What the Pylon Appreciation Society can teach us about creating great content 17 days ago

Image of pylon for Nottingham copywriting blog
The Pylon Appreciation Society… no, it’s not an oxymoron. The Pylon Appreciation Society is one of those groups bound to inspire a giggle or two, purely due to the unfair perception that having a passion for large metal grids in the ground is an odd thing. While I’m not a member of the society, I do think that it (and other similar niche groups) can teach us something about the value of great content. It’s a reminder about the importance of changing how we look at so-called “boring” or “uninteresting” subjects. Like the perception of those pylon fans, how can you excite people about less conventionally “interesting” topics?

From pylons to prized content

During a recent conversation about blogging, a new client expressed how dull they thought their own products were to write about. So strongly did they believe this that they used a word which would not be right to share on a (mostly) polite copywriting blog. This client believed that their blog would be dull because they see their own business topic as dull. Not so, I hastened to tell them. That’s precisely why it’s helpful to work with a copywriter or to look again at how you view a topic.

Like the Pylon Appreciation Society, the truth is not just that everything is fascinating to someone, but that everything is fascinating with the right angle. Life – and content – is all about how we look at it. Copywriting is the process of reframing and drawing out the good stuff. To all the business-owners who sadly declare that their business is “boring”, I say this: there’s always something interesting to it and there’s always an interesting way to write about it.

Thriller not filler

As I’ve written before, effective content isn’t just content that is grammatically correct, with every apostrophe in place, important though that is. Powerful content does not simply fill a space, but is packed full of words on a mission. Every single sentence needs to be targeted towards the goal of stating the right message… not just fluffing around the edges. Each word needs to be put together to build and sustain interest, rather just saying your piece. Then you need to build in a twist to create energy. That’s why my very first blog post was called “The writing surprise”.

Put your angle before your topic

Which marketing straplines stay with you? Not the more mundane ones, I’m sure. While it’s important to remain appropriate in your marketing content, it’s less about the topic and more about the angle you choose to take. This of course needs to be added to a tone of voice that sizzles rather than drizzles. I’m going to say a couple of obvious things here:

Content which surprises is more memorable than content which stays within the boundaries of our expectations.

Content that shows some (appropriate) personality is more likely to be remembered.

Content with a touch of the contrarian about it can help to address the arguments a prospect might have against choosing your product or service.

Defining a topic as boring is seeing it in a conventional rather than a creative light. Just as with the pylon aficionados, it’s human nature to think that because something is less conventionally appealing it is entirely without fascination. I actually get excited when a new client declares that theirs is an unexciting business to write about because I know I’m going to enjoy working on finding a new way to look at and write about it.

Great ways to bring out the fascinating in your business topic:

  • Think about the most common questions your clients ask you

  • Consider the most unusual questions you’ve had from clients or prospects

  • Look at your business product or service from the angle of a prospective buyer and really think about what they might want to know

  • What are the more unusual uses people have had for your product? Within reason, is this something you could share in your blog or newsletter, for example?

  • As with all your content copywriting, go back to looking at the benefits rather than just listing features. Your topic may seem very everyday to you, but it’s something that people need and value, so what can you pick out to share about it?

  • Carefully applied humour can be very powerful: what ideas can you generate in a more light hearted way? Taking a lighter approach to a topic (where appropriate) can help to generate all kinds of approaches. Don’t be afraid to have fun with a subject. You might be surprised at the response you get. But do make sure this humour is all part of a consistent content plan so that it doesn’t end up sounding like a gimmick!

  • Take a good look at how your business-type is represented by your competitors. How can you do it differently? What little edge of interest is going to make your content more engaging?

  • Consider how to make a link between your so-called “dull” topic and the burning topics of the day and those which matter to your audience. This will certainly make it more immediate and relevant.
  • Look again

    As they point out on their website, the Pylon Appreciation Society are constantly judged for being “mad or geeky” yet those same critics often contact them for more information! In my view, every topic is fascinating if you look at it closely enough. Doing so will help you create content which brings your business to life memorably and credibly so that people remember and respond to it. And there’s nothing boring about that.

    Image by mjtmail (tiggy)
    Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, August 2015

    7 steps to creating a great tone of voice 17 days ago

    Tone of voice is the essence of successful copywriting, but how do you get started? Take a peek at this infographic for some quick tips. You can click on it to view a larger version.

    Infographic by Nottingham copywriter Camilla Zajac,

    Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, August 2015

    The content trends making waves this summer 32 days ago

    Image for copywriting blog post on marketing content trends
    Been basking on a beach? Or perhaps you’re busy preparing to go away, but want to keep up with all that’s new with marketing content. Here are some of the trends changing the content landscape this summer…

    Mobile on the move

    The rise of mobile content is very far from just a summer phenomenon, but it’s certainly been growing bigger this season. It looks like the push for online marketing content to be fully mobile-friendly is now at critical mass, which means embracing both technical and copywriting approaches that make content easier to access and digest. This summer has confirmed the powerful position of mobile marketing – and it’s only set to become stronger.

    Jargon gets the elbow

    This summer I’m really pleased to see some major moves against the dreaded scourge of jargon, whether it’s the drive to reduce the use of robot language in the Civil Service or the upcoming ban on banks bamboozling customers with confusing technical language. Conventional business jargon is really starting to be seen as a big no-no, as highlighted by this amusing marketing campaign! In a world jam-packed with content, the message that’s easy to understand is going to be the most effective.

    Mobilegeddon hits Google rankings

    Mobilegeddon’s aftermath continues this summer. Has your website been affected? The research has proven that, Mobilegeddon has indeed led to Google favouring mobile-friendly websites, as this article shares:

    WSJ reported that Adobe Systems found that traffic to what could be deemed “non-mobile-friendly” sites fell a whopping 12 percent in the two months following the change.”

    Mobilegeddon has changed the internet. This summer will see the ripples of those changes affect businesses everywhere.

    User-Generated Content grows and grows

    I wrote about User-Generated Content (UGC) quite recently and it’s more than worthy of a mention when we’re talking about the trends affecting marketing content this summer. UGC is everywhere – and not just in ecommerce. This summer is seeing the rise of companies connecting with customers by putting their opinions and experiences in the spotlight. What looked like a trend before the summer is fast becoming a marketing norm, both for large and small companies.

    LinkedIn gains more publishing power

    2015 has seen some major leaps forward for marketing content, as with the new LinkedIn publishing platform. And it goes on. Right now there are over 1 million unique publishers on the blogging platform! As with all these changes in marketing content, the winners are the businesses that test out what might work for them, rather than simply leaping on board with the next big thing. This will help ensure your marketing content stays a success both this summer and long after the beach towels have been put away.

    Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, July 2015

    Surprising facts showing why eyeball-grabbing content matters 39 days ago

    Grammar, punctuation, content schedules…they make up the skeleton of great content, but not its heart. Content needs to go far beyond being palatable, jargon-free or pleasant to read. It’s a whole new world out there. Enticing content matters. I’ve shared just a few reasons why in the infographic below (just click on it to view a larger version).

    Image for article by Nottingham copywriter

    Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, July 2015

    Why the unstoppable rise of the emoji is good news for written content 54 days ago

    Does the sight of emoticons or emoji make you :(?

    Whatever your reaction, it’s impossible to ignore the rise and rise of the little icons. Now they’ve come to marketing. According to this very recent Adweek article, “Brands have hit peak emoji mania”! So why on earth would a copywriter (and long-time lover of words, if my worn-out library card is anything to go by) suggest that those strange little winky faces are of similar value to words? The popularity of the emoji seems to have accompanied the recent surge in visual content. While on a superficial level, it looks as though emojis are replacing the written word, it’s more complex than that in marketing terms.

    Smiley face?

    First of all, if you’re wondering about the difference between emojis and emoticons, here’s a helpful guide from the Guardian.

    I know it may seem strange to hear a copywriter say that emojis matter. After all, words are what I do. But I’m a copywriter who wants her clients to keep up with the changing world of marketing. That means staying in touch with what’s new and relevant. Which is exactly what emojis are. Whether they’re growing in profile by helping New Yorkers to commute, looking like a new way for you to get to your cash or even helping a tennis star earn some extra kudos, emojis are well and truly here.

    Faster than the speed of words?

    But how did we get here in the first place? This article from the Guardian takes an interesting look at the phenomenon:

    “The figure that caught my eye was the dramatic drop in our average attention span, which is now only around eight seconds. This may explain the meteoric rise of another digital phenomenon: the emoji.”

    Emojis reflect the changing way people respond to what they read (or rather, scan) online and elsewhere. Those little icons are a kind of emotional short-hand in a world crammed with written content. So the business using emojis effectively could actively distinguish itself from its competitors. I’m not advocating replacing all written content with emojis, but I am suggesting taking a judicious look at how emojis could enhance your content and copywriting strategy.

    The disturbing truth about the psychology of emojis

    The emoji is a lot cleverer than it first appears. Apparently it reflects our need to connect with others. This fascinating article talks about the psychology behind emojis:

    “Scientists have discovered that when we look at a smiley face online, the same parts of the brain are activated as when we look at a real human face. Our mood changes, and we might even alter our facial expressions to match the emotion of the emoticon.

    What’s really interesting is that this is not something we’re born with as babies. It’s something our brains have developed in the last few years with the emergence of emoticons and emojis. Essentially, social media culture has created a new brain pattern within us.”

    The article suggests that emoticons and emojis are taking our hard-wired response to faces to a whole new level! As my favourite science aficionado would tell me, it’s always worth considering this kind of thing with a large pinch of sodium chloride, but even so, it does seem to fit. The visual image has power. The image of the face has even more power. And who doesn’t want to evoke this kind of positive emotional response in their customers? Conclusion: our brains are being rewired by social media. The way people perceive products and services is changing, but are companies keeping up?

    A visual tone of voice

    Does this all mean the death of the written word? Of course not. But as I’ve written before, visual content is on the rise – and written content should work alongside it. Tone of voice is a big part of great marketing content. You could argue that emojis are a tone of voice all of their own, indicating immediacy, accessibility and friendliness. It’s a language more and more people are talking.

    Stay relevant

    For the right kind of audience, using emojis in your content can immediately signal your relevance. However, I can foresee a time when they’re over-used in marketing in the way that hashtags are starting to be.

    Get noticed quicker

    As humans, we can’t resist the visual. Using emojis alongside written content could help to get your message out there with more immediacy.

    Access all areas

    It’s sad that accessibility is still something many companies downplay in their content and copywriting strategy. On a related note, my Twitter friends will probably be aware that I have a near pathological hatred for Comic Sans. Yet, it has been suggested by many that this much-maligned font makes content easier to read for people with dyslexia.

    While this isn’t the case (as far as I know) for emojis, there is definitely an argument for it helping to make content more accessible for all kinds of audiences. A few years ago, I was involved with developing an online resource for young people. One big aspect of the design was an emphasis on icons. When they’re well-chosen and well-placed, icons simplify content and strip away confusion. I’m all for written content doing this, so why not make the most of other ways of achieving it?

    Think user-friendly

    Accessibility also links with another advantage of emojis: usability. A cleverly applied emoji can make content more usable and immediate.

    But no, all this doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about written content…

    With all these advantages, it makes sense to use the emoji in a way which is relevant to your business – alongside written content! Embracing visual content effectively can also strengthen your written copy. The essential thing here is relevance. Is the emoji right for your audience? Potential uses include:

    - Text messages: alerts for appointments, updates
    - Social media: sharing good news
    - Printed content: direct mail postcard for reminders or updates
    - Blog posts: headers, routes to your main messages.

    A word of caution

    That’s not to say that using emojis is completely risk-free. Shortening and simplifying any kind of message can create room for confusion. We’ve probably all experienced the issues caused by misinterpreting a text message! Scroll down the page on this light hearted analysis to see a humorous take on the potential misinterpretations caused by emojis. Another possible danger is that of coming across as too casual. Like all content – visual and written – your use of the emoji needs to be considered, appropriate and strategic, rather than just done for its own sake.

    The emoji as disruptor

    It won’t be long before the emoji becomes commonplace in marketing, but right now, using it cleverly could mark you out as a disruptor in your industry.

    Copywriting blasphemy?

    So, have I committed one of the biggest copywriting crimes – promoting images over words? No, because I think the positive values of the emoji are in tune with those of effective copywriting: accessibility, immediacy and emotional connection. Don’t we all want to create content that makes people :)?

    Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, July 2015

    Image credit: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid

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