You interviewed the subject matter experts, did your research, wrote an outline and drafted the piece. The detail is captured correctly and you’ve told a complete story. Unfortunately, it has all the appeal of the ingredients list on the back of a cheap can of soup.
Don’t beat yourself up. It took Andy Warhol to make anyone pay attention to the front.
But let’s face it, when it comes to public relations (PR) business-to-business (B2B) tech writing – from press releases to longer-form thought leadership – you often get some pretty dry material for constructing a complex story. So, my friend, congratulations, you’ve done the hard part. You got it right, now you just need to punch it up.
The following six tips might help, and the first one is simple – go to bed.
After wrestling with a piece for a while, you’ve likely got mounds of excess detail littering your mind. They say when you sleep, clutter is swept away and you’re left with the good stuff. I’m sure there’s a more sophisticated medical explanation, but I’m a simple person, so I like to think it’s like the Zamboni at the GAHDEN.
Sorry, Boston joke. But I stand by this point.
If you can’t get their attention at the top, they’ll never get to the bottom. You could present the most revolutionary concept, announce technology that enables communication with aliens, but no one will know about it if your headline reads “Platform Increases Long Distance Calling.”
Whereas, “The Day ET Phoned Home: Interstellar Platform Opens Zillion Dollar Market” will turn a head or two, particularly when the next person you call could own both of them.
So be bold. Claim ground. Be clever. Pick fights. Just remember to keep headlines simple and be direct. It’s better to push a strong main message and pay it off with a subhead then to draft something so convoluted it’s easy to ignore.
And if you need inspiration? There are tools that can help, whether you’re struggling with an overarching theme or looking for that perfect SaaS-y rhyme to complete a headline.
Break it up, shake it up
Sometimes you have everything right but a piece discourages readers due to mammoth blocks of text. Our attention spans aren’t what they used to be, hence the attraction of a “five-minute read.” But you don’t need to announce that - you just need to visually make the piece less intimidating.
Basically, make it easy on the eyes and remember that small bites are easier to digest. That means breaking up those long paragraphs and keeping them short.
Further, shake things up a bit. Consider using bullet points to concisely highlight key points. Try subheads for engaging transitions that draw the reader in deeper. Your piece will look cleaner and the messages that matter will stand out.
Tighten up, lighten up
People want information quickly - again, there’s that decreased attention span factor. Don’t make them wait, don’t string them along – get rid of the fluff, give them what they want. Tighten it up, and what’s more, lighten it up.
Don’t use heavy, repetitive language; work that thesaurus but be careful not to sacrifice clarity just for the sake of avoiding word echo. Also, limit those overly effusive adverbs and adjectives. Mark Twain said: "Substitute 'damn' every time you’re inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
That doesn’t mean you entirely get rid of superlatives. Just keep it in check. PR involves influencing media and analysts, and editors and researchers are quick to dismiss marketing talk. Today’s readers get turned off by the hype, too. You can lighten copy with data; a few numbers can advance a story quickly. Graphics and video links can do the same and lend additional excitement.
Less is more - and more copy can backfire and deliver less interest.
You’ve done all the heavy lifting, brought together the right ingredients, boiled a complex topic down to its essence. Now It’s time for you to have some fun.
From some pretty confusing and dry resources you’ve created something digestible. With just a little bit of flavor, you’ll turn basic alphabet soup into something that’ll be eagerly consumed.
Eat that, Andy Warhol.