Why Are You Reading This?

May 15, 2019

News Flash: There is a lot of written content on the web. That means it is challenging to grab a reader’s attention and even more difficult to hold it. One study, from way back in 2014, found online readers generally click away after 15 seconds. Five years and billions of smartphones later, it’s probably closer to 12 or 11 seconds.

That’s why when creating PR or marketing content, we constantly need to consider the reader first. Certainly, companies have their own goals for every content piece they create, but the reader’s experience, what’s meaningful to them and their goals for reading your content must be the first priority.

Here’s how to grab a reader’s attention in written content and hold it to the last word.

Identify your reader

This is the most important question. Whether crafting a thought leadership article, email blast or white paper, it needs to be laser-focused on who the reader is because as soon as they sense a piece of content isn’t relevant to them, they’ll delete, click or scroll away to something else. It’s a tougher question than it appears. If you set your sights too narrow, you risk alienating a lot of prospects; if you aim too broad, you risk being ignored by everybody.

Headline and lead paragraphs are the most important

What did you think of the headline for this blog post? Did it pique your curiosity? If so, good, because that’s what headlines need to do. Readers typically decide to continue an article after the headline and first few lines, so these two introductory elements are perhaps the most important parts of the content in most writing.

Style matters

The type of content will often dictate what style you use for your headline and lead as well as for other writing choices. A blog post, like the one you’re reading, allows for a little more causal headline, lead and language, but regardless of the style, it needs to be relevant and easy to read. Longer pieces, like white papers, should also move the reader along, even if they are written in a more formal style.

Tell the reader why they should stick with you

There are many ways in those lead paragraphs to encourage the reader to keep reading. Options include presenting a common, pressing problem that they want to solve, asking a provocative question that they will want to answer, or enticing them with ROI. For example, in B2B (and even in B2C) dollar signs always grab readers’ attention. Obviously, if the content has no financial element, then that’s not feasible, but sharing quantifiable numbers automatically establishes interest and often relevance in the reader.

Make every paragraph meaningful

Keep the reader engaged through the entire content piece by putting information in every paragraph that they care about or include actionable data they can begin applying today. The overriding goal of PR and marketing content is, of course, to attract prospects, but writing about only your solution is a turn-off, even presented in a vendor-neutral fashion.

One size does not fit all

I was going to title this subhead: “keep it short,” but one study shows that a 1,600-word length for most pieces is ideal, even for blog posts. Other research contradicts that finding. For a white paper, eBook or byline, that length or longer seems appropriate, but with blog posts, we say keep them shorter and then drive the reader to download the longer content piece.

What nearly all the research says, however, is if it is quality content, the reader will stick with it, regardless of length. In healthcare B2B PR, which is where we at Amendola Communications live, quality content means relevance to the reader, their job or their business. Stay on that track and you’ll have them reading to the last word, which is what I hope you’re doing right now.








Morgan Lewis

Morgan Lewis is an award-winning business and healthcare writer that brings 20 years of journalism and PR writing experience, focused almost exclusively on business and healthcare. Most recently, Lewis was a writer at MERGE Atlanta (formerly Dodge Communications), where he wrote thought leadership articles, white papers, case studies, blog posts, website copy and other pieces of PR and marketing content for dozens of healthcare and healthcare IT clients over four years. Prior to that, he was an independent writer and editor focused on healthcare and health IT, creating content for clients that appear in national publications and websites. Lewis started his writing career at a daily newspaper and then business publications in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area, where he won eight feature writing awards from Cleveland regional and state journalism organizations. Lewis then joined Medical Economics magazine, the leading business resource for primary care physicians, where he won three writing awards from the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (ASHPE), including two Gold Awards. He earned a bachelor's degree in English-Journalism from Miami University of Ohio.