I have a confession to make.
As a student, I was one of those few nerds who really enjoyed writing papers. Thoughtful, well-written papers took a lot of time, which I had plenty of because I wasn’t weighed down by the tremendous burden of being super cool, having a million friends, and going to ragers every weekend. (I’m kidding! I swear I’m cool!)
But that commitment was part of the fun. It took time to research information, prepare my arguments, and craft my ideas into fully articulated assignments, and I loved the challenge. Nurturing an idea or a thought in my brain into an actual piece of content that someone else could read, understand, connect with, and act upon was exciting — and it still is.
That’s the content marketer’s job, after all: communicating valuable ideas to your audience through content that inspires positive, profitable action for your company.
By now, though, you’re probably thinking that my precious love letter to the written word is nice and all, but not very relevant today; at a time when 37 percent of marketers say visual marketing is the most important form of content and everyone and her mother has a favorite podcast you should totally listen to, traditional written content just doesn’t seem as important.
To that, I say two things: I promise I’m not secretly a weirdo who rejects new media in favor of my writing comfort zone. And if you think that the ability to write well doesn’t play a role in effective, creative content marketing today, you’re probably overlooking one of these three truths:
Even if you don’t produce any written content at all (which is pretty unlikely), the multimedia content you do produce still needs to work together to advance the content marketing strategy that you documented.
A documented content marketing strategy holds your team accountable, makes it easier to measure progress, aids in your ability to track ROI, and more. It’s the game plan your content marketing team relies on to execute efforts that make a difference for your brand and your audience. And it’s one of the biggest differences between the most successful content marketers and those who are least successful.
But poorly documenting a strategy isn’t the answer. Simply putting some scattered ideas together into a document and calling it a strategy won’t really help your team achieve its goals. Your ability to write well and communicate ideas clearly is key to a documented content strategy that’s going to help you — even if that strategy doesn’t guide any written content efforts.
There will always be another new tactic, platform, or format for content that captivates audiences and tempts you to leave behind your old practices for shiny new ones. If you left behind your old tactics every time, you’d never have a strong foundation of content to build on, a consistent voice in your industry, or any real way to measure and compare your success over time.
Jumping aboard a trendy tactic train might give you a sort of first-mover advantage if you can do it really well right away. But your audience’s love for video content, for example, doesn’t automatically outfit your entire team with the resources it needs to successfully execute a video marketing strategy. Not every new tactic can be adopted immediately, and it takes time (and a budget) to set yourself up for long-term success.
You have to walk before you can run. In this case, that means you have to nail the basics of consistent content creation before you expand your arsenal to include video, audio, or interactive content.
Let’s say you have all the resources you need to execute the most amazing multimedia content campaign your company has ever seen. You’ve got the team, the budget, and any partners or vendors you might need to help you, and you’re ready to go.
Where do you begin? How do you actually get started?
In my experience, you typically begin with an idea, and you need to communicate that idea to the other creatives you’re collaborating with. Very often, that communication takes the form of an outline. It’s sometimes a detailed email, or maybe it’s a Google Doc full of notes and comments. Whatever shape it takes, it’s written, and if you can’t write clearly or thoughtfully, your ideas get lost and production is stalled.
Effective writing plays a critical role in how your team’s ideas are spread and how your multimedia content comes to life. If you host a webinar, for example, you’ll need — at a minimum — an outline, a slide deck, social media posts, a landing page, and a follow-up email to reach out to participants after your show is over. And that’s just the minimum.
If you’re producing videos or a podcast series, you’ll need similar collateral. Even in-person events don’t exist separately from your written content marketing efforts. And each of these efforts — from webinars and podcasts to videos and in-person events — builds upon and borrows from your published content. They act together to advance your strategy, not independently as evidence of your ability to produce different content types.
Your ability to write well and communicate clearly has a direct impact on the success of your content efforts — even if those efforts aren’t editorial-based. Writing affects your strategy, your content foundation, and how each of your tactics works with the others; don’t discount it in the multimedia age. It may be more important now than ever.
I love cloudy days, office supplies, and rewatching the same sitcoms I've already seen a dozen times. When I'm not looking for ways to elevate content, I'm looking for opportunities to tell stories about my dog.