The rewards of being real
Put simply, people will know the difference.
I spend a lot of time trying to find guidelines, advice, inspiration, etc for writing content, and often times I find myself distracted by a dog video or a hopeful story. Cyberspace is slewing with writers’ personal guidelines for creating content that people enjoy, whether by some self-proclaimed wordsmith or a legitimate content genius. But that’s precisely the problem; they’re all telling you how to create it. Instead, perhaps the best writing requires a lot less creation and a lot more discovery.
1. Get out there and find real people. While the prospect of wrangling all of the people for photoshoots, interviews, etc becomes very daunting as deadlines loom closer, the payoff is so worth it. Use real names, authentic photos and attribute words to those real people and you’d be surprised by the amount of engagement. Just take a look at Getty’s advice on visual storytelling here.
2. Drop the marketing speak and talk as though you’re one with the reader. Think “you, our, we, together”. Think “powerful” instead of “robust”. Don’t just make them feel like the important one, tell them how they really ARE the important one. Make the reader the hero. When explaining what this means, I always think of the classic “How do I apply?” rather than “Application submissions” example.
3. Don’t worry about attracting everyone, just attract the right ones. Be very direct about what you have to offer readers. Everything goes back to authenticity–what do you want your reader to think, feel, do? Make them feel like you care about their needs (because you really do). Just keep it real.
4. Focus on a moment; make it a story. In other words, save the explaining for the classroom. I’m not particularly great at telling stories, but I have lived long enough to know that people prefer them over listening to me describe how something works. Go deep. Give them the meaty stuff that you almost think might take the content too far, not some watered-down version muddled with explanatory copy.
5. Be proud of what you’re doing; know who you are. If you believe in what you’re writing, then others will too. If you’re having trouble connecting with the person, story or work that you’re writing about, the quality of writing tends to suffer. When that happens, I’ve found it’s likely I just don’t know enough about it (because surely there’s a purpose!) The more time I’ve invested in learning about the people behind my writing, the more I care about writing something meaningful. Something I would want to read, no strings attached.
The final test: read it out loud. Does it feel right? Do you believe in it?