On Monday, Ronell shared with us his five “ingredients” for creating truly high-quality content. These are the consistently important factors he’s observed while working with many different kinds of clients.
We agree! Ronell’s advice will help you create content that genuinely helps your audience. And that content will be interesting because it speaks directly to your audience’s needs.
But sometimes content needs a little more.
There’s one more ingredient you can add to take your solidly useful content and allow it to compete against the best that’s out there.
When you take strategy and combine it with a strong writing voice, you create a powerful winning difference for your content.
Here are some things to keep in mind …
No train wrecks need apply
Some people see the advice to reveal personality with your content, and take that as a suggestion to throw judgment and self-control out the window.
There’s nothing sadder than seeing otherwise capable professionals trash their reputations on social media with regular traditions of Drunk Fool Friday. Or someone who’s got superb skills — and a superbly crappy attitude to match.
You don’t have to be all sunshine and lollipops (unless that’s genuinely who you are), but you do need to convey the impression that it would be pleasant to work with you.
Luckily, there are lots of different viewpoints about what makes someone good to work with.
- Some people love cranky.
- Some people love snarky.
- Some people even love aggressive.
Just be aware that, at least at work, pretty much no one loves unreliable, passive aggressive, or scary.
Own your thing
The internet is big. There are a lot of people here. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever your beliefs, your values, or your peculiar interests are, you can find a group that shares them.
So whatever your thing is, own it. Make a virtue of it.
If there’s a “trick,” it’s this:
Find the intersection between “what you’ve got” and “what they want.”
You’re not going to be all things to all people, and you shouldn’t try. It’s a recipe for dullness and mediocrity.
Most of us (particularly the more thoughtful, sensitive types) are afraid to chase people away. But we need to do it, to make room for the people we want.
It’s all a persona
Yes, I think it’s smart to share personality online, whether it’s your own or a characterization of a brand.
No, I don’t think you need to share every detail.
It wouldn’t be possible to share everything that flits across your mind — and your audience doesn’t want you to. (Trust me.)
Every interesting web personality is something of a persona. Some elements are brought to the forefront, and some get edited out.
Too many elements tossed together can make it hard to get a sense of who you are. And a massive pile of interests is just confusing.
So if you talk a lot about CrossFit, knitting, Heian poetry, Star Trek, kittens, gardening, Gregorian chants, NASCAR, your kids, Sriracha recipes, rock climbing, and Ayn Rand, your audience is just going to get exhausted.
Pick one or two. The knitting CrossFitter is interesting. The NASCAR fan with a taste for medieval Japanese literature is interesting.
Being selective about what you share also offers the great benefit of protecting some privacy. Not everything you do belongs to your audience, and that’s a good thing.
Choose your words wisely
A lot of strong web personalities have words or phrases that are commonly associated with them.
- For Joanna Wiebe, I might pick mofo.
- For Gary Vaynerchuk, maybe it’s hustle.
- For Luvvie Ajayi, it could be judgey.
You don’t have to have a “signature word.” But within the splendid range of the English language, the words you choose convey a lot of subtleties.
How much slang do you use? What kind of slang?
Are your word choices short and Anglo-Saxon (think Hemingway) or complex and Latinate (think Russell Brand)?
There’s not one kind of good writing. There are as many forms of wonderful writing as there are wonderful writers.
That’s what makes the writing good.
Create great conversations
Effective web writing is conversational.
It might be an elevated, quirky form of conversation (the site SorryWatch offers some nice examples), but it’s a conversation.
If you read it aloud and it sounds stiff or weird, rewrite it.
This holds true for B2B content as well. A professional, thoughtful voice is not the same thing as a wall of corporate slush. Write like an adult, not a drone.
Keep in mind that conversations are not monologues. Look for spaces where you can include your audience’s words as well. They can come from testimonials, comments, case studies, or any other content form that celebrates what they have to say.
All good things come from the audience — so make room for their voices.
Strong opinions wanted
This can be very tricky if you work with a larger brand, but it’s essential.
These are not the times to pretend that everything is awesome, all the time. Too much of that is a recipe for vapidity.
I love this cafe owner! pic.twitter.com/lw7gdrhrl4
— Brilliant Ads (@Brilliant_Ads) September 25, 2017
Take a stand. Have a point of view. Tell people what you think they should do — and what they shouldn’t.
Scrutinize everything you’re saying and doing. Do you believe in what you’re putting out? Deeply?
Then say it louder.
Uncover the message
Verbiage is the enemy of good writing.
Too many words. Too much buzzword bingo. Too much corporate huffing and puffing.
Write what you mean. Write it clearly. If you can say it in fewer words, do.
The reading aloud trick will help you here as well. Give yourself time for multiple editing passes to clear away useless words and let your message shine through.
It’s what you say and how you say it
That kind of authoritative but conversational voice is exactly what I look for when I’m reviewing an application for one of our Certified Content Marketers. (As well as, of course, a solid understanding of content marketing strategy and how different pieces fit together.)
Being useful and relevant are table stakes. You cannot play the game without them.
But if you want to win the game consistently, develop and hone a solid writing voice. The combination will make you unstoppable.
Reader Comments (8)
Ryan Biddulph says
Yep; I inject a wee bit o’ personality into my blog and brand and content. From time to time.
Loving the examples up too – like Gary Vee and hustle – and the entire post.
If you want to become great online, this tends to require injecting your personality into your blog and brand. This makes you memorable in an online world where folks tend to shy away from doing so.
The old me did not even tell folks I was circling the globe, with my old blog. The new me regularly works his travels, his selfies, his funny or death-defying stories and all types of elements from his life into his content.
No better way to stand out because our personal stories make us stick out like a sore thumb, while inspiring folks to share their stories too. Win-Win.
The challenge lies in facing, feeling and letting go the fears of criticism and failure. Because the only reason people resist injecting themselves and their personalities into their content is fear: fear of being criticized for doing so, and the fear of failing to succeed, after making that bold move.
Everything working A-OK for me. But ya need to be authentic, like, super duper genuine, meaning, write how you *are* versus *trying* to be a persona.
When someone meets me offline – happens quite a bit with all the traveling I do – they quickly say I am just as they thought I’d be, because the same personality and energy bleeds through my blog and brand.
Thanks for the helpful share Sonia.
Sonia Simone says
It can be scary, and given some of the creeps on the web, I can understand that.
But if we want to make cool things happen, we have to get ourselves heard. The mushy middle is mostly occupied by road kill.
Taylor Bracken says
Outstanding article Sonia!
Having a solid voice that stands out from the crowd is a definite must online. I never really considered it before when writing copy or putting myself out there so to speak but when I look at all the top influencers online their personality always shines through.The all important intersection of message and demand is key though for ultimate success as you stated so I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.
Patrick Leitch says
I have definitely noticed in writing my book and blog that my voice is integral in the content I put out. For me, my voice has been a combination of conversing with the people who visit, alongside a sprinkle of hard honesty to show them that the world isn’t always the easiest to navigate.
When I’m writing I aim to be as honest (brutally honest if necessary) as possible about both my successes and failures and what I experienced through everything I write on. If I’m not setting the playing field with the truth, good or bad, I am not setting anyone else up for success. That has really honed my voice. Conversing like we are longtime friends, and because of that, being 100% honest and up front with one another.
I noticed, in getting away from the structured copy environment like in your formal schools, my voice really came into its own.
Benjamin Ehinger says
Gotta have a personality. Nobody wants to read bland content. I have had this conversation with so many business owners, friends and clients looking to start their own blog. They always want to find out who their customer is or reader will be and cater to them. Seems logical, but they have it backwards.
You gotta be you and the readers that are meant to follow you will find you. Not everybody will like your writing or agree with your opinions. If you own it, you’ll end up with the right crowd around you, however.
I read a quote on a wine glass recently that said, “When you put your name on it, you’ll put your heart into it.”
Make this the motto of your blog and put you into every single sentence. Then, and only then, will you truly attract “your people” and find the fun that comes along with blogging!
I love the comment about sunshine and lollipops, I can picture a sunshine and lollipops person in my mind. (on the other side of the spectrum from myself)
The internet does tend to be full of people who are trying to please everyone and in doing so come across a little bit bland and consequently don’t really get a strong message across.
I absolutely agree that expressing a strong opinion may put a few people off however it is also more likely to convince the people who really matter.
Thanks for the article
I love this article. I’m really struggling to motivate myself with my content marketing efforts lately, and you’ve given me so many great ideas for new posts. Thank you!
André Spiteri says
Love this article, Sonia. I feel like way too many brands are afraid to inject their personality into their content marketing because they fear they might alienate some customers. But this is what actually humanizes a brand and makes it stand out. Sharing this!
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