2020 Writing Resolutions by Ann Wylie

Now that 2002 is here, it’s time to act on our New Year’s Resolutions. One attainable goal that I think every PR professional should prioritize is becoming a better writer.

If you’re looking to make significant strides froward in your writing and storytelling skills in 2020, here are eight improvements to start with.

Reach readers where they actually are.

Most Americans have basic or below-basic reading skills. That means that if you write at a ninth-grade level, you may end up missing 88 percent of U.S. adults. So, aim lower: Try a fifth-grade level for health care communications, for instance. Even when targeting rocket scientists or brain surgeons, simple words work best. Remember: Nobody wants to work harder than they must.

Tailor, don’t just personalize, subject lines.

For better email open rates, go beyond, “Hey, Ann.” Adding a second data point to your subject line will multiply your campaign’s success by 10 times, according to Eloqua.

So, think due dates when you’re targeting moms-to-be, pet names when you’re marketing dog food and locations for event communications. And when you’ve figured out your hook, don’t forget the “Hey, Ann,” too!

Make the important interesting.

It’s not enough that your message be important. To get attention, you need to make those important messages interesting. Add storytelling, metaphor, wordplay, juicy details, and other concrete, creative, provocative elements to surprise and delight your readers.

Put effect into preparing.

Most writers eschew proper preparation, which means they end up spending more time and stress on editing their work afterwards. Try flipping the process on its head and spending more of your time getting ready to write; it’ll lead to stronger prose and make your overall writing process better, easier, and faster.

Avoid the worst news release quote cliches.

Stop quoting executives about how “delighted,” “pleased,” “verklempt,” or “overcome with emotion” they are about the latest product or idea. Instead, right about how users can benefit from this product or idea, or what sets it apart from other products or ideas.

Bonus points for using third-party testimonials, such as clients, customers, or industry experts.

Think outside the pyramid.

The feature-story structure, rather than the inverted pyramid, has been proven to increase content marketing readership by 300 percent and reading by 520 percent. Plus, once you nail it, you can repurpose it for top sheets, case studies, survey stories, and more.

Are you an inverted pyramid devotee? Make 2020 the year you relinquish your loyalty and test out other effective structures.

Reach readers where their eyes are.

Even highly-educated scientists read only 20 percent of the words on a webpage. But which words are they reading? And how do you reach non-readers with words?

Provide a second pathway through your message with display copy. Put your message in the headline, deck, subheads, captions, callouts, and bolded lead-ins. That’s the best way to reach readers online.

Use the bait your readers like.

Grandpa Wylie was a renowned fisherman. When I asked him how he caught all of those fish, Grandpa said, “If you want to catch a fish, you need to think like a fish. Then you need to use the bait the fish like, not the bait you like.”

So, what bait are you using on your readers?a Are you sitting in a boat filled with bait and wondering why the fish aren’t jumping in?

What are your plans for keeping up with reader preferences in 2020? That may be one of the best ways to achieve your New Year’s writing goals next year.