Forget More Cowbell; Your Blog Content Should Have More Of This Instead

Thanks to the flawless comic delivery of Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live, “More cowbell,” has become one of the most recognized modern one-liners.

 

While more cowbell might solve some problems, unfortunately, it won’t do much to help your marketing efforts succeed. You can bang out more cowbell until…ahem… the cows come home, but it won’t make your audience more impelled to read and engage with your content.

 

What does your content need?

 

Put down your bell and do more of these two things instead:

 

Let Your Personality Sing

Unless you’re writing a technical manual, an academic piece, or something that otherwise demands a heightened degree of stuffiness and formality, relax a little. Writing in a conversational tone helps readers stay tuned in and makes them better able to grasp your message. Write like you speak so your content sounds natural and genuine. In the process:

 

  • Include references to things readers can relate to (e.g., cowbell).
  • Share relevant personal experiences to help your audience connect with the topic and to you as the author.
  • Avoid too much jargon, and don’t use fancy-dancy words to demonstrate your intelligence.

 

Approaching your writing in a more casual, conversational way doesn’t mean you will forfeit professionalism. To the contrary, you’ll improve your professional image by putting out content that readers will want to consume and share.

 

The “You” Factor

“You” is one of the most powerful words you can use in your marketing content. It instantly makes your readers a part of the conversation rather than keeping them on the outside looking in.

 

Work more “you” into your writing rather than using third person references.

 

For example, if I had written the first two sentences under this bullet as shown below, it would lose its direct connection to the reader, “’You” is one of the most powerful words business marketers can use in their marketing content. It instantly makes their readers a part of the conversation rather than keeping them on the outside looking in.”

 

And “you” becomes especially important when you’re writing about your services and products. Rather than dominating your content with sentences that begin with “We can…” or “We will…” or similar “we” wording, shift the focus on the reader and the benefits they can expect. For example: “If you…” or “You will find…” or “You’ll discover…” bring your readers into what otherwise might sound self-centered and pushy.

 

Final Notes (“Notes,” Get it?)

While more cowbell won’t make your small business marketing efforts smash hits, paying attention to how you approach the voicecow with cowbell around neck of your content can help give you star quality. Infuse more of your unique self into your writing style and speak to (rather than at) your readers.

 

Your turn! What tips and tricks have helped you connect with your readers?

 

 

 

The Difference Between Writing, Editing, And Proofreading

Writing.Writing, Editing, Proofreading. Oh My!

Editing.

Proofreading.

 

No. They. Are. Not. The. Same.

 

Someone who is good (or even exceptional) at one doesn’t mean they’re decent at the others.

 

So, what’s the diff?

 

Writing

One of the definitions Merriam-Webster has for writing is, “the way that you use written words to express your ideas or opinions.”

 

The way I see it, in the simplest terms, writing is the process of stringing words together to communicate a message and make an impression on readers. In practice, it’s a far more complex activity than that because it requires the capacity to think through how to get from point A to point B, to choose effective words, and to structure thoughts in a way that strikes a chord with readers.

 

Writing requires creativity and the knack for connecting the dots to pull ideas and bits of information together and communicate them coherently.

 

A writer’s personal style, the type of assignment, and the audience the writer—or a writer’s client—wants to connect with will flavor the tone and formality of writing.

 

Editing

“Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it” is how Oxford Dictionaries defines “edit.”

 

Most writers I know often edit their own writing to fine-tune how it flows, eliminate wordiness, and modify sentence structure and word choice. For me, it’s part of the process to ensure the end product I’m delivering to a client is as close as possible to what it needs to be. And of course, editing (typically in the form of minor tweaks) after getting feedback from clients comes with the territory, too.

 

Some editors are really good writers, but not all are and they don’t necessarily have to be. When editing, you don’t have to create the story and message; you’re improving upon the writing so it’s as effective as possible. Editors need to have proficiency in making changes that will ensure writing makes sense, uses proper grammar, has effective sentence structure, and uses the right words. They need an ability to both pay attention to details and look at a piece of writing from a birds-eye view to make sure all parts of it are effective parts of the whole.

 

The extent and degree of editing can depend on the type of writing, quality of writing, and length of a written piece. If you’re looking for editing assistance, you might see the various levels of editing referred to as:

 

  • Copy editing – Focuses on grammar, punctuation, and proper word usage.
  • Line editing – Focuses on the sentence or paragraph level rather than the broad scope of the piece.
  • Substantive or heavy editing – Goes beyond the two above and polishes sentences to improve clarity and flow. It will eliminate overuse of passive voice, repetition, awkward wording, and run-on sentences. This type of editing also involves checking facts and rearranging or reworking parts of the writing if necessary.

 

Some characteristics of editing (copy editing in particular) overlap with those of proofreading.

 

But they are not the same!

 

Proofreading

Proofreading comes after writing and editing.

 

Dictionaries.com defines it as: “to read (printers’ proofs, copy, etc.) in order to detect and mark errors to be corrected.”

 

It involves a final check of a piece of writing before it’s published to catch minor mistakes in spelling, spacing, punctuation, inconsistency in indentation of paragraphs, etc.

 

Contrary to what you might assume, not all writers and editors are capable proofreaders. Proofreading requires a skillset all its own, and it’s never ideal for people (writing and editing professionals included) to proofread writing assignments they’ve been working on. Sometimes (depending on how heavy my workload is), I’ll ask a proofreader to review what I’ve written and fix any errors I might have made.

 

When you write or edit something, you’re too close to it, and it’s far too easy for your brain to trick your eyes into seeing perfection where it doesn’t exist. For example, you might not catch an extra “the” where it doesn’t belong or an incorrect “they’re” where there should be a “their.” We’ve all seen published blog posts with those sort of oopses. They can happen to the very best writers—because writers aren’t proofreaders. Yes, writers will do their best to make sure what they write is as clean as possible (and often it will be error free after they’ve reread it a couple of times to catch sneaky mistakes), but a second set of eyes on a piece of writing (yours or a pro proofreader’s) can further ensure perfection.

 

Writing, Editing, Proofreading – Which Do You Need?

It depends.

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might benefit from asking a writer to help you with your content.

 

  • Do I have trouble formulating topics and ideas that will captivate my target audience?

 

  • Do I struggle writing thoughts, information and ideas in a way that makes sense to others?

 

  • When I write, does it sound stilted and unnatural rather than genuine?

 

  • Do I have trouble getting to the point when I write?

 

  • Would I rather have a root canal than write a blog post?

 

If you’re considering working with a freelance writer, keep in mind that rarely are writers skilled at all types of writing projects or a good fit for all industries.

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need an editing professional’s touch.

 

  • Am I good at formulating topics and ideas and writing them in an understandable way, but do I have trouble varying the structure of sentences so they sound less boring?

 

  • Does my writing sound monotonous and lack variety in word choice?

 

  • Do I creatively convey my message when I write but struggle with organizing the content so it flows logically for readers?

 

  • Do I find that I repeat myself or become long-winded when I write?

 

  • Do I enjoy the creative process of writing but not going back to fine-tune what I’ve written?

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need a proofreader’s help.

 

  • Am I good at writing clearly and coherently, but I make a lot of silly mistakes in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.?

 

  • Do I have time to review what I’ve written with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it’s error free?

 

  • Do I loathe attention to detail?

 

Writing, editing, proofreading…they’re different yet all extremely important when creating and publishing content of any type. If you don’t have all three skillsets in-house, consider getting the help of professionals who can make sure your content consistently puts your business’s best foot forward.

Three Vital Points To Keep In Mind When Creating Marketing Content

As I prepare to be a part of a marketing panel discussion in a few days, I’ve been thinking about content creation from a differentTo-Do-Creating-Content perspective.

 

If I weren’t a freelancer who writes content for a living, what questions would I have about content’s role in marketing?

 

One thing I’d want to get a grip on are the things I should consider regardless of the type of content I’m creating. So, here’s a question I anticipate receiving in some form during the panel event—and how I would answer it:

 

What does a business owner need to keep in mind when creating content as part of a comprehensive marketing plan?

 

  • Maintain a consistent voice for your brand.

Whether you’re a solopreneur who is the face of your business or a business owner or manager at a larger company with multiple people creating content for you, strive to make your content consistent in its “personality.” Your tone, your level of formality, your values…your brand’s voice is “who” your brand is more so than what your brand does. A consistent voice builds trust as it enables your audience to know what to expect of you. Don’t confuse “consistent” with “boring,” though. You can still be creative when developing content that’s consistent!

 

  • Don’t make content all about “me, me, me.”

Focus on what’s in it for your audience and not how spectacularly wonderful your company is. A constant barrage of content that sings a business’s praises rather than giving prospective customers information they can learn from or be entertained by is a turnoff. Write content that is audience-centric. Use more sentences with “you” rather than “we” or “I” as the subject, and share insight that will help customers live and work smarter, save money, save time, accomplish their goals…you get the idea. Yes, that may mean sharing bits of expertise for free.

  • Realize creating content doesn’t guarantee people will find and consume it.

There’s a lot of content out there competing for your audience’s eyeballs. YOU have to make the effort to get it in front of your customers. Share content on LinkedIn (if you publish it as a post, all your connections will be notified about it), include it in your status updates on your social media channels, send it to your email marketing list, and directly share it with individuals you absolutely know can benefit from it.

 

Of course, there’s far more to creating content and making it an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. But I think these three considerations stand as a good foundation for guiding how to approach the creation of content for your business.

Your turn: What underlying principles or rules do you follow in your content efforts?