Content Writing Is Tough but This Secret Makes It So Much Easier

Blog reality 2017: a reader will only skim. His or her attention is already at saturation when gets to your blog. If your content is not clear and easy to follow, the sad truth is he’ll bounce.

Your content must HOOK him or her within the first sentence. Word one is even better.

That’s not just a writing thing, it’s a giving thing. The blog owner MUST give value.

You must make clear that your message is relevant for him and his busy life. He needs that much to decide if he’ll devote the next 10 minutes to hearing what you have to say.

It’s a Gift

If you’ve got a reader’s attention, it’s a trust. Take care of him or her.

Arrogance is a turnoff. Today’s reader can smell it a mile away. Salesy manipulation and braggadocio won’t cut it. Once eyes are on you, you must solve a problem, and you must do it for each successive piece that you publish.

There’s a reason why some blogs attract thousands of readers. There’s no silver bullet. It’s a value thing.

The owners of those blogs are giving people information that they can’t or don’t want to do without. It’s not about WHO does the writing. It’s more about WHAT they write.

What to Write

Write about your products but do it from the customer perspective. How can your reader use this product to make his life better. Easier. What problem will this product solve? How will it make him more money? Save him time? What is better—really better—about this particular product.

And be specific. Outline steps. Walk him through it. Specific. Specific. Specific.

Putting your best foot forward can become habit forming. And the more sage advice you give, the more you’ll attract the right reader.

How to Get Tangible Results

Keep in mind that if you want something, you need to ask for it. Otherwise, people just assume you’re good.

If you want them to take steps to find out more, give them a click through button that links to a landing page or product sales page.

If you want to get them to a trade show or conference where you’ll be exhibiting or speaking, invite them to look you up. Let them know where you’ll be.

Get them to reach out if they have questions or comments. Link to your contact page or sales team. Turning on the comments isn’t the best fit for every blog. You can have people contact you, though, if they’re unclear about how a product works.

End Results

Getting your customer results gives you a better result in the end. A good relationship with a customer is pure gold. It’s what makes every ounce of content producing sweat and research worthwhile.

As writers of content, the end goal isn’t just to sell products. Those products must make your customer’s life better.

Product = Solution

Service = Solution

Solution = Happy Customer

Better life is service.

That’s a small business mindset, perhaps, but big businesses are using this principle with great effect.

It’s the reason why companies like UPS, FedEX, Netflix, Amazon, Google, SONY, Marriott, Apple, and Samsung made the USA Today, Customer Service Hall of Fame in 2016.

Take a tip from the big fish, infuse your content and your blog with outstanding value. It’s harder but it’s the only thing that makes sense.

Use Plain Words to Communicate Your Message

Want to know one of the top keys to copywriting success? It’s one you won’t hear too many pros mention, but it’s super important. To get the reader’s attention, you must make your message clear. Nobody cares how many big words you or I know. In fact, the more complex the subject the more important it is to use simple words.

The truth is, people just want you to fix their problems as-fast-as possible so they can get back to what’s really important. Give them 3 steps, not 10. Give them short sentences, not long. And, if you do, they’ll reward you by coming back to read again.

Easy-to-read copy is one of the most important rules in good copywriting. I can tell you from experience that writing this way isn’t as easy as you might think. To make the task easier, I’m going to share a few tips to get you started. If you use them, you’ll begin to see results right away:

How Simplify Your Writing

  • 1. A single great idea is more powerful than two

    Have one main point and restate it throughout your narrative. Research shows that it takes up to six times hearing something before you start to remember it.

  • 2. Use parallel constructions

    Group like ideas together. Contrast where possible. Short bursts of concise sentences is refreshing and memorable.

  • 3. Use lists to pull the reader through your piece

    Lists easy are to follow. They allow people to make a quick scan of your material and decide what they need.

  • 4. Remove as many words as you can without losing the message

    Edit, edit, edit—get rid of words that add no meaning. The saying: less is more is true. Removing visual clutter allows what’s important to gain strength.

    Make sentences clear, concise and useful.

Follow these four tips and you will make your readers happy. And entice them to come back for more.

 

4 Simple Tips Pros Use to Write Better Headlines

Are your headlines doing the job? Headlines perform a critical task. They entice your reader to actually read your content. If your headline isn’t clear or doesn’t promise a powerful reward, people will pass it by.

Professional Copywriters spend up to 50 percent of their time developing the perfect headline.

Here are four simple tips that will help you improve the quality of your headlines.

1. Promise something useful

People read articles because they’re looking to solve a problem. They need to save time. Your headline let’s them know exactly how you’re going to help. Don’t make people guess.

If you want someone to click on your headline promise something they can do right away.

2. Use Numbers

Readers like lists. They’re easy to follow. People are more inclined to click a post with a list because they feel the odds are good that they’ll find something useful.

Algorithms like Google Hummingbird reward useful content. Numbers tell search engines that your content intends to deliver something.

Use random, 2-digit numbers like 13 or 27. It’s an old copywriter trick. These numbers telegraph authenticity to readers.

A word of advice: if you promise 17 essential tips, be sure all 17 of those tips are high quality.

3. Use a Logical Keyword

If you sell tires, use words in your headline like: traction, tread, wheel-hub or grip. If you sell software for autonomous vehicles, use words like: driverless, WiFi, or self-parking.

Think of this like deposits into your search-engine savings account.

The more you include keywords naturally used by searchers, the easier they will find you.

4. Keep Headlines Under 65 Characters

Algorithms penalize headlines that are over 70 characters. That’s because they’re harder to read. That aside, the important takeaway is not muddy up your message with too many words.

Make sentences clear, concise and useful. These qualities will entice interested readers to read your article.

 

Get More White Paper Downloads with a Great Title

The title is one of the most important determining factors in whether your white paper is downloaded for reading or passed by in search of better content. Unfortunately, the white paper title is often approached as an after thought. And this can have damaging results. A lackluster title can severely impair the performance of an otherwise well-written paper.

Defining the title before you write can help give purpose and shape to the paper. For example, many tried and true attention-grabbing titles are based on formulas, such as “How to _______ in X easy steps” or “X Reasons Why ________ Fail.” These types of titles drive the structure of the paper.  When you write the paper first and title second, you limit your opportunity.

To improve the effectiveness of your next white paper, develop the title before you write the paper and use these tips to help you make the title great…

  • Focus on what’s in it for the reader. Your audience is out there looking for information because they have a problem that they need to solve. Tell people how you will solve the problem or give them a reason why they should listen to you.
  • Be specific. The needs of your potential customers vary greatly depending upon their industry, company, area of responsibility and current projects. Help your readers quickly identify what the paper is about and decide whether or not it’s applicable to them.
  • Balance creativity with relevance. Try to strike the right balance by giving the title enough personality to entice the reader, while still explaining what the paper is about. While a creative title may win you a chuckle, not many people will send their precious time downloading a paper just because it made them laugh.
  • Focus on Benefits, not Features. Benefits are the language of your customers. Features are the language of your engineers. Your customers don’t care if you have the fastest processor, strongest encryption or largest libraries. They care about the benefits those features will deliver, whether its cutting costs, supporting revenue growth or getting more done with less. So focus on what your product or services can do for your customers, not how it will do it.
  • Be succinct. Eliminate any unnecessary words and use the active voice to get your point across as quickly as possible (and avoid the awkwardness of the passive voice).
  • Be original. If you are syndicating your white paper, you will be competing with hundreds of other titles. After you have brainstormed and identified your short list of title favorites, do an Internet search for white papers on your chosen topic. If you find similar titles already available, cross them off your list. You cannot compete with a “me too” title.

There are hundreds of more tips available in books, blogs and articles. I’ve focused on the ones that I think are most important. If I’ve overlooked some, please feel free to weigh in with your suggestions.

P.S. Journalists that write for popular publications are masters of writing attention-grabbing and succinct titles. Perusing the headlines before you start your title brainstorming session can help get you in the right frame of mind and stimulate your creativity.

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Communicating Effectively with YOUR Audience

In a prior blog post, I discussed the fine line between keeping your company communications professional, yet personal.  I suggested that high-quality communications are a positive representation of your company, and a personal touch can really help to draw in your audience so that they make a connection with your company.  This balance is extremely important to maintain and can make a big difference in your marketing efforts.

Today, I’d like to take this a step further and talk about how to communicate effectively with your target audience.  All too often, companies miss the mark when talking about their products and services by not realizing that their audience may not have enough background knowledge to understand their technical terminology.  Even though your engineers and scientists may be able to explain company concepts most accurately, it’s important to “translate” this information into common, everyday language.

Here are a few keys to keep in mind:

  • Acronyms can be exhausting.  Even though the employees of your company may have them down pat, you cannot expect your customers to remember all of your acronyms.  If you are going to use them, be sure to define them clearly and often.  Limit the number of different acronyms you use.  Focus on the most important ones, and build recognition by repetition.
  • Internal company lingo or made-up words are cool, but they can also be confusing!  If you’re trying to get a new word to pick up traction with your target market, be sure to introduce it in a clever way and use repetition to make the word stick.  Eventually, it will hold some value – if you position it correctly.
  • Use examples, especially ones that give your audience a mental picture of what you’re talking about.  Some people learn best by visualizing.  Photographs, diagrams, and videos do a great job of saying a lot in a short amount of time.  A picture is worth a thousand words!
  • Step outside the box.  Or rather, step outside of your company’s four walls – and into the shoes of your audience!  A marketing or sales pitch that makes perfect sense during an internal planning meeting may not make a lot of sense to a stranger on the street.  (Have you ever seen a commercial that just made absolutely no sense to you, or was so off-the-wall that it actually made you not want to buy the product or service?  That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.)  Do your research, test out your pitches on your target audience, and listen to their feedback.  It can be very valuable.
  • Ask for help.  Find someone on your team who is really good at taking technical, difficult-to-understand concepts, products, and terms, and have them help write the “everyday language” version of the information.  This person should be involved with your marketing and public relations team as well.  Then, leave it to the experts!  Your marketing team (whether internal or external) will be able to communicate your information even more clearly.  Often times it helps to have someone not associated with the company do the majority of your writing.  Because they have to first understand and grasp your concepts in order to write about them, they do a great job of putting it in a way that anyone will understand.

If you keep these tips in mind when preparing your sales and marketing communications, you will certainly notice a better response from your audience which will translate into more success for your company.  Not only do we want to keep our communications personal enough to be engaging and professional enough to garner respect, but we also want to speak appropriately and effectively to our audience.  Stay tuned for more communication tips in the future!

Increasing the Quality of Company Communications (Without Losing Your Personal Touch)

In this blog post, Carrie Brooks, a nationally recognized Merit Scholar and communications professional with a bachelor degree from University of Central Florida, Rosen College, highlights keys to keeping business messaging both interesting and professional.  Carrie has recently joined the Attain Marketing team and will be providing public relations program support as well as uncovering new strategic opportunities for our clients.  Welcome to the team, Carrie!

There is a fine line that must be walked when attempting to produce written communications or give verbal presentations that are both professional and personal.  It is far too easy to stray too far in one direction or the other – professional to the point of being dull and “boring” or so personal to the point of… well… missing the point entirely.  Let’s consider some things to keep in mind while developing company communications that can both catch your audience’s attention AND convey a professional message.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

-Vince Lombardi

Years ago I worked for a small investor and public relations firm.  It was the most unique and demanding work experience I’ve ever had.  One of the rules in our firm was that the CEO of the company must be copied on every email (yes, every single email) that left the confines of our office walls.  In addition, our CEO demanded absolute perfection – in spelling, grammar, and (most importantly) how we said what we needed to say.  The first time I was summoned to her office to explain (defend) why I wrote a particular email, I quickly came to the realization that she actually did find time to read every message.

You can certainly imagine that this rule made us think long and hard about everything we wrote and usually made us sweat a little before we clicked the “Send” button.  If we had to communicate something particularly sensitive to a client, it was much easier for us to pick up the phone and make a call than to stand up to our CEO’s scrutiny over how we wrote our message.  In the moment, it was very intimidating.  Looking back – it was brilliant!

What did this teach us?  Quite a few things:

  • Quality – The quality of our written communications had to be at its very best, all the time, without exception.  This included our grammar and spelling, use of language, and consistency with formatting and messaging.
  • Necessity – This method kept us from reacting too quickly as situations arose.  We had to really think it through before we sent off an email, and we stayed very clear and to the point when we did.  Unnecessary messages were not sent.  Ever.
  • Permanence – We were reminded that anything we put in writing could always be used against us, or at least could always be referenced again in the future.  Therefore, we had to stand behind what we wrote – 100%.  Written communication that travels across the Internet is permanent.

In later years, I was able to apply these same principles to verbal communications as well, specifically when giving presentations to a live audience.  The bottom line: content for print and verbal distribution really can be entertaining and interesting while still maintaining a high degree of quality and excellence.

Specific Keys for Written Communications

  • Keep the quality high.  Attention to detail in writing is extremely important.  First impressions come across in writing just as much as they do in person.
  • Have a trusted colleague look over your work.  Make good use of track changes, comments, and other collaboration features in your software.  Sometimes a hard copy with a red pen and a highlighter is the best method!
  • Don’t be afraid to use punctuation to your advantage when trying to add a personal touch.  There’s nothing wrong with adding in (a few) unique punctuation marks that compliment your personal communication style… you’ve already seen quite a few in this blog post.
  • There are many ways to break up a whole page full of text to make it more interesting to read, such as quote boxes, bulleted lists, and unique page formatting.  Use them!

Specific Keys for Verbal Presentations

  • Be clear.  Clear messaging coupled with clear diction will help your audience follow along attentively and stay engaged.  Audience engagement, such as a show of hands or a response to a question, can be extremely valuable.
  • Open up with an attention-getter – a story, an incident, or something else that your audience can relate to.  At times, even a joke may be appropriate.  (Consider your audience carefully when deciding how to open.)
  • Remember, in most cases, it’s not about “you” or “your story” as much as it is about the company you represent – so you must find a way to tell the company’s story in a personal way without making it about you.
  • Many times a verbal presentation is supported by a slide show presentation.  There are various opinions on how simple or complex slides should be, but something to always remember is that you don’t want your audience so distracted by your slides that they tune out what you’re saying.  Slides are there to enhance your message.  When in doubt, keep it simple!

Clear, quality communications are a representation of your company and your people.  Taking care to think through what you write or say is a valuable tool in putting your best foot forward and representing your company well.  Perfection in this category is certainly impossible to attain, but excellence is something we can all strive for.  Adding a personal touch helps your audience connect with your business, so keep that balance in mind – professional communications with a personal touch is always a win for your company!

Seven Digital Truths for Content Marketers

For this week’s blog post, long time colleague, friend and content marketing expert, Rachel Medanic, is back again to help our readers overcome the challenges of delivering on a robust and engaging content marketing plan for 2013.  Rachel has been a marketing pro for over 15 years and is currently is a Client Services Manager for PublishThis.

So you’ve started down the path of content marketing and tackled some of the low hanging fruit but are now experiencing an idea shortfall. Where do you turn to re-ignite your efforts? First, get perspective. Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs and Brightcove recently teamed up to produce some data driven insights now published in the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America report. You are not alone:  volume, variety and quality of content are key areas where B2B marketers struggle. 64% say they can’t produce enough content, 52% struggle to create engaging content and 45% say maintaining variety is also a key challenge.

In October, I shared how marketers in every industry (B2C and B2B both) are being affected by the sharp rise in content marketing as a practice. Companies are becoming publishers to more effectively engage audiences. Here are some insights and observations to get you back on the idea generating track.

#1 Individuals are the content consumption baseline. Jeff Dachis, recently wrote for Ad Age, “You don’t build brands at people, you build brands with them.” People are savvy enough now to be offended by push marketing. Growing up in the 70s, the brands I recall that were pushed at me included things like print ads for vodka and Joe Camel cigarettes. Brands were most certainly being built at me, not for me. B2B marketers should focus on the similarities they share with B2C marketers because ultimately, relationships are built with individual people. And those people have the same content expectations that B2C target audiences do. Business audiences may rank content that informs higher, but “edutainment” (educational/informational/entertaining content) is definitely a way in.

#2 Whenever an online conversation is started, marketers—especially in small or mid-size companies—are now often responsible for responding. Marketing used to be built on the premise of content interrupting the target customer. But your target customer now has the power to interrupt your business with their voice. Should marketing really be responsible for answering? The job role lines have blurred over time, but what is clear is that whoever answers should engage the customer wherever they are (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, or some other online community). Provide a public, professional response in a reasonable time.

#3 Make your content an opportunity for customers and business partners to co-create something great. This summer, I participated in a flash mob with a local dance studio where I take classes. The event created something fun we could all engage around, escalated our brand loyalty to the business and built our sense of community. Leading up to the day of the mob, all the instructors integrated learning the choreography into their classes so that on mob day we became part of a surprise experience at one of the city’s biggest farmer’s markets. How can you create the digital equivalent of a “flash mob” for your business? Who can you get involved? Make sure everyone has skin in the game—figuratively speaking.

#4 Content should be free. SAP’s Michael Brenner articulates an important reminder for marketers, “Content is currency — something we trade for our audience’s attention. That currency becomes more valuable every time it’s shared by someone other than ourselves.” If your business is providing content such as online education, find a way to offer some of it for free to entice the buyer—and make it shareable. Curb your pay walls and over-eager newsletter sign up splash screens. Trying to force a relationship can turn your audience away forever. If your audience feels your content is valuable, they will share it. They may even pay for it if they can’t get it anywhere else.

#5 Your content may be helping your audience make sense of their world. Big brands are turning to publishing and the technology for every company to become a publisher is definitely available. So why not watch what publishers themselves are doing? The New York Times (among many others) are using social sign-on to foster new dimensions of engagement on their web site. I can see the articles my Facebook friends have recently read and from this I learn more about my particular friend’s (name obscured in this visual) enthusiasm for this publisher (plus I’m also encouraged to go read what he or she read—one article closer to the 10 free articles per month pay wall). Facebook social sign-on has led the way in B2C. For B2B, Linkedin can be a great way to gather community around your content. If you don’t have your own online community, Linkedin Groups can be an excellent channel. Brainrider.com has a nice article on how to use Linkedin for your brand.

#6 Your content can be delightful! The famous DollarShaveClub.com example came to me through one of my favorite bloggers Rohit Bhargava. Have a laugh once, but then go back through and see how you’d re-script and adapt it to the essence of your own industry. What business pain points (no pun intended) can you “set the record straight” on? I’ll use  the hypothetical of a management consulting services as a challenging example. Is there a tongue-in-cheek video about some hypothetical C-suite leader who desperately needs your services? You can be creative and gentle. Your industry might be mired in stodigy content. If you’re willing to take the risk, the rewards for a fresh perspective can be great.

 

#7 Measure everything you possibly can. The number of shares, Likes, and Tweets, in addition to dwell time, return visits and clicks through to additional pages on your web site are good indicators of content engagement. Onlinebehavior.com has a video and writeup to get you thinking creatively about aspects of content marketing that you can actually measure.

#8 Beware the unintended! Usually I’m very receptive to companies creating content around adjacent customer interests. That’s exactly what 76 did. In my case, it had mixed results. I may not have been the target demographic. While fueling up recently at one of their gas stations, a sign advertising the latest in a series of mobile apps called “The Quiet Game” was above the pump. The game was positioned as ideal for my children to use in the car—because I have ears. “We’re on the driver’s side” read the tagline. All at once it struck me as weird, devious, and yet well-crafted content marketing.

The persona 76 constructed about my “driving life’s” adjacent problems (beyond needing gas), assumed I had a smart phone, kids and a need for silence—respite from mobile games in the car. So they created a silent app to replace what they assumed my kids were already using. What they got wrong is this:  my kid isn’t glued to a mobile device while in the car. For parents of whatever age children 76 is targeting, I still can’t decide if 76 is inadvertently insulting its target customer’s parenting skills by implying that their kids are glued to noisy games while in the car. I personally can’t overcome my hesitation to download an app from a gasoline company.

There are many more resources out there about how to do content marketing well. Here are some particularly good resources:

May great content be with you!

Sell Your Prospects by PowerPoint Slide 7: How to Create a Truly Powerful Sales Presentation

In this blog post, Susan Knorr, AgileValue Principal with over 20 years of experience in executive sales and marketing management, discusses PowerPoint sales presentation best practices and how to create a sales pitch that makes the most of that coveted one hour introductory meeting with prospective customers.

If your company relies on direct sales, indirect sales, conferences, events or webinars, chances are that PowerPoint presentations are still one of your go-to sales tools.  And yet for many prospects and customers, the very thought of sitting through another PowerPoint makes them cringe.  It’s even been dubbed “death by PowerPoint.”  The typical reasons come to mind; it’s too long; it’s boring; it’s not relevant.  Essentially, you didn’t even discuss how you can solve their problem until 45 minutes into the “sales pitch.”

More importantly, time is your only asset during a customer interaction.  Most customers will not provide more than one hour for an initial meeting.  And that hour had better not be completely consumed by the presentation and vendor doing all the talking.  If you don’t leave up to 30 minutes for the customer to talk, describe their needs, and provide feedback, it’s highly likely you will lose the deal.

The sales presentation best practices below provide a specific time structure and framework for an introductory PowerPoint presentation that will be truly compelling to your prospects.

First, the specific time structure.  The time it takes to deliver the pitch without any Q/A cannot exceed 30 minutes.  This leaves 15 minutes at the beginning for introductions and basic discovery of the customer’s perceived problem.  And this leaves another 15 minutes that can be used after the presentation for Q/A, feedback, and next steps.

Second, the slide deck must be short. This one is just 10 slides.  The goal is to get your prospects nodding and agreeing that you can solve their problem, better than your competitors, by slide 7.  If you do this in just 20 minutes, you have all that time to get to know your customer, their problem(s), the organization, and exactly how the decision will be made.  Now that beats listening to yourself talk, or more importantly, losing your customer’s attention and interest.

  1. Cover:  Typically this includes your name, your company name, your prospect company name, the date.  Use this time to NOT read the slide.  Instead, give your prospect a preview into the competitive advantage of your offering and its value proposition in their specific industry.   In other words, tell them “what you are going to tell them”.  Get their interest and attention.
  2. Company Facts:  This summarizes when founded, HQ location and offices, # employees, funding, # customers.  If yours is a small company, prospects will certainly want to know the stage of the company, size and viability.  If yours is a major corporation, prospects will want to know about how successful you have been in their specific industry.
  3. Market Overview:  Show the key markets your company serves.  Focus on your prospect’s industry.  Review the specific problem(s) you solve in their market and the benefits attained.
  4. Customer logos:  Display your marquee customers and partners for each key market. Talk about how specific customers, preferably in your prospect’s industry, have used and benefited from the offering.  Provide insight into the reasons your company was selected instead of your competitors without naming them.
  5. Offering: In one slide it’s important to list key features and functionality.  Review these, but focus on the ones that differentiate your offering and support your unique value proposition.
  6. How it works:  This slide should give insight into how your company’s offering is deployed, delivered, and used.
  7. Value proposition:  Your prospect has the basic facts now.  Map your offering, delivery and usage to the unique value proposition. Remember, while your value proposition can remain the same, its usage and benefits can vary.  For example, in geo-location services, the unique value proposition is that your offering can determine, with more accuracy than your competitors, the “likelihood” that a web visitor is at the same location as their device IP address.  This could be used for targeted marketing, on-line security, fraud prevention, or content distribution.  The benefits differ, but the unique value proposition remains the same.
  8. What the offering looks like:  This could be screen shots or pictures, but it should focus on visualization, prior to a demo.  It’s like buying a car.  I must visualize myself in the car first. Then I will want a test drive.
  9. Service, Support, Professional Services:  Be sure to let your prospect know exactly how they will be supported should they sign on the dotted line.
  10. Questions?

So let me encourage you to give this a try.  Instill confidence in your prospects so they will prefer to do business with you and your company.  Be specific and knowledgeable about their industry and their unique problems. Keep the thread of your value proposition, competitive advantage, and its proven benefits throughout the PowerPoint presentation, and it will be powerful!

Good luck and good selling!

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Content is King (Even in Web Video)

A shocking 30 billion web videos being viewed in the US in November 2009, followed by 33 billion being viewed in December, suggest that the medium may only now be reaching its advent, if yet. It appears that all the hype about online video is appropriate, and has been all along. We don’t know exactly why, but statistics indicate that web video increases clicks and interaction time. The current metrics, analysis, and rhetoric of the Marketing/PR space are clear: leverage video now, or fall utterly behind.

That can be an unsettling proposition—and premature—considering that, quite like early television and advertising professionals, we still don’t know exactly where the medium is heading. On bolder days, I might even suggest that we’re hardly certain that video, especially when applied to a website, will remain a true medium. Perhaps soon, web video will come to be considered merely elemental to a greater picture, rather than self-contained.

More comparisons between web video and the early days of television are all too appropriate for this entry, but too numerous to list here. I may try to tackle that later.

Certainly, web video has distinguished itself some from traditional one-way motion picture like television, considering its inherent interactivity. Some even argue that as TV competes for viewership with online services like Hulu, it’s becoming more interactive, à la web video. Like early TV, online video technology is evolving quickly, indeed. What may seem like simple innovations by video platforms like Veeple—in this case, a second video layer that allows interactive, clickable tags—can change everything. This year’s CES saw booths everywhere beaming 3D web video from computer monitors. We should only expect more rapid changes with mobile video, as well.

That’s all well and good; but, regarding video in PR messaging and marketing, are we putting the proverbial carriage before the horse?

Throughout all these changes, no matter where the winds may carry online video, no matter what metrics may indicate, one principle will always remain constant: content is king. Not metrics. If your organization matches appropriate, engaging, rich messaging with suitable recipients, it will always be successful.

Sometimes, today’s rhetoric about web video misses the point, I think, and should be completely reframed. But I do understand that web video is such a nascent and thriving industry, our understanding and methods are likewise not yet fully formed. We’re in the “numbers phase,” I suppose, which understandably places great importance on metrics. For example, DoubleClick has been accurately measuring for years that ads that contain video garner much more click-throughs than ads that don’t.

Fair enough. But there is another tale metrics could never tell.

I’m a recovered film theory student. Having also migrated to web video/PR/marketing from the film and television industry like myself, many of my peers might similarly characterize themselves. Two popular film theorists named Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell advanced a catchy and nuanced method of criticism called “neo-formalism.” Very basically, neo-formalism suggests that a critic may approach a work of art (specifically, a motion picture) by determining the extent to which content is successfully conveyed by form. (In this sense, content is “that which something expresses, implies, or conveys.”) Ideally, a work’s form should be so transparent, that it’s virtually indistinguishable from content. So, a critic may address a work with such questions as, “Is this form appropriate for the content?” Or, maybe, “Does the form interfere with the content?”

Though I don’t necessarily wish to compare web video to cinema, this critical approach brings to mind some salient talking points:

  • Metrics isolate web video content from its form—be it advertising, PR, marketing, or vlog.
  • Metrics inherently disregard evaluation of content itself.
  • Based on metrics, it’s all too tempting to make observations like, “consider video for a higher click-through rate.”
  • Without content, there could be no metrics or form. That relationship is not reciprocal. Without words, there is no whitepaper; without images and sound, there is no video. So, despite what the metrics prove, it seems illogical to claim things like incorporating video increases click-throughs, because only content itself can do that.

What if your messaging—be it PR, marketing, advertisement, or other—isn’t suitable for video? For example, would it ever make sense to create a video version (form) of a whitepaper (content)? Probably not, since a video would be far too lengthy. PDF is more appropriate. Would you ever convert a table (content) to video form, only for the sake of adding video to your PR materials? Leveraging Flash may be appropriate, but graphical tables most likely transmit statistical information more efficiently than video. Is it prudent to integrate video in your organization’s next marketing blast if you have no initial concept of what that video may discuss, or what property or materials it may be leveraged with? No.

Does it make sense to create a PR video if you have nothing to say?

Rather than allowing results-based metrics to form your PR media, perhaps it’s wiser to begin with some more fundamental questions. What is the message, if indeed there is one? Who is the target audience? How can we best engage them with this particular message?

In other words, what form best fits this message to this target audience—video, text, graphic, image, or other? In this light, it may become clear that video isn’t the appropriate form at all.

For what it’s worth, as a PR/marketing video producer, I can’t recall one occasion where that last question presented itself before the obvious attendant answer. Once we honestly evaluate the content, or the message, creative strategies and forms tend to present themselves naturally and organically.

If we allow them, strong messages can literally form themselves. That is a power metrics, and even form, simply don’t possess.

Because, content is king, after all.

It’s a Video Revolution

People respond to visual communications – a picture paints 1,000 words, as they say.

In the past two years online video has transformed the communications landscape for businesses – and now the video revolution is fully underway.

Chew on these numbers a bit if you’re still not convinced that video is a powerful medium:

  • 52% of all Internet traffic is driven by online video.
  • More than 70% of all Internet users watch videos online.
  • In a single month, YouTube presented 9.5 billion videos to 138 million American consumers.
  • 123 million Americans watched videos online during every single month of 2007.
  • When Cisco added streaming video to its website, the traffic to its website increased by 600%.

Savvy businesses are using video across the customer lifecycle from generating awareness to advocacy – driving better results and greater return from their online marketing investments. With the explosion of online video, businesses taking advantage of this medium are leapfrogging their competition with communications that break through the clutter and connect with prospects and customers.

If you’re ready to get the camera out, here are several take away tips that may help:

  • Walk before you run. Start small and see what the possibilities are – video news releases, video articles or product tutorials are a good way to test the waters. Then you’re ready to move to bigger apps like video blogging and video podcasts.
  • Edgy is good but B2B companies need to keep content appropriate for business audiences. Video will always have inherent risk (you can’t control perception as well as written communications) but you should not add to the risk by overtly offending the viewer.
  • Always remain authentic and relevant to your audience. Don’t try to fool people with scripted or overproduced video content that has no real value.
  • Video ROI measurement includes easy tactics like number of plain views, star feature ratings, comments with feedback and having your video marked as a favorite – so use them to your advantage.

As an industry, we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of what video apps will emerge. No doubt about it – if used smartly, video is a killer addition to your PR 2.0 and lead generation arsenal.