Tag Archives: Collaborators

Rdrs wnt lss sez AW

As king of the one-sentence paragraph, not surprisingly I agree with Ann Wylie. Shorter is better (usually) when it comes time to engage and inform stakeholders. As she noted recently:

“Size does matter. All things else being equal, your readers would rather read a short piece than a long piece.

In writing — as in eating, imbibing, reality TV viewing and so much else in life — it’s good to set limits. In other words, establish an appropriate length limit for each piece you write. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

  • The recommended length of the average press release has dropped from 400 words B.I. (before Internet) to 250 words A.I. (after Internet), according toB.L. Ochman. What have you done to respond to the obstacles of screen reading in your PR and other communications?
  • What’s the best length for a tweet? While Twitter cuts you off at 140 characters, the better limit is actually 129 characters, according usability expert Jakob Nielsen. That allows for the average 11-character attribution that gets added whenever anyone retweets your status update.
  • Sandra Oliver, a researcher at Thames Valley University in London, found that employees would read about 400 words of their CEO’s message. How long is your CEO’s message? If it’s longer than 400 words, did you put the words you don’t want employees to read after the first 400?

The right length for each piece, of course, depends — on the topic, audience, medium, vehicle, budget and other matters of judgment. But using these ideas and observations, you can establish general copy length limits.”

And if you aren’t convinced, see this post from Ann:

“How long is too long?

When it comes to paragraphs, the shorter the paragraph, the better, according to The Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack III study.

“The bottom line is that stories with shorter paragraphs got more than twice as many overall eye fixations than those with longer paragraphs,” the Poynter researchers wrote. “These data suggest that the longer-paragraph format discourages reading and that short-paragraph format overwhelmingly encourages reading.”

That’s not really surprising to anyone who’s studied the effects of paragraph length in print or online: People tend to skip long paragraphs in either medium. What is surprising is what constitutes a “short” paragraph on the Web.

The Eyetrack researchers measured this way:

  • Short paragraphs: one or two sentences long
  • Medium paragraphs: up to six sentences long
  • Long paragraphs: up to 18 sentences long

Bottom line: Online, hit return every paragraph or two.”


Online polling plays special role for coalitions

Ken DeSieghardt is one of the best strategists I know when it comes to understanding how to pull together people into coalitions and motivate them to action. 

For example, his firm, Patron Insight, is very successful in identifying, communicating with and moving to the polls those taxpayers who are most likely to support bond issues backed by school districts and municipal government.

Ken and his partner, Rick Nobles,  see a special role in online polling and surveying when it comes to existing or coalescing coalitions. They share it here:

“Online research deserves a spot in the researcher’s tool bag. But, like any tool, you have to know how, when and where to use it if the information you collect is going to be of value.

Specifically, online research provides the most helpful, credible information when it is disseminated as a secondary tool to a captive audience whose members care about the subject matter.

Note the key words in that last statement.

Disseminated: Don’t just stick a survey on your Web site and wait for the responses to roll in. Send the link to people who you want to hear from.

Secondary tool to a captive audience: Online research should never be considered primary data, because those who participate choose to do so – meaning they are already connected to a cause or an issue. It’s ideal for gathering data and seeking input from a coalition of advocates who are already in place (either formally or informally), but should never be confused for primary research of the masses to determine the general mood of the citizenry.

Care about the subject matter: Online surveys work when someone who receives it thinks, “If I respond to this, something that matters to me might change in a way that I like (or might stay the same, if that’s what I’d prefer).”

It’s also important to put a time limit on when you will accept responses, to nudge your target audience about halfway through with a message that says, “If you’ve responded, thanks; if not please do,” and to use the feature on the programs that allows you to limit responses to one per computer.

If you follow this recipe (and, of course, have a well-constructed survey instrument), you’ll get back information that clues you in to the thoughts and ideas of those in your key target audience who took the time to respond.

Like all research, it should be seen as one piece of data in the decision-making process. But, at least you can be confident that what you received was credible.”

Guest blogger guidelines

The Coalitionist welcomes the insights and experiences of other communicators involved in the business of creating, engaging and motivating networks and coalitions of people and groups.

If you’d like to share your expertise out of the goodness of your heart, the desire for another publication credit, or to win the admiration and envy of your colleagues, then send your contribution to michaeldement@hotmail.com.

Here’s a brief set of guidelines to help you make the most of this opportunity:

  • Place your contribution in the context of creating networks and coalitions that help advance personal, professional or organizational goals.
  • Offer specific, actionable counsel, strategies or tactics.
  • Keep it short and focused – ideally less than 250 words. Longer pieces will be used, however, based on the author, subject matter and entertainment value.
  • Have a point of view, and don’t be afraid to be entertaining, irreverent or cranky.
  • Use AP style.
  • Include a one- or two-sentence description of your bona fides for inclusion in your guest blog to help inform readers who may not know you personally.

That’s all it takes.  We’re all looking forward to learning from what you have to say.