The “Write” Way – Crafting Content for the Web

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“Your mom told you not to talk about yourself all the time!” – Ann Wylie, Web writing expert

I recently participated in the PRSA Web Writing Boot Camp with Ann Wylie, where she covered best practices for everything from writing Web pages to making Twitter updates. Her teachings not only applied to major companies, but also to anyone who wants to promote their personal brand. What I liked most about the course was that her tips were backed either by scientifically proven studies, or tried and true best practices from social media experts.

Three Golden Guidelines: Relevant, Interesting and Easy

Ann shared with us the three “Golden Guidelines” to writing for the Web – Be relevant, be interesting, and make it easy:

  • Relevant: Keep content relevant for your readers. Seems obvious – but as Altimeter Group principal and new media guru Brian Solis says, “There’s a lot of me in social media.” That said, about 80 percent of tweets are about “me now” – not about relevant, engaging content.
    • Be an informer and pass Angela Maiers’ 70/20/10 test
      • 70 percent of the time share resources (@GuyKawasaki is a great example of this)
      • 20 percent of the time converse and connect with your audience
      • 10 percent of the time “chirp” – make it personal
    • Pass the “Who Cares?” test – Would you pick up the phone or use a stamp to share this information?
  • Interesting: Wiley recommends that you write like Jon Stewart vs. Katie Couric – or with personality, rather than playing it neutral and safe.
    • Tweet like the FBI – find the drama, the verb is the story – so push it, and use interesting nouns. A recent example from their Twitter feed @FBIPressOffice:
      • FBI NEWS: Maryland Woman Indicted for Embezzling Over $275,000 from Her Employer: Sandra Iris Klaus, of Hamps… http://1.usa.gov/euYLxV
    • Avoid using old-standby PR words like ‘launches,’ ‘announces’ and ‘introduces’
  • Easy: Make it easy for your audience. One key challenge of writing for the Web is that people are looking for quick access to information in smaller pieces.
    • “Chunk it up” – write more, shorter Web pages in complete chunks
    • Get to the point faster by removing the fluff
    • Consider whether your content is “scanable” – can your readers browse through and lift ideas off the page?
    • Cut through the clutter by condensing content and getting to the point.

Ann shares additional insights on Twitter @AnnWylie and in her free e-zine.