Content marketing is crucial for business. We all need to be authors and publishers - even if publishing is a field in which we have next to no experience.
Today, we all need to write pithy social media updates, informative blog posts, newsletters and we all need to pen many and various marketing materials.
In addition, not only do we need to write and publish these pieces of prose, we also have to ensure that we can produce content of the highest quality on a consistent basis to boot.
It is no surprise, therefore, that content marketing can quickly start to feel rather overwhelming.
A few years ago, my daughter learned an important lesson at school. She learned how to eat an elephant. Not literally of course but figuratively. Her teacher asked the class what they would do if they had to eat an elephant for dinner. Once they realised that this was purely a lesson and not a forthcoming menu option, most of the children were overwhelmed by the size and scope of such a meal.
The teacher then explained that, if they had to eat something as large as an elephant, the best thing to do would be to break it down and focus on one bite at a time. She asked her class to remember this the next time they faced a difficult piece of schoolwork.
The same is true with content marketing and blog post writing. If we are not careful, these tasks can quickly overwhelm us and prevent us from harnessing their power and taking our businesses forward. However, if we break things down into more manageable chunks, we will be able to complete our content marketing successfully - one piece (or bite) at a time. Try following these five steps to avoid the overwhelm.
Step One: Consider Your Audience
Your first step is to think about who will be reading your content. Who are the people that make up your ideal audience? This can be a hard thing to imagine at first. However, it is a really good idea to go into depth if you can.
Start by creating a fictitious version of a member of your audience and then ask yourself lots of questions about this person. Where does he/she live or work? What are their likes or dislikes? What do they do in their spare time?
Once you feel as if you really know this audience member, you can visualise his or her business pain points. By pain points, I mean the things that cause them stress or difficulty in their working lives. Make a list of all of these pain points. Can you help solve these them in a blog post or series of blog posts? If you can, you have the recipe for some pretty powerful posts right there.
Step Two: Get Inspired
Now that you have your list of pain points to solve, you have the perfect start of a list of future blog posts. You now need to build on this list. You can find inspiration for other posts in:
- News - news and current affairs can provide many new ideas for your blog. By taking a news story as a starting point and then making it relevant to your industry you can create a really effective blog
- Conversations - the conversations you have with your clients, colleagues, friends and family can be a rich ground for new blog ideas. If your client has asked a particularly interesting question you can turn your answer into a blog
- Experiences - your own experiences make for fantastic blog topics. Your readers will derive much benefit from reading about the things that have gone right in your business and also (perhaps even more so) from the things that have gone wrong. In addition, they are more likely to return to your blog in the future if they feel they are getting to know you as a real person that they like and trust
- Reviews - have you been bowled over by a new product in your industry? Read a thought provoking book? Are you really impressed by a new piece of software? If so, why not spread the word and write a review?
Step Three: Create A Structure
Once you have your blog topics, it is time to write! However, this stage can often feel the most overwhelming. Breaking your post down into five key parts can give you the confidence to start.
The five parts of your perfect blog post are:
- Headline - it is all too easy to get stuck on the title or headline. Indeed, this stage can prevent us from writing much of anything at all. My advice would be to call your article anything at the beginning. Even if the title strikes you as uninspiring you need to call it something and move on. You can, and most likely will, come back and change it later. Your final headline will need to have three special ingredients: it will need to be short, to the point and it will need to grab your reader’s attention
- Introduction - as with the title of your article, you can get bogged down in trying to perfect your article’s introduction. You will often change your introduction once the main article has been completed so don’t worry about it too much at the start. Your aim for your introduction is to make the reader want to read further. Be concise and lay out your argument. Remember that many people read the first few paragraphs of an article and then move on - so use the pyramid technique and summarise your most important points at the start
- Argument - in this section, you can delve into your argument in more depth and detail
- Evidence - now is the time to back up your argument with evidence. This may include making reference to relevant case studies, reports or surveys etc
- Conclusion - phew, you are nearly there! Your conclusion should be a concise summary of your argument and the evidence that supports that argument. When you are writing this, imagine a reader that is really strapped for time and who, as a result, only reads your introduction and your conclusion. You want that reader to come away with the same knowledge as the reader who has time to read your article in its entirety.
Now you have finished, the next step is for you to re-read it, edit where necessary and, finally, proofread before you send your article out into the world!
Step Four: Get Visual
Once you have written your blog post, with the help of the post structure above, you need to re-read it with a view to creating visuals. We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and visuals have become massively important both for blogs and for social media posts.
Do any of your article's points or comments stand out as being particularly powerful or compelling? Could you copy them and place them onto a striking image?
Creating visuals for your blog posts will have several benefits for your content marketing plan. Firstly, it will help break up your blog post, thus making it easier for your audience to read. Secondly, a visual can highlight a point that you want to emphasise or that you want your reader to remember. Thirdly, an image is great to use in your social media marketing. You can post it with a link back to your blog for a true win win!
I am no graphic designer but I absolutely love creating visuals for my blog. You can read more about how I do this in this blog post.
Step Five: Publish And Leverage
Once you have considered your audience, created a list of potential blog posts, written your post with the help of your tight editorial structure, you are ready to publish. This, of course, means more than merely making your post 'live' on your blog. You can really boost the power and effectiveness of your post by leveraging it and making it work in lots of different contexts.
For example, for this post, I have created an initial visual that will be perfect for a Facebook post and several that are exactly the right fit for Twitter. I will also create a taller image that I can post on Pinterest with a link back to my blog post.
In addition, I will isolate the points that will be most relevant to my different social media audiences and share them at different intervals. I may also decide to create a Slideshare or video presentation out of my blog post.
Thinking of all the ways I can publicize my post is a great way to make sure it is seen and read. However, that is only the start of the journey of the perfect post. Ideally, your post will become the basis of a conversation with your audience, prompting engagement and discussion.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post today. Do you have any advice regarding the creation of the perfect blog post? If you do, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.
Take care, Jane x