When I rewrite my drafts, sometimes I get impatient. I cross out filler words and clichés and still, the content is blah. The words I use are so boring that I’m easily distracted by our family cat, Coco, or the contractors pounding on the roof shingles of my neighbor’s house across the street. (Do they need to pound at 8 o’clock in the morning?)
Remember in high school when the cheerleaders would spell the letters out loud for the word CONFIDENCE to the crowd? They’d yell “C-O-N … F-I-D … C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-Eeeeeeee!” The cheerleaders wanted people in the stands to join in the chant and encourage their team to victory.
For blogging, I think the word we need to pay attention to is C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-C-Y.
If your company has a blog, and you’re not publishing consistently, then you’re probably:
Missing new leads.
Losing online authority.
And your website may be penalized by search engines, including Google, for the lack of fresh content.
Maybe you’re feeling a little regret. A year is almost done and your company has missed the lead generation gusto a regularly published blog can bring.
Have you been the new kid on the block, so to speak?
If so, you can probably relate to the dilemma we faced when we moved from Kansas to Central New Jersey four years ago. We needed to learn in only three days the ins and outs of attending a New Jersey public school. Our two daughters would be enrolling in an intermediate school and an elementary school.
So we went online. We visited the school district’s website.
This is what we saw:
Where do we navigate first?
The website is not designed for a novice to the New Jersey public school system.
Where’s the Parent’s Handbook? What will I find in the Parent Portal? Where do I find information about how to prepare for the first day of school? How do I know the information I find here is updated? Some of the text states “Updated on Sept. 15, 2010.”
I felt lost.
The website creators did not have me in mind. They were unaware what the customer experience would be for a profile like me: a new parent of the school, new to New Jersey, with two children.
Website creators assumed visitors will have the same level of understanding that the creators have. But we didn’t.
“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind,” wrote Chip and Dan Heath.
Your boss has had enough. He agrees with you that there’s too much writing work to do and not enough in-house peoplepower (combining men + women + power) to do it.
He asks you to find a copywriter. In the long term, hiring a professional will ease your work load, but in the meantime, you have a new assignment in your job description. Find the right copywriter. Your manager may make the final decision, but he’s depending on you to do the homework.
Who do you recommend to hire? It’s important to choose the right one, not only to look good for the boss. You’ll be the main contact for the copywriter, so find someone you prefer to work with.
Feeling burdened about writing a piece of content for your business? You’ve been assigned a topic, you open the document to begin, but instead, find yourself staring at the white screen. Wondering what to say? Oh, how you hate the blank page. You doubt yourself. Will the writing be good enough?
In the recesses of your mind, the dread of knowing that when you finish crafting the content and it’s approved for publishing, you will have to do it again later this month.
The demanding obligation of creating content is not going away.
So what can you do?
I recommend a book that may provide some relief from your writing angst: Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley. The text won’t do the writing for you — darn! — but what you’ll appreciate is the author understands your pain. The self-proclaimed “Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” condenses helpful resources into an entertaining reference.
I think the book is a must-read for everyone involved in content creation.
But until you set aside some time to read it (along with cleaning out the refrigerator and organizing your desk drawer, yes, I know how much you love to do those tasks), let me share tips from the book that you can use in your next piece of content.
“Content is essentially everything your customer or prospect touches or interacts with …” Ann Handley
Handley writes the purpose of writing the book was to “wage the war on mediocre content.” Because, she says:
“We have become a planet of publishers.”
“Brevity and clarity matter more than ever.”
“What matters now isn’t storytelling, what matters is telling the story well.”
“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
You and I, we’re both responsible for crafting more good content at our front door. If we practiced what the following formula preaches, we would make a dent in eliminating unworthy content, if not in the world, at least in our businesses and clients’ businesses. Continue reading Everybody Struggles to Write Content
Your clients ask, “What is good content on a blog?” What do you say? Their inquiry may be a sign they’re ready to start a blog.
Perhaps your employees are helping the client plan a content strategy. In conversations, the client shares he doesn’t know the definition of the term good content.
A blog webpage is already set up on the company’s website. No blog posts have been created. All the marketing director needs to do is begin. If blogging was easy, the first post would have already been published. He wonders what the blog should be about.
Clients might be stalling, but they want to know:
What is good blog content?
It’s not “I’ll know it when I see it.” Vagueness is evil in marketing. Clarity is heavenly.
Everyone has an opinion on what makes a book worthwhile to read or a meal delicious to eat. Preferences are personal. In judging content, readers decide. They determine if it’s high quality or super awful.
Does that mean we just write 500 words and hope someone will read it? No. There’s more to a successful blog than word count and luck.
What do you advise your clients?
In my opinion, all good blog content has 4 universal truths.
Truth 1. Sticks to Only One Purpose Truth 2. Recognized as a Valuable Product Truth 3. Crafted as an Un-Template Original Truth 4. Leads the Reader Honestly
“Your e-mail messages are often the primary means people use to form their opinions about you.”
Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl
Good communication is my work, but you wouldn’t know it based on my email blunders this past month. I was trying to be quick and efficient, but I goofed. Inserted wrong dates, misspelled words, skewed the text font, placed two periods in a sentence — errors I noticed after I hit “send.” Oops. In one message. the punctuation and grammar were correct, but the message was muddled. The recipient wasn’t going to understand it. Only a phone call will resolve the confusion. Know how hard it is to reach a busy person by phone?
Is an email useful if no one opens and reads it? Or if a person opens the email, reads it, but doesn’t understand it? Then we begin a chain of email volleyball in clarifying the original thought – culminating in time wasted – frustration ensued – and energy consumed in resolving the miscommunication.
I call poorly written emails efails. I’ve done it.
I’ve also received some efails.
Have you committed some efails?
If you want to do better, this post is for you. I dug in and did the research. I started using these tips last week. Let me share what I’ve learned that will help you write better email. Continue reading How to Write Better Email
All those ideas swimming in your head are finally on paper. The draft of the sales copy is saved in a file. You wrote your email. A chapter of the book has been written. You realize you’re not done, but it feels good to have completed the first draft.
Ready to make your copy 50 percent better? Thought I’d share some tips everybody can use to improve their writing today.
First, let’s take a look at two ways to describe a city’s landmark.
“The location is Western Australian. In the city center, just near a road, stood a monument about dead men and boys, some really young. A really hard time was had by them. It was a very long time before the community simply went back to a routine of school, work and marriage, but not seen by outsiders.”
Confused when reading the description? Already bored you to tears? Yes, it was mind-numbing to read.
Let’s see the description with exquisite detail. Read how M.L. Stedman portrayed the city’s landmark in her book, The Light Between Oceans, voted the Best Historical Novel by 1.5 million voters on Goodreads.
“… hard-bitten experiences that marked any West Australian town. In the middle of the handkerchief of grass near the main street stood the fresh granite obelisk listing the men and boys, some scarcely sixteen, who would not be coming back to plow the fields or fell the trees, would not be finishing their lessons, though many in the town held their breath, waiting for them anyway. Gradually, lives wove together once again into a practical sort of fabric in which every thread crossed and recrossed the others through school and work and marriage, embroidering connections invisible to those not from town.”
Now that’s an example of award-winning writing. How did she do that? We may not strive to win prizes for writing the best novel of the year — well, we may not all want to write a novel — but we can improve the writing we do, every day.