3 Steps to Great Content
It couldn’t be easier, right? Three simple steps! I am not demeaning the effort it takes to create get content and I am not saying making content is quick or easy. However, if you keep the following three things in mind with whatever you do, then I know that your content will feel more focussed, more polished and be more powerful.
Step 1 – Audience
Whatever the content you are creating you have to write for a specific audience….even better, a specific person. Trust me! This does not mean that no-one other than those specific people (or person) will read the content, but it will ensure that your tone, format and style will be right.
The worst thing people try to do with their content is try to be everything to everyone.
I really like the use of ‘personas’ when it comes to a marketing strategy. Spend some time thinking about your 3-4 key audiences and then try to imagine a single ‘character’ for each audience. They should be your absolute ideal client in that segment of your market. Go in to great details describing them. You are allowed to be stereotypical. You are allowed to make generalisations. Give them a name, an age, an occupation, etc, etc.
When you are writing your next piece of content – i.e. a blog post – decide who you are writing for, which on one of your personas. Without it, it is likely that your writing will ‘fall between stools’. I used to see it a lot when I worked in publishing. Authors would say to me ‘oh my book will appeal to everyone’ ….in fact, this actually meant ‘no-one’, because it was trying to be all things to all people and it just doesn’t work. My favourite anecdote on this is to consider JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. If she had tried to appeal to the millions of readers who ended up reading her books, it would have been a total flop. Instead, for sake of argument, my guess is that she wrote for a 10 year old boy from the UK who had a good knowledge of the education system, i.e. that kids start secondary at age 11, generally go to the same school for 7 years and have a house system. Now, imagine if she had tried to explain the intricacies of all of this to ensure that every single person across the world where education systems vary greatly would understand exactly…how dull the book would be! You’d never even get to the magic bit! …My point is you have to pick an intended audience for your content and stick to it.
The advantage of having a clear audience in mind is that it will answer a myriad of questions for you, including the language style and level of the content, the subject areas, the depth, and even the length. For example, if you are writing a blog post for a busy mum, it needs to be much shorter and more accessible and be ‘advertised’ in different places (i.e. certain social media platforms) and at better suited times of day (not 3pm at school pick up time or 5-7pm at kids’ dinner and bed time!) than your CEO, who may well be on the commuter train home at 6pm and enjoys a longer read!
Step 2 – Purpose
WHHHHHHHYYYYYYYY? You have sat down to create content. You are giving up time that is not ‘billable’ to do so. You know the importance of marketing. However, PLEASE do not do it just ‘because’. What is your purpose? What is your ‘why’?
My top tip – decide what you are going to create and then ask in a sarcastic, moody teenage voice:
If you can fight that battle in your head then you are over half way to defining your purpose. Consider you ‘elevator pitch’ for that one piece of content! What are you going to write and why? For example, I am writing the blog post to make the lives of sole traders a little bit easier – giving them a simple three item checklist to ensure their content works hard for the business….and positions me as an advocate of ‘making content creation a little bit simpler’ for busy business owners.
Every piece of content needs a purpose. It is why a content schedule is so important. I would highly recommend that you don’t just sit down each day (or each week) and think “What shall I post about today?” – it needs to be part of a broader plan. Content needs to not only have an individual purpose but a purpose as a whole – all together! You should have goals and your content creation needs to directly feed in to achieving those.
Taking a step back, this is where a lot of your more overarching purpose should be derived from. What are your goals – business goals and marketing goals? For example, if a marketing goal is to increase traffic to your website by 10% by the end of the year…consider what content you can create that will help this. Consider how often you link to your website and where from. Is it always from social media? If so, is it within your post? Unfortunately, most social media sites hate you ‘leading’ people away from their platform so it will damage your reach. Therefore, consider how can you direct people to your website with your content in other ways….a simple one is to include a link in the comments instead of the main post…this then directly affects the wording you choose for the main post and the image you use (instead of an automated preview). This is a rather contrived example but I hope you see how deciding on your purpose can direct you to much easier decisions about what the content should be and how it is composed. It puts a boundary around what you cover. It stops you waffling. Focus on the purpose of the content and what you are trying to achieve with it. And keep it narrow. Just like the audience above, you can’t do all of the things with one piece of content. You can’t cover all of your goals….or at least you shouldn’t. Focus on one well-rounded purpose and create something that will help you achieve it.
Step 3 – Value
Everyone wants something for their effort and attention! It may sound selfish and depressing but, whoever your ideal clients are, they are likely to be very savvy customers and you owe it to them in your content to create something in which they will find value. I am not talking discounts or free gifts…I am thinking about information, education and entertainment. This is what great content can provide.
So what ‘added value’ can you offer to people through your content. It is might be tips and useful information. It might be a bit of fun or light-hearted entertainment on a dreary day! Consider what you are offering to your reader or follower by creating content.
This very blog post I hope will directly help you with creating better content. I don’t want to you to pay for it. I don’t want you to have to use my service to get it. I want to give you the ‘value’ of this knowledge and information. I want to educate. I want you to find my blog value-laden and helpful.
It might be something as basic as a meme – something you found amusing or inspiring and you feel your customers will feel the same (because you know them and have identified their characteristics through your work on your personas!!!). Therefore, its purpose is to entertain and show one of your company’s value – such as caring or fun. The value of your content is that you have made a client feel a bit better – without any cost to them!
More generally I hope I ‘add value’ in the services I offer by not only offering copywriting and editing copy for businesses but by sharing my knowledge and experiences. These include past mistakes; things that went wrong; things I’ve tried in my own business and things that I know can be an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to content. I like to share my knowledge of fellow business owners and their events or products, whether it is clients or people I have worked with – such a web designers or graphic designers or even local café owners…do you see that by hiring me you don’t just get a copywriter you get access to a network. And I try to share that in my content…not just grammar tips and writing skills, but hopefully so much more.
Value is something a lot of people add without even realising it…but as with everything, if you consciously evaluate it, it will certainly make it a more powerful asset in your arsenal.
Ready to start creating
These three steps are a cyclical process. Once you have considered the value in your content, make sure you go back and just check that this suits your audience and that is will be valuable to them and their needs or situation.
I hope you find these three steps can act as three simple checks when creating great content…now, start writing!