15 Dec 2015

Blog Writing: More Strange, More Poor, More Fitter – More Shakespeare

Are you ready to multitask? Then you’re ready to write a blog. Writing a blog is an art. Writing is an art. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that if you can speak, you can write. Writing a blog much, much more complex than that.

Before you even put pen to paper, think about these more than important things:

Focus

Who are you writing for? Seth Godin, the most popular marketing guru of this century, said, ‘You are not your audience’. Chant it like a mantra – ‘I am not my audience. I am not my audience’. Make a clear definition from your ‘hot buttons’, and your audiences. You can write a blog as a cathartic exercise, but you won’t influence your audience – or any other audience for that matter. A consumer is a very different creature from a supplier, and their needs, questions and concerns need to be addressed before you can build a relationship of trust. Know where they are and what they want. Don’t talk AT them, talk WITH them. Write a blog that resonates with them, not a monologue about what you want to say. Remember, whatever else you are tempted to write, you are not your audience.

Pitch

This is one of the hardest rules to accept – Who am I pitching at? If you were writing an 8th grader, you’d pitch the writing at 8th grade language and comprehension. If you were writing for a 12th grader you would adjust your use of language and themes accordingly. So it makes sense to write for adults, like ‘me’, people think like me, right? Wrong! Have you forgotten already? You are not your audience.

You will naturally gravitate to write about the things you know a lot about, but there are different levels of knowledge. Have a passion? Great. Be an evangelist? Good… but a zealot? No. As a specialist on a particular subject, if you write something that ‘speaks’ to people like you – you are speaking to other specialists. If you own an organic fabric shop and you write an article for ‘you’, you will only appeal to other organic fabric shop owners. Is that where your market is?

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that if you write a blog article liberally sprinkled with industry specific words and acronyms, using detailed supplier/vendor terminology that you will build credibility with your audience. That may have worked three decades ago when politicians were honest and Drs were Gods, but it won’t wash with any audience any more. Andy Crestodina, a well-respected marketing officiando, wrote a book on reaching your audience with text based marketing and his research supported his theory that presenting yourself as trustworthy by using poly syllabic, industry specific words did not create trust, instead it alienated 93% of the audience. The problem was then compounded by the audience making a decision from that one piece of text, to never read anything from that source again.

Language

When looking at what level of language to write in, think about your audience. Content is King in any digital marketing, and that’s what a blog is – it’s marketing content to draw in consumers. Do not be fooled by any other name. Today’s consumers are information rich and time poor. They know they can get a wealth of information online so they want information – and they want it quickly.

There are three levels of language that you can use to reach your audience, and what I am about to say to you may, no, will surprise you.

Where ‘ere Thou Art, Do Well They Part

At the top of the language tree is ‘Latinist’. This is a style of language that uses Polysyllabic words, the longer words that are nigh on impossible to spell, more formal in construction and are considered ‘proper’ English. Think about it as the language Lord Crawley uses in Downton Abbey. Words like acquire, transmit, deposit and resist replace words such as give, share, receive and stop. The prolific use of ‘one’, or ‘we’ to express the concept of ‘I’. This type of language is nearer to the English Shakespeare used, and includes the use of industry specific words, jargon and acronyms. They are the kind of words that you would throw into your grade 12 paper to hopefully gain some extra points.

And Now the News

Conversational language is the language you would hear on the news. It is called Anglo Saxon language. Plain, expressive but never confusing. Short words like get, send, build, stop and mock are used over longer alternatives. Think of the news. There are no surprises in the language used on the news, if there was, you would spend all your time unravelling the language rather than listening to the message. Conversational language is monosyllabic – simple, but smart.

Yo! My Man!

Guttural language is street language. Full of colloquialisms, demographic specific uses of common words and jargon, phrases like, ‘Hey! Bro – How’s it hanging?’ are common, and words like ‘sick’ used to mean ‘excellent’, and many other words that simply rhyme with the word they really mean – think cockney rhyming slang.

These levels of language are not the surprise, it’s the use of them in blogging that will raise your eyebrows. If I am not my audience, which level of language do I use to reach them? Surely if my audience is a high class demographic, then I use the Lord Crawley level of language, right? Sorry, no. Take it from me, my degree in 18th century British women’s fiction from Oxford has never helped me write a blog, not even for Audi, BMW, Bulova and other billion dollar businesses. Why not? Because people don’t talk like Jane Austen any more.

Research was done into whether marketing was ‘dumbing down’ information, causing an illiterate generation. They took a web site and directed the language at the average 12th grader. They exposed the web site to a large audience of average, degree educated and post degree educated adults. The engagement with the web site was at 46% for those who were degree educated or below. For those who had post graduate degrees, the engagement was at 68%.

They then took the same information and changed only the language, not the concepts, and wrote it in the language used of the average 8th grader. The results? 68% of the degree educated and below respondents engaged with the material. That’s an increase of nearly 50%! That is huge! You can get an increase of 50% your audience just by writing it in plain, Anglo Saxon language. But what about the post graduate respondents? Shouldn’t the engagement go down? By writing in a more simple language, 93% of post graduate degree educated people were reached. That’s HUGE! You can reach 93% of your ‘high end’ demographic just by using plain language. It’s a case of writing simply, but smartly.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that a blog post is college paper and throw in unnecessary language to impress the teacher. There is no mark at the end of your piece and no one to impress. You are writing for your audience – and your audience likes plain, readable and informative.

Marketer

When you write a blog post you are no longer a store owner, business person or enthusiast – you are a marketer. You are writing to draw people in to view more. You want people to move from your blog post, to your store. Write what a consumer needs to know, or wants to hear. Your product may run on flanges, powered by squidlings and full of alter ego engineering, but the consumer may be more interested in what it can do them, or the environment. You need to write about the product, make it desirable, inform and create an energy that galvanizes them in to action. Be bold! Ask them to email, visit, read more – because that’s what you want.

Style vs Grammar

Style is what makes a newspaper readable. Some columns you will like, others you will not. Different does not mean better or worse, it just means … different. Is the message less important or correct because is it delivered by another voice? No. You want different styles as each style attracts a different audience. Styles are good. But do not confuse style with grammar.

For us, there really is no excuse for writing “more strong,” “more strange,” and “more sweet” in some instances, but “more fitter,” “more corrupter,” and “most poorest”? Let’s look the well-known and well cited English language author of all time – William Shakespeare, proven to be the most widely read, quoted and studied author of all time. Would he use such ‘bad grammar’? Yes, actually he would. All those instances of bad grammar were from the bard himself, and there are more – many more.

While we can forgive Shakespeare for not attending Oxford or Cambridge, can we ever forgive him for not knowing the grammar distinction between “who” and “whom”: “Who wouldst thou serve?”; “To who, my lord?” (King Lear l.iv.24, V.iii. 249); “Who does he accuse?” (Antony and Cleopatra Ill.vi.23). Apparently we would, even in this day and age. If we took the time to correct all of William Shakespeare’s stylist and grammatical errors, Shakespeare would cease to be … well, Shakespeare, and the style beloved of so many English teachers and University educators would be lost. Who else could fill the gap?

Grammar is easy to correct these days as most computers have an inbuilt program to do that. The grammar can be perfect, but the wording different – this does not make it sloppy or poorly written. Remember, you may not like it, but you are not your audience. Anglo Saxon speaks to PEOPLE, not retired English teachers, unless they really ARE your audience.

Still ready to write a blog? You thought it was easy, didn’t you? Writing is easy, hyperbole is free, writing a blog to reach a chosen audience is not at all easy. If you have a type A personality, where you are never satisfied with anything unless you do it yourself, then I recommend you do write it yourself. Nothing else will ‘speak’ to you and be what you want to say, but just remember, you are not your audience.

If you have now realised how organized and targeted writing a blog is, then you understand how to write a successful post. Have a go! You will soon be able to measure success by how many visits you have. Metrics are essential to track how much you are in contact with your audience, and what resonates with them.

If you’re completely overwhelmed, get someone to write for you. Just remember, they are writing for your audience, not for you. That’s what pays their bills, and a good copywriter is worth their weight in gold. Their style of the article will not be yours, but the return on their investment will be completely yours.

Blogs are an important device in digital marketing. It will help you get to where you need to be – out with your clients, but more importantly, out with your future consumers. Invite them in, with great marketing copy. You are not your audience, but you can be firmly with, and engaged in, your audience.