Clients today typically want a multimedia campaign that includes not only print ads, white papers and product briefs but Webinars and podcasts.  "Spoken" content keeps the customer educated, involved, and aware of the client’s brand.

But writing for the ear, rather than for the eye, requires some special tweaks.  I first learned these back in the 1970s, writing for the Associated Press "broadcast wire" condensing stories which had been written for newspapers into an understandable three to six sentences for television and radio use.  Many of the same rules can help get your points across in Webinars and podcasts.

Keep it short.  The ear tires more easily than the eye.  So does the poor person who must say what you wrote.  Read your script aloud.  If you’re taking more than one or two breaths per sentence, those sentences are probably too long.

Stay away from improper nouns such as "it" and "he." When they are listening, people can’t scan back to the beginning of the paragraph to remind themselves of what "it" or "they" are.  Repeat your product name rather than saying "it" and repeat the name of a person rather than saying "he."

Use the active tense!  This is even more important in spoken than in written content because, again, the ear cannot scan forward or backward for context the way the eye can. The active tense is also more interesting because it’s closer to genuine speech and describes someone or something taking action.  Compare the active tense "The Webinator instantly creates compelling Web pages…" with the passive tense "Compelling Web pages can be created with the Webinator…"

Get Conversational!  Stop the narrative flow every now and then to remind the audience where you’ve been and where you’re going with your presentation. "We began by talking about virtualization at the microprocessor level, and what it takes to manage such processor-level virtualization.  Now, will take it up a level and talk about application virtualization.  Application virtualization means…"

Get a beer.  Imagine describing the content of your Webinar or podcast to a friend in a bar, at a barbecue or at the beach.  You’d probably use simple, straightforward language, real-world images and skip the jargon.  As much as possible, try to match this "real-world" tone in any marketing content you write for the ear.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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