Engraving of a school scene from "The District School" by Benjamin F. Taylor in 1874

Engaging Your Readers the Old School Way

The writing team here at Parthenon is made up of a bunch of rockstars. The nice part of my job is that I get to take credit for their work because I show it to clients.

And great ideas work, no matter the year, so I frequently look back at past work if I need blog or content strategy inspiration. During a normal scour of our old stuff, I uncovered the gem below that Nancy wrote back in 2006. Seriously. While I was pulling all-nighters in college, Nancy was blowing people’s minds with beautiful stories and smart marketing content.

So I stole it.

If you want to write better content — stuff people read and love — takes notes on what Nancy knew 10 years ago, and taught me again today. It’s simple, but not easy. And it works.

3 Easy Ways to Engage Readers
(Employee newsletter used as an example)

1 – Write a Good Headline

The headline is your first chance to grab your readers’ attention. Make it short and informative.

Reader will skip:
Widget Worldwide Implements New Program for Employees

Reader will be drawn to:
Cash Bonus Incentives Coming to Widget Worldwide

2 – Personalize the Story

Don’t turn your newsletter into a lecture — or worse, a term paper. In telling a story, give the reader something that they can relate to personally.

Reader will stop after:
In 2005, Widget Worldwide implemented a new incentive program to reduce call center response times that has proven widely successful. A recent survey showed that customer satisfaction has improved by 27.5 percent since the new system began. As a result, we expect to see increased sales for the next quarter, mostly concentrated in repeat business from these satisfied customers.

Reader will be curious after:
Alice Operator grabs her phone before it finishes its first ring. “Widget Worldwide” she says cheerily, keeping a smile on her face as she smacks the digital stopwatch on her desk. Her five-second response has been duly recorded in a department log, helping her call center team in the monthly Response Time Reward Program. The incentive program has led to increased customer satisfaction. That may lead to bigger sales this quarter, with employees sharing in the profit.

3 – End With a Bang

The final paragraph or sentence of an article should offer a final thought, summarize the gist of the article or call the reader to action.

Reader will forget:
The incentive program began in March. It will run indefinitely. Managers are keeping track of times and progress to see if it will continue to succeed.

Reader will remember:
This initial success has Widget Worldwide considering plans to make the Response Time Rewards program permanent. “If employees continue to respond positively to the program and we see our customer satisfaction levels rise as a result, we will keep the program going,” says President and CEO Don Bigshot.