Your business already has a blog, but it’s difficult to keep posting fresh, relevant content. You know that a blog is a requisite part of a successful digital marketing strategy, but everyone on your team is so busy already. Right?
Well, here are 7 lessons I have learned as a writer that might help you write for your business...
The marketing arena has never been more rife with opportunity than it is today. What used to be the world of MBAs, starched collars, and data-less reporting has given way to creative writing degrees (MFAs), hipsters in flannel, and transparent Analytics. (Granted, MBAs and a pressed suit are still cool; however, marketing has no room for stats without ballast anymore.)
In my opinion, marketing’s new realm offers endless potential for teams—like Red Wheel’s—comprised of creative types who are passionate about language but who can also talk about metrics. And, data-obsessed analytical types who appreciate a well-crafted (and goal-oriented) sentence have a home. Thanks to content marketing!
With that said, I am a writer who is balancing between new-school, content-centric, results-driven marketing work and traditional editorial projects. My work hours are filled with writing blog posts, content strategies, revenue reports, KPI assessments, website wireframes, keyword research, and SEO audits, among other things, for Red Wheel’s clients. However, I occasionally still pitch editors on story ideas or accept assignments from magazines and websites to write traditional editorial stories.
And, the truth is, the writing I do as an Inbound Marketer feeds the writing I publish for magazines and editorial outlets, and vice versa. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship for each side of the content coin.
But, I digress. Here are seven things I learned as a writer that will help you write your company blog...
1. In order to be a writer, you must be a reader.
While Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Kerouac are definitely worth reading, I don’t think you necessarily need to be reading the canonized authors, unless you’re planning on writing long-form fiction.
However, there are blogs, resources, trade publications, journals, and Twitter handles out there. There are go-to resources writing and communicating about your industry (you are in luck if there truly aren’t any in your vertical because a digital content strategy will explode—in a good, revenue-generating type of way—without any other outlets). Find them! Read what they’re saying, how they’re saying it, and try to see how readers (or followers) are engaging with and reacting to the content.
For us at Red Wheel, HubSpot, Content Marketing Institute, and Contently are three examples of go-to resources in the Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing categories. (Let me know if you’re interested in other platforms for Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing research, there are many I trust!)
2. Write for the reader, not the writer.
From the onset, your primary goal MUST be to serve your reader, unique visitor, website trafficker. Give the reader something valuable—helpful, entertaining, analytical, informative, etc.
Far too often, marketers write content that is self-serving. Guess what? That content does not reach or resonate with anyone. We turned the old cliché “If a tree falls in the forest but no one hears it…” into “If a blog is posted online but no one reads it, was a blog ever really posted?”
Write for the reader!
3. Think about language economy.
It is true that Google’s crawlers and search engine algorithms reward lengthy posts as opposed to pithy, short ones. But, approaching language like economy is a valuable lesson I learned early on as a student and carry with me to this day.
Like currency, every word has a value. And, like economics, more words means you’ll depreciate the value of each word. (Compare to inflation in economics.) Don’t start focusing on word counts, but don’t waste words either. Be clear. Be concise.
A cherished writing professor of mine used to always teach: "What are you trying to say in this piece? Well, then say that!"
4. The creative process, the writing process, and the content creation take time.
Ira Glass, creator of the award-winning podcast entitled This American Life is an indisputable master of the spoken and written word. His advice to burgeoning writers is worth listening to. In a short excerpt from a 2011 interview with NPR, Glass passed along invaluable advice to beginning writers touching on the concept of a process.
[Looking for inspiration? Watch the excerpt below.]
5. Consecrate time to write.
Surprise! Surprise! Having a strong work ethic is key if you want to have success as a content creator and writer. Everyone talks about writer’s block, which drives me nuts. The truth is: There are inherent ebbs and flows to creativity.
Like the ocean (I grew up surfing), there are times when the “surf’s up” and there are other times when the ocean is flat. There’s nothing you can do to change the fluctuations in swells. I think this is an apt metaphor for writing—there will be times when you’re churning out content that’s turnkey and ready to post, and there will be other times when you’re struggling to complete a coherent sentence. Don’t let the lulls break you!
For me, it’s very important to have a daily writing routine established in stone. This allows me to act on inspiration rather than having to wind up and carve out time to write when there’s an idea. Also, the down times always prove to be important as long as I’m staying diligent. From character sketches and brainstorming story ideas to fine-tuning SEO keywords and writing data-analysis projects, the “flat” times are important to embrace.
Let’s get over the “writer’s block” excuse and be productive during down times. Then, let’s knock it out of the park when it’s go-time and your muse is moving you!
6. Have a viewpoint, and don’t hesitate to take a stand.
There is A LOT of noise bouncing around in the online publishing and blogging worlds. Take Wikipedia’s 34,780,900-plus pages for example. The user-generated, “free encyclopedia” is growing at an exponential rate. The space is overwhelming for people due to all the blogs, posts, and articles on the Internet.
Thankfully, search engines help quiet the noise. But, if you’re an authority in your field, an expert at your craft, and a resource in your industry, your voice has value. One great way to reach readers online is to express a viewpoint, take a stand, and speak out to your soon-to-be customers.
7. Don’t take rejection personally!
Last, but definitely not least, in order to be any type of writer—novelist, blogger, journalist, or others—you must handle rejection well. For me, it was almost two years of radio silence when I started sending story pitches, polished pieces, and ideas to editors. Zero response! Nada.
I vividly remember feeling a mini sense of accomplishment the first time I received a rejection letter from a magazine I pitched. The editor noticed and cared enough to take the time to reject me, rather than overtly ignoring me. Slowly, the rejection morphed from silence to rejection letters to acceptance letters to small, published stories to feature well narratives to assignments. But, none of that happens if you can’t handle being rejected.
For marketers, the rejection might come in the form of little web traffic at first, a dearth in leads, lack of conversion from leads to customers, or long sales cycles that are frustrating. Deal with it. This is life online, as a content creator and as an Inbound Marketer. But the rejection will cease if you work to hone the craft of content creation and writing, you write for the reader, and you listen and adapt to feedback from comments, Google Analytics, and customers.
There is no exact science to creative projects like writing; however, peeling the artsy and ethereal mumbojumbo away from writing blogs exposes an important common denominator: You have to create content to attract new website traffic, and the best way to attract readers is to provide some type of value.
So, put pen to paper and get started!