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The 4 am Report

Mar 19, 2020

What a difference a week makes. Everything seems slightly surreal, but I can tell you it most certainly is real life, as I watch my child bicycle in circles on the driveway in the middle of a school-day.

For the next few months at least, with the spread of the Covid-19 virus, we are all facing uncertain times.

So, we waffled a bit about releasing this episode of the 4 AM Report. Clearly, asking people right now what keeps them up at night is a loaded question.

But then we all talked - as a team - brought our collective years of experience together, and ultimately decided this: Yes, things are upside down right now. Yes, people are more anxious than ever.

But many of us – and YOU - in the digital space are still trying to serve clients and help peers who might need crisis communications advice.

And we felt with ALL sincerity that this week’s episode of the 4 AM Report – which focuses on writing, writing, writing – might actually be of some help to people right now.

Plus, if nothing else, one of our guests sings a Glen Campbell song. What the heck does Glen Campbell have to do with writing for the digital space? You’ll have to tune in to find out. 

Take a break. Have a listen and a laugh, because we do get a little silly. And I think we all need to allow ourselves some laughter at the moment.

And if you prefer a sampling of what writing tips and tricks we share, read on.



Writing for the User Experience (UX)

“A few years ago, I set myself a little goal - I wanted to write websites which had under two under 2000 words in it in total, meaning other than the blog posts and content sections, which gets, you know, regularly updated with larger pieces. A website should actually have very little content is my general thinking. I think time has passed where you're told, sort of long drawn out explanations of how your product or service, or whatever it was, worked and how it benefited the universe - that kind of thing - nobody wants that now anymore. So, to my mind, there's a huge element of visual that's come into writing to make it user friendly. How would this fit into a box? Is this more than eight words? Would it get cut off in the email, subject headlines, those kinds of things.”


“I was trained to write for media like a PR background. So, I followed the CP style book, you had to write out the numbers one to nine in word form, and then you'd start at the digit 10 and go up like, there's all these rules, right? You'd have to write this way, or you would get zero on projects. But I know now that I write digitally, it seems like all the rules have kind of gone out the window. It's kind of you can invent your own, you can do things your own way.”

“I would say like when you're writing, you need to have fun with it, as well. So, as you're writing, start thinking about how you can break a sentence up how you can keep it simple and as clear as possible and just break the rules throughout - the grammar Nazi rules that you used to follow. You know, you can’t start a sentence with AND, and you can't start a sentence with BUT, you can't do this. You can do that. You can actually do anything! As long as it's interesting and engaging, and it actually means something, at the end of the day, you know, you're writing to a person, how would you talk to them?

“I think of it as just like punching almost. Short. Sharp. Shocked. Run on sentences just drive me crazy. You know, you can be very impactful with your writing by just getting like, you know, four or five really powerful words, and then cut that sentence off. I mean, as long as it works, you don't, don't try and force it. But I think there's something very powerful about short, impactful writing.” 

Writing What You DON’T Know! 

“What I usually do is I try and approach it as if I'm writing a story. So, I'll go out and read as many stories on that subject that I can manage in the time frame that I allocate myself, researching other people's content to see what's going on in that space. I'll go read it, make some notes, some key highlights, and then I'll start expanding on those points. And what I find really helps me as well is to just write like, sometimes you get stuck when you're trying to think of ‘What am I going to say and how am I going to make it sound good?’ like first I just write whatever is off the top of my head, I just write as much as I possibly can. And then I go back later, and I fix it or add some research or some stats to support that view.”

“I may be bored to tears – but not intimidated. Hemingway said, write drunk, edit sober. (laughter) Also, read!! Like, read everything, like Melissa was saying, read, read, read, just read for your own personal benefit. I read everything. I read science stuff, I read fictional history, I read real history. And then all of a sudden you're writing an article about some horrible, you know ‘how the oil goes through the car's engine or something’ And, and then all of a sudden you go, ‘oh my god, I remember reading this crazy story about how dinosaurs yada yada..” and you can bring that into this article, which otherwise would be dry as chips. And you've somehow turned it a little bit more interesting, and you’re kind of having a little fun with it without taking away from the seriousness and the and the impact of what you're trying to do.”

“By the way, can I call you out and say angry is actually factual?”

LOL Wait. Who’s angry? And why? 

What books are we all reading? And who sang Glen Campbell? There’s much more available – so listen to the entire episode!

About LindsayLindsay Bell

• Shared a smoke with Robbie Robertson. 
• Ditched 28 years in TO for life in her East Coast homeland.
• Wife/Mom/Music Fanatic

A seasoned writer, editor, and content marketing consultant, Lindsay is a former television producer (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) with over 20 years of production experience who brought her knack for creating audience responsive content to the digital space in 2010.

She focuses on digital content and editorial strategy, helping organizations improve upon and expand their digital footprint, as well as driving increased lead generation through storytelling. 

Her writing resume includes some of the top thought leaders and publications in the digital space, in both Canada and the United States. 
About Melissa
After working in the fields of advertising and journalism for the past 12 years, Melissa brings a holistic writing ability that fits digital content like a glove. She can write about anything – from industrial pipes and pumps, to academics, to robots. Research, patterning, and clear articulation are her key skills, one that makes the conversion rates on her writing some of the highest in the industry. An intrepid traveller, Melissa’s idea of the perfect life is writing while she travels. She is passionate about sustainability and eco-travel and is a permaculture facilitator for Food & Trees for Africa, running food gardening and tree planting workshops for disadvantaged schools and communities.