Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content – by Ann Handley

Utility × Inspiration × Empathy = Quality Content

Part I: Writing Rules: How to Write Better (and How to Hate Writing Less)

“Start with empathy. Continue with utility. Improve with analysis. Optimize with love.”

Why am I creating this? What’s my objective? What is my key take on the subject or issue? What’s my point of view? And, finally, the critical so what?- because exercise: why does it matter to the people you are trying to reach?

What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”

Describe a problem your reader can relate to.

Set a stage.
Ask a question.

Use this one infrequently, as the technique gets tiresome otherwise.

Quote a crazy or controversial bit of data.

Tell a story or relay a personal anecdote.

Recast the biggest takeaway of the piece.

Add an element of tonal surprise.

Let others have the last word.

“salvation, not sales. Theology, not transactions,”

‘What hell does my product save people from? And what heaven does it deliver them unto?’”

In other words, don’t talk about your features, benefits, and shining moons. Tell me— better yet, show me— why they matter to me.

..specific details make content vibrant, and they add a necessary human element that makes your content more relatable. Details paint a fuller, clearer, picture and give readers necessary footholds for getting more involved or vested in the writing.

Be specific enough to be believable, but universal enough to be credible.)

That’s personable— and to my mind a sweet spot for business-to-business companies.)

Of course, the key to all of this— making words come alive, adding a human element, and being personable and compelling— is to be specific. To show, not merely tell.

“A writer always tries… to be part of the solution, to understand a little about life and to pass this on,”

..strive to explain your point of view to your reader with supporting evidence and context.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned,”

Part II: Writing Rules: Grammar and Usage

Some might think those are simply the words of business, especially if their company sells to other businesses rather than to consumers. (But no business truly sells to another business; we all sell to people.)
But that’s a book for another day.

Part III: Story Rules

At its heart, a compelling brand story is a kind of gift that gives your audience a way to connect with you as one person to another, and to view your business as what it is: a living, breathing entity run by real people offering real value.

In that way, as we wrote in Content Rules, your content is not about storytelling, it’s about telling a true story well.
It’s true.

By the way, when you are writing about people, this is a good rule: be specific enough to be believable, and universal enough to be relevant.

It serves the customer.

The best content has your customers in it, so make sure your customer is the hero of your story.

It tells a bigger story that’s aligned with a long-term business strategy.

The Chicago law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein

“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that— but you are the only you,”

“Voice grows out of your own brand attributes, and how you want to set yourself apart from your competitors,”

Part IV: Publishing Rules

Writing to Deadline, Donald Murray offers a pointer

What’s commonplace to you that might be interesting to others?  What events outside our industry or in the larger world might serve as inspiration?  Get out of the office: trade shows, clients, and partners all offer content opportunities.  Draw offbeat analogies from your own life or interests.

Part V: 13 Things Marketers Write

“Brand loyalists are loyal to a brand only as long as a brand complements their own life and priorities.”

If Twitter is where you go to meet people you don’t know and Facebook is where you go to talk with people you do know, then LinkedIn is where all of you can meet up to get stuff done together.

Change your mind-set from “always be closing” to “always be helping.” This is a great place to build relationships with an audience and earn their trust.

“Don’t amplify the act of proceeding, amplify the value of it. Not ‘Start free trial,’ but ‘End scheduling hassles.’”

Bs: big, bright, bold, and blindingly obvious.

First, most companies don’t need their content to go BuzzFeed- viral, nor should they expect it to. Instead, content marketing goals are more modest in aggregate— but more lasting, too. Your goal is to help the people you are trying to reach and create value for them, to create content so useful they’ll thank you for it, to build audience and relationships.

You want your home page to say, “We get you. And, what’s more, you belong here. We understand your challenges, your fears, your pain, your hopes, your needs.

Remember: your value is not what you do or what you sell, it’s what you do for your customers. That shift may seem subtle, but it’s everything.

Build scale. To establish yourself, write for your audience’s audience. A great way to build scale for your blog is to ensure that your writing appeals to industry influencers, says Buffer CEO Leo Widrich.

“The reason for doing this is that ultimately it’s the best way how your brand and your audience can grow. You don’t limit yourself to just a certain audience, but you make sure that your content is relevant to your audience’s audience at all times.”

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