leadership Posts

3 Terrific Tips to Reach Digitally Distracted Readers

By Jeff Herrington
Guest Blogger

Today’s readers are more distracted than ever. Thanks to voluminous emails, always-on cellphones, and ubiquitous social media, your audience has more reasons than ever to look away from your newsletter . . . if they look at it in the first place.

Alas, no one is guaranteed an audience these days. But these three tips for writing for today’s more distracted readers will increase the likelihood people check out what you have to say . . . and act on it.


1) Keep sentences to less than 25 words

No exceptions. It’s always better to present info in three, 14-word-long sentences than one 38-word-long sentence. Your content contains four more words but is more approachable. Especially in an era when so much content is getting consumed on cellphone screens that make your articles skinnier and longer. So, keep it short. REALLY short.


2) Use sentence fragments now and then

Giving every sentence a subject and verb is as antiquated an idea as is using words like “forthwith,” and “heretofore.” We don’t talk that way, so why write that way? In the previous tip, I included THREE sentence fragments (“No exceptions,” the phrase beginning with “especially,” and “REALLY short.”) You understood them, and their brevity helped the section zip along. Which is the point. (Another sentence fragment.) 😊


3) Craft tantalizing subheads

Let’s say the topic of your longer article is, “employee benefits.” You could insert subheads like, “Health Insurance,” “Vacation,” and “Special Discounts.” But why settle for the mundane, when you could just as easily craft subheads that say something like, “Your wellness redefined,” “You deserve a break today,” and “Boosting your family’s budget?” Not only are those subheads more alluring to the reader — they also position the company as a true benefactor to the employee in a way the generic subheads do not (you can always place those more generic subheads in parentheses after the creative subheads to help those readers who are scanning the page/screen.)

Respecting the fact your readers have less time than ever to absorb your content puts you two-thirds of the way toward your goal of producing effective newsletter content. Applying the tips above will take you that much closer to the finish line.



Jeff Herrington is a communications consultant and writing coach who helps communication teams write for today’s more distracted reader. Jeff has provided consulting expertise for such companies as Coca-Cola France, Whirlpool, John Deere and Wausau Insurance. His writing and content workshops have been brought on-site multiple times by more than 100 companies in the Fortune 1000, including JPMorgan Chase, American Century Investments, Arizona Public Service, Phillips 66, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

In addition to his consulting, coaching and workshops, Jeff also has composed several crossword puzzles that have been published in The New York Times, and he writes under the name of Jeffrey Eaton as a murder mystery author.

Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn or on his Jeff Herrington Communications website.

From Twitter Girl to Internal Comms Value Producer

internal communications value

By Jim Shaffer
Guest Blogger

Please meet the Twitter Girl.

The Twitter Girl joined a pharmaceutical with the goal of helping employees do great things for patients. She didn’t want a job; she wanted a sense of purpose.

The Twitter Girl has a communication degree from Northwestern University. She was assigned to tweet messages into the marketplace and workplace. She has no impact on employees or patients. She just tweets away choppy, sometimes abstruse phrases, hoping someone will figure out what she’s saying in 140 characters.

She’s like many communication people — devoted to activity that adds no value whatsoever. How do the Twitter Girl and others who’ve fallen into the social media tactical abyss emerge and start adding value?

Advice for Adding Value

Here’s what I told her:

  • Make it known that you want to add value. Use examples from people who’ve done it.
  • Skill up, especially in typically weak areas for communication people — business and financial acumen, change management and leadership.
  • Focus on the communication system, not just communication channels. The system includes leaders and what they say and do as well as processes such as measurement, rewards, learning development and work processes. They communicate powerfully. Don’t exclude formal channels. But, understand they have limited impact on results.
  • Create a win that proves that business problems are often caused by communication breakdowns such as mixed messages, absent, slow-moving and inaccurate information.

Identify Opportunities for Internal Communications

Ask five questions to identify your best opportunity:

  1. Where are the best opportunities to improve performance by better managing communication? Opportunities are most like associated with quality, service delivery or costs. In five months one client communication department reduced damage in a distribution center by 54 percent while improving productivity by 16 percent.
  2. What’s the size of the opportunity? FedEx’s first performance-based communication project increased export sales by 23 percent and generated a 1,500 percent return on their investment.
  3. What are the root causes of the underperformance? It’s essential to know what you will need to spend to eliminate the root causes so they don’t resurface.
  4. What will it cost to improve? Calculate the expected cost to see if the ROI is acceptable. And then you ask…
  5. Is the ROI acceptable? Owens Corning’s first venture into performance-based communication generated a 700 percent ROI in an operation in upstate New York.

Internal communication functions have enormous opportunities to change their role from activity producing cost centers to results generating value creators. Many are already there.

You can be, too.



Jim Shaffer is an internationally recognized business advisor, leadership coach, author, speaker and leader of the Jim Shaffer Group. Before starting the Jim Shaffer Group, Jim was a principal, vice president and global leader of a Towers Perrin (now Willis Towers Watson) center of excellence. His book, The Leadership Solution is a popular treatise on leadership, change management and creating high-performance organizations. Jim received the International Association of Business Communicators’ prestigious Fellow award, the highest honor IABC bestows on an individual. He will deliver a three-hour pre-conference workshop at the 2017 IABC World Conference.

Connect with Jim

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” ~ James Humes