Written marketing content exists in two forms:
Effective – readable, educational, well differentiated and memorable. This results in a positive image of the author, while delivering a simple message about them.
Ineffective – poorly written, self-promoting and jargon-filled. Such content is either not read at all, forgotten or, even worse, leaves a negative image of the author.
Here’s what can you do to make sure your content is the former, not the latter:
Read What Other People Write
Too often you read an article or blog post and question whether the author has ever considered what other people think. This is because most written content lacks uniqueness. To avoid producing undifferentiated content that is unmemorable, you must familiarise yourself with what else has been written about your chosen content area. This will identify what you can write about that will be differentiated. And if your content is different, it will be remembered.
Write for a Specific Reader
A sure-fire way to write ineffective content is to start typing away furiously for the sake of it. Before you start writing, you need to ascertain the profile of who you’re writing for (sector, experience, geography), what they’re likely to want to read about and tailor your content accordingly. This will allow your writing to be focussed and specific. This will make your content educational, and the author – you – to be seen as an expert.
Write for Your Reader Not for Yourself
There’s no easier way to put readers off your content than going into depth about your businesses successes or industry accolades. Your average reader simply won’t care. You need your writing to demonstrate that you care about your reader. Never use the first person and never use phrases like ‘at agency A we believe….’. And don’t sign off with lengthy paragraphs about your company’s products and services. If you don’t show that you care for the reader, they will think negatively of you.
Tell Your Reader Why They Should Read Your Work
Despite the need for your reader to be the centre of your writing, the bad news is this: your reader is too busy and time poor to care about you. However, you can overcome this by making it explicitly clear to your reader what they get from reading your content. Avoid fluffy and fancy titles – these aren’t creative, they’re confusing. If you confuse your reader, they won’t read your content. Similarly, don’t start your opening paragraph with a philosophical or fluffy story. This won’t generate intrigue, it will confuse the reader further. In your title and opening paragraph, tell your reader what they will learn from your content and why they should read on. If the reader doesn’t read on, they won’t remember you or your content.
Respect Your Reader’s Time
Writing guru Josh Bernoff’s iron imperative is ‘respect the reader’s time, more than you respect your own’: If you adopt this belief you will learn how to better signpost your content and write more clearly and succinctly. If you don’t, it is likely your writing will lack structure, confuse your reader or not be read If you do this, you will be wasting your reader’s time. This will result in them having a negative image of your content and brand.
Be Simple, Not Sophisticated
Written content frequently uses lengthy words, buzz words and acronyms to appear sophisticated. However, this just confuses readers. Keep language as simple as you can. If you must use a dictionary to understand what a word means, you shouldn’t use it. Avoid industry buzz-words, they frustrate readers and restrict your written content’s ability to differentiate. If your content can’t be understood, your communication credentials will be doubted and your expertise will not be clear.
By Jack Miles, Senior Research Director
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