“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Mark Twain
The web is swimming in content. Reams and reams of it. As digital marketing channels become more diverse, better targeted and virtually universally adopted, it has never been more critical to make sure you’re getting your content marketing strategy right. And if you can’t write good content, hire someone to do it for you.
You might be surprised how much material you already have as an organisation – throughout your sales material, in your presentations, lurking at the bottom of your (overflowing? – yep) inbox… And it’s ok, in fact it’s a good idea, to get the most out of your content by repackaging and reusing it across your digital marketing campaigns. The trick is to make it clear, concise and to-the-point.
As a rule of thumb, you have approximately three seconds to engage your reader with your compelling headline. Three seconds before he or she turns away, without reaching your carefully constructed discussion peppered with beautifully crafted corporate messages. Capture your reader’s imagination straightaway and he or she is likely to read on.
Digital marketers are rewriting the rule book for today’s channel-hopping audience and we’re all starting to communicate across a whole host of different media. Writing online content presents a new set of challenges: you’re likely to be limited in word count, you’re often competing with irritating pop-ups and scrolling banners and, most importantly, you need to incorporate researched keywords to help optimise search and ultimately drive traffic.
Copywriting is a subjective discipline, but I’d like to share some tips that work for me.
- Always write for one reader. It doesn’t matter that you’re hoping thousands will read, ponder and draw inspiration from your wise words. Think of one person you’d like to read your post and write it for them.
- Edit, prune, then edit some more. Aim to cut your copy by around a third and make every word count.
- Read it aloud. Honestly, give it a try – I guarantee you will find ways to improve the flow. If it’s easy to read out loud, it’s easy for your reader to understand.
- Read. Read all the time: books, newspapers, billboards, magazines, blogs, twitter, backs of cereal packets… You can find the spark of an idea absolutely anywhere.
- Write actively rather than passively. Use verbs not nouns (not “The granting of her wish” but “Her wish was granted”) and vary the pace, tone and length of sentences – it all helps to keep your content dynamic.
- Remember the time-honoured words of Elmer Wheeler: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” You’re not writing about gadget X or product Y. You’re creating an idea, an inspiration, a solution, a legend if you will.
- And I never thought I’d say this (deep breath) – be prepared to challenge the rules of grammar. In case you’re in any doubt, I do not mean spelling and punctuation go out the window but I do believe some rules are made to be broken.
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