Ignorance is bliss.
The beginner strikes out and doesn’t see the dangers ahead. The novice driven by passionate curiosity doesn’t see the complexity of the task of mastery. It is just seen as an exciting adventure.
But as they dive into the the complex ecosystem of subjects, technologies and thought bubbles that sat in and around the core, doubts emerge and questions are raised. The content marketer has the same challenges.
Should I be creating live stream videos, become proficient at the new platforms or master marketing automation. Should I start a podcast? A webinar?
This is the point that many people stop. They have so many choices that they freeze. Hesitate.
Work out what to focus on.
The one skill
There is one skill that all content marketers need to learn. The art of writing.
Good writing skills underlines and supports video and even audio. The headline, script and description are just a few. Crafted words and considered communication are important in changing minds and moving hearts.
But If any sort of writing talents were bypassed at birth then you may need to hire them. That maybe an ex-journalist, trained writers or start asking guest authors to contribute.
The hidden benefit of writing
Now content marketing can often be seen as just a customer acquisition tool and also for positioning you as a thought leader and influencer in your industry. But that is only part of the reason you should be creating content and writing.
Content creation can sometimes feel like a waste of time that distracts you from billing clients and making money. But writing every day about your industry and your core topics will take you to a new level of insight, learning and clarity.
The discipline and craft of wrangling words will change and transform your life if you commit to it.
So what is important?
Writing well requires many elements. So what is important? Well I can state the obvious and mention grammar and spelling.
When I first started out the writing police turned up in the comments and on Facebook. My amateur proficiency at grammar and spelling were called out. But don’t let that stop you. You are doing something many people don’t do. Executing and doing. Many people stop at a good idea.
But beyond those two fundamentals there are some insights that stand out for me. And when I started out I hardly gave them a passing thought.
Here are some aspects of writing for the social web that need to included in your content marketing toolbox.
The goal of the headline is to get you to read the first line. That is the start of your introduction.
Then the goal is to get them to read the rest. Draw them in. How do you do that?
Here are 3 quick and dirty tips to get you thinking about how to craft your introductions.
- Open with a question
- Use Storytelling is another way to start a blog post or an article. Stories have been with us since the dawn of time.s
- Provide a quote
Ever seen a wall of dense text with long paragraphs and close spacing? Does it make you want to click away?
In a time poor digital world where people dive into and out of online posts and text means that you need to work on structure. Writing a blog post that is designed for skimming and scanning is essential.
Use sub-headings, bullet points and short paragraphs in your writing.
“I would have written you a shorter letter but didn’t have the time”.
This quote attributed to many highlights the importance of producing clarity from what is often a cloud of confusion. This is more important in a digital world where technology engulfs us. Making the effort to be clear in your writing is worth striving for.
More is not better and often an important insight is buried in a mountain of words.
Distilling complex concepts into clarity is a skill to develop and hone. As you write you need to put on your starting goggles. You need to write with the mind of a beginner. Put yourself in their shoes.
You were an amatuer once.
Ever heard a speaker that spoke in a monotone and the same rhythm? Bored? But you couldn’t leave the room?
On the web you are only one click away from oblivion. Good writing needs rythmn. So be interesting and mix up the length of your sentences.
Short sentences, medium and long are part of your writing toolkit. Even one word sentences work well.
Spelling it out is good. So making the content so clear that you lead them by the hand is often needed.
But sometimes getting people to fill in the blanks themselves is a powerful way to get them motivated. Let them work it out themselves is an important tactic to use.
Imagination is a powerful force that allows people to come up with their own solutions. So try some abstraction that suggests rather than tells.
Sounding smart and using big words may be tempting. But unless you are trying to impress your professor while writing your thesis then avoid words that can’t be read or understood by a nine year old.
A book that is worth reading and has helped me is one of Stephen King’s few non-fiction books titled “On Writing”. In it he uses an example of a clever and powerful 53 word sentence from Mark Twain. He points out that 38 of those words are single syllable.
Big words and industry speak (think acronyms) are to be avoided at all cost.
Keep it simple.
“People will forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel”.
In that quote (often attributed to Carl Buechner) is the truth about the art of storytelling. Touching people’s hearts is at the centre of engagement. When I started my online publishing venture it was all about the facts. Information, data and stats.
When I commenced my speaking career my Powerpoint’s were all about bullet points. More information and more stuff. When I began writing emails the facts were the main hero.
But if you want to move people, educate and transform you need more than that in your writing toolbox.
As marketers you need stories to be memorable. To persuade.
In a digital age and a noisy world we need the art of storytelling more than ever. This will make your writing compelling and engaging. Touching hearts and imagination is one of your main goals.
Over to you
Writing often is perceived as not as exciting as video or as compelling and viral as enhanced and augmented Snapchat images. But it is still the foundation and core to powerful communication as a content marketer.
Writing is the one skill that will be the support act to everything else that you do.