“We wrote our first blog post before we wrote our first line of code.”
- Jon Miller, founder, Marketo

Blogging is important for every business. So we don’t just offer ghostwriting services for others. We blog for ourselves. Why? To discuss big issues such as content strategy, commissioning and ROI, as well as tactics for effective copy creation or editing, not to mention news about Collective Content.

Remember, over a third of marketers say blogs are the most valuable content type. Let us know what you’d like to read about here.

What is…

What is… evergreen content?

forest-690519_1280If you’re an avid reader, you might keep up with the hottest titles on the New York Times’ best-seller list. But you probably also have a handful of favourite classics you return to occasionally to re-read and re-enjoy.

The same holds true if you’re a movie buff. Maybe you make a point of seeing all the year’s biggest hits or Oscar nominees. But it’s likely you also have a few DVDs or downloads you never tire of re-watching.

Even in the fast-paced and ever-changing world of content marketing, you can find an analogy for such classic works: evergreen content.

Like the name suggests, this is information that doesn’t go out of season but remains appealing to your audience year in and year out. And making sure at least some of your content is evergreen is a great strategy for keeping your audience interested, engaged and growing… not just today, but every day and for the long term.

No matter what industry you work in, you should always be able to find some topics that will make for great evergreen content. Think about the fundamentals in your business. What are the essential concepts every first-time reader should understand? Are there long-established cultural standards or best practices everyone in your audience should be familiar with? What about basic dos and don’ts, or must-know industry landmarks?

Be sure to write a strong and attention-getting headline, too. Econsultancy, for example, recounts how one evergreen piece from 2013 with the appealing title, “24 beautifully-designed web dashboards that data geeks will love,” succeeded in generating between 5,000 and 10,000 pageviews every week for a year.

And don’t think of text alone when trying to come up with ideas for evergreen content. A set of insightful charts, a really well designed infographic or a slideshow or free PDF download can also be magnets for steady, long-term traffic to your Website or social media pages.

This Content Marketing Institute article – itself a good example of an evergreen piece – offers several key suggestions for ensuring your content has durable appeal. Such pieces, Al Gomez writes, should be clear, useful, comprehensive and shareable, as well as mobile-friendly so they appeal to readers across platforms. They should also be revisited from time to time to make sure the odd bit of information or helpful link hasn’t gone out of date. (And by clearly noting each update with a new time stamp, you keep your content relevant and fresh for both readers and search engines.)

It’s also important to ensure your evergreen material remains easy for your audience to find, no matter how long ago it was first published. The Search Engine Journal recommends several ways in which you can do this: Post prominent ‘Start here’ links to your top evergreen posts, list them in an easy-to-find resource guide, identify them as ‘top posts’ on your blog or even re-publish them occasionally to bring them back to new readers’ attention.

“From a blog management standpoint, evergreen content is more effective than date-oriented content, as it can be written once and enjoyed by many different readers over time,” the Search Engine Journal notes. “At the same time, evergreen content benefits readers by providing basic information that’s crucial to understanding and enjoying other articles posted to the site.”

By now, the benefits of evergreen content should be clear. If you don’t yet have a strategy for producing such content on a regular basis, you should consider starting one soon so you can start reaping those benefits yourself.

Finally, we couldn’t miss this opportunity to point you in the direction of one of our own evergreen posts from 2012.

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Need a corporate blog but don’t have the time or editorial expertise? Try Speech-to-blog, a new corporate blogging service from Collective Content.



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What is… off the record?

photo credit: MichaelMKenny <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57870560@N03/5399118081">Confidential</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>To writers and other types of content producers today, the Woodward-Bernstein days of Watergate journalism might as well be another geological epoch deep in the past. With today’s 24/7 news cycles, social media and thousands of independent bloggers, past notions about reportage seem quaint, if not completely extinct.

This was once a conversation mainly held by journalists and their editors. But in an age of brand content, increasing numbers of organisations need to master the concepts and practice of reporting.

However, some concepts about writing – especially when including the words of others – are evergreen. Paramount among these is the concept of trust: the people whom you speak with and/or write about should be able to trust that you will present their views and comments fairly and accurately. And if you agree not to make their private comments to you public, they should be able to trust in that as well.

Your audience, meanwhile, should be able to trust that your writing and sourcing is as transparent as possible. That is, if you’re going to write that Company X is about to unveil a major reorganisation with a shift to completely new products, services and markets, you need to make clear who that information has come from and why it’s reliable. Ideally, that means identifying your source by name and title.

Sometimes, though, your sources might not want to speak ‘on the record’. According to the Associated Press statement on its news values and principles, on the record means: “The information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name.”

So what are the alternatives to ‘on the record’? The obvious counterpart is ‘off the record’, which – as you’d expect – means: “The information cannot be used for publication.”

Because of a writer’s obligations to both sources and readers, however, off-the-record conversations should be limited to only a few situations. (And comments made on social media need never apply.) The same holds true for two similar conditions: ‘on background’ and ‘not for attribution’.

“These days many interviewees think ‘off the record’ is largely synonymous with ‘on background’ or ‘not for attribution’,” notes New York University’s Department of Journalism. “There is so much murkiness about what ‘off the record’ means that it is essential that the reporter and source agree on a definition before beginning an ‘off the record’ portion of an interview”.

‘On background’, according to the AP, generally applies to a conversation in which sources are OK with you using the information they provide but they don’t want to be named (although, for example, it might be all right to refer to someone as ‘a top official in such-and-such office’). ‘Not for attribution’ – sometimes also called ‘deep background’ – means you can use the information but cannot identify your source in any way.

Finally, there’s one more important thing to remember when having a conversation under any of the above conditions: both you and your source need to agree on the specific conditions before your interview, not during or after. In that way, you both clearly understand – and should honour – the ground rules up front, with no room for misunderstanding, bad feelings or anger after the fact.

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Download our exclusive research and report ‘PR’s acceptance of brand content uneven’.

Read Further

What is… fair use?

photo credit: Tim Gouw via Unsplash (licence)

photo credit: Tim Gouw via Unsplash (licence)

Somewhere between copyright, which protects writers’ and artists’ rights to their works, and public domain, which allows free use of non-copyrighted material, lies a hard-to-define – but important – concept called ‘fair use’.

In the US, fair use is defined by the government’s Copyright Office as “a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances”. (The concept is known as ‘fair dealing’ in the UK.) What that means is that, depending on what you’re using it for, it’s OK to include a limited amount of someone else’s copyrighted material in your own creation.

Two parts of that description are key: ‘what you’re using it for’ and ‘a limited amount’.

In general, quoting a part of someone else’s copyrighted work will be considered fair use in the US if it’s for non-profit, educational purposes or done in a ‘transformative’ way… that is, you’re citing another’s work to add new contexts or insights of your own. Your quotation will also likely be deemed fair use if you’re using just a small portion of another’s creation, and not affecting the potential market for or value of the original piece.

If all of that seems a little vague, it’s meant to be. As the Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright & Fair Use site explains: “There are no hard-and-fast rules, only general rules and varied court decisions, because the judges and lawmakers who created the fair use exception did not want to limit its definition. Like free speech, they wanted it to have an expansive meaning that could be open to interpretation.”

According to the Stanford site, most examples of fair use fall into one of two categories: commentary/criticism or parody. The first category, it says, would include uses like “quoting a few lines from a Bob Dylan song in a music review” or “summarising and quoting from a medical article on prostate cancer in a news report”. For the second category, think of parody works like Weird Al Yankovic’s ‘Canadian Idiot’, his musical take on Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’, or the Simpsons version of Andy Warhol’s famous ‘Marilyn Diptych’.

It’s worth noting at this point that, contrary to what some people might believe, there is no specific number of words given to define fair use of written content. While US law is more likely to look kindly on the quotation of a few dozen copyrighted words over the quotation of several thousand, the Copyright Office states that “some courts have found use of an entire work to be fair under certain circumstances”.

Defining fair use in court, in other words, is a bit like defining art: judges know it when they see it.

It’s the same in the UK, where the government’s Intellectual Property Office has this to say: “There is no statutory definition of fair dealing – it will always be a matter of fact, degree and impression in each case.”

However, British law starts its determination from a slightly different position than do courts in the US, and is a bit more restrictive. It says fair dealing applies primarily for non-commercial research or private study, although it also allows some copyright exceptions for reviews, reporting, teaching and parody. While it doesn’t require people to seek the original creator’s permission, it does expect anyone quoting copyrighted content to “sufficiently acknowledge” the original creator’s work. As in the US, UK law also takes into account whether the use of copyrighted materials could affect the market for the original work. Where the US might allow fair use even in the case of unpublished works, however, the UK does not.

To see what types of uses the courts have considered fair or not, see some of the cases that have been decided in the US and the UK.

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Contact us

Contact us to find out how we can help you:

Email:  tony.hallett@collectivecontent.co.uk

Twitter:  @ColContent

Facebook: facebook.com/CollectiveContent

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/collective-content

Phone:  0800 292 2826