Writing… Sometimes It’s About What You Don’t Know

UntitledWrite what you know.

Simple, right? Makes total sense. Mark Twain couldn’t possibly be wrong. Wise words to live by for all aspiring writers. Well, not exactly. And especially not if you are a communications professional living in this century and working within a diverse or complex industry like biotechnology, pharmaceuticals or software development. So, what do you do when you’re charged with writing a blog about the future of AngularJS or a bylined article about the benefits of using GFETs in medical diagnostics? Unless you are a software engineer or biotech scientist, these topics may be more than just a bit of a challenge for you to wax poetic about at the drop of a dime.

Insightful, actionable content is at the core of all successful communications strategies. Whether it’s a bylined article, blog post, media pitch or press release, it needs to be interesting, factual, valuable, relevant and written in a way that will drive action by your intended audience. Basically, you need to know what the heck you’re talking about before you can even think about writing something that’s going to inspire others to want to learn more about your product, service, company or client.

Since most of us probably did not have a dual major in communications and biotechnology, the question still remains: How exactly do you write intelligently about a topic like the benefits of using GFETs in medical diagnostics when you aren’t a biotech scientist?

Well, you can start by talking to a biotech scientist.

The first step is realizing that you are NOT the expert here, and more importantly, no one is expecting you to be. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know the first thing about what a GFET is or what it does. You need to seek out the real experts who can help you tell that story. Look internally at your organization or externally at your client’s organization and find that expert who can provide the valuable insight needed to help get you started. And once you secure that interview opportunity, you should always make it a practice to record the conversation. If you’ve ever spoken to a scientist or a software engineer about one of their new products or discoveries, you know why I’m saying that. You’ll be too busy trying to wrap your head around the twenty-three acronyms and unfamiliar multisyllabic words that they just hurled at you within the first minute of your conversation to even begin to take coherent notes. It’s much more important for you to listen, be engaged and ask questions, especially if you are dealing with hard-to-understand information. So, put your notepad/laptop down and press the “record” button instead. You’ll be grateful for that later.

The next step – as obvious as it may sound – is research. But, the key here is quality research. Most likely, you are working against a tight deadline and you don’t have time to read an entire book or series of white papers on your specified topic. You also don’t have time to read endless blogs that may or may not be reliable or accurate. It’s not about culling a bunch of random information from the darkest recesses of cyberspace, throwing it together and then trying to pass it off as insightful content. Identify the real influencers in your space by doing the research and asking your in-house experts, clients, co-workers, industry friends… anyone who has experience within this particular industry who can recommend the best informational sites, published papers, case studies or other accredited sources from which you can pull vital stats for your piece.

After you have gathered all of your information and you sit down to write, remember to whom you are writing. Who is your target audience? What are you trying to convey to them and why? What should your tone be? What is it that you want them to do after reading this content? The target audience and intended action should always be top of mind before you start writing any type of marketing content.

Remember this simple formula on which we base all of our communications strategies at Slice: Targeted Audience + Compelling Content = Measurable Action

It works like a charm.

Once you have the first draft down, or if you get stuck in the middle, walk away. Go to a movie. Go for a drive. Have some ice cream. Don’t stress over writer’s block or labor over whether this paragraph should go before that paragraph. Step away from it completely for an hour or even a day, so that when you pick it back up again, you’re looking at it with fresh eyes and a clear mind.

And, finally, when you’re finished, share it with a friend or co-worker. Ask them what they think, and if it’s understandable to someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic… someone just like you the first time you heard the term GFET and panicked when you realized you needed to write an 800-word bylined article on it.

Of course, that was before you started this process and became an expert in your own right.

Jenni Glenn is head of PR for Slice Communications (www.SliceCommunications.com), a progressive public relations and social media agency that believes in the power of relevant, insightful and actionable content. She leads the agency’s PR team in developing strategic communications for a diverse array of clients in industries such as biotech, technology, e-commerce, architecture/design, consumer products, healthcare, finance/investment and nonprofit.  With more than 15 years communications experience, Glenn has also held senior-level communications positions at Sprout (NBCUniversal’s preschool television channel), QVC, Inc., Miss America Organization, CDNOW, Inc., and Milan Entertainment. A resolute animal welfare and rescue advocate, Glenn also participates in volunteer work for organizations specializing in the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of pitbulls who have been abused or abandoned.

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Boost Your Brand With Online Storytelling

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Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools to build and strengthen your brand, yet many companies are still not using it to their advantage online. PR experts know how to analyze, contextualize and create stories and narratives to showcase brand attributes and draw consumers. Add a social behaviorist to the team and your business is ready to rock your story online!

Why is a social behaviorist so important? The attention span of an average internet user is only 8 seconds. That means digital marketers have only 8 seconds to connect with consumers and entice them to take meaningful action. Understanding social behavior and how target audiences respond to your brand story online brings a competitive edge that delivers greater results from your marketing efforts.

What can online storytelling, in expert hands, do for your business?

  • Strengthen brand perception.
    One of the greatest advantages of social media is being able to listen to your consumers in real-time. That aids in finding possible gaps between the way you position your brand, and the way the public perceives it. Storytelling fills the gaps and creates a smooth transition for audiences to respond positively to your brand message.
  • Boost brand engagement.
    To strengthen brand loyalty, you need to deepen your online engagement. When consumers become aware of your story, they become a part of it as active participants. Emotional attachments develop and consumers believe the thoughts formed in their head are their own – and they react accordingly. They believe the messaging and become brand advocates.
  • Build trust.
    In 2013, 46% of all internet users claimed that social media influenced their purchase decisions. To influence an audience, you first need to build a relationship based on trust. Storytelling can build a human-to-human relationship that leads to trust between your brand and a consumer. And it will last longer than the notorious 8 seconds.

Storytelling forms a strong connection between your brand and its consumer. That’s why it is important to control the way your story is told. Your storyteller must have a deep understanding of your brand and its history. The story told on social media should be a part of an overall brand story that has been integrated across all media and communication channels.

Powerful storytelling enhances your brand, especially if it’s part of a cohesive approach. Is online storytelling part of your brand story?

GillespieHall is an integrated marketing and digital PR firm. Our award-winning team is comprised of astute PR communicators, sociologists, digital strategists, and creative content designers. We are leaders in exceptional results-based marketing, brand development and crisis management. Follow @GILLESPIEHALL on Twitter.

Social Media Landscape for 2015

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Social media is ever-changing and you need to stay ahead of the curve in order to get the most out of it. It is crucial to include social media in public relations and marketing plans. Cass Bailey, CEO of Slice Communications, presented as the keynote speaker at the recent Philadelphia Chapter meeting of NACE (National Association for Catering and Events). She explained the value of social media for the event industry in particular but the same thoughtful concepts apply across all industries.

First things first, what are your goals?

  • Brand Awareness
  • Thought Leadership
  • Sales/Lead Generation
  • Community Relations
  • Market Research
  • Customer Service
  • Recruiting

Once you identify your goals and your key audiences you are ready to put together a strategic social media plan. As always, relevant content is key but enhancing the reach through paid advertising on Facebook and Twitter is an area that has grown a lot in 2014. Your efforts will not be as valuable if your target audiences are not carefully selected. Be mindful of who you want to  reach out to and what actions you would like them to take.

An example of targeting a specific audience on Facebook that Cass used was engaged women within 50 miles of Philadelphia. There are over 50,000 individuals with the potential of being customers.

Slice Communications is a successful integrated public relations and social media agency headquartered in Philly. Connect with Cass Bailey on Twitter at @Cassapedia and @SliceComm.

To view Cass’s complete presentation click here.

This post was written by Nina Scimenes. Nina is PPRA’s VP of Communications and Marketing Manager at Brûlée Catering. She positions the catering brand as a premier event company in the Philadelphia region by being the voice of Brûlée on social media and maintains the website content while fostering relationships with the community and the press. Nina graduated from Cabrini College with a degree in Communications and minor in Graphic Design. Follow her on Twitter: @NinaScim and @Brulee_Catering.

Photo Credit: Phillip Gabriel Photography