tips on conversational writing

Conversational writing doesn’t have a style guide. What sounds like a conversation to me may not sound the same to you. The level of flexibility depends entirely on your target audience and the style they connect with. Below are a few tips to start using a healthy dose of conversational writing.

  1. Write as if you were talking to a friend. Start by reading your content out loud. Does it sound like something you’d actually say, or does it sound like something out of the Pelican Brief?
  2. Don’t write for everyone. Know who you’re talking to and write for them. Attempting to write for everyone will only dilute your message.
  3. Start with clarity. Start with your main message first so it doesn’t get lost when you add personality.
  4. Keep your sentences short. You know that amazing white paper intro you want to share on LinkedIn? Try chopping up the sentences to sound less academic. Unless your English teacher is your target audience, you definitely want to keep it short, sweet and light.
  5. Skip the long word when the short one will do. You don’t have to flaunt your vast industry vocabulary everywhere. Don’t let poor word choice stop a reader in their tracks.

Design Week Portland 2017

To be honest, I was supposed to post to our blog last week, but I was too busy checking out Design Week Portland 2017. Did you experience any of the great events last week? For those who haven’t heard, Design Week is an annual celebration of all things design-related: architecture, art and craft, graphic design, design education, experiential design, fashion and apparel, film, landscape design, manufacturing design, illustration, industrial design, interior design, interactive design, music, urban design, and writing and design criticism.

IMG_3796

Political resistance through design

It is overwhelming how much there is to experience, including talks, panels, events and parties, open houses, competitions, screenings, workshops, and the list goes on. I had the opportunity to check out a few cool events, including a panel on design’s role in political and cultural resistance, designing for craft brew brands, and a fun pin show benefitting arts education. Our own client, IDL Worldwide hosted an awesome (and delicious) “Design Fight Club // Crossover” where local chefs teamed up “with IDL or guest creatives to challenge participants to solve similar problems in a 30-minute sketch-off competition.” So fun.

IMG_3798

Designing for a Craft Brew Brand

Every year Design Week gets bigger and better—there is no shortage of things to do, and with increasing participation from all sorts of Portland businesses and organizations, the events are more and more appealing to any and everyone—not just those who work in design fields.

IMG_3810

Designers from all over the country contributed beautiful, wearable pins to sell at this show, with proceeds benefitting arts education.

So if you missed this year’s events, make sure to mark your calendar for next year!