I have a confession to make.
I skim. A lot.
If an article doesn’t grab me, I’ll click away. If I’m mildly interested, I’ll skim. It’s only when I get sucked into the writing or the story that I actually read.
Repeat after me: Life is too short to read boring articles.
With so many people creating content online, yours has to be interesting enough to cut through the noise. Your readers are simultaneously busy, bored, stressed, and overstimulated. With all the distractions, you can’t afford a lackluster topic or lifeless writing.
Even if you don’t know how content works, you know how the Internet works: Great stuff gets shared, commented on, and sometimes “goes viral,” while boring stuff (or content that doesn’t provide value) gets lost in space.
At Influence & Co., we know great content starts with a great topic, and that means framing each topic in the way that sells the story best. Tweet this
All of our article topics go through our pitch meeting process, where an account strategist pitches a topic to a publication strategist (who knows what the target publication is looking for) and an editor (who knows readers).
You may not have a content team like ours, which includes all the necessary content roles, but you can still put your topic through the ringer. Here’s how:
You wouldn’t open a Thai restaurant if you knew nothing about Thai cuisine. Likewise, if you don’t have time to read publications relevant to your field, you have no business creating content.
Knowing what people are writing about — and what they’re not writing about — is the first step toward creating content that stands out.
I recommend using a content aggregator like Feedly to get all your favorite industry publications in one place.
If you’re superbusy and don’t have time to actually sit down and read, download Pocket to save articles for later. That way, you can catch up on reading while you’re waiting at the airport or trying to avoid awkward eye contact at Starbucks.
Want a quick lesson in the vastness of the Internet? Google your article topic to see how many people have already written about it. Read a few of the top results, and take note of how the writers presented the topic, what they covered, and — more importantly — what they didn’t cover.
Generic is the enemy of virality. Most highly shared articles have a distinct point of view, a unique take on a popular topic, or focused insight into that topic.
If your opinion goes against what others in your industry are saying, run with it! Instead of trying to appeal to everyone in your audience (e.g., “5 Funding Strategies for Startups”), try tailoring your topic toward a very specific type of reader (e.g., “5 Funding Strategies for Nonprofit Startups”).
Once you’ve come up with a killer article topic, you aren’t done. Truly great content is all about the presentation.
Just because you create content doesn’t mean your audience will read it. And even though the Internet has opened up enormous opportunities for exposure, getting noticed hasn’t gotten any easier. If you want to attract and keep an audience, you can’t write on autopilot and then slap on a sensational headline. You’ve got to know your stuff, find an interesting angle, and tell your story.
Post by Tarah Benner, Editor at Influence & Co.