Is your content ‘talking’ to your audience?
The whole point of marketing is to start a one-on-one conversation between two people. Ultimately a conversation between your sales person and their business manager.
Your product is complex and technical. That’s fine. But if your content is hard to understand the conversation may never get started. You need to simplify the language in your content to make your complex, technical product understandable.
In this series of posts, we look at how to simplify your writing using five simple steps. But first we should understand how readability is assessed.
Readability: Flesch Kincaid (FK) Explained
The Flesch Kincaid readability assessment was developed to assess the difficulty of reading materials for upper elementary through secondary grades. Although the FK test was developed to assess reading material for students, the FK score is basically about the readability of the text. A scale based on a formula.
The FK (as it is known) looks at these factors in a piece of writing:
- # of letters per word: more letters, more difficult to read.
- # of words per sentence: more words, more difficult to read.
- # of sentences per paragraph: more sentences, more difficult to read.
- % passive sentences: more passive sentences, more difficult to read.
Word processing software can review documents and report on two FK parameters:
- Flesch reading ease, and
- FK grade level.
The Flesch reading ease assessment is reported as a percent and the higher the better. And for persuasive content writing, a FK grade level score of 8 or less is best.
Although the FK score can help you improve the clarity of your writing, it does have drawbacks. Of course, you should avoid jargon and technical terms as much as possible but sometimes it just can’t be helped. Just be aware that your FK score may creep up if you rely too much on these less familiar and less used terms.
Remember, a bad readability score does mean reading will be difficulty. But a good readability score does not in itself mean the writing was good.
Now on to Step #1 of 5 that will start you on your road to content that is easily understood.
Step #1: Find one emotionally compelling idea
The most powerful aid to clear, concise writing is to identify an emotionally compelling idea. One that engages the reader or listener on two levels: emotionally and rationally.
It doesn’t have to be factual. But it does need to feel like it is or should be true. It must be so emotionally attractive the reader wants to believe it.
An emotionally compelling idea must generate a feeling of discovering something new and useful. Something new to think about and share.
How to find that emotionally compelling idea.
There is no substitute for research. You need to know the topic – your product – and its features and benefits. You need to know your audience and their needs.
It always helps to start with a brainstorming session. Whether alone or with your team, think about all the features and benefits of your product. If an emotionally compelling idea doesn’t jump off the page, which it most likely won’t, more research is required.
After further research into features/benefits and your audience’s needs, you then repeat the brainstorming activity. Once you really understand the values and benefits, one benefit will stand out. Turn that one benefit into an emotionally compelling idea.
Put that emotionally compelling idea right up front
First things first. By putting your main message right up front, your reader is more likely to come away with at least that message. You can help your reader by:
- Stating the subject of an email in the subject line.
- Including an executive summary with a white paper.
- Stating the basic facts about a news item in the first sentence or two of a news release.
An introduction is also helpful, regardless of the length of your document.
Studies have shown that people like to know what they’re in for right from the start. Put your emotionally compelling idea right up front. In primary school, they taught us that when writing a report, you should:
- Tell them what you are going to tell them,
- tell them,
- then tell them what you told them.
It still applies today. Put the emotionally compelling idea up front and draw your audience through to the call-to-action.
Do you have a white paper or case study that didn’t bring the return on investment you had hoped for? Perhaps it needs a Readability Revamp.
I am a water quality scientist with fantastic writing skills. I offer a service that can improve your content’s ROI. I take the text and bring the FK score down. I improve the readability without “dumbing” it down. By increasing understanding, I help your readers take the action you desire.
Contact me to discuss your next content project.
Stay tuned next week for Step #2: Use an easy-to-read style