Good content drives better business. If you write it (well), design it (well), and disseminate it (well) – they will come. Is this self-explanatory? Maybe, but the key for your content marketing success is making sure that whatever content you create speaks to readers and results in action, whether you define that action as a request for quote, a 1:1 share, a download, a +1 click, or a retweet.
How do you get there? How do you write content that connects and subsequently grows business? Here’s a good start:
- Define your message.
Before you write anything, have a sit down. Steep some tea. Pet your dog. And figure out what your purpose is. What messageare you trying to get across, and why? If you’re looking to write a funny piece about potty training, fine. Why? How does your piece fit into your larger blog? When I first began writing a book, a friend and published author gave me the most useful writing advice I’ve ever received: Bring it full circle. If what you’re writing doesn’t support your overall message (read: branding), trash it.
- Write to benefit.
For whom, dear writer, are you writing? Call me old fashioned, but the late Thomas Merton, monk, poet and social activist, is spot on here: “If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men–you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead.” Does that wax a little poetic for online content? Maybe it does. But when you’re writing for a greater reason, it shows.
- Use your words.
Ah, how many times have I said that to a toddler hollerin’ in the backseat? (Answer: too many.) Use your words to say what you mean concisely, clearly, and without useless embellishment. Cut the adjectives. Cut the adverbs. Make it shine by the virtue of the words themselves. I might believe you if you wrote, “Spectacular hotel with exemplary services.” But I would much rather read, “Art Deco-styled hotel with Mediterranean spa.”
- Make it pretty.
From about 12 years old on, I never left the house without makeup (until I hit motherhood, 30, and the realization that oftentimes I just can’t be bothered). As I learned to apply foundation for the first time, my mom stood behind me, and we watched the mirror together. “Sara, no matter what anyone says, I’m telling you that everyone–everyone–looks better with makeup.” The lesson stuck. The lesson also holds true for content distribution. Graphics matter, and analytics prove just that: Pieces with other media (namely video and pics) are far more trafficked than words alone. Invest in istock, use a free service, or hire a designer.
- Shout it out.
If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it… You know what I mean. Marketing, online or off, is crucial to getting yourself heard. And yet, I find that writers/content creators are really bad at sharing their own work. For some, that hesitation is misplaced modesty; for others, it is fear or anxiety surrounding how their work will be received. But whether you’ve written a piece on stainless steel dials or you’ve churned out The Next Great American Novel—if folks can’t find it, your work is wasted. There are thousands of ways to share, but the standbys are social media, your owned media (blog, website), and through distribution services. If you’ve written something worth reading, per tips 1-3, you’re on your way to a hefty readership.
That’s my short list, and the 5 best ways I’ve found to create content that connects. I keep these top-of-mind with every client in every industry. There’s always a potential audience–and when you create content that informs, entertains, and engages, you’ll find your readership.
Sara Fraser – VP Content Strategy