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Content has been king for a very long time, and that doesn’t look like it will be changing anytime soon. And that’s all well and good if you’re an A+ writer, but what happens if you want to pack your business blog full of great content when you think you suck at writing?

Plenty of business owners find themselves feeling frustrated with their writing abilities – either because they think the quality of their writing is poor or they simply hate the thought of sitting down and writing.

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to create great content – even if you think you’re a terrible writer. Here are four of them to get you started:

Tell a Story

Great written content isn’t so much about volume, amazing grammar, or technical expertise. It’s about connecting with the reader. So, sit back and try to tell a story that will engage one of your customers. Pretend it was just you and your ideal customer at a table. What story would you tell to draw them in?

Once you have your story, start writing. Don’t worry about editing, grammar, layout, or any of that fancy stuff. Great content is all about the heart of the writing. If you tell a great story about a time your product or service helped someone, or about why your product or service is important to your consumers, you’ll be creating great content without even knowing it.

If you struggle with editing, spelling, or grammar, have an administrative person clean up your writing for you. The real meat of it, the story itself, is what will engage people and help them connect with your company. Anybody with a red pen can do the clean-up you need, but it’s the real meat of the story you’re creating that’s important.

Try Video

“Content” doesn’t have to mean dozens of blog posts. If the thought of writing article after article leaves you wishing for something less torturous, try producing a video series for your blog or YouTube channel instead. According to Forrester Research, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. That’s a lot of writing you can make up by making the switch to video.

If you’re looking for video ideas, consider a “top tips” video series for customers of your industry, or a walk through video series of the products you sell. You can also do behind-the-scene videos of your company office, introducing viewers to the real people who create the products or services you sell. All of these types of videos are engaging and will help create relationships between your brand and your followers – and that’s the goal of great content, no matter what form it takes.

Create a Podcast

Podcasting is a great outlet for leaders who want to share their ideas but don’t enjoy writing. A verbal medium, podcasting allows you to put out content on a regular basis without having to worry about spelling or Oxford commas. That said, just like a blog or other written content, this should be a consistent outlet for you and your team – you can’t abandon it after three episodes unless you want to hurt your brand.

Podcasts can be as long or short as you want, but they generally aren’t the best medium for long-form reports or presentations. The best podcast episodes are either short pieces where you share some specific information, or interviews that help people gain insight into your industry and product offerings. You can also use podcasts to highlight customer testimonials (as long as you do it in a manner that’s informative – not overly self-promotional).

Creating a podcast can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. Recording the audio is easily accomplished on most computer mics, but you can then dress it up with a custom introduction, podcast artwork, and other features. If your series is successful enough, you may even attract sponsors who pay to have their brand names mentioned in your episodes.

However far you decide to take things, though, the key to remember is that podcasting not only allows you to connect with audience members on a personal level, it’s a great way to create engaging, informative content without writing a single word.

Outsource or Hire

If you feel that your writing skills aren’t up to par, remember you don’t have to be the one doing the writing in the first place! You can always enlist other people within your company to do the writing for you. In fact, if you’re a business owner, that might be the best use of your time. That way, your writers can focus on their areas of expertise, and you can focus on yours – making your company the best it can be.

If hiring internally doesn’t make sense for you or your organization, consider outsourcing. Quality freelancers will dig into your industry, your business model, your products and your services – learning everything they need to know in order to deliver relevant content.

You may even be able to find a writer that’s specialized in your field before, which will enable him or her to provide in-depth content that readers will think comes directly from you. Searching Google or LinkedIn for writers who fit the bill can be a great way to start, but if nothing comes up, job boards such as ProBlogger, Media Bistro, or Online Writing Jobs are also great places to post opportunities.

When you hire someone to write content for you, make sure you communicate all of your expectations clearly – especially about deadlines, pay rates, and communication if work is delayed. Having these conversations ahead of time will prevent future challenges down the road and will ensure the content you receives meets your expectations (or, alternatively, that you have an option for revising content that doesn’t).

Final Thoughts

Being a terrible writer is no excuse for not creating content. In today’s crowded digital environment, it’s an absolute must, so consider storytelling, videos, podcasts, or outsourcing as viable options for your content creation needs. However you create it, your content is the story your brand shares with the world. Tell it!

Featured Image via Shutterstock

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You’re Probably Terrible At Spotting Faked Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words. You have to see it to believe it. Pics or it didn’t happen. The trust we put into visual cues is all but encoded into our language. But what happens when the visual information itself is a lie? How effective are we at teasing out fact from optical fiction? Not very, according to a recent study in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.

The study found that people could detect a false image only 60 percent of the time. And even when they knew an image was false, study subjects could only identify what was wrong with it 45 percent of the time.

The results matter because, as the study’s authors note, we live in a world where images are routinely altered. A generation ago, convincingly manipulating photos was difficult and labor intensive—the domain of experts. These days, with the rise of digital photography and cheap editing software, anyone with a bit of time and access to a computer can probably make something reasonably convincing. This means way more fun visual gags on Twitter, yes, but it can also shift our perception of reality—leading us to believe things that aren’t true.

Copious air brushing in the fashion industry, for example, has been well documented in its ability to alter our perception of what the typical human body looks like—sweat, stretch marks, pores and all. More recently, false images have become political memes, spreading disinformation (malevolently or otherwise).

A widely-shared, altered image of President Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. The photo on the left is the real photograph. The one on the right has been altered to be less flattering. unknown/C. Allergri/Getty Images

This digitally altered image purports to be President Obama’s Columbia student ID, used to give credence to the unsubstantiated belief that the former president was not born in the United States. The card fails the sniff test: Obama attended Columbia in 1981, and ID’s with barcodes weren’t issued at the university until over a decade later. Unknown

The study, led by University of Warwick psychology researcher Sophie Nightingale, relied on an online test. The researchers started with 10 real (in other words, not manipulated) pictures from Google Images. Six of them were subjected to five different forms of data manipulation each—some producing physically possible images, some staying within the bounds of reason—to create an additional 30. These manipulations included air brushing, the introduction or subtraction of people or objects, changes in lighting, and changes in landscape geography. Participants, 707 in all, were each shown 10 random images—always including all five manipulation types and all five original images, but never a repeat of the same type of manipulation or base image—and asked to determine their authenticity. If you’re curious, you can take the test yourself here.

Below is one of the altered images—you can toggle back and forth with the original. Can you spot the difference? We’ll explain at the end of the post.

Participants were best at figuring out that a photo had been manipulated if something about the resulting image was physically implausible (geometric inconsistencies, shadow inconsistencies, or something implausible added to the picture, for example). But even then, subjects weren’t necessarily great at specifying what was wrong. It was as if those sorts of pictures triggered some spidey sense, but viewers still had a hard time figuring out what was making it tingle.

The study authors aren’t entirely sure why humans seem to be so shoddy at sussing out fact from fiction. In the paper, they speculate that perhaps we have the visual shortcuts that make our brains so speedy to blame: most of us understand how a shadow should fall, for example, but our brains aren’t designed to latch onto the position of a shadow when we look at an image. We gloss over a lot of what we see so that our brains can more quickly process the information that seems most important. In the conclusion of the paper, the study authors don’t sound entirely optimistic about the prospect of training individuals to be more discerning, but they point out that making a more manual effort of taking the image in might help.

“Future research might also investigate potential ways to improve people’s ability to spot manipulated photos. However, our findings suggest that this is not going to be a straightforward task,” they write. “We did not find any strong evidence to suggest there are individual factors that improve people’s ability to detect or locate manipulations. That said, our findings do highlight various possibilities that warrant further consideration, such as training people to make better use of the physical laws of the world, varying how long people have to judge the veracity of a photo, and encouraging a more careful and considered approach to detecting manipulations. What our findings have shown is that a more careful search of a scene, at the very least, may encourage people to be skeptical about the veracity of photos.”

In other words, don’t just look at a picture expecting it to be real. Look for things that might suggest it’s not. Of course, that has its potential downsides. Going into every interaction with a digital photo under the presumption that it’s fake-until-proven-real makes it easier to discount evidence that doesn’t support your personal beliefs.

“Increased skepticism is not perfect,” the study adds, “because it comes with an associated cost: a loss of faith in authentic photos.”

The whole prospect becomes even more chilling when you realize that the same digital manipulations can tweak video, too. Many of these alterations reveal themselves with a little digging, since the data contained in a digital photo usually leaves clues as to whether or not the file has been modified. But most of us don’t have hours to spend poring over viral images to figure out if they’re real.

“Images have a powerful influence on our memories,” study co-author Derrick Watson said in a statement. “If people can’t differentiate between real and fake details in photos, manipulations could frequently alter what we believe and remember.”

So take heed: Increasingly, the fact that you see it doesn’t mean you should believe it.

To see the difference, look at the tree line. This photo was provided courtesy of Sophie Nightingale, Cognitive Research, 2023

I’m No Expert … Yet: Tackling Difficult Topics As A Content Writer

I’m No Expert … Yet: Tackling Difficult Topics as a Content Writer Fiona O’Connor

Senior Content Marketing Manager

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As an early-career B2B content marketer and writer, I’ve spent many hours examining research reports, listening to expert panels, and generally staying on top on MarTech industry news. I’m constantly learning and am nowhere near being an expert.

We all have to start somewhere. And at this early stage, the challenge is to develop a complete understanding of a topic quickly, so I can get to developing content and sharing it with my audience.

So, what do I do when I need to get up-to-speed on a topic fast? Here’s a few tried-and-true strategies I use to create valuable, insightful content, even as a novice.

#1 – Use Your Network as Guides

The digital world is an endless resource and it can be overwhelming if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Rather than getting lost in the many rabbit holes of the internet, ask a few colleagues (both peers and the more experienced) what sources they rely on for industry insights. This could be traditional sources, like publications or analysts, or more modern ones, like a LinkedIn personality. They might even recommend a related report or article specific to the topic you’re writing about.

#2 – Interview an Expert Friend

Just because you need to write about a topic, doesn’t mean you have to have to come up with everything on your own. Find an expert on the subject matter to help provide context in a 30-minute conversation. If you already have a content concept in mind, consider preparing specific questions to ask. Or, if you’re still working out the angle, let the conversation be free flowing, which will allow themes or key points bubble up to the surface and spark ideas for new content. If your expert is comfortable with it, record your conversation. Journalists record interviews for a reason – even if you’re a fast typist, you’ll have pieces you want to revisit later. Personally, I find that recording takes the pressure off, so I can better engage in and absorb the conversation.

#3 – Quiz Yourself

A new method I’ve begun to use to better internalize new information is to discuss it with a peer, manager or friend. This is most effective once you’ve completed some general research and have a sense of what the story arc will be. In practice, this looks something like an informal discussion (think about how you’d explain the topic to a friend or family member). Don’t get bogged down in every last detail. Instead, touch upon the key points you’re trying to communicate in the content. Try to talk through it without any notes or outlines in front of you. It may feel awkward at first but will help you internalize the topic quickly. Your listening partner can also flag areas that may be disjointed or unclear.

There’s no true replacement for the time and experience experts have collected in their back pocket. But when it comes to writing about a topic, you don’t always need to be an expert. If you can develop a comprehensive understanding on a subject, you can clearly interpret and discuss it in your writing and with your audience.

B2B content, content creation, content marketing

If Climate Change Is Impacting Your Desire To Have Kids, You’re Not Alone

We already know that climate change causes bounds of anxiety in some of today’s youth, but a new preprint in The Lancet also brings up a specific type of anxiety—whether or not to have kids amid some horrific climate change-induced disasters. 

“I meet a lot of young girls who ask whether it’s still OK to have children,” 25-year-old climate activist Luisa Neubauer told the Guardian. “It’s a simple question, yet it tells so much about the climate reality we are living in.”

Why young people may be hesitant to have kids 

According to this new research, which was led by psychologists from the University of Bath and still has to go through peer review, 40 percent of the 10,000 young people included in an international survey said they were hesitant to have kids in the future. This could be for one of a few reasons, says Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, an associate professor of environmental studies at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, who was not involved in the new study but has done research on eco-reproductive concerns—the first of which is “fears or concerns that one’s child will not have a good life.”

Considering the state of the planet right now, with increasingly dangerous weather and pollution, this isn’t an irrational fear. “People feel rightly scared that we aren’t on the right track,” says Kimberly Nicholas, an associate professor of sustainability science at Lund University in Sweden who was not involved in the new study. “Governments aren’t upholding their promises to reduce emissions fast enough.” In 2023, Schneider-Mayerson published a paper that showed that in 600 surveyed people between the ages of 27 to 45, 96 percent were either “very” or “extremely concerned” about how their kids would fare in a future marred by climate change. 

[Related: Kids are suffering from climate anxiety. It’s time for adults to do something.]

Another reason, Schneider-Mayerson says, is the carbon footprint of raising a baby, which can be surprisingly significant. Nicholas and colleague Seth Wyne’s 2023 paper demonstrated how having a child in a developed country totals around 58.6 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year—the biggest long-term impact a person can make on the Earth’s climate. “Environmentalists have taken that very seriously and want to do everything they can, and so some of them are having smaller families or not having children at all,” Schneider-Mayerson adds.

Not everyone is ditching parenthood

On the flip side of the coin, some adults that care about climate change argue that it’s essential to keep having children, Schneider-Mayerson says. Having kids may give individuals a stronger reason to stay on top of the crisis because they have a personal stake in the future. 

“The focus tends to be a lot more on worrying about a child having a hard life or a big carbon footprint,” Schneider-Mayerson says. “But I found that parents were concerned about investment in environmental politics. People say, ‘If I choose not to have kids, I don’t have a reason to care about the future, so I’m going to have kids to maintain this care about the future.’”

Another, slightly cynical reason Schneider-Mayerson mentions is that someone has to raise the next generation of environmentalists. Parents who ignore or deny the existence of climate change probably aren’t addressing it with their families. For some climate scientists and activists, that’s a little scary considering how many of their peers aren’t having kids, he says.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that your kids will turn out to be warriors for the planet—conservative parents sometimes end up raising radical leftist kids and vice versa, Schneider-Mayerson explains. Having kids in the hopes they’ll end up changing the fate of the planet is perhaps not the best thing to hinge a life-changing decision on.

So, what’s the right decision here?

At the end of the day, climate change can be part of your child-having discussion, but don’t let it be the only one. “I think the personal decision about having kids comes down to values,” Nicholas says. 

[Related: It’s about time adults start rising up against climate change.]

Besides, if you’re stressing about the potential carbon footprint of your offspring, there are ways to keep lowering it even as your family grows: Ditching your car, flying less, and eating meat on limited days of the week are three big changes you can make right now to slash your personal emissions. Some parents, such as Keya Chatterjee, now the Executive Director of the US Climate Action Network, take it even further by installing solar panels on their homes and buying baby products in bulk.

“It’s a human right to decide whether or not you want a child,” Nicholas says. “It’s not a human right to drive an SUV or fly in planes.”

On the other hand, no one should feel forced into being a parent. Wanting to have kids or not is a deeply personal decision, so follow your gut if you feel strongly one way or the other.

“There are so many factors involved, even for people whose number one concern is climate change,” says Schneider-Mayerson. “There’s still going to be nine or ten other factors for them and things that they aren’t even conscious of.”

Correction: This post originally credited the survey of 600 people between the ages of 27 to 45, 96 percent were either “very” or “extremely concerned” about children in the future of climate change to Kimberly Nicholas, but the study was actually done by Matthew Schneider-Mayerson.

Know Who Is Calling Even If Iphone Is Silent With Custom Vibration Alerts

Have you ever wished there was a way to know who was sending you a text or giving you a phone call when your iPhone is on silent mode, resting in your pocket or purse? You hear the buzz, but by default you’ll have no way to differentiate that from anyone else.

It turns out there is a way to determine who is calling while the iPhone is on silent, and that’s achieved by creating and setting custom vibration alerts for contacts in a similar way as you can set different ringtones or text tones for contacts.

How to Set a Custom Vibration Alert for Individual Contacts on iPhone

Here is how you can set a custom vibration alert for contacts on iPhone:

Open Contacts or the Phone app, and select a contact you wish to create a custom vibration alert for

Tap “Edit” then locate the same section where you select unique ringtones and text tones, but tap “Vibration” instead

Scroll through and choose a pre-selected vibrating sequence and choose one

Once a vibration is selected, you’ll ‘feel’ a preview of it and it’ll be set as the default.

If you wish, go back and set another custom vibration for both the ringtone and text tone.

It can be helpful to choose custom vibrations that feel similar, maybe one longer than the other, for the same contact. You can also create a custom unique vibration alert for a contact which we’ll discuss next.

How to Create Unique Vibration Alerts for Contacts on iPhone

Another option is to create completely unique vibrations, this makes the vibration alert completely unique to a contact and you can create your own vibration patterns this way for a contact. Here’s how it works:

Tap “Record” then tap on the screen in a pattern, each tap corresponds to a brief vibration, tapping and holding causes a longer vibration

Tap “Stop” then “Play” to see how it feels

When satisfied, choose “Save” and name the custom vibration

Creating your own vibrations is kind of fun, the screen turns into an interactive vibrating pool of sorts complete with ripples, demonstrating how long each vibration lasts.

Just as before, saving and setting a custom vibration will be automatically set as the new default for that contact.

Repeat the process for other contacts, setting unique vibrations for each user. Technically you can create a new vibration alert for every individual in a contacts list, but it’s really best used in moderation for a few important people or numbers that you want to have a unique alert for. Think of it as something similar to the VIP Mail alert tone trick, except for it’s completely tactile and it lets you know who is contacting you by feel alone.

We’ve covered similar tips with the vibration engine before in order to have completely silent texting and also as part of a way to ignore certain callers by combining a silent ringer with no vibration at all.

Does this work on older iPhones too?

Yes! If you’re using a much older iOS version the process is the same but the appearance of the iPhone may look a bit different.

For posterity, here are some older screenshots of the process to create custom vibrating ringtones on iPhones:

Creating a custom vibration:

Saving the custom vibration:

Related

70 Tips For Creating Great Content For Your Website

Many start-up businesses, and even established business owners who’ve decided it’s time their business had a professional web presence, don’t know where to start when it comes to planning their website. There are so many things to consider, and so many choices. Just getting the design and  layout of the website can be intimidating. Then you have to determine what will be on the site. It can be mind-boggling.

Sometimes, by the time you get to the content portion of the site, your brain is fried from trying to make the other decisions. When you begin to think about the content, you’re probably asking yourself, “What do I write about” or “Where do I start?” If so, you’ve come to the right place. You only have one chance to make that first impression. If you take your content seriously then your audience will too. You want your audience to visit your site over and over again. If you provide quality content for them time and time again, they will keep returning to your site.

Getting started is the most important step. If you know how to write, you are already 95% of the way there. You don’t need to be an English major to understand any of the tips in this book either. It is written in plain English  that everyone can understand.

Writing for the internet requires different skills to those covered in most school writing lessons. If you’ve never been much of a writer, starting writing as an adult may seem difficult. The upside is that as an adult you have more experience, skills, and knowledge that you can share with your readers. This knowledge, skills and experience can be valuable to you and to others. Writing an article, series of articles, or blog posts can be an excellent way to share what you know and what you’ve experienced with your audience.

While the writing you need for your site can be outsourced to professionals, it is very possible, and definitely more personal, for you to do it yourself.

That’s what the tips in this book can help you do. Professional content writers are exactly that, professional. They take their jobs seriously. When a professional writer has been provided with instructions from a client, they read them carefully to get an understanding of what is required. The problem with outsourcing to a professional is they don’t know what you know or haven’t experienced the things that you have. They don’t know how you feel. In other words, they don’t have your heart. They can write in the way you instruct them, but they can’t write with your heart. They can give information, but they can’t give a reader a sense of who you are. They can’t share your personal experiences with the same passion you feel.

Writing your own content can also be a very rewarding experience. It can help you make a personal connection with your readers. It gives them a sense of who you are, because you will be sharing your knowledge, thoughts, and feelings in everything you write. Writing content that connects to your readers is what you want to do.

If you’ve never written anything for a website before, don’t worry. You’re not alone. That’s why you’re reading this book. The information here will help you create that quality content. For your convenience, the book is sectioned into the four main content areas: articles, blog posts, books, and videos. Together, there are 70 great tips to give your website the “WOW” factor.

Who is this course for:

Whether you are already writing a blog or have a website up and running in this short course you will gain new knowledge and understanding of what it takes to publish great content on the internet.

Goals

You will gain an understanding of the steps you must follow to write great content.

I will give you tips on writing web articles

I will get you started on writing blog content that gets noticed

And we will even go over tips on creating video for your web or other applications such as YouTube

Prerequisites

You just need an understanding of and access to any word processing software.

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