Tag Archives | BBC

Will twitter lose its character over more characters?

Twitter has given us more space. Doubled its character count and given us more words to play with. But is that necessarily a good thing?

BBC Ceefax pageDo you remember Ceefax?

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about – before internet access was commonplace and pre-multi-channel digital TV, Ceefax was a text service for news, sport, weather, and a few games that you could view on your TV set, selecting pages using your remote control.

I wrote local news and sport pages for Ceefax in my time as a BBC journalist. The content of each page was a tightly defined format. A headline and four paragraphs – about 80 words in total. That was all you had to tell a story.

How Ceefax helped me hone my writing skills

To tell a news story that fit onto one screen meant choosing short, simple and effective language. Writing headlines of exactly 33 characters (the space available on the top line), favoured short, powerful words. For example, ‘woe’ when something was wrong, and ‘joy’ when something was right.

It’s a skill I’ve adapted to writing copy for packaging; editing copy for a web page; writing social media posts and even poetry. All important skills for a copywriter.Write a sharp headline. Choose words with impact. How Ceefax helped me hone my writing skills Click To Tweet

Why more words don’t necessarily mean better communication

twitter and other social media iconsTwitter was different. In a proliferation of multimedia, its short and pithy format was easy to consume.

It looked easy. Anyone could write 140 characters. But those who did it well proved masters of it.

The irony is that as twitter expands its character limits, it risks losing some of its distinctive character as a social media platform.

Constraints liberate. Faced with a blank page, the possibilities can seem so endless and overwhelming that we fail to make a mark.

Tell yourself you only have to write four paragraphs, 80 words, and suddenly it seems a lot less daunting. But it forces you to consider every word and choose it carefully.

Being able to say more isn’t always a good thing. Being restrained means you focus on what matters. Clear messages require clear language. And in my book, that means keeping it simple.

As twitter expands its character limits, it risks losing some of its distinctive character. Click To Tweet

For words that can help your business cut through the noise, talk to me.

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Never miss a deadline – 3 time-saving tips from the newsroom

Never miss a deadline - 3 time saving tips from the newsroom

I started my writing career working in busy BBC radio and television newsrooms. The demand of hitting deadlines for hourly news bulletins and regular broadcasts was excellent training in being accurate, quick, and getting things done. Here are three top tips from the newsroom to help you in your business:

1. Plan and prepare

Even with a breaking story, there is always a little time to think about questions to ask interviewees, or what to say on air.

For more regular planned content, I’d always set off on a story with details of where I was going, who I was going to speak to and contact numbers in case of emergency. Having the basics written down, or easily accessible from your mobile device can save a lot of running around.

I’d also spend some time thinking about the story I was going to film or record (often in the car on the way there). Plotting out a simple structure helped me to focus on gathering the interviews and information I needed and made sure I didn’t forget to ask an important question.

For example, the structure for a news feature could be:

  • Introduction
  • Viewpoint 1
  • Opposing viewpoint 2
  • What do members of the public think
  • Summary

Thinking about the structure of your business content, such as a blog post or newsletter can help you to focus on what you need and stop you getting distracted.

Check out how to write a blog post in one hour for more time-saving tips.

Never miss a deadline - time saving tips from the newsroom for your business Click To Tweet

2. Create once, use many

As a radio journalist, I had to write headlines for news bulletins every hour. Often the same story would appear on subsequent bulletins, but by changing the headline, I could give it a new focus. For example, a business story could appear as:

  • New factory brings £30 million investment to the North East
  • 500 new jobs come to the North East thanks to major factory investment
  • North Tyneside mayor says factory investment offers a ‘promise of prosperity’

How to re-use and re-focus content you create for your business

  • Record a video on your latest blog topic.
  • Create an infographic of a handy how to guide.
  • Offer a downloadable template to go with your time-saving tips.
  • Ask your customers and fans to vote on new designs for your logo.

There are loads of different ways you can put a new spin on a content idea.

3. Get it done

I learned very quickly that there’s no such thing as another 30 seconds in a newsroom. Content was ready for the deadline or it didn’t make it to air.

Adequate and on time always beats perfectly late. That’s been a valuable lesson throughout my writing and business career.

Adequate and on time always beats perfectly late. Click To Tweet

It’s understandable that you want the content you create or the tasks you complete for your business to be perfect. To sweat over every little detail. Change your mind a dozen times and then go back to how it was originally.

Remember, your customers, your audience only see the finished results. They can only respond to what you publish, or create. And if it takes you forever to do it, they may lose interest and move on.

You wouldn’t watch a blank TV screen would you? Or listen to static on the radio?

Set your deadline, stick to it and publish.

Additional tip: The handover

At the end of each shift in the newsroom, I would leave instructions in a handover note to the person on the next shift.

Even if you’re not handing over to anyone else in your business, think about what you can do to set yourself up for a good start each day.

At the end of each day at the writing desk, I write a to-do list for the next day’s activities. Plans may change, just like they do in the newsroom, but it’s always a good place to start.

For more on how lessons for the newsroom can help you make decisions, work to deadlines and trust in your team, check out John Young Media.

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