Less than 8 seconds. That’s all the time you’ve got to engage a reader. If you were MacGyver, you’d only need a Swiss Army Knife, a Bic Pen, a stick of chewing gum, and a small piece of film to captivate an audience within that time-frame, but for the rest of us, we want to know exactly what tools work before the countdown begins so that what we create doesn’t blow up in our faces.
At Capture, I’m honored to write for many of our clients. With open rates measuring above industry averages (35 – 50%) for our client campaigns related to press releases, e-newsletters, and blog posts, we’ve seen common threads of effective, successful writing. Those commonalities boil down to some useful MacGyver-style writing tips, the bare essentials to explosive writing, and we wanted to share them with you because sharing is caring.
This probably isn’t new to you, but it’s a lesson worth reviewing because it’s so important! For me, if I’m writing about a topic I’m very passionate about, I tend to want to include Every. Single. Detail. While details are important, it’s even more important to write with a conscious focus on your overall objective. Here’s a simple way to do it. When you’ve completed your copy, re-read it and ask yourself this question: What do I want the reader to do? If the answer to that question isn’t as clear as a bell, you know you’ve got to go back and make some cuts.
Another important factor for being concise in your writing is to be sure that your very first line includes the most important information about your subject matter and that it’s as gripping and engaging as possible.
Your email subject lines are another key factor to consider when writing concisely as it’s the first thing your intended audience will see (and we know what they say about first impressions). The sweet spot for character count of effective subject lines is 65 characters. The good news? This is about 15 characters longer than the average email subject line. So, take your time and craft something intriguing and informative or funny. It will be worth the effort.
We’re very familiar with the old adage, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ . . . Because it’s true. Researchers found that colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. Don’t be afraid to break up your copy with images. In fact, I strongly encourage you to do it. Think of it as the bait that keeps folks reading.
Here’s a quick list of pointers to help you include the most powerful images within your work (this includes press releases):
- Composition – Understand the basic photographic rule of thirds to create well balanced images that are more interesting and allow the viewer to interact with the image more naturally.
- Color – You might think that the more vibrant the color is in a photo, the more attention it would garner, but less saturated images receive 18% more likes than their counterparts.
- Background – While it’s always important to focus on your subject, tight close-ups can only tell so much of a story. Remember that when you give the viewer more of the background surrounding your subject, you are able to share more details about the overall story, making the image more powerful and interesting.
Jakob Nielsen’s seminal web usability study found that 79% of web users scan rather than read. Considering this fact, make it easy for your reader to scan the most important details with the use of sub headings. Breaking up large chunks of copy will always be a benefit, whether you do it with images, quote boxes, or sub heads. It makes your story more interesting and gives the impression, even if you have a lot to share, that it won’t take that much of the reader’s time to stick with you until the end.
Video is simply one of the most powerful tools you have to garner attention for any of your stories. So powerful that even the use of the word ‘video’ in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19%. Here’s the most important thing to remember when you include a video in an email, blog or press release: use a service tool that allows you to embed the video within the copy so it either plays automatically or the reader only has to press play as opposed to clicking a link to go to a new web page to then click play. The less work the viewer has to do, the more likely they are to follow through.
Keeping these bare essential tools in your writing grab-bag will definitely help you whether you’re under the gun or you’ve got all the time in the world. Either way, they’ll make your writing explosive and maybe, just maybe, you’ll even have fun in the process. Trust me, it’s a great feeling when you love doing what you do! It makes you feel as cool as MacGyver. Boom.