How to Develop Strong Content
Writing is easy, right? It’s just a case of having an idea and putting pen to paper – or these days, hitting the keypad and seeing the words appear in front of you. Or maybe it’s not quite that simple…
Most of us can write; many of us can write well – but few can create prose that draws the reader in and has a purpose. And that is why this blog isn’t entitled “How to write strong content”, rather “How to develop strong content”. There is a difference.
Creative writing was never my strongest subject at school. I was, quite frankly, more of a grammar nerd (some would say, I still am). But, over my years in PR, I have been fortunate to work alongside some beautiful authors and learn from them. I’ll never be as creative or as clever with the analogies and the play on words, but I like to think I can hold my own.
My starting point for developing strong content is always to understand the “so what”. Why am I writing this? What’s the point? What takeaway do I want the reader to have? Without understanding why you’re writing something, you’ll never get under the skin of the topic, draw the reader in – and you certainly won’t have a strong call to action.
The second step in the process is research. In B2B tech PR, we write about many different topics, across many different verticals. Yes, I’ve been in the game for a while now so I have a reserve of knowledge to draw from, but I’m not the expert. The research might come from a client interview, or desk research – usually a combination of both.
Timing is Key
The third – and arguably the most important step is time. Take the time to let things cogitate, to simmer; for the research you’ve done to blend together from isolated pieces to something more coherent. For me, personally, this isn’t active thinking. The best ideas come when I might be out walking the dog, for example, when seemingly out of nowhere I’ll come up with the angle I was looking for.
And then – only then – is it time to start putting the thoughts down into the written word. Knowing what my introduction is and what my conclusion needs to be makes the rest of the content flow. At that point, I take pleasure in word-smithing; finding the best word I can in the right context.
I have two other small pieces of insight – that I have learned from others, in fact, from one person in particular.
The first is that there is no such thing as a stupid question. This is particularly important during the “so what” and the research phases. If you don’t understand something, you won’t be able to write about it with credibility. Moreover, often the most seemingly “stupid” or innocuous questions can be the most tricky to answer. It’s a fundamental part of getting under the skin of your subject matter.
The second is, don’t pad your content out for the sake of a word count. It will only detract from the flow and from the purpose behind the piece.
Here at Neo, we’re always on the lookout for good content developers. So, if you’re a freelance journalist looking for an agency to partner with; an experienced PR who loves prose; or a graduate with a penchant for words and eager to learn more about work in PR – get in touch.