“Fifty per cent of advertising works,” goes the industry saying. “The question is: which 50 per cent?”
In other words, no one can predict exactly what an audience will read, click on, forward or respond to.
However, a few basic tips can help shift the odds in your favor.
KISS your audience – Keep It Short & Sweet
Attention spans are decreasing, while reading off small screens is increasing, so large solid blocks of text don’t cut it. You have about five seconds to catch a reader’s attention with your heading and lead sentence(s). Think of them as a Tweet and place your main message clearly up top. Don’t make reading content a treasure hunt for meaning.
Use simple words. Get a job, instead of “achieve an employment situation.” Keep sentences below 25 words. One thought per sentence. Don’t ramble on. Use the online Flesch Readability Test to check how easy your text is to understand.
Show don’t tell
Go for concrete descriptions rather than abstract terms and use strong verbs.
Participants in last Sunday’s fun run for charity were hindered by bad weather.
Charity fun runners last Sunday battled heavy rain and icy winds.
It’s shorter, more graphic, the verb is stronger and the ‘victims’ are turned into ‘heroes.’
Appeal to the senses, give examples and use language that fits the subject.
The Rio Café in the Plateau is known as a great place for cool ambiance, good coffee and a venue where famous musicians gather to relax.
It’s all a bit vague. What’s “cool ambiance?” Who are the “famous musicians?”
The sounds of Miles Davis mingle with the smell of Brazilian espresso at Leonard Cohen’s favourite hangout, the Rio Café on Rachel Street.
Paints a picture, appeals to two senses and provides details. (The Rio Café is made up, but you can see what I mean.)
What’s in it for me?
Think of what your audience wants to hear rather than what you want to say.
We are pleased to announce the opening of our new hardware store in NDG.
Most readers probably don’t care whether you’re “pleased” or not, but they might show more interest if you offer to improve their lives:
New NDG hardware store will save locals long car trips just to buy a few screws.
Note that the main keywords (New NDG hardware store) have moved to the top left of the text, where people start reading first. Also the revised version contains more of the vital 5Ws: Who, What, Where, When & Why.
These are just a few tips to get you started — more to come
Whether it’s a website, social media, a brochure, video, ad or flyer, Mirror Marketing’s team of experts can help kick start your efforts to get more bang for your communication buck.
Watch out for my next blog, about the Elevator Speech: the 60-second sales secret used by startups, job seekers, Dragons Den hopefuls and crowd funders.
Richard Andrews is a Montreal-based media consultant, freelance writer and PR lecturer who has also worked in Australia, China, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.