4 Fundamentals of Great Content Creation
The craft of writing copy has evolved since the classic era glamorized by Mad Men, when marketers could — in the memorable words of one of the characters — “write a prose poem to a potato chip.” Today’s overstimulated consumers are too savvy, and their time is too precious, to be lured in by glitzy ad work — that is, work that announces itself as advertising.
Meanwhile, content marketing and native advertising (advertising designed to blend in with the site it’s published to) are winning people’s hearts and minds. New channels of communication, interaction, and publishing are opening up faster than brands are able to take advantage of them. And, to the delight of marketers (journalists aren’t as thrilled), editorial and branded content have become almost inextricably linked.
Regardless of innovations in product or platform, words are still as powerful as ever. But to resonate with your audience and gain their trust, your content needs to be honest and authentic. These four fundamentals of content creation are a smart place to start.
1. Know your audience
Before setting pen to paper, you need to know whom you’re addressing your message. Regardless of your end goal when it comes to content — whether it’s direct sales, brand awareness, or social engagement — you’ll want to do the preliminary research needed to understand your target audience. Use tools like Google Analytics to find out who’s visiting your site and where they’re coming from. Identify the target age, gender, geography, and income bracket of your most likely customers so that your content appeals to them.
As the options for website analytics grow increasingly sophisticated, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about your audience than ever before. Use this analytic capacity to create smart, relevant content that resonates. And don’t stop there — you should make analysis an ongoing process, so you’ll know what kinds of readers are responding to what kinds of content. Then you can optimize your content for maximum impact.
2. Know your platform
The other aspect of knowing your audience is knowing how and where to reach them. If your target audience is much more active on Facebook than any other channel, then that’s where your content marketing efforts should be focused.
Just as old-school advertising took different approaches to print and TV, today’s content must be tailored to the medium in which it appears, whether it shows up in an email or on a social media platform. With digital natives making up a growing percentage of consumers, understanding the user experience in the platforms you’re working in is vital to reaching the user. Challenge yourself with relevant questions based on the platform through which you’re seeking to communicate with your audience: Will this subject line get cut off on a smartphone? How will this message stand out in the interminable scroll of a Facebook feed?
The professionals at a top-notch content firm not only know how to write with impact and consequence, they also understand the importance of the user experience and the nuances of different platforms. They can help you both identify your audience and tailor your messaging to the channels that count.
3. Don’t make wordplay a substitute for good writing
Sometimes writers feel under contract to deliver the next great American tagline — and puns, alliteration, and rhymes are all hallmarks of the trade. A great writer knows that “catchy” has its place — say, in subject lines or rapid-fire promotions, but also understands the importance of other essential elements like flow, voice, syntax, and, of course, even grammar and spelling. These are the bedrocks of good writing. Without them, all the wordplay in the world will make your piece nothing more than — as Shakespeare’s Macbeth famously proclaimed — “a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” A good writer knows what the rules are, and when and where to break them in order to craft things that are both memorable and forward-thinking. That applies doubly in the saturated world of content marketing.
In short, wordplay has its place, but only within the context of a well-written piece. Think of it as the icing on the cake. If the rest of the cake doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t really matter what’s on top. A good writer knows this and thoughtfully employs wordplay to add a little pizzazz to something that’s already great.
4. Be a human
It’s harder than it sounds. Time and again, emotional triggers have proven to be among the most powerful tactics in a marketer’s arsenal. But you’re not here to push buttons; the work shouldn’t feel manipulative. If you’re honest, informative, and evocative — writing stories that resonate and participating in conversations that entice — you might just hit that sweet spot of authenticity that doesn’t feel like advertising at all.
At Prose Media, we know what it takes to create great content that will hit that sweet spot, win over audiences, and turn site visitors into brand fanatics. If you’d like some help turning these strategies into honest-to-goodness content that’ll take your business to the next level, check out our solutions page, or sign up to gain free access to our editorial workflow platform.