How people take in information has changed. I read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains a while ago and it resonated with me. Communication has shifted and people want short, informative pieces that they can quickly read, hear or view.
Years ago, when I worked at Maclean’s magazine, the People page was consistently the most read page in the magazine. It wasn’t because the people who read Maclean’s weren’t interested in the other longer pieces – it was partially because that page had information on interesting people and partially because the pieces were short bites of content that could be easily digested.
In working with clients, we often have to remind, encourage, cajole and even push them to edit their work. (Five pages is not a briefing document!) We have clients who are incredibly intelligent and sometimes that works against them. The curse of knowledge can be a challenge, as can the curse of words. For many of us, we grew up in a time when using “big words” was encouraged and many people think that way – they aren’t trying to impress anyone using those words; that’s just how they think. The challenge is in how people absorb what you are trying to communicate. If you use big words that some people won’t know the meaning of, they will tune out. If you use too many words – they will tune out. If you don’t focus on what they need to know and how they want to take it in, they may not tune in at all.
Writing for the People page prepared me for online writing and writing for social media – short, informative and engaging pieces with smart, cheeky headlines. Take a look at the last five communications pieces that you developed – how long are they? How straightforward are they? How engaging are they? Do they really meet the needs and expectations of your audience? These are tough questions to ask, but once you view your communications pieces through this lens – you will find they are more effective.