We love images. We love them pretty. We love them moving.
The raging success stories of video from career YouTubers, photos and reels that become instantly Instagrammable, and the stalking-quality of TikTok mania may be the apex of today’s marketing mix. Yet even if your graphics and social content grab attention, as a business or not-for-profit organization you also need to describe your organization’s best attributes and make sure you have meaningful connections with your customers, clients and other stakeholders. In other words, writing matters.
How often do you click or slow down to get more info about some visual that captured your attention only to be left perplexed, unsatisfied or even completely unable to figure out what it was about? Do you keep poking around until it makes sense? Or do you bail because you’ve lost interest already and they missed the chance to connect the dots? What if the content supporting the visuals landed better?
I can’t think of a single one of my clients who truly could not write. Most of them write really well, in fact (even some book writers in the mix!). But sometimes it takes a different focus and some time to craft content that connects. Working at making the words better is worth it when people follow through and buy, donate or volunteer.
In this latest era of apps and tools to help (or even hinder), use whatever combination it takes to support your efforts to write better for authentic connections between your organization and your audience.
- Chat GPT: Use of AI apps are certainly controversial. The capacity for their usefulness and for abuse seems to be expanding exponentially. Human creativity should certainly not be hampered by such developments. Copyright and compensation are essential for real people making meaning through language (and the arts). Yet there is a place for these tools. Experiment to see if they help you to organize your thoughts or answer some initial question using carefully crafted queries. I’ve found that Chat GPT has provided me with some useful initial “dumps” of facts that I can then explore in more depth in elsewhere. Note without actual references documenting the sources for the info it spews always double-check, cross-reference and rewrite!
- Thesaurus: The quick assist for both finding the best word for the job and for creating better variation in your content. Often another word might get your point across much better than a first draft choice. Repetition has its place, but mixing up can help hold the reader’s interest, too.
- Competitors: Compare and contrast like a high school essay (no stealing!). Look at word choices and how the material is organized in any given format (website, emails, print pieces) by others in your industry.
- Urban Dictionary: Keep up with the youth for fresh ideas as language evolves, as well as what phrases and acronyms should be newly avoided.
- Paper versus… whatever: Scribble first ideas. Backs of envelopes still find use. Audio recordings can help you brainstorm. Your notes won’t be fully formed at first, but every salient phrase you can capture will help you put it all together more easily.
- Editing Tools: Use the spellchecker (and check the spellchecker!). Enlist other eyeballs to proofread or print it out to read each sentence backwards to check spelling accurately.
I have a fun gig writing about destination marketing often focusing on local businesses and attractions. Meets my mission for supporting these things and I’ve developed an idiosyncratic process: fire up a fresh document and paste in the details in order (often business names, addresses, links and specifics to the piece like menu items or event details). Second round: Make it sentences. They don’t have to be any good, they just have to have the correct structure and start to look like something useful to read. Maybe the AI generators have some ideas for phrasing a seasonal piece. Next round is massaging each paragraph to flow and weed out the bad bits. Finally, a full read-through (usually printed out and in a different location than my desk) ready to slash or punch-up. This is usually where I find repetitive bits or clunky phrases that could be better. Thesaurus gets the heaviest workout at this point. (I’m tired of saying “charming”! What else ya got?!)
As new trends and tools continue to emerge, remember the power of language to clarify, reinforce and enhance visuals. Use them all together for good.