How to Write Great Content-Part 2 of 2
Now that you understand how to add personality to your writing, what are you going to write about? It’s like being all dressed up for a party seated in the driver’s seat of your car without a map to get to the event.
Here are twelve suggestions to start.
- Current topics. Think like an old-fashioned tabloid newspaper. What’s hot in your niche. If other people are writing about something, it’s a good bet that it’s a hot topic. Caution, this doesn’t mean copying someone else’s ideas! Rather add your own insights and opinions to the discussion.
- How To’s. Just as this column is giving step-by-step advice, explain to your audience how to do something related to your topic. Readers find it helpful if you break tips into discrete steps and make them scannable with the use of bullet points and bolding. Cooking recipes are a good example of this.
- FAQs (aka, Frequently Asked Questions). Gather a set of questions about one of your core topics and answer them. If the answers are lengthy, break the article into a series of related posts.
- Holidays. Use holidays, such as Halloween, as the hook to grab people’s attention. For example, write a post such as 15 Halloween Costumes to Make in Under 1 Hour, which is relevant every October. Think beyond ordinary celebrations. For example, what about featuring Day of the Dead (November 1st )?
- History. Give background about a topic related to your niche. If you’re writing a company blog, here’s a great place to add insights about the firm’s past. Make it fun and entertaining.
- Research. Deliver your own research or commentary on third party research. The goal here is to provide new insights into the data that others haven’t discussed. For instance, Junta 42’s content marketing research was discussed in a series of columns on Content Marketing Institute.
- Resource lists. While these columns require research, lists are great way to provide useful content to readers. Even better is the fact that they act as link bait and attract attention while helping your search optimization. Lee Odden’s Online Marketing Blog’s Big List of Search Blogs is a great example of this.
- Convert presentations. Adapt presentations into an article. It’s a good idea to tailor the piece to your audience’s needs and add something special. While you can use internal and external presentations, remember that the information has to be able to be shared publicly. For example, I used my presentation at the DMA 2010 to write my ClickZ column Stop Experimenting With Social Media.
- Collect insights on a topic. Ask a group of experts in your area for their input on an important topic of interest. One of the benefits of this type of column is everyone mentioned in it will link to it and tweet it.
- Provide customer feedback. Answer your customers’ questions about a topic related to your blog and/or product offering. It’s critical not to sound self-serving.
- Interviews. Talk to people of interest to your audience. It can even be members of your audience. The great part of this type of post is that you don’t need to develop the content. Compile a set of questions to ask. Ask readers what they’d like to know. Extend the interview by making a short video of some of the questions. This is a great project to do at trade shows and conferences where there are high profile people of interest in one location.
- Live blog events. Here’s another suggestion that doesn’t require content planning beyond being present at the conference or talk. You can do straight reporting or you can incorporate your insights into the post. David Berkowitz of Inside the Marketer’s Studio and John Blossom of Content Nation both excel at this. Read their reporting and you know what was said and happened at the presentation. Alternatively, I tend to give my spin on the presentation. Here’s how I covered the DMA 2010’s Social Media Face-Off.
To capture fleeting blog post ideas before they vanish, keep an old fashioned notepad or a page on your smart phone where you can jot down notes of things that have the potential to become blog posts. This takes practice. Early on, it’s hard to come up with ideas for topics. Stir the pot and ask readers and colleagues for ideas.
When it comes to writing, don’t wait for the spirit to move you since that’s rarely going to happen. Rather strong content comes from well-developed writing that requires constant practice. To this end, you must show up at the page, electronic or paper, on a regular basis so that it becomes second nature like brushing your teeth and you do it automatically.
Unlike your third grade composition where you had to start at the top of the blank page, you have the freedom to start anywhere. Blog posts, like any other form of writing, don’t have to be written in the order in which they appear as a finished piece. In fact that’s one of the great things about using a word processor, you can change around the content without the need to rewrite it!
Strong writing has an order to it. When you’re writing, forget what your elementary school teachers taught you. Start writing where the energy of your ideas are and let them flow from there. Over time you will develop a process that works for you. Some people outline a few points and others just put the words on the screen. Whichever way works for you, it’s a good idea to have someone you trust edit your final version since it can be difficult to see grammatical mistakes and unclear ideas when you’re close to a piece of writing.
I hope that this gives you enough material to get beyond the blank page syndrome. If you have suggestions to help other readers, please add them to the comments section.
A few of my favorite books on the subject of writing
A few top blogs focused on the art of blogging
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