You made that up!

scrabble

As writers, we often get attached to the way words work. So the idea of making up new words doesn’t always sit well with us. But should it? According to Erin McKean, who’s a lexicographer, language is meant to evolve—and part of the way it does this is through the invention of new words.

In the past few months alone, Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster have added a range of new words into the English lexicon, including:
twerk: v. To move (something) with a twitching, twisting or jerking motion.
crowdfund: v. To fund (a project or venture) by raising money from a large number of people, each of whom contributes a relatively small amount, typically via the Internet.
selfie: n. a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

And here’s an entertaining list of words that aren’t yet in the dictionary—but maybe should be. Our personal favourite? Nomonym. Definition: A food that tastes like another food.

What do you think about making up words? Do you have any made-up words that make it into your regular rotation?

photo credit: Twenty-eight points via photopin (license)

Combatting MAS: Mindless Accept Syndrome

It’s true that our “day jobs” here at AR Communications are as writers but, in many ways, we’re kind of like hairdressers too. Okay—maybe in just one main way.

People tell us about their challenges. What’s hard about their jobs. What makes their days inefficient. How they struggle to find time to get everything done. And, sometimes, they ask for advice.

I’ve shared a fair number of recommendations on this over the years—everything from how to organize your schedule, how to delegate and how to say no. In this TED Talk, though, David Grady provides some advice that I think is worth a listen: how to save yourself from bad meetings.

 

In the video, he discusses how Mindless Accept Syndrome (or MAS) has become a global epidemic. People across the world are accepting every meeting request that comes their way—and ending up losing hours of their lives in the process. He also offers one, simple way to free yourself from this vicious syndrome.

 

Are you suffering from MAS? Do you think you could put Grady’s solution to work to stop the spread of it?

 

Three simple steps to create a quick-and-easy company video

 

The thought of integrating video into your company’s marketing strategy can be daunting—and it’s easy to see why. From the creative concept and storyline through to original footage and hiring talent, suffice it to say, they take work. Yet, in today’s age of rapid content consumption—and rapid content creation—not all videos have to be award-winning productions to be successful. Depending on your audience, sometimes quick and easy is all you need.

 

Nothing is truer than in the B2B space. In most cases, B2B clients aren’t looking to be wowed by high-quality graphics and polished production footage. They’re watching videos from their favourite vendors—or potential vendors—because they crave information. And providing them with what they want can pay off. Consider these stats:

 

  • 92% of B2B customers watch online video.
  • 75% of execs watch work-related videos on business-related websites at least weekly.
  • By including a video in their emails or e-newsletters, companies can increase their open rates by 5.6% and increase click-through rates by 96%.
  • Businesses enjoy an 80% increase in conversions when video is added to a landing page.
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine—bringing in more than 4 billion views per day.

 

With this information in mind, it’s clear that B2B clients want to learn more about a product or service before investing in it. They want to see, first-hand, how a new upgrade will work. They want to hear from subject matter experts that can answer their burning questions, or help them troubleshoot a problem.

 

So how do you use the power of video to satisfy your target audiences’ needs without breaking the bank? Here’s a step-by-step guide to achieve just that:

 

Step 1: To reach your audiences in the most time- and cost-efficient manner possible, take your existing digital assets—like lower res videos, photographs, voice recordings and audio files—and assemble them into professional videos on the back-end.

Step 2: Supplement this existing framework with elements like storyboarding and scripting. Add some royalty-free images and music, using stock footage and audio files, and then liven things up with some location shooting around the office and embedded interactive elements (like click-through or other calls to action).

Step 3: Distribute it. Upload your video to YouTube, post it on your company blog and send it out in your next e-newsletter.

Wondering what the final product will look like? Check out our corporate video  which we assembled in just this way. If you want to know how we did it, just give us a call!

 

Are you vlogging yet?

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If corporate trends follow personal ones—and there’s plenty of evidence that they do—it’s time for large corporations to get more serious about vlogging (video blogging). To be sure, lots of companies are using video to liven up their web content, marketing campaigns, product launches, event communications and—yes—their blogs, but vlogging offers an additional benefit.

In the B2B space, vlog posts allow companies to showcase the expertise of their subject matter experts, communicate with their audience at a more intimate level and share content in a format that’s more interesting to consume—making it a popular medium both on desktops and devices

Creating a successful vlog doesn’t happen without effort, however. Here are a few tips to get it right:

  1. Determine, upfront, how much time you’re willing to commit.

While your vlog itself doesn’t have to be long (two to three minutes is plenty), it will take time to find things to vlog about, figure out what you want to say and record a few takes. Knowing this going in will help you determine how frequently you want to vlog.

  1. Make it a group effort.

One of the best things about a company vlog is that it doesn’t have to be the responsibility of just one person. Different members of your team can offer different expertise, insight and subject matter—and spreading the responsibility around increases the chances that episodes will be recorded regularly.

  1. Set a budget.

A vlog doesn’t have to break the bank. Depending on the level of professionalism you require, sometimes a smartphone camera is all you need. That being said, if a DIY look doesn’t exactly mesh with the rest of your brand, you may want to invest in a higher quality mic, camera or recording studio to give your vlog a more polished look.

  1. The message matters just as much (if not more than) the medium.

Yes, videos are cool. And yes, pictures are worth 1000 words. But the words you say while on camera matter. A lot. Your video can include Oscar-worthy special effects, but if you’re not offering insightful, useful or informative content to go along with them, your clients are going to stop watching. For this reason, it’s important to brainstorm what vlog topics will be of interest to your target audiences, create a content calendar and take the time to write a script (even a rough one) ahead of time to keep you on point.

While these tips should help get you started, they’re definitely not the be-all end-all. Throughout your vlogging journey you’ll undoubtedly uncover systems, processes and formats that fit your company tone and style, and allow the personality of your vloggers and business to shine through. Which, ultimately, is the point—isn’t it?

Have you started a company vlog yet? What are some things you’ve learned along the way?

photo credit: camcorder via photopin (license)

4 ways to keep the content flowing

writers block

So you’ve set up a blog for your business—congratulations! With content marketing picking up steam, and client hunger for insightful content growing, there’s definitely no knocking the benefits of these marketing tools. Blogs establish credibility, get your name out there and remain excellent search engine fodder. The only trouble? Finding a steady stream of content to publish.

 

If you’re having difficulty posting regularly because you’re not sure where to find appropriate content, here are a few tips:

 

  • Research competitive sites. This doesn’t give you a license to appropriate other people’s ideas. But it can give you insight into what other industry players are talking about. Armed with those basics, chances are you can spin off their original ideas with opinions, insights or an angle of your own.

 

  • Ask your experts. Find people inside your company that are very good at what they do and interview them about it. This not only lets you profile your people, it’s also an authentic way to share the expertise residing within your company.

 

  • Ask external experts. Guest blog posts are always popular, particularly if you invite posts from people who are well-known and/or well-respected in your industry. Yes, this sounds easier than it is. There’s an art to identifying and lining up guest bloggers—including finding people already writing on the topics of interest to your audience, determining if they’re available to write for you and deciding whether or not you want to pay them. As a rule of thumb, professional bloggers typically charge—but it’s a fee that may be worth paying if you’re getting access to regular, on-point content. On the flip side, some of your vendors, distributors, suppliers or business partners may be willing to blog for you without charge in exchange for exposure or an affiliation with your company. This is particularly true if your organization has clout—and a large distribution list. The best way to find out is to ask. You may be surprised by the people you can attract as guest bloggers by simply giving them a forum to write about the things they know best.

Not every blog post has to be an original masterpiece. Sometimes, the best posts are those that direct readers to relevant content on related sites, such as industry associations, magazines or research companies. You don’t want all your posts to be curated, but it’s entirely valid to share relevant data with your readers on topics of interest to them. In addition to saving your readers time, linking to other sites improves your searchability as well.

What tactics do you find particularly useful in keeping the content flowing?
photo credit: Day 220: What the heck am I writing via photopin (license)

How strictly should you stick to a content calendar?

When it comes to content marketing, a calendar is essential—but how often should you stick to it, and when should you stray?

There are certain events in business that are predictable and, as such, ideal for a content calendar. For example, accounting firms know that RRSP deadlines, income tax filing deadlines and tax refunds are going occur year-in, year-out. Mark them down, write the articles in advance, schedule them into your blogging software and you’re set. Read more

Do you need a content brand? (The short answer: No)

As content marketing continues to rise in popularity so, too, does the concept of the “content brand.”

What exactly is a content brand? In a nutshell, it’s exactly what it sounds like—a strategy that governs how your organization plans to position itself as a valuable content provider. The thinking is that, by gradually building a content brand, you can churn out more focused content and achieve better results.

This doesn’t sit well with me. Here’s why: in my experience, companies already spend considerable time, effort and money creating a corporate brand that truly reflects their vision, values and differentiators. The core messages articulated by that brand are the ones that, in my mind, should govern your content marketing efforts because, in essence, they already speak to the differentiated value you offer your customers, in a tone that already reflects your voice and manner.

Instead of over-complicating the concept of content marketing by creating a whole other brand—which, let’s face it, is the last thing this emerging marketing form needs—why not focus on the basics? Pull from your corporate brand to determine your content’s mission, vision, values, differentiators and ultimate goals. Everything you need to position your content should already be written. Why reinvent the wheel?

My two cents anyway. I’m open to opposition :)

Quick content marketing fixes

If your content marketing efforts are falling short of your goals, don’t head back to the drawing board just yet. Chances are a simple tweak may, in fact, be all you need.

In a recent webinar held by Forrester Research and ideo, Ryan Skinner, a senior analyst at Forrester, offered an interesting approach to fixing underperforming content. The secret lies in measuring not only the number of views you get for the piece, but the audience’s reaction to it as well. To help illustrate his point, he presented a graphic similar to this one:

AR Com, blog image, action vs views

Any content that generates a high audience response—even if it has low views—would generally be considered highly effective. Conversely, content that generates a lot of downloads but very few actions likely indicates that something needs to be fixed.

If your content isn’t evoking the type of response you’d like, the problem may either lie with how you distribute it or how it’s written. For example, if a lot of people download an ebook you’ve developed, but you’re not getting much follow-up response, you may want to test at what point you’re losing reader attention. By testing various alternative headlines, calls to action, body copy, landing page copy, images and offers, you can begin to assess which resonate more strongly with your audience, and which may be falling flat. You can also experiment with different channels and different posting times, to determine where (and when) your most responsive audience congregates.

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum—receiving a lot of views and actions for a certain piece of content—consider ways to reuse it. Devise a different angle, explore an aspect of the topic in more detail or provide an updated post on the topic in a few months.

Have you ever turned underperforming content around? How did you do it?