Four steps to writing engaging content
Crossing your t's and dotting your i's make a big difference in the impact of your marketing message. The details of how you promote your message, from the media to the copy writing, are what drive people to your goal.
Follow these four easy steps to create clear, actionable articles that drive your marketing content strategy.
Step 1. Preparation
When developing your message, make a complete list of the following:
Make sure you understand who is reading the article or advertisement. There will be a shift in tone, argument, and focus if your audience changes. For example, think about promoting a new burger restaurant. Since a burger restaurant may appeal to several audiences, developing a buyer persona for each will help you understand who you are writing for.
Knowing your audience can also help you finalize what to include in your content. Use your buyer personas to help understand what your audience cares about so that you can create content people want, engage with, and share.
Adjust the length and focus of your content based on its placement. If it is an advertorial in a magazine, there will be strict word limits and your content appears like editorial content. This scenario is quite different from blogging on a niche interest site. Both will require a different level of detail based on the audience’s level of familiarity.
When choosing your placement, keep your audience in mind. Make sure it is a place where your audience is, rather than a place you want them to be. By doing this, you are making it easy for people to reach and find your content. If you are using an internal channel, make sure to analyze its traffic to make sure the persona you are trying to reach is already engaged with you. If you are using an external channel, like another person’s blog or magazine, ask them for their statistics regarding online traffic or readership.
Understand the buying funnel when creating your messaging. Are you reaching someone who has never heard of your product? Have they heard of it and are not convinced? Have they visited your site and didn't checkout? Think about at what step in the buying process your prospect is at.
Developing awareness messaging is a lot different than convincing a prospect who is aware of the competition. By recognizing at what point your prospect is in the buying funnel, you can tailor your message further.
Impact and message
In order to crystallize what you are trying to convey, ask yourself: What is the main message you are trying to communicate? What type of outcome or impact are you trying to incite? Driving a customer to a sale, versus a piece of content striving for gaining reach or engagement, will offer a different overall message. These considerations will impact what type of tactics you will use in your messaging.
As part of your messaging preparation, collect any important facts that need to be included. Facts can help add credibility and specificity to your messaging. Having them on hand, rather than having to take extra time to look them up during the writing process, will help your writing session go more smoothly.
Product or service
There is a large difference in how to promote different types of items. If your product is high involvement, try for more detailed messaging seen in car commercials. For high involvement purchases, more details and specifications are necessary since customers are weighing more factors when making a purchase decision.
When messaging for a less involved product, like gum, use a more emotional appeal. Using more details is less useful for these types of products, hearing the composition of a piece of gum is not very convincing. However, using an appeal that speaks to emotions will help create a greater impression. There is some overlap in the two appeals, like this car commercial that appeals to emotion, but having a greater understanding of how your audience makes their purchase decision will guide the way you appeal to them.
Step 2. Writing
Write the article keeping in mind all of the information prepared in step one. All of the influences will help create a targeted and appropriate article to help drive consumers to your marketing goal. Choose a format at this point. There are several major formats to help increase recognition of the points you are trying to make.
Need more help in this step? There are plenty of writing tools to help improve your skills.
Step 3: Check for readability
Congratulations! You've written your first draft. It includes all of the amazing facts you gathered and your target message, but does it sound choppy or doesn't connect logically? This step will help straighten out your flow.
Re-write a second draft
Writing is re-writing. Print out a copy of your original article and then open a new Word document to write your next draft. Have the original next to you and read each sentence one at a time and then re-type it into your newest draft.
It may sound tedious, but re-typing your document can help refine your logical flow and tone. You may notice your tone or point of view changes throughout the article. Changing between first person to third person, or from present to past tense, becomes more apparent during re-writing. Find these deviations from style and adjust them in this tactic.
Read it out loud
Reading your next draft out loud will catch any stilted language or incorrect grammar you missed in the re-write step. This step does not take long and can highlight tone changes and awkward sentences. In this step, feel free to adjust your sentence variety. If all of your sentences begin with the same word or are all simple sentences, your content will be less engaging than ones with varied formatting.
Use additional cues to help bring your audiences along. Adding bolding, lists, numbering and other formatting can help bring breaks to your content and add more visual intrigue. For some easy ways to improve your writing, check out some quick tips.
Step 4. Editing
After writing your article, go through it and check the following to make sure you are showcasing your message in the best way possible. The editing process polishes all of the great content you have put together so that it is ready for publishing to your channel of choice.
Grammatical errors are a quick way to lose your audience. By showing you don't know the difference between you and you're, or not double checking to make sure both are used correctly, you are demonstrating carelessness to your audience. Autocorrect is a way of life, there should be no issues with running it through spell check after writing.
Another way to catch small errors that spell check may miss, like it's vs. its, have someone proofread it or re-read it over again.
Sentences should be clear. Ambiguity in writing can dilute your message and make it harder for readers to understand what you are saying.
A couple ways to help clear up your writing:
Edit your finalized article and remove adverbs. Adverbs, words ending in "–ly", do not add to your clarity and can be removed without impacting the overall meaning of the article. By removing these excess words, you add to the readability of your message.
Remove puffery if possible. Some puffery can help highlight enthusiasm for a product. However, unsubstantiated puffery can make your message less impactful. The substantiated statement adds credibility to the article’s claim and helps make your statement more specific. As you can see, the difference is huge between the two statements below.
Puffery statement: We make the best burgers in the US since 1949.
Substantiated statement: We have been rated #1 burger joint on Yelp since 2013.
Run your article through the Hemingway App. Anything you’ve missed that is a run-on, unclear or open to misinterpretation is highlighted for easy editing.
Notice any vague language after your read through? Take your vague statement and make it specific, or add an additional line to clarify a concept you are trying to get across.
Original: The best burgers start with the best ingredients.
Better: The best burgers start with the best ingredients, which is why we only use locally sourced products for all of our burgers.
Best: Our burgers start with only locally sourced products, guaranteeing freshness for our customers.
“Best” is vague and does not call attention to the benefit of your company being the “best.” Call attention the benefit because people respond more to benefits than features.
Call to action
Leaving out a call to action at the end of your article is a missed opportunity. Be clear about what you want your article to achieve and craft a matching call to action. If you want the reader to purchase a burger, complete your article with a promise. If you want them to subscribe to your blog, ask them to subscribe.
Choose your call to action with care, make it specific and make sure it makes customers and potential customers want to act.
By following this easy to follow process, you have now written your latest piece of amazing content. Before publishing, remember to add your visuals to increase the likelihood of sharing your content. Let your content dictate what type of visual to add, from infographic to example photos to demonstrate your point. Keep up the great work and keep delivering for your customers.
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