“A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.”
Do you know who spoke this famous (and pretty accurate) quote? It’s by none other than Willy Wonka, taken from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. With World Book Day just around the corner, many children are soon to ditch their school uniforms and spend the day dressed as a famous literary character. It got me thinking about children’s books, and what it takes for authors to engage with a young audience. Maybe there are some things the PR community can learn from that?
Roald Dahl was my favourite author as a kid. His books were enough to make my imagination run wild; from a child that can make objects move with her eyes, to witches that smell children as dog’s droppings. It’s funny when books from our childhood stay with us for life, and we don’t forget the picture it paints in our mind. I still remember imagining the BFG having breakfast with the Queen and Sophie. As a children’s books author, Roald Dahl couldn’t set the scene with an array of vocabulary and complex sentence structures; instead he brought the craziest images to life with fun and exuberant, yet simple, language.
It’s not just writers of children’s books that need a knack for effectively getting ideas across in simple terms. Copywriters for PR and marketing materials also need to be able to write in a down-to-earth style. According to the Economic Times, the average attention span has reduced from 12 minutes to five minutes, and it’s the short blogs and snappy social media posts we constantly read that are to blame. The way businesses get key audiences engaged is by making language easy to read. In fact, images and graphics that go with the writing are just as important – just like in children’s books. Accompanying a social media post with a complementary image that visualises it has the same effect as Quentin Blake’s illustrations in Roald Dahl books.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead” is a quote by writer Mark Twain. You can see his point. It actually requires more thought to write something short and punchy, which writers of children’s books know only too well. PR and marketing pros should keep this front of mind when copywriting. Only then can they create content that engages audiences as much as 10-year olds are by the likes of Roald Dahl books.
Alex Brown enjoys being one of the Skout blog’s most regular contributors.