Step 1: Basics and structure

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Marketing can be a daunting prospect. How do you make your articles and publicity materials stand out amongst the crowd? How do you make your information useful and relevant in an era of information overload? Follow our top tips to make your information work for you!
Step 1: Basics and structure

Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve, who you are trying to communicate with and what you want as the end result or key message? Then structure your articles or publicity materials accordingly. For instance, ‘this is a fundraising article to raise awareness of XXX for local voluntary groups, it’s easier than you think’.

Write a brief introduction to explain the context to someone completely new to your work, before going into the main story or content (30-40 words).

Keep sentences and paragraphs short (16-30 words per sentence) and gear your message towards an action. If you want your reader to do something for instance, you could begin it with ‘is volunteering right for you?’ and end your article with ‘come along to our event to find out’.

Add a web link or contact point for further information and reassert the purpose of your article.
Double check any facts, in particular dates, times, locations and contact details.

Step 2: Headlines

Try and keep them snappy and short. Be imaginative. You could use puns, quotes, alliteration, or intrigue. The following are some examples:
Pun – ‘In full bloom’ (story for flower show)

Direct summary – ‘Britain’s best interactive web sites’

Quote –‘It was the best training I’ve ever had’

Intrigue – ‘She would never have known…’

Question – ‘Do you need volunteers?’

Alliteration – ‘Immediate impact on our children’

Step 3: Main body

  • Write for the skim reader – use straplines, subheadings, captions, and quotes
    to make it as easy as possible for the reader to digest.

  • Make it relevant to the reader by using local, modern examples which they are interested in, eg ‘Funding in Salford has doubled’.

  • Know your audience – their needs, desires and motivations, and match your needs with their own eg ‘We’ve got access to the funding that you need’.

  • Include relevant facts and stats for instant impact – eg ‘82% of our members have signed up’.

  • Make it ‘real’ or as ‘human’ as possible, tell it like a story, add quotes, get the reader to see themselves in your article. Remember to build your message into the story – eg ‘Karen was worried about the tendering and commissioning process…’

  • Make a direct appeal – use questions, appeal and engage people by speaking to them directly.

Step 4: Language

  • Be clear and concise – write in plain English, avoid jargon (if it is unavoidable include a definition of technical words).

  • If you use acronyms and abbreviations they should be written in full the first time you introduce them with the acronym in brackets, unless it is a name of an organisation (eg GMCVO) in which the reverse may be done depending on what the organisation is recognised as.

  • Avoid using capital letters, unless it is a proper noun. Names of people (David), weekdays or months (Wednesday, January), places (Big Ben, France), titles (Mr, Mrs), names of organisations (Diocese of Manchester), are all proper nouns. Ideas, concepts or groups of things are not proper nouns, so should not be capitalised (such as local authority, voluntary sector, outcomes, consortium).

  • Use active, not passive language, eg ‘We delivered a unique opportunity to project manage’ as opposed to ‘an opportunity to project manage was delivered’.

These factsheets are part of a set available from Last update: 07.2013

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