7 Ways to Engage Today's Busy Audiences

I was FaceTiming with my nephew Eric, a college senior preparing to take on the world and make his mark.

Eric loves writing and has a strong sense of himself. He's bold, fun and funny.  But he scared me beyond words. 

Eric told me about his papers and professors. I'm sure he saw me twitch as he described his writing style and expression within the confines of a college classroom.  

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I told Eric point-blank: For the most part, everything you've had to write in college—style, formats and opinions.—will all go out the window.

The writing most of us have learned in school and have been using in business all these years is rarely effective these days.

Why? 

Long, dry and stuffy writing is equivalent to a sleeping pill. People want personality and pizzazz.   

Please don't  misunderstand: College writing is essential in developing critical thinking skills. Yet it's not the conversational "authentic" style most consumers respond to and crave.

Today, we must share insights that get people thinking, feeling, reacting and involved. This is the definition of engagement. 

"Corporate speak" is out; conversational storytelling is the deal. Write the way you speak. It's a practice that leaves most professors cringing.    

Want to reach more people so you can grow your Facebook group, email list and Instagram followers? You won't grab anyone's attention or sell anything if all you do is talk about you.

Folks want to connect so they can discover what you stand for and value emotionally. 

Business professionals who struggle to adapt to this short conversational writing style must know one thing: Consumers are smart. They dislike one-sided advertising and marketing  messages. Don't you???  

The following seven insights offer ways for you to fine-tune your posts, videos and emails so people pay attention.   

1. Be bold. The only part of your content that's guaranteed to be read is the headline (or subject line). It must capture someone's attention in a way that's intriguing and relevant to what they are facing right now. Think timely, compelling and meaningful. We don't need more sensationalism or information; we need more wisdom. Grab your reader's attention with just a few words or they will click over to your competition. Your job is to make your words so juicy that a prospect can’t resist and turn away. 

2. Allow space. Our online world is overwhelming. Too much stuff...and so many words. How can bloggers, content creators and podcast hosts offer reader-friendly posts, case studies and show notes? You can...

·      Write short sentences and short paragraphs. (Back in the day, one or two sentences would not constitute a paragraph, according to my English and journalism professors). 

·      Break up longer text (anything over 400 words) with bolded subheads.

·      Use bullet points for skimming.

3. Craft a powerful message. Successful bloggers and content creators understand the essence of a good story that moves people emotionally and prompts them to take action. Are you writing for Google analytics and algorithms instead of the human factor? My advice is don’t worry about word count and long-tail SEO. Instead, share valuable insights and content that aren't self-serving. Remember that prospects are people, and people love great stories.

4. Deliver personality. Give readers a glimpse into your world. How can you do this while focusing on their needs and challenges? Always connect your experience back to your audience. For example, my post, “What it Means to Get in Front” has been one of the most well-received posts I’ve written. 

5. Share meaningful stuff. Folks today—especially  young adults—appreciate opportunities to influence others. When they see something that's valuable and resonates, they'll retweet or re-post it. This one keystroke will expand your reach. That's why successful leaders pass along  **some** of their expertise and knowledge for free. There must, however, be a strategy because you're in business to help others and reap financial rewards. Otherwise, you'd be working at a non-profit. Impart solid content and perspectives so that others notice —and share it. Nothing makes a stronger and more genuine impression than someone who generously shares their time and talent. 

6. Include images, videos and graphics. Talented content creators reach beyond words. Not everyone is a professional writer or wants to be. I've been writing news as a reporter and publicist for 35 years. It has indeed served me well. Still I know that writing isn’t for everyone. Neither is reading. That’s where Instagram stories, Facebook Lives and podcasting come in. Savvy content creators weave GIFs, memes and infographics into their posts. They know how to make their content pop. Do you?

Video, of course, continues to be a hot commodity and will likely remain top-of-list in 2021. Time will tell if the audio-only platform Clubhouse is a formidable opponent.  (I'm on Clubhouse: SueYoungMedia if you want to follow!) 

7. Forget writer's block. Coming up short on topics for your blog, videos and podcasts? Don’t panic. There’s no such thing as writer's block. The key to consistently develop fresh material is to pay attention to your community—and the world. What does your target audience struggle with and how can your expertise solve their challenge? There are many formats for written and video blogs, such as “how-to” tips, interviews and curated content. Repurposing content that resonated with your audience is a sound approach, too. 

Your goal as a content creator is to not only get someone's attention. It is to keep their attention. 

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