There is endless content floating around on the internet: every article, social media post, and email is competing for the consumer’s attention. While reaching audiences through social media has been the trend of the last decade, most executives and businesses still rely on emails and traditional media to stay on top of the latest trends and topics in their industries. In order to reach this audience that craves reliable, interesting, and informative content, the written word is going to be your best bet. This doesn’t mean you should scale back on your social media efforts, but it might be time to brush up on your writing skills.
Capture Your Audience
When it comes to creating any kind of content, you have to be strategic about how you can stand out. Captivating your audience is especially important for written content, as people will only read something if they believe the content has value to them and it captures their attention quickly. After all, the average attention span these days is only 8 seconds, which is less than that of a goldfish!
If you want to make your content stand out in a crowded marketplace, having a journalistic lens is key. You have to ask yourself: Why is this content newsworthy? What makes this story different from others?
You could have the most fascinating story in the world, but it won’t matter if it’s lacking the ability to draw the reader in. If you are writing an email or a blog post, the most important element to consider is the subject line or headline. A headline is not simply a meaningless placeholder, it is the deciding factor on whether or not someone dives into the story. Assume your audience is busy and gets distracted easily. Get your message across while you still have their attention.
Engage Your Reader
We often think that the most interesting part of a story should go at the end so it resonates with the reader. However, if there is no interesting headline or introduction, very few will make it past the first paragraph, let alone to the end of your story. A major fault of storytelling is feeling the need to tell a story chronologically. The best way to grasp your reader is to move the most interesting pieces of content you have towards the top.
Once you have hooked your reader, utilize these strategies to help keep them engaged.
- Keep Things Short and Sweet: Your introduction shouldn’t be packed with unnecessary details. Keep it short, to the point, and engaging.
- Vary Sentence Structure and Length: Sentence structure can be used to help emphasize important bits of information. It also makes reading more fluid.
- Know Your Audience: Just because you know a topic well doesn’t mean your audience will. Avoid technical jargon and fill in knowledge gaps when needed. On the contrary, if your audience knows the subject you’re writing about, use appropriate vocabulary.
- Break Grammar Rules: According to PR expert Michael Smart, “Interesting writing often breaks old-school grammar rules that make things harder on readers.” Employ proper grammar in the rest of your paper, but don’t feel confined by the rules your high school teacher taught you.
Before a story gets published, it is important to give it a read-through and make edits. In fact, professionals suggest you should allocate 30% of your time to editing. No matter how skilled you are at writing, you still need an editor, as the best stories often come from drafts that weren’t quite right. The editing process should be thoughtful and intentional.
There is much more to editing than simply making grammar, spelling, and style edits. While these edits are important, the goal of the editing process should be geared towards the bigger picture. Editors should look at a story from a beginner’s eye, even if they are well versed in the subject of the piece. When editing, ask yourself: Do I understand this? Has my curiosity piqued? What do I walk away thinking and feeling? Make sure these thoughts and feelings match the writer’s intended goals.
When editing a story, bear these tips in mind:
- Read the Story All the Way Through: Before you start to move things around or rewrite sentences, read the story once all the way through to see the big picture. This is especially important if you are editing a piece written by someone other than yourself.
- Keep it Moving: Is the introduction too lengthy? Is there too much context and not enough story? Do the quotes add to the story and take away from it? Make edits so the story flows as smoothly as possible.
- Concise is Best: Try to keep your sentence word counts under 20. You can almost always gain readability without losing meaning by doing this.
- Look for What’s Missing: Are there any questions that have been left unanswered? Is there something that should be explained that isn’t? Is there enough action to keep the reader interested? If something feels like it is missing to you, a reader will likely feel the same. Add missing details.
While the average American has trended towards consuming other types of content, there will always be a market for written content. This doesn’t mean you should minimize social media efforts, instead, understand when written media may suit your marketing needs best. Different content formats have different benefits, with written content being most effective for educational and more complex or nuanced topics.
Now that you’ve brushed up your long-form writing skills, learn how to use LinkedIn to leverage your content.