Conversational Writing & Research
So speaking of great writers that I would recommend, uh, none of them are robots, none of them, uh, end of them have microchips inside of them, they're all very human, very flesh and blood. They're very emotional people, and so I want to talk about this topic of conversation or riding, and if you don't remember anything else today, please remember this word conversational? Oftentimes when I talk to people that we're trying to get into writing and blogging, they start worrying about technicalities, typos, grammar, metaphors, similes all of these things are really, really important, but they completely overlooked the fact that they need to write like a human being and it's very easy to overlook that because you just assume, well, if I human being, I'm typing this, then surely it sounds like a human but it's actually not so and we're going to look at an example here in just a bit of something that's, it's very robotic in nature, and it'll it'll stick out to you. So how do you how do you k...
now if you're writing conversationally? The best advice I have here is to read your copy allowed, and this terrifies a lot of new writers because when they write something down and they read it back in their head, they can mentally shift things around so that it flows quite well when they read about himself and so self editing. This is why copy editors exist because self editing oftentimes you'll move things around in your head and you'll say, yeah, this is perfectly fine, but then you need an outsider to read it and will say, wait, you should change this and change that. So how do you how do you become a copy editor if you don't have the luxury of having one? Reading it aloud is the best advice, and I mean actually reading it out loud because what happens when you read it out loud? If you have a comma in a strange place where you have to thinness is that don't really flow back to back, you'll immediately notice it and the best. The best advice here is to read it to a friend, to a mentor to a colleague. And if you see any kind of in quizzical looks at any point, you might think, okay, this is a spot were made, he doesn't flow very well, and flow is one of the most underrated elements of writing hands down flow is not something that can be taught it's, not something that could be caught by microsoft spellcheck flow is something that is purely subjective it's a human, could say something flow as well a machine could say something totally different. On depending on your audience, the flows of course going to be a little bit different so whenever you right at the end of it read it out loud that'll help you find problem spots better than anything else. So s chris mentioned style god bonus one of the things that I have in there is ah, a style guide that I wrote for a new editorial property so this is something you'll get with the course and, uh, it's a pretty big snippet in there, but I just wanted to pull out one thing in particular for here uh, live in the course primary objective is to inform and entertain and I developed this early on when I was working with writers and engadget because oftentimes I would I would get a post back from a writer and let's say it was on a new smartphone and it would be highly informative they would cover the processor how much storage it had whatthe screen size wass when it was on sale, what price? It would be at very, very informative lots of data points, but it was incredibly dry. I mean, at the end of it I knew everything about the phone and nothing about how the author felt about it there was no emotion whatsoever, so they take the informed box and completely missed out on the entertained box and then on other circumstances, I would get a post where there was just, you know, the opener was very funny, the closer was real zinger it's going to stick with you kind of thing, and there was no data points whatsoever and it's like, well, this is a great post offer for comedy central, but but our audience really needs to know, is this something they need to spend their money on? Is it a technological advancement that man matters? We need some information in there, so the best post hit both of these inform and entertain so as you're beginning your writing, if you read what you've written and it's very informative, but it's, pretty dry and there's no excitement in it, go back and try to add some of that if you read it and you think, you know, this is this is full of life, this is very compelling, but does it answer all the questions that my target audience would read? The answer is no, go back and put some of that end. So from a marketing standpoint, you may write something, you know, we've got this, this this new ballroom in our hotel, we've got all of these new acts that are coming in to tell all about the possess that goes into it. But then you never stop to mention what the square footage is you never stopped to mention what the max capacity for guest are or what it cost to run out. These things were really important so if you on lee told me those things is very boring could be like a white paper very fact sheet but if you only told me we've got all these crazy neon lights in there well that's awesome but how much is it how many people can I put in here? Is this gonna work for what I need? You got to find a balance there and make sure you have both so I just want to give everybody five dollar will take more than five seconds let's say five seconds to read what's on the slide all right so seriously for the for the folks at home literally everyone here has fallen asleep which which is a problem so when I when I read this I think is it engaging isn't informing and entertaining me and uh but before I even get to that I'm thinking did did ibm is watson actually write this press release about ibm because it really feels very mechanical a total lack of emotion it's just been stripped of any engaging properties whatsoever and just to point out it's very it's very informative like from the beginning working with maris college so we know that it's involving ibm in a college and that's exactly what they're doing on it's going to tell you very specifically this program will provide x and that's it there's no emotion whatsoever purely informative, not entertaining at all. So it does one thing, not the other it's, not the kind of thing that you would be very likely to share, not the kind of thing that would make you crack a smile that would compel you to engage with ibm or marist in any way. But it gets the point across, but it's just not it's, not a great block post now conversely, let's take a second to read this one, regardless of whether you like the joke, there is a joke in here and I would argue that it's it's pretty we could have a pretty good degree of confidence that human beings wrote this most mostly here at the end, he says, while while typing this story so the author puts himself into the story it's just far more conversational, far more compelling farm or engaging and you actually want to read beyond the period I see on the prior when you were really glad when that third sentence was over you like this is great, like now my work is done on this one you're like, well, where's the source of this, I really went toe to read the rest of them this was, uh came from a news article on microsoft that will touch on later that I think they did a really good job but it's just it's pretty obvious when you see machine written copy versus human being inserted themselves into the story and I just wanted to give you an example of what conversation or writing there's so the power of research this is another element of conversation or writing and it helps you be conversational researching your audience and what you're going to write about is absolutely critical in my first two years of writing these the longest time it's a proposed to get created was doing a lot of background research, so as I mentioned earlier if I was assigned a story on a particular smartphone or particular smartphone manufacturer, I couldn't just write that story in the vacuum I need to know what does this company been through lately? Maybe they just it got out of bankruptcy maybe they just hired some bigshot designer maybe maybe the pressure is very high for them to deliver crazy next generation device maybe they've already got the market in the bag. All of these things are necessary to write about the here and now even though they aren't the here and now and so research is absolutely critical you need to know what background is necessary to land a point if you're writing about your business, you need to know what are you assuming the reader already knows? So if you're a designer and you want to connect with an audience, you probably are going to make some assumptions that the target audience would know certain things about design but maybe not all of them and you need to reach out to some of your perspective clients, figure out where that is and try to balance your riding to meet that the ap star god is a great place to start. This is a free guy that's available online, the associated press puts this out and they do adjust this from time to time. So if you have any questions on very, very basic level style gods before you develop your own that's a good one to go for, we'll talk about the basic tenants of journalism, so I know we're talking about blogging today, but but over the years, blogging and journalism and riding have all sort of come together. I know it engadget in the early days we were referred to his bloggers, but as years went on, when we started to get our press passes for shows, they would say press and not blogger. So even with that, you know, we've we've graduated as bloggers, but the double in short of that is the tenants of journalism now applied a blogging as well, so in journalism there are certain things that you you're expected to do you're expected to vet your source is you're expected to be accurate uh you can have opinion of course but you need to be able to back things up with facts and you know just take it seriously because what you put out on the web it's a reflection of you it'll be your byline your company and you don't get a pass for being a liar you're still going to be scrutinized the things you say need to be be able to be fact checked readers are going to trust you by default so this is this is cool like this is a really this is a hopeful statement you're starting a new block there's no need to be afraid readers will trust you by default people want to engage with people your first shot is always all right I'm going to trust you until you prove otherwise but you've got one shot to convince that audience that you get them you understand them that you have something that they need to come back for me give you an example if you're reading on the web you just stumble upon this site maybe it was shared on facebook and to read the article expecting one thing and you get to the end of it and it's kind of a letdown maybe it was too gimmicky for you or the closer really didn't bring a good conclusion to your mind what are the chances you're going to return? You know that that site had one shot tow hook you and if it didn't do a great job you're gonna scroll up and you're going to say on that site probably not going to come back there so if you see that in your facebook feed again, the chances of you clicking again and giving them a second shot are slim to none and that's because on the web there are lots of places to go for free content switching costs are basically zero and you've got to know that so your market can go elsewhere and find great content so while the trust you by default you've got to make sure you hold him on the first try real quick I just in from a chat room a student wants to know she says do you take seo into consideration before writing? Yes for sure that is it's something you should think about I don't think you should drive the block post uh it should never be a driving reason why you do something you should not say I'm going to create a block post just to get seo just to get search referrals if that is your motivation, it may last in the short term but it's a pretty bad long term play sites that were built on seo don't generally last a long time and especially when we're talking about small businesses where your direct your direct name and reputation and business is on the line you don't want to do that uh definitely not as a publication but it's when it's your personal blodget's even more dangerous so definitely take it into consideration you should definitely do that but don't write a post just so you can juice google won't work out in a long time they change that algorithm quite frequently so I want to talk about a topic writing his storytelling so this I want to open this construct up that writing it's not it's, not so much something like just a technical skill it's an emotional experience and I love to refer to it as storytelling there is there are technical aspects but it's part emotional and I think if you look at writing and blogging as storytelling it takes a lot of the fear away you say you know what? I'm pretty good at telling stories I have chats with my friends on the street on the phone and we tell stories and I enjoy doing that. So if you think about writing and blagging is you know what? I'm just telling a story in a different medium uh that's that's really helpful in taking the fear away, just letting yourself speak confidently and speak boldly one point I really want to make here is to not overly sell yourself or a product I'm going toe turn to an example here in just a bit of an author that spent a year writing a book and then when that book came out he dedicated a block post to announcing the launch of the book so obviously that's very self promotional says I wrote this book this is what I went through here is where you can find it please buy it and support my work everybody's entitled to that if you put in a lot of effort you're launching something new that's fine if you want to put out a block post on it totally fine. But what would you think of this guy if every week every other week for the next year he kept reminding you hey, buy this book I put out this book at some point that's going to become irksome and you have to know the difference on being able to promote what is new versus being overly self promotion. Colonel, if your block ever turns into what is perceived a spam again it's going to turn people off, they probably aren't going to come back. She have to be aware of where you are on the line and so if you say, well, I want to use my block as a marketing tool I want people to remember that my book is out even if they missed it on day one how do I do that? You do it like this. This is an amazing example of how to use your blood to continue marketing yourself or your product without being overt about it. Oona is a bad company that makes camera backs. They make backpacks, saddle bags, bags that are for photographers, predominantly and they have a block. And so, of course, whatever they come out with a new bag or a new product, they're going to put on a post it says, hey, we've got a new bag if you like our stuff to check it out, but this is a post that didn't have to do with a product launching, and the title of it is where owner goes cross country on passport express with matt, rick, and so what they did is they went and found a customer of theirs, matt rick, who used their bags and like their bags, and matt was actually invited onto the amtrak residency, where he was ableto ride on amtrak across the country, writing about his experience, and he just so happen to take his own a bag along the way with him, and so in this bog post ona talked about, they basically profiled matt, they talked about his experience and the bag was sitting in the in the background it's not really the focal point of the story. The focal point is some of our clients by our bags and have amazing stories to tell and so the undertone is if you buy our bag, you're going to have amazing stories to tell that's a really effective way to market without being super over beating you over the head with the by now button, that kind of thing this is this is the at the token model of the modern blogger that wants to market without pushing their product directly. And of course, this took a lot of work on owners part they had to go find matt, they had to go see if he was going to use this bag, they had to figure out what he was into if it was something they'd be in, is it in? And then, of course they had to get his permission to offer up the profile, so this piece probably took a month or two to put together, but it's the kind of thing that now I'm sharing it's, it's, it's working out quite well with them, and now people know about owner, even if they weren't interested in camera bags. This is an interesting story, and so you may get people they don't even interested in your product to come read your story, and if you end up in the market for a camera bag, I bet you'll turn back to these guys. So I want to give you an example of what not to do, uh, just to contrast from what you should do. So this post shown here eyes on the nokia blogged, and it was written by a nokia blogger about a nokia phone until you probably know where this is going. What what happened here? Wass a nokia blogger, so he is employed by nokia, received a nokia phone and then was instructed to write a block post that basically reviewed the phone. What do you think of the phone? Well, what do you think? He thought of the phone? He thought it was the best phone he'd ever used, and there was nothing wrong with it. And while that actually may have been true, what's really egregious about this is that it lacks the perspective of the of the marketplace. So nowhere in this post did he mention what the competition was doing? He didn't mention android, it didn't mention iphone at all wrote it completely in a vacuum, which destroyed any hope of you taking this person seriously because they didn't even open their eyes to see what the competition was doing. S o this is an example of overly self promotional on it, just, you know, it just doesn't come across this is something you would take seriously, so be sure to not do that.