I love words!
I love their magic.
I love their playfulness.
I love their power.
And I love that they are my tools of the trade.
I have been reading and writing my whole life. I’ve been editing and tweaking and rearranging others’ writing for the last ten years. And I find myself making the same kinds of “fixes,” over and over.
That being said, I’d like to offer you a few helpful tips in the content marketing and creation arena. These bite-size pieces are useful in so many places – sent out as a newsletter, submitted for publication, or used as website content. They are meant to connect with your reader, to inform your audience, and to reach out as basic human-to-human contact. So start with the obvious:
What have you learned?
What have you experienced?
What can you share that will make a difference in someone else’s life?
There is always something to write about – always – no matter if it’s personal, professional, or something else entirely. It can be hard to come up with a relatable topic sometimes, though, so here’s your first tip:
1. Pull from your own life
This might mean referring to an event from years ago, something that shaped you into the incredible entrepreneur you are now. It also might mean considering the mundane events of today (or yesterday, or last week) and seeing what little life and business lessons or silver linings you can extract.
If you’re going to truly connect to your reader… it helps to remind them that you’re human, too. Back when I worked at a health store, I was inspired to write a piece based on an “Aha!” moment I had while cleaning the wet wall (the produce section that mists things like lettuce and chard and parsley).
I knew there were steel wool scrubbers in the back, but I was stubbornly working with a scouring pad. It did the job… It just did it very slowly. I questioned this aversion, and suddenly noticed a part of me that believed that the harder I worked, the more accomplished I would feel. I thought, “Hey! That’s silly! Why not just go get the steel wool?” So I did. The job got done far more quickly, and when I got home I wrote a blog about working smarter instead of harder. Sometimes the simplest things can lead to creative epiphanies, so pay attention as you move through your day. Inspiration is everywhere!
2. Develop a theme ‘thread’ that runs through your content
Think of writing content like making a beaded necklace. Your ideas are the beads, and your main theme is the thread that holds it all together. You’ve already pulled something from your life to get you started, so now you need to figure out exactly what your main message is.
In the wet wall example, my thread was “Why work harder when you can work smarter?” Every paragraph in that blog supported and built on this theme. I notice often that writers have a million ideas they want to offer up, and this is not a bad thing. It can actually be easier to work with “too much” information than not enough, because you can pare down the excess. That’s the key, though: knowing what is excess.
I could have gone on to discuss why I enjoyed working at the health store, or how long I’d been there, or what items were displayed on the wet wall… but those things had nothing to do with my thread. It’s easy to go off on a tangent – especially when you’re passionate and excited about your topic – but if it doesn’t fit your theme then that bead is going to be rolling around on the table next to the necklace, and the reader won’t understand why it’s there.
3. Your content needs a ‘clasp’
Your ideas are the beads. Your theme is your thread. Now you need a clasp to tie it all together.
I always tell my clients to “tie the end back to the beginning.” Find something catchy you can use to introduce your theme, and then reference it again when you wrap up. In my example, I used the wet wall as my clasp. It wasn’t the theme itself. It was a way to introduce the theme. I began with my “Aha!” moment. Then I went on to string the beads of my work harder/smarter message. And then I circled back at the end by illustrating how quickly the task went once I’d grabbed the steel wool.
You can use a personal event like that… or a quote, or a statistic, or just about anything you like. Just make sure it serves as an introduction to your theme, and also as a way to tie your content off at the end.
Remember: each piece of content is a necklace, and it needs to come full circle if it’s going to serve its purpose. Otherwise your reader will be left feeling like you went off course and lost your train of thought. Using a “clasp” ties the piece up all neat and tidy, and leaves your reader with a sense of completion.
Create magical, playful and powerful content
Words are indeed magical, playful, and powerful. (Notice the clasp here?) They can conjure up emotions, paint pictures, bridge gaps. They can teach and inspire and encourage and heal. They can even create entire worlds. But just like any tool (more clasp), they beg to be wielded skillfully. Without structure and awareness, they can give birth to confusion and chaos.
This is why I do what I do, and why I love it so much (more clasp): I get to bring order to chaos! Hopefully now, with these tips in your pocket, you’ll find it easier to bring that structure and awareness to your own content.
Haley Phillips is an editor and co-writer, and the owner of Haley’s Wordsmithing. She mixes her love of stories with her love of people which, combined with her analytical mind and knack for structure, delivers a well-rounded and engaging experience to her clients. Connect with @haleywordsmith on Twitter.