Category Archives: Content Strategy & Creation

8,000 Easy Steps to Fix Your God-Awful Headlines

Posted on: December 2nd, 2014 by Bill McRae No Comments

In the glory days of print journalism, reporters and feature writers wrote stories, but headline writers wrote headlines: No one single person was expected to write both because they required different skill sets.

Few of us writers now have the luxury of a headline writer, yet arguably the right headline is more important today than ever. With so much information on multiple screens vying for our attention all at once, an attention-catching headline can make the difference between being click bait and click repellent. Writing a catchy, attention-grabbing headline is critical for getting eyballs on your blog post or other social media content.

I recently came across an article that explores the science of writing successful, must-click headlines for social media. For The Dark Science of Naming Your Post: Based on Studying 100 Blogs, writer Iris Shoor reviewed over 100 blogs, ranked them from most read to least based on analytics, and then evaluated each of the blogs’ headlines to determine what factors they shared. The results, excerpted below, are a little surprising, but because they are extracted from real data, they’re worth taking into account before you write your next headline.

Go negative. The more dramatic and deadly the headline, the more clickable readers find it. Some of the most clicked on headlines in Shoor’s study included “Oracle moves to kill open source mySGL” and “Big Data is dead. What’s next?” Shoor also found that using the negative form of a noun or verb is more powerful than using the positive locution—“No,” “without” and “stop” lead to more shares. Thus “5 things you should stop doing” is more appealing to a reader than “5 things you should start doing.” For headlines using negative superlatives (“worst” or “never”), click-through rates were over 60 percent higher than similar headlines using positive superlatives (“Always” or “best”).

Numbers: The bigger, the better. Anyone who has been on knows that putting a number in a headline draws in readers. The promise of a list implies diverse information, a quick read, and predictability. However, Shoor found that there’s a correlation between clickability and the size of the number. For instance, a headline promising “25 tips” will generally outperform a headline offering “10 tips.”

Shoor also found that placing the number at the front of the headline leads to more clicks than if the placed elsewhere in the phrase. Thus, “5 ways social networks are changing the world” would outperform “Social networks are changing the world in 5 ways.”

Offer exclusive information. Offering an “introduction to,” a “beginner’s guide,” or “how to” is a tried-and-true strategy for click-throughs. As Shoor notes, “It seems like we don’t just want to be told what not to do or to be threatened with scary verbs—we also want to learn new stuff. Preferably in 5 minutes.” She also found that headlines that promise to teach something in an easy way or from scratch also tend to be more viral. “The beginner’s guide to Android SDK” or “DIY Android SDK” will outperform “How to use Android SDK.”

It’s also worth noting that these headline strategies aren’t mutually exclusive. The more negative superlatives, the higher the numbers, the more DIY you can pack into a headline, the better. “25 beginners tricks to NEVER teach your cat” – you want to click on it, don’t you?

Form, Function, and the Real Test of Technology’s Benefits

Posted on: November 11th, 2014 by Sarah MacKenzie No Comments

In our modern world, the way we consume technology changes nearly every day. A former client of McBru and a friend of the agency, Pam Didner recently wrote an article for The Guardian that examines how technology and our behavior interact, and the implications that has for content marketing.

The backbone of technology, and the singular reason people interact with its various forms, isn’t the technology itself, says Didner, it’s the value it adds to daily life. Humans characteristically seek to gain new information – and technology is designed to constantly feed this nearly insatiable desire.

No matter how appealing the interface, how intricate the technology or how sleek the hardware, the real value is answered only by this question: “what can I learn or what can I gain from this?”

Does it bring entertainment? Does it provide access to information on the other side of the globe? Does it make me think about something in a way I never have?

Whatever the reason, the content and its delivery are irrefutably important.

Four hot topics Didner discusses in “People, devices and the future of content marketing” are wearables, voice recognition and gestures, search capabilities, and big data personalization. In short, she says content marketing must constantly adapt to the daily needs of the consumer while maintaining fundamental marketing principles.

Want to hear more of her innovative ideas? Check out her recently authored book, Global Content Marketing.

Content is King, but only if your audience can read it

Posted on: October 9th, 2014 by Jessica Polley No Comments

Last week LinkedIn launched its first-ever iOS app for SlideShare, giving a big boost to the world’s largest community for sharing presentations and other professional content. With 60 million unique visitors a month, SlideShare is a great catalyst in which to distribute your message and get content to your end user. The rollout of an iOS app now offers an even bigger opportunity to reach new audiences.

The new app is designed to put content at our fingertips, and provide a better viewing experience, which is a good reminder that presentations should be optimized for mobile and tablet viewing. After all, we want people to be able to consume our content off of their tiny screens. We know that bringing out the best in presentations can be tough, so what does this mean for mobile?

Readability is key. Presentations should be easy to digest from smaller screens. Share bite-size info, versus 20 bullet points. Imagery should play a leading role and be of high-quality resolution. White slides with 500 words are not going to translate for viewers using small screens. You’ll lose them quickly.

Some tips straight from SlideShare:

  • Go Big: Use font size 16 or higher.
  • Say More with Less: Highlight or limit text on slides to a few key phrases.
  • A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words: Use clear and simple images, and limit to 1-2 per slide.
  • Keep it Simple: Avoid using complicated graphs with too many details.
  • Use High Contrast Colors: Better contrast improves readability on small screens.

Once you’ve optimized your presentation, don’t forget to promote it across all of your key online channels and include a strong CTA. Ready to experiment? You can download the new iOS app for free from iTunes, and its counterpart on Android.

Taking Tech Videos Beyond Talking Heads

Posted on: September 19th, 2014 by Hilary Shirk No Comments

Engineers are humans too.

And humans are emotional beings, even when it comes to the tech world. That’s why creating impactful, exciting content for Tech B2B audiences is an essential component to balance a  communication plan that has the propensity to lean heavily on facts, figures, and logic to sell its products. Here at McBru, we pride ourselves in that balancing act; we’re able to tease out a brand’s conceptual story as well as hold our own when the conversation gets deeply geeky.

McBru recently teamed up with storytellers at Revolver Digital Media Studios on a video project to promote our client Reaction Design’s key product, ANSYS Forte. It allows automotive engineers to simulate fuel behavior in combustion engines by using the industry’s most accurate chemical fuel models. This product typically gets us talking in geek-speak about kinetic models, spark ignition and flame propagation. But for this video we wanted to focus on the reason engineers need it: to stay ahead of the competition. How? Follow the chemistry.

All this talk about fuel and competition got us thinking about car chases and the adrenaline rush that goes with it. So McBru got all TNT with the drama and went full-steam ahead. Here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes of the shoot that’s set to be released this fall.


The alleyway scene was beautiful in a gritty, ominous way.

The alleyway scene was beautiful in a gritty, ominous way.


Revolver's Partner and Producer Benjamin James keeps the operation running smoothly.

Revolver’s Partner and Producer Benjamin James keeps the operation running smoothly.


A late night at the office. At 3:00 AM, we closed off a portion of a major avenue to shoot the car chase.

A late night at the office. At 3:00 AM, we closed off a portion of a major avenue to shoot the car chase.

The Comeback of Email Newsletters

Posted on: July 31st, 2014 by Bill McRae No Comments

There’s a communication technology out there that’s growing fast and opening doors for marketers and purveyors of news and information. It’s called email.

But wait? Isn’t email suppose to be all but dead, a relict of the 1990s and dial-up modems? Turns out email newsletters and direct email marketing is undergoing a renaissance, as they have carved out a valuable niche for themselves amid the unending torrents of social media messages and Internet-based news channels.

Email marketing is making a comeback for a number of reasons, says David Carr in the New York Times.  “Newsletters are clicking because readers have grown tired of the endless stream of information on the Internet, and having something finite and recognizable show up in your inbox can impose order on all that chaos.”

With improvements to spam filtering, email now shows up in your inbox largely because you have asked for it – you’ve requested to be included in a mailing list or subscribed to a newsletter. With email, there’s usually some kind of implicit connection with the sender, making it valuable real estate and a good platform for marketers.

Tweet this: #EmailMarketing makes a comeback <<insert bitly link>>Targeted newsletters, valuable content finds growing audience @McBru

According to Carr, MailChimp, a leading email marketing platform, sends over 400 million emails a day, and is adding more than 10,000 users daily. And a study of 940 global executives found that email newsletters trumped the Internet and mobile apps as a source of news.

Carr quotes Gideon Lichfield, global news editor at Quartz: “Email is dismissed as something old people use. But in the past few years, we have started to see email as a peer to publishing platforms like Twitter, Facebook and the web, one that has its own strengths and weaknesses that we are starting to figure out.”

Of course, the unspoken contract between email publishers and their audience is that publishers are providing valuable and interesting information to their readers, which requires a smart and dynamic content marketing program. But provide that content, and email will deliver readers.

Interested in exploring how email marketing and newsletters can grow your audience and deepen connections with readers? Give us a call.