communications

Digital Parish: Best practices for writing on the web

The ways in which we’ve been trained to create content–especially when it comes to the written word–do not always translate well into digital space. So in this episode of Pastoring in the Digital Parish, we’re going to brush up on writing skills for the web.

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Show Notes

Joe Iovino referenced the book Talk to Me by Dean Nelson, PhD.

Catch up with Joe's work at UMC.org.

Ryan Dunn:

Ministers are content creators.

Think about it. The Bible study lessons, you develop the sermons, you create the newsletter articles, you pin up the pre worship service announcements. You painstakingly craft in order to communicate how important it is to RSVP to the Wednesday night fellowship, dinner, all that stuff is content and you create it all.

However, the ways in which we've been trained to create content, especially when it comes to the written word, do not always translate well into digital space. Our behavior in the digital world is different than our behavior. I R L we're a bit more finicky. Our attention is easily pulled away. You know, it's true understanding that affects how we communicate in digital space, because the way we write for a sermon or a Bible study is not going to work as well for a blog post. There's a different set of rules at play.

So in this episode of pastoring in the digital parish, we're going to brush up on writing skills for the web. Our adjunct professor for this episode is Joe Iovino, the director of member communications for United Methodist Communications. I write articles that Joe edits and I always find his edits helpful. And well-reasoned, Joe is good at getting eyeballs on written content.

So we're going to learn from Joe, what makes good writing for the web? You ready? Let's get to it in this session of Pastoring in the Digital Parish.

Joe Iovino is a deacon in the United Methodist church, ordained deacon, currently serving as the director of member communications at United Methodist communications. And really that means Joe, that you're kind of, well, you have many roles, but a big part of it, especially relevant for our conversation here is that you're the overseer of the denominational website UMC.org.

In that role, you edit a lot of submitted articles, uh, kind of have a critical eye for that stuff. As pastors, we, we train quite a bit as writers, uh, but writing for the web can be a little bit different. How does good web writing differ from good writing on other platforms?

Joe Iovino:

The biggest thing is, um, format. I know when I came to UMCom one of the things I had to learn, which was really difficult was to write very differently than I would write, say a sermon. When you write a sermon, you know, you have the intro illustration and you kind of lead the people in and you close with the takeaway, right? At the very end you give people what they want. You want them to leave with writing for the web.

You have to do that in exactly the opposite direction. You have to lead with the most important thing. What do you want people to get from the article? What do you want them to get from the story right from the top? Because they will not stay with you, right? We have less than 10 seconds. They say, uh, to get someone's attention and to have them stay with you. And so if you go through an illustration, uh, the 10 seconds is up and they don't give or get to the point. You want to give the point right from the top.

And so if you're talking about say, you're making an announcement about a mission trip that you want people to go on, you need to say that right from the top in a sermon, you might build that as oh, there's people in need. And here's why Christ calls us to do this work and all of those things. And then you would get to now go and go help those people, right? When you write it for the web, it has to actually be in the opposite direction. You need to start with what's the ask, like, what is the purpose? What's the point where you going? I really constantly see introductions to our pieces as they set expectations for the rest of the story. Why would the reader stay with you?

Ryan Dunn:

So very much, it's really falling in line with what we hear that we're supposed to do in sermons: which is to tell people where you're going to take them, take them there, and then tell them where you just took them. But in, in writing a lot of times, it's like we don't get very quickly to the telling them where we're going to take them. And in web writing, we want to make sure that we do that.

Joe Iovino:

It felt like when I first came, it was, it really felt like I was giving away the store all the time. Right. I was like, right in the first paragraph I'm getting to, what is the punchline that I really want to build towards? And it just didn't take long to begin to realize that you just don't have the time to make the build. You're going to give it away in the title, or you're going to give it away in the first couple of sentences that you're writing so that the reader again, will stay with you, um, and feel invested and know, know where this is going.

The mission trip thing is a really good example because I was thinking about this. When you begin with the people that are in need, the reader might ask, you know, is this about giving? And if it's about giving to this mission and I don't have any money I'm out, right? I'm not going to read the rest of this. Is this about going someplace? If I can go, I'm interested, I'm going to stick around. But if, if that's not something I can do, I'm out, I'm not. So you kind of have to give it to them right away so that they notice to stick around for the information that they'll need.

Ryan Dunn:

We really don't have a captive audience, right?

Joe Iovino:

Yeah. They're starting to walk out on a sermon. Yeah. Then to then click onto the next article. I mean, and there's always something, right. There's always something else on the screen for people to click on and go away. And that other thing might seem a little bit more interesting. I, I was surprised at first to hear that people only have a ten second attention span, actually, I think it's nine whenever I just spent online. And I was, I was really surprised to hear that at first. And, but once I heard it, I started paying attention to my own internet use and how quickly I click off of things.

And I, I encourage people to like, just begin to pay attention to that because when the video doesn't load, do you stay, or do you bail to the next thing? Or if something doesn't come up or you read a couple of sentences, like, oh no, that's not what I thought. We just quickly go to the next thing. So yeah, I think all of us really do have short attention spans online.

Ryan Dunn:

Even those of us who recognize that. Absolutely. Yeah. Attention span. When you get an article, what are you commonly looking for?

Joe Iovino:

A couple of things. One is I want to make sure it's a piece for our audience. And I think that's an important thing to know who is your audience for a piece we write for the members. And the curious, I like to say of the, of the United Methodist church. Good way of putting it. Yeah. And so, um, and so very often we're, I want to make sure it's a piece that makes sense for the site. Is it for those people? Um, it's uh, are the people who come to our site going to be interested in it. And so I really very much, that's the first thing I look for is to make sure it's a story and an angle that my audience is going to want to know. So, everyone needs to know their audience content wise.

Ryan Dunn:

Are you looking at certain aspects or elements being within the initial couple paragraphs?

Joe Iovino:

I can always do that. And that often happens where, um, I rewrite the first paragraph or I add a first paragraph that kind of gives that, that piece because it is hard to learn to write and give away the star before you get started. Um, that's always difficult to do, but, but we do look for brevity. We don't want things that are extraordinarily wordy.

Uh, again, with the attention span, when I first started here seven years ago, our target was like 10 to 1200 words every year. It seems like it gets slower. We're, we're now shooting for six to 800, which is almost half of what we earn. What I originally started working here under, like I said, in seven years, it's difficult to get that, that low sometimes, but yeah, I'd rather have two, I'd rather have two, 600 word pieces than one 1200. Okay. They seem to get more attention.

Ryan Dunn:

Are there ways that you can kind of pack up for SEO purposes, some words or ideas, or what are you doing there within the first couple of paragraphs that help to get things noticed?

Joe Iovino:

SEO is super important so that you show up on the, you know, on the, in the Google searches. And so again, we do try and nothing, you want it to be readable, but the more you can use not continue to reuse the same word, but you synonyms at times. And I'm trying to think of a good example that we just did it's to make sure that you're kind of covering all of those key words as you pack it in the first. And I think it's supposed to be the first a hundred words, the title, the tease with sometimes it's called the meta-description.

When you put that those are often overlooked and really important when you're building something online, don't overlook the meta-description, those few words. You can pack keywords in there that really help on the, on the SEO. And then again, in the first hundred words, if you can kinda get it in there again, that's always really helpful.

Ryan Dunn:

As you’re putting articles together for umc.org, is there something of a formula that you follow as far as layout of the article? If we harken back to our English, oh, one days we had that the five paragraph theme, right? We had the introduction and then your three body paragraphs, and then your conclusion. Is there something similar that we utilize on the umc.org website?

Joe Iovino:

I wish there were, but there's really not. Um, I think there, there is some, we want a clear introduction and a clear conclusion. Those two things are, are, uh, are important. But one of the things I think you find writing for the web, um, as well as if you're a member of the grammar police, you might get frustrated. Yeah. Especially in, um, in paragraphs, we, our paragraphs are short. We break paragraphs, which are probably grammatically incorrect, you know, not the way I learned it in high school, but they work better. People want to be able to scan again in a quick matter of minutes, scan it and see if this is worth reading. And sometimes if you can just kind of pop things out for them like that in the shorter paragraphs, certainly helped to do that.

If you think of, you know, all of us have probably been on a site where it's like the 10 things you didn't see in your favorite movie and, you know, and it's these little, like little bits and little points, and that's the way to go little short, little snippets so that people can do that.

And along the same lines, can I just, I want to give my pitch for subheads. Yeah. I think subheadings are, um, are super important to break up your story so that it's not one long, um, 800 word paragraph, but you have those little subtitles in there that again, allow a reader to see kind of where you're going. Step-by-step, uh, where the article will go. What do you put in those subheads? My understanding is I am not an SEO expert, but my understanding is that SEO does look at subheads before texts. So that's a good thing to get some of those key words in the subheads.

And if I'm wrong about that and you know more about SEO, I'm sorry, but that's what I understand. I've heard that too, along the way. I heard that. Yeah, exactly. It will spread the rumors, but yeah, the, the subheadings are there to kind of get people's attention and let, let them know where this section is going.

And also give them the opportunity to say, I'm going to skip this section and go to the next one. That sounds more interesting, you know, just kind of like skip those three or four paragraphs and get to the next one. We just recently did a story with, um, it was, it was three things that helped, that leads you to social justice, I think was the, was what we did and literally numbered the subheads. Right. So step one, step two, step three. Um, and then a little short thing, w you know, step one was worshiped to was prayer. And I don't remember step three west, but there was like these three things that kind of support you and lead you into, into social justice, kind of out of the church. I thought that was important just to number them, just to let the title says, there's three steps. There are steps one, two, and three. And so someone could spend 30 seconds on that story and at least to know what the three steps were. Hmm. So it sounds like easily digestible.

But I still remember about five years ago, I literally had this really clever opening for a piece that was about, you know, John Wesley, but I kind of hid the fact that it was about John Wesley. And like I waited, you know, had the, like Paul Hy-Vee reveal at the end of that John Wesley yet. Um, and my editor at the time, this is before I had the, the one I have now, my editor, um, undid that and put, you know, gave it away at the very top. And I was so disappointed. Like I had this really artistic piece that I really liked and it was gone. It was just not useful. And a 500 word introduction went down to 150, I think, and just lost the whole, all the art was gone out of it that that's hard to do. And that's, um, but unfortunately there is a place for that, but most of the time you need to kind of let that go.

And I'll tell you one of the tricks that I do, uh, for that because it is really hard to delete. It is really like your work. Yeah, exactly. And when you come up with this metaphor that you're so proud of, like, oh, this is really clever. It is hard to delete. And so one of the things that I've done is, um, is as I save it twice so that I have the original, um, and then I go over to a second copy and with a different name and that's the one I can delete everything knowing it's still over there and the first document. So it just it's weird, but it just kind of, it gives me permission to do some heavy editing and get it in the form I want. And lots of times I will say as much as I might like my writing in the longer version, when I get it down into the briefer version, it's better.

I think a lot of times it's better as a, as a former youth pastor and preacher at times. Um, I think I can say this is that one of the things I needed most when I was preaching sermons was an editor, right. We would, I would constantly go down these little side trails that seemed really important at the time, but really were just, you know, these little things that I found interesting that maybe not led to my point. Uh, so I think that's important to do in your writing as well. Probably more important to do in your writing. You can get away with it in a sermon for a two minute diversion, you know? But if you do that in web writing people might bail.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Especially on the web, like exactly where the attention span is so short and people, well, oftentimes they're reading not so much to discover anything about you or even engage in a metaphorical conversation. People are reading for themselves. We kind of need to adopt the mindset that folks are doing this very selfishly they're reading to, uh, have something revealed to them either they become part of the hero of the story, or, uh, they're learning something for themselves, not necessarily to learn anything about. And that can be difficult to let go of it sometimes to where we want to relay a personal anecdote. And oftentimes that just doesn't have a place within the voice of umc.org. Do you ever speak in the first person?

Joe Iovino:

Very, very rarely. Very, very rarely. I think that would be a difference if when, when I was writing for a local church, I used first person a lot because they knew me. Right. So I was, I was preaching. I was in front of them and a lot of times my audience was the youth group and I was their youth director. And so it was a lot of first person [email protected] Yeah. We're kind of behind the scenes a little bit. It's really not personality driven. It's more people don't know, Sr illustrations don't quite have the same, same reach. And plus we're writing for, you know, my experience here in, in Tennessee is going to be vastly different than the person living in Seattle. Maybe, you know, that that's a, they're going to have a different experience. So they may not be able to relate to my experience. And that's not even including, um, Africa or, you know, the Philippines who also might come across something on UN umc.org.

So that changes that. But when you're writing for your, when your primary audience is your local church, I think you can get away with a lot more of that. Yeah. And it's powerful. Anybody who does sermons knows how vulnerable we can be standing in front of a congregation giving personal stories. But one of the reasons we do it is because it's also one of the most impactful, it's one of the most powerful ways to get the message across. And so what we do as we tell somebody else's story, right? So you're not going to hear how, how this impacted Joe the, or any of our writers, but you will get a quote from the person who was in the ministry that we're talking about, who will say, this really mattered to me because you know, this happened or, you know, God really spoke to me through this and they'll give them from time to time.

Ryan Dunn:

A big part of it then it sounds like, is just knowing your audience. So like our audience doesn't know our audience in umc.org doesn't know who the writers are, correct. It's just a, you know, a byline so to speak. But within a church context, there's probably an argument to be made that not only do they know you, but they probably want to know you as a ministry leader a little bit more. So there's some room for, for dropping in some of those personal anecdotes and sharing yourself a little bit more authentically.

Joe Iovino:

You just mentioned though. Can I just, you mentioned knowing your audience and whenever I, I have several times given a talk about this very topic, that's my number one point is to know your audience, know who you're writing to, because it's really easy to try and write for the whole world. Yeah. Okay. That's a mistake. It's just that you need to write, know who you're writing for.

One of the things that I have said several times is that when you try and write for everyone, um, in some ways that every person doesn't actually exist every person, um, but if you write to a specific person, there's a lot of, uh, power and specificity. And so even if I'm not the person you're writing toward a lot of times, I can overhear your message better because you will be clearer writing to that one person. Then you're going to be trying to write it in these broad strokes. So we like for us to, I mean, we write to members of our church and it's, you know, having 20 years of ministry experience, there are times when I have individual congregants in my head, when I'm writing a story, like, you know, this, person's going to be really interest interested in this. So I'm going to write it as if I'm telling her that story. Yeah. Oh, that's good. Yeah. So know knowing your audience is gigantic.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. All right. So you have an archetype in mind often when you're writing then even, even on a broad-stroke platform, like umc.org, like you're still writing to somebody specifically.

Joe Iovino:

Yeah. Not everything's for everybody clearly. I mean, we, we need to know who we're writing, who we're writing for. And so there are times when one of my, one of my archetypes is there was in my very first church, 20 something years ago, there was a member who wanted to know kind of a Bible verse for everything. And so there are times when, if I'm doing something that's more on the social justice side, I need to make sure for, you know, that person for, for Greg, um, that there is some link back to scripture so that he knows like, why we're doing what we're doing, that, that does. He literally pops into my mind as I'm, as I'm doing those things and, and have another who, for who, um, you know, prayer is just like, she was one who was very much a prayer person.

And there are times when I'm just reminded of that. And it's like, you know, we haven't talked about prayer in this story specifically. Like, I think it's there, but we need to name it specifically. And, and, you know, I, I think of her and write it for her. Okay. Does that make sense? Yeah, absolutely. I think it's kind of funny that you name your archetypes. Well, I'm trying to protect the innocent bypass. Yeah. Um, there might, the names are in my head. Yeah. Because they're real people that I remember from, you know, years of pastoral ministry, they were members of my congregations.

Ryan Dunn:

I think that's a useful practice that you're not just writing for some kind of nebulous personality. That's out there someplace you are writing for somebody in particular.

Joe Iovino:

It helps give you a conversational tone. I think it keeps you from being, it's really easy to get kind of in that academic kind of mode where you're writing as if you're writing your last seminary paper, uh, we can all fall into that trap as well. Um, and so knowing that, you know, I'm trying to express this to one of my youth group kids or something over the years. Yeah. I've done that too. I mean, I've, I've actually thought about how would I present this to the confirmation class? Um, when I'm, when I'm teaching about I'm writing a piece on communion, how would I explain this to a seventh grader? That's why that's a big part of what we try and do.

Ryan Dunn:

We'll bring it back to syntax. Let's talk titles a little bit, because this is another area where I feel like it's really easy to go astray. What's important to put in a title?

Joe Iovino:

Let me just say, first of all, on my team, we never publish a story where else hasn't seen the title. Like the titles are always a team effort. Okay. There's at least two of us that are in on it. Oftentimes we'll bring other people in just to make sure we're communicating what we think we want to communicate. So, um, and now I'm going to give you a list of things that should be in the title. And after telling you, you know, it needs to be short, uh, I'll give you, and then I'll give you a list of things that you'd be in it. So short, short is number one, keywords are huge. You've got to get keywords in there so that Google will give you the results that you want.

It needs to be descriptive of your story. It's really bad to bait and switch your audience. If they think it's going one place and get something else, we've all done it, right. You get that trendy cool article at the bottom of the, you know, at the bottom of the page and you click on it and think it's going to something, and it's something completely different. Uh, but they got you to click and they probably made 2 cents on the click, but because they're doing something that we're not, but yeah, that's the big make sure the title makes sense. It short has keywords in it. And then, um, it needs to, and what I like to say is it needs to pop. I don't, I don't know how else to explain that, but to, to say it in a way that's either clever or is going to grab someone's attention, because if you're trying to get the attention of everyone on the web, even if you show on the first page of the Google results for something, what can you put in the title that's going to make somebody click it so that they, they, uh, want to learn some more about what you've read.

Ryan Dunn:

So are there some words or phrases that you often turn to that makes something clickable?

Joe Iovino:

We like “tips and tricks.” Okay. So we do that from time to time. So, uh, you'll see, oftentimes there's like three tips or three steps or five tricks to this. Those seem to get some, some engagement because people know it's gonna, it's going to be quick, uh, for them. It's good to, again, for us, um, you know, the word United Methodist gets in it quite a bit or UMC, um, to again, to let people know who we are and what the message is going to be. Okay. I think you can get carried away with titles too. I think you can get too clever. And so one of the things that always makes me laugh is there was a period where a couple, this was many years ago now, but we had a story we knew we had and could not find it on our own system because the title was so clever. We couldn't find it. Our, our CMS searches by title. And so I think it wasn't an advent story, but it didn't have advent in the title. It didn't have Christmas. And that when we could not find, uh, it took us, uh, I think literally like a couple of days to find the story in the back end. Yeah.

Ryan Dunn:

Important reminder. Because even as we may not be working in a robust, custom content management system, like umc.org, but people out there are going to be searching for certain things. And we want to make sure that, you know, what, what they're searching for, uh, our title is to pop up within that search,

Joe Iovino:

Right? Yeah. If it's a Christmas story, get Christmas on the title right there, or whatever that is, that's that people are going to be able to find it.

Ryan Dunn:

That in itself can be killer to some of the creative types, because people come up with really clever titles, but sometimes we got to kill those creative titles.

Joe Iovino:

You can certainly out clever yourself. You can be too cute and too clever. Yeah. That's, that's a, that's a danger. So we, we have that again, when we have that conversation about titles, we will ask that. And I have literally asked people next to me, just to say, what do you, here's the title? What do you think the story is about? Like, in other words, have we hit this or not? Um, and sometimes, you know, if they go, I have no idea or they go someplace completely different than where we're at, what we're going to deliver. And that's not the, that's not the right title. Yeah. That's a good way of doing it. And just being like,

Ryan Dunn:

Hey, here's the title? Yeah. Tell me what, what you're going to read.

Joe Iovino:

If you ask them, if they'll click on it, they're all going to say yes, because they like you. Right. So ask them, like, that's what they think it's about. And, uh, and then you'll, maybe you'll get a better, more honest answer.

Ryan Dunn:

As you think about some of the content that you consume elsewhere, what are some of the, um, I guess, what are some of the pet peeves that you have about reading other people's content on the web? Like things that are popping up that you just see as bad form or bad writing?

Joe Iovino:

Oh, you're going to get me. I'm such a nerd about some of this stuff.

I will give you one, but I don't know how much this applies to anybody other than me, but two things. One is whenever a story starts with a rhetorical question, there's a part of my brain that texts out. I don't know what that is, but there is a part of me that just says, I don't know, there's get me in at a different way. I don't know why that is. That's just me.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. I want to hear more about, about that. Maybe from some of our listeners, because honestly I've used that point in the past. Like, I want to know: Are you turning off? It's it is an easy turn off, because if you read that question and your answer is “no,” then it's like, okay, there's that question? No, click.

Joe Iovino:

Yeah. Yeah. That's one. And the other is, um, and this one's again, super nerdy, but I do not like, and this literally is like, Joe's pet peeve when the subheads are used for transitions, there's times to use that. But I think if, when I write and when I edit, I want to be able to read the story without the subheads, 90% of the time, sometimes like the three-step ones you need, you know, the step serves as the tr okay, we're going to step to that. I get that. But there are other times when I just think it's bad writing in a cheap transition to just, you know, to rely on the subhead, to get you from point 1 to point 2, right. The transition, please.

Ryan Dunn:

It makes me think of the old Batman TV show, but then they would have those segues of like, meanwhile we're in Gotham. Or the announcer would come on and say it, He would give you the plot point. Which is honestly, yeah, it was a cheap way of them making a transition there. So without having to show that part of the story.

Joe Iovino:

And with their audience being on the younger side, that maybe was helpful. But I think that, I just think there's better writing to be done. Um, we can take the time to read it. Yeah. Yeah. That's good to know.

Ryan Dunn:

That calls us back to the idea that the subheads should tell us what's within the next section, but not to where it's a rehash or yeah. Or, or just a pulled quote from something below,

Joe Iovino:

Because you don't want, because I know I said this with the subheads that people want to skip between things and move around like that, but I still don't treat them as independent units that exist on their own. Right. They're part of the story. And so it's, we want a person to want to read what's before and what's after. And not just that one they're interested in. And so a good, good transitions of like how we got here and where we're going next can actually help the flow. And that, I think it's important. I don't have a good, I don't have a good rationale for it, but I just think it's an important way. Yeah.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, on anything that turns us off as readers is going to be another reason to click away anyway. Right. So we do want to be mindful of what might upset grammatical or syntactical sensibilities of the people who are reading our stuff.

On the flip side of that. So aside from looking at some of the pet peeves, as people are submitting stories or articles to you, and maybe I'm asking this question somewhat selfishly, like can I make your life easier as a contributor to umc.org? Like what do you wish people knew to include in their articles or pieces that would make an editor's job a bit easier?

Joe Iovino:

The biggest things are to know our audience. Um, I cannot tell you how often we get, we have another site for leaders, right? So that leader content, they're the target audience. And we often get submitted to us why this program worked at my church. Well, that's not a umc.org story. That's a resource umc.org story where the leader site is so know our audience. What are we, what are the stories that we tell? And that's pretty easy to do when you just kind of look around at other stories on any website, you kind of get a sense of, of who their audience is and, and speak to their, to their audience. And the other is our voice. If you know our voice, we, we shoot forever semi consistent voice. It's hard to do with multiple authors. Every author has their own kind of way, but, but in broad strokes, you know, we're conversational.

We're not academic. We, we are comfortable with contractions are comfortable with some of this more casual conversation, uh, things along the way. We assume some knowledge of the United Methodist church and some of our readers, things like that. If you know the voice that can really help a great deal, because it's, that's a very, very difficult thing to add to somebody else's writing. I almost have to take it as an editor. Oftentimes what we wind up doing is nearly rewriting the piece and then giving it back to the author and saying, are you okay if we still put your name on this kind of thing, because we do wind up, um, it's just a hard thing to change. And that, that takes, uh, that takes a great deal of effort. And I will say to you, if you're, if you're writing to submit things, um, the other thing too to do is, uh, if an editor tells you, this is the piece they want, please deliver the piece they want and not the one you want to write.

Um, that's huge. Um, and the other is, um, deadlines, deadlines matter. They're not as arbitrary as people think. I know when I was on the other, because I was a freelancer for a while before I came here. And I always thought deadlines were fairly arbitrary, especially on the web, like, nobody's this isn't going to print it. Doesn't need to go put out there, whatever. Exactly. But actually the editor, usually as an editor, when I give a deadline, 90% of the time, again, it's because it's either hooked to something that I might, I may not have told you about. Um, it may be connected to another piece and maybe connect it to a theme. So there's a reason for that. So I hit the deadline and there's a reason for it. Yeah. Well, and

Ryan Dunn:

That goes back to the author too, that authors want their stuff to be read. Um, and there's just limited real estate on a website. So in order to make sure that your piece spends as much time as possible within its allotted real estate, like it's good to hit that deadline. Otherwise it's going to be shortened down that window of viewability. Um, other, other newer articles are going to pile on top of it, and then it's just more likely to get lost.

Joe Iovino:

So along the lines of that with the editors to recognize that the editor, you and the editor want the same thing, you want the piece to be the best it can be. And to be up there for as long as it possibly can be. And so, so does the editor, right? The editor wants that as well. And so when you get criticism from an editor, even if you disagree with it, it's not it's, it's because we're, we're trying to get to the same goal. So the editor is your friend, so they're, they're really on they're on your team. Um, and I know that's, again, having been on the other side of that, uh, years ago, uh, that was hard to, that was hard to learn, right? Yeah.

Ryan Dunn:

Especially when they're cutting out your clever metaphor.

Joe Iovino:

So it's like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Why did my 1100 words to get down to six?

Ryan Dunn:

Last question for you: What are some good resources that you turn to that help clarify your writing or have just led to broader knowledge of good web writing practices

Joe Iovino:

Early on? When I decided I wanted to write, I read a lot about writing, you know, I mean everything from, you know, Anne Lamotte's to, uh, Donald Miller back in the day, used to have a blog where he talked a lot about writing. There's a online author named Jeff Goins who does a lot of, kind of writing for the web. And a lot of times they're about writing books. And that seems to be the goal for most writers is we want to get a book out there. Um, but a lot of that can be adapted, um, into what, into what you're doing, um, on a daily basis. Lots of what I learned was actually here. Um, so I don't know how to share that information so much. Cause it was one-on-one with my supervisor who was kind of sharing with me how to, how to do these, uh, these things.

But I would say there's a lot of good information out there and, um, and take the time to invest in, um, people are sometimes surprised with how many books on writing writers read. That was a weird way to say that, but, um, there are lots of books on writings that writer that writers read and read a lot. What do you like to read, um, pay attention to what you're reading on the internet, what connects with you? Um, so some of it's just intuitive, uh, that way. And then I, I cannot come up with a title of this book, but I really want to recommend a book, um, on interviewing that I, that I got, um, years ago. And it was, uh, I think it's called talk to me. I'm almost positive. It's called talk to me. But, uh, but asking, especially if you're trying to get word out about a ministry and you're talking to someone else you're interviewing someone, it was about asking better questions, you know, making sure you're asking open-ended questions and helping them tell their story rather than your story. I got that for podcasting really, but that actually was really helpful in, uh, when I was writing, just asking better questions of people I wanted to whose story I want to help tell.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, if you think about it as being taking on a conversational tone, then yes, it's helpful to anticipate the questions people are seeking to answer. That's what we're reading for is to answer some kind of question, right? Absolutely. Well, Joe, thank you so much for dropping this knowledge on us and giving us a little look behind the scenes at UMC.org. I guess that's probably a great place to meet up with you. Isn't it?

Joe Iovino:

Yes, UMC.org is the best place to kind of see my work or to get here, to get in touch with me. Absolutely.

Ryan Dunn:

The book Joe was talking about is Talk to Me by Dean Nelson PhD. If you want to touch base with me, Ryan Dunn producer of this podcast send an email to [email protected] You can also find more points of connection at resourceumc.org/digitalparish. Big thanks to United Methodist communications for sponsoring this podcast. If you'd like to offer some thanks, you can do so simply by hitting subscribe to this podcast. And then the next step is dropping a positive rating or review on your podcast. Listening platform, several episodes of the pastoring in the digital perish podcast are out now. And there's a vibrant conversation happening on our Facebook group, which is conveniently titled pastoring in the digital parish. So search it and join it and converse with us. Thanks again. My name is Ryan Dunn and I'll talk with you soon.

 

On this episode

Rev. Lovejoy from the Simpsons. Placeholder bio image.

Our adjunct professor for this episode is Joe Iovino, the director of Member Communications for United Methodist Communications. Joe is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and is good at getting eyeballs on written content.

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.