Just a Book, Part 4 – Everybody Writes

If you’ve been reading along, congrats to reaching the fourth and final installment in our Just a Book 2017 blog series featuring Ann Handley’s, “Everybody Writes.

Now that we’ve covered everything from the philosophy of writing to grammar rules and publishing tips, it’s time to dig a little deeper on writing for social, web and email. Because while you may be a marketer by title, Ann helps us to figure out what it really means to write like one.

Here are some of our favorite strategies from Ann:
 

Writing for Social

“Remember: think dialogue, not monologue. Social sites are often condemned for encouraging banal and useless noise, such as ‘Eating a burrito for lunch.’ But they provide rich opportunity to share updates that offer context or reveal character.” (Page 190)

Though only about a decade old, social media platforms have transformed the way businesses interact with their customers. Instead of picking up the phone or sending an email, customers are now just a few clicks (or swipes) away from connecting with their favorite brands. Curious how you can make the most of social? Check out the following tips:

  • Twitter. While you may be interacting with strangers, at the end of the day, they’re still people. Write as if you’re chatting with a friend or family member to establish rapport. Twitter also offers the opportunity to tell people what you’re all about. Share what your company stands for and how it’s improving the world to give followers insight into your bigger story.
  • Facebook. When it comes to Facebook, focus on quality over quantity. The more targeted your approach is, the better chance you’ll have of increasing sales. And remember, brevity is your friend. Short posts – 100-140 characters – and appropriately-sized images – 800×600 pixels – will drive the most engagement.
  • LinkedIn. With company pages, individual profiles and even showcase pages that highlight specific products and services, there’s a lot happening on LinkedIn. To stand out from the competition, optimize your profile with keyword-rich descriptions in addition to a steady stream of relevant news. It’s also a good idea to encourage employee advocacy since sharing important updates can boost both reach and engagement.

 

Writing for Web

“It’s tempting to go overboard – and arcade-ify your landing page by adding all manner of bells and whistles. Instead, go for simple and clean, with stupid-obvious navigation. As I’ve said elsewhere in this book: less is so often more.” (Page 227)

There’s a lot to consider when writing for web. To churn out top notch copy for Walker Sands’ own websites (like our digital site), our content team has turned toward these tips on more than one occasion. For home pages, keep your audience top of mind. Speaking directly to your audience’s motivations will help you demonstrate how you can solve their problems. Even something as small as adding in words your audience uses can help earn their trust – and ultimately their business.

As far as landing pages go, pay special attention to three key elements – the where, what and why. Carefully explaining where visitors have landed, what you’re providing and why they need to take next steps will make for a simple yet effective landing page. Curious how to tackle an about us page? Ann suggests focusing less on your company and more on who your employees are in relation to the visitor. Showing the human side of your employees while also including customer testimonials can help ensure you connect things back to the reader.
 

Writing for Email

“Rethink your email content, to reconsider what you’re sending, and why, and how you’re communicating . . . swap places with your recipient and write an email you would open.” (Page 219)

According to a study from Radicati Group, more than 265 billion emails are expected to be sent each day in 2017. By 2021, that number could reach 319 billion. To break through the noise, try keeping things concise. For example, short subject lines can boost open rate. The same goes for email copy. Rather than writing a drawn-out paragraph, get straight to the point to avoid wasting your reader’s time.

When appropriate, you can even go casual and use a recipient’s first name. Last but not least, finish things off with a specific call to action.
 

To take your writing to the next level, check out pages 181-261 of “Everybody Writes.” You can also watch our video on the final section of Ann’s book.

Better yet, reserve your spot to meet Ann in person! On Oct. 23, she’ll be joining us in Chicago for a meet and greet and Q&A session at the American Writers Museum. Spots are filling up fast so reserve now!

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Walker Sands Evaluation of EdTech: What Technology Means to Educators Across America

If you’re reading this blog post, you likely have education to thank for something.

Maybe a class in high school sparked an interest in your current career, or a skill you learned in college found practical applications in the real world. It goes back even further to learning to read and write in elementary school. There’s a reason Malcolm X referred to education as “the passport to the future,” and Nelson Mandela called it “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Education is key.

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While the importance of education is well documented, what’s less understood are the technologies and solutions that make teaching possible. That’s why the Walker Sands Communications’ education technology (edtech) team made it our mission to find out.

In a survey of more than 500 U.S. education professionals, we explored edtech successes and frustrations, as well as future technology goals and desires. Today’s education environment is primed for greater edtech disruption and adoption, but the 2017 Walker Sands Evaluation of EdTech report found that the relationships between schools/universities and the technologies they use are complex. In the world of edtech, it seems that 1+1 doesn’t always equal 2.

When it comes to overall feelings about edtech, the report found that:

  • Current edtech is often limited, but educators’ belief in the technology’s strengths outweighs initial reservations

    Only 13 percent of teachers give their school/university an ‘A’ when asked to rank their available technology’s ability to improve the learning experience for students. However, teachers don’t seem to hold a grudge. Despite this less than stellar rating, educators are optimistic about edtech’s future positive impact, with goals including a way to better engage students, access to more academic resources and a means to better prepare students for academic success.
  • Cost is king, and funding is the jester

    Education professionals rank cost as their top concern when making edtech purchasing decisions, and for good reason. Just over half (55 percent) of education professionals feel their school/university invests enough funding in education technologies, and a third of teachers (31 percent) expect their out-of-pocket spending for classroom technologies to increase in the upcoming calendar school year.
  • Edtech interests are as diverse as the teachers and students they’re meant to help

    Education professionals are most excited about presentation tools, textbook and content services and classroom efficiency technologies. However, future edtech investments can create big hurdles to overcome. Top pain points experienced when using education technologies in the classroom include distractedness, price and alienation, and edtech providers must find ways to solve for these deficiencies.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 11.06.21 AMBridging the gap between vision and reality will be the biggest challenge for edtech providers moving forward. Fortunately, the foundations to do so exist. Teachers see the potential value of edtech, even if they’re not 100 percent sold just yet. Educational institutions are eager to embrace edtech, even if investment is not an immediate option. And today’s students, who are digital natives with an impressive tech savvy, are well-suited to make edtech work, even if it’s absent from their current educational environment.

Edtech has many educators excited, and we’re feeling pretty enthusiastic about it, too. Because, like we said, we all have a lot to thank education for.

Curious what else we learned? Download the full Walker Sands Evaluation of EdTech report to learn more about the state of edtech in America, or watch our video on the report here. Stay tuned for more insights and analysis on our blog!

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What EdTech Stakeholders Are Talking About: Lessons from SXSWedu 20

As a former teacher, education PR professional and current learning and development manager at Walker Sands, I was ready to nerd out at SXSWedu 2017. Thousands of experts gathered for 4 days in Austin, Texas to address trends in edtech and have honest conversations about the challenges facing the education industry as a whole.

Between education celebrities such as Dr. Brene Brown and John Maeda wandering the halls, and one interesting session description after another, my FOMO was at an all-time high. I attended as many sessions as I could and walked away with solid insights into the current state of edtech.

What EdTech Stakeholders are Talking About Now

1. What can VR do for you?

VR, AI and MR (mixed reality, combining the first two) technologies are eliciting intrigue across all industries, education included. While some educators are embracing the possibilities for deeper engagement (major buzzword alert), others worry about the risk of losing touch with reality.

If we can transport students to anywhere in the world with one swipe of a finger and a cardboard box, what’s to become of physical field trips? Will students further lose themselves in a solitary, virtual vortex? Will VR have a significant enough impact in the classroom to warrant any of this?

Teachers who have begun implementing these technologies in the classroom have noticed students prefer to explore them in groups. The social component of education remains significant. Regarding impact, all signs point to VR/AI/MR transforming, specifically and certainly, the med school experience and many healthcare practices.

In the traditional classroom setting, the technologies will allow for deeper exploration by bringing more concepts to life in new, interactive ways. One thing most can agree on is that these technologies are often intuitive enough to make implementation and integration more accessible for educators.A

2. What does the future hold for higher education?

The notion of the 21st-century job, in which you choose a specific career path and then go to school for it, is fading. Companies are instead seeking employees with relevant skills, such as creative problem-solving and good communication.

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