When you’re spending several hours on a post and only getting two pages out of it, you might start wondering whether the final product was worth the time spent. It likely was — but you can do the same work in less time.
If your blog — like so many others — relies on consistent engagement, your team needs to be supplying your blog with fresh content on a regular basis. It will be hard to get anyone enthused about pumping out 600 words on some of his favorite topics, however, when he feels like he has hours of work ahead of him.
That’s why efficient writing practices are your company’s best friend.
The best thing you and your team members can do to speed up the writing process is to outline your piece before writing a single word of it. If you don’t know where you’re going, it takes a lot longer to get there.
You don’t have to invest a lot of time in drafting a long outline (the point, after all, is to save you time). What you need are the basics:
Overarching theme of the article
You don’t need two examples or stats for every single point, but you need to have at least one. If you don’t, dump that point, and come up with a new one. Having flimsy arguments means you’ll eat up time researching and attempting to strengthen it when you should be writing.
Also, make sure the main points are presented in the correct order. Nothing makes an article more disjointed or difficult to like than an awkward structure. Determining the best order ahead of time will make it easier for you to transition between ideas, and it will eliminate any debates over what you should do next.
You know how your outline asks for examples and stats? That means you need to find them before you start writing, so collect your links and quotes before you knock out your first draft. If you’ve narrowed it down to a few but aren’t sure which ones you’ll use, set all of them aside — you can figure out which work best after you’ve gotten words down on paper. Don’t let yourself be sucked into the Google vortex once you’ve opened Word or Pages.
Collaborate with your team to create team resources that will shave minutes off your writing time. Because you’ll spend a lot of time delving into topics that revolve around your industry, simplify things for your team by creating a dictionary of commonly used terms. This ensures consistency among your team’s definitions, and it also prevents people from ending a writing streak to determine how to best define something that seems second nature to them.
If you want to motivate your team to provide posts consistently, give back by providing them with opportunities to learn. I hosted a Grammar Bootcamp at Influence & Co. to cover tricky grammatical questions that plague us when we write. What are your team’s most common problems? Do people mix up “affect” and “effect”? Do employees struggle with commas? Provide them with examples so they don’t waste valuable writing time pondering a rule from third-grade English. I made sure to incorporate all of our full-time staff in the examples I provided — from their fondness for wine to their much-loved nieces — to personalize the experience and make it feel less stuffy.
Our publication team is also great about holding office hours to make themselves available to answer questions the team may have. Consider doing this yourself so you can serve as a resource to the people who are keeping your blog in business.
Kelsey Meyer, our CEO, sends out “The More You Know” documents a few times a month that address trends in the content marketing industry and offer clarifications on confusing areas. Updates like these can infuse your team’s work with deeper knowledge and add credibility to the posts you publish — without forcing your employees to do time-consuming research.
Commitment phobes, I’m asking you to commit to two roles here: writer and editor. The search for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors demands more mind power than you’d think. Switching to that editing mindset when you should be channeling your ready-to-flow writing mindset makes it hard for you to do either.
Write your entire article without rewriting or editing for anything but clarity. You’ll do two reads after the article’s written: one as a reader and one as an editor. As a reader, you’ll assess whether your article flows well, whether it makes a strong argument, and whether you like it. As an editor, you’ll look for errors, double-check your stats, and determine areas to elaborate upon or cut.
Because you’ll do these two reads, don’t waste writing time trying to find the perfect word. Highlight the word you’re concerned about, knowing you’ll fix it later. It’s also easier to ask others to look at a single area you want to improve once the rest is in place.
The two pages you and your team crank out in each writing session can have a big impact on your company’s success. By providing people with knowledgeable and insightful content, you’re offering a service beyond what people pay you for. And if you can apply some of these tips to make producing that content more efficient, that’s money back in your pocket.