In my day-to-day role, I brainstorm content ideas, write and edit content, as well as read endless amounts of writing, in a range of different styles. I also occasionally write for fun outside of work. You’d think, then, that writing would be second nature and always come easily. Unfortunately, that’s really not the case – sometimes writing can be hard work and require some preparation, strategies and discipline to get it flowing.
When it comes to writing content for a company or a professional platform it’s often PR and marketing agencies like Mulberry Marketing Communications churning out the words. However, other times it’s a company’s own employees, partners or guest writers also developing content. Many of these people might not write content every day like us, so what are some content writing tips to make the writing task at hand a little less daunting?
I can be a procrastinator, but I’ve learnt that procrastination time doesn’t have to be dead time in which I do anything other than write – you know when you suddenly need to do that other task you’ve been putting off for over a week, or your phone buzzes with an “urgent” notification.
Instead, if you’re procrastinating content writing, there are plenty of preparation tasks that you can divert your attention to, which will actually help to improve the writing process.
If you’re not feeling quite ready to put words down on paper, you could:
Have your competitors been covering a topic your company should also be addressing? Is there some new and interesting industry research you could add some thoughts or unique analysis to? Are your customers or clients all coming to you with the same question or pain point, which you could write about for others who may be experiencing the same issue? Is there news about a big change in your industry that your company should acknowledge and give advice on? Has the topic you were thinking you would write about now been done to death and you need to start researching something different? You can even brainstorm with your colleagues if you want to make the research phase more social and fun.
From press releases, thought leadership articles, whitepapers, through to blogs, e-books, web copy, brochures, eDMs – there is such a diverse range of content types you might be charged with writing in your professional capacity. It’s worthwhile familiarising yourself with a) the type of content best suited to what you’re going to write, or the type of content your company is asking you to write. For instance, if you’re looking to write content that covers recent industry research and your analysis of this, that would be best suited to a thought leadership article or blog, as it’s not your company’s research to share as news in a press release. And, b) the general style and format of this type of content. Your company, partners, competitors and plenty of others have endless examples available online for you to sift through for inspiration.
It’s really important that even before you start writing, you have a clear idea of who the audience is. For example, if you’re writing about the need to invest in new enterprise technology, is the audience the CEO, CFO or the IT Team? The key messages and points will need to be tweaked depending on who the audience is, as what resonates with the CEO will unlikely get the point across to the IT team.
Once you’ve done all your research and preparation, getting started writing content is always the hardest part. That’s why I try to overcome this mental hurdle by giving myself a bit of an out and saying, “Just write anything, even if it’s doesn’t make sense and won’t make the final cut…anything will do!”
Just putting down the first sentence, paragraph or even subheadings with ideas of what you’ll cover is enough to get that sense of, well I’ve started now and gotten past the hardest part, so it’s all going to be easier from here. And you may well find that once you’ve begun, you hit an unexpected flow and keep going way beyond that first teeny step.
Let’s think of writing content like trying to get to sleep for a moment. If you’re someone who doesn’t always drift off into a deep slumber within seconds of hitting the pillow, you’ll likely know the drill – when you’re struggling to switch off and fall asleep, the more you try, the harder and more frustrating it becomes. Sometimes it gets to the point where you have to just get up, read a book, listen to something or go for a short walk as a reset, before heading back to bed to try again.
The same can apply to content writing. If you’ve tried a few times and it’s really not happening for you, it might be worth switching off from it for a bit so the frustration doesn’t turn it into the most torturous work task you’ve ever taken on. If you’re really struggling to think of content ideas, maybe go for a walk, have a snack and when you’re distracted and not trying so hard anymore, an awesome idea might pop into your head.
The good news is that there is a lot of flexibility when it comes to content writing. However, the one black and white rule is, don’t plagiarise someone else’s content. It’s fine to clearly reference other people’s research and words as theirs, but don’t ever try to pass off another person’s or company’s ideas and words as your own. It’s really not worth the risk. With an easy cut and paste into Google, you’ll be found out in seconds. As The Digital Marketing Institute points out, it will also likely draw annoyance from your marketing team and the plagiarised sources’ marketing team when the duplicate content negatively impacts both companies’ Google site rankings.
I’ve had years’ worth of my writing chopped and changed by other people. Therefore, I’m very used to it and have built up a very thick skin regardless of whether the feedback delivery is gentle or brutal.
However, if it’s your first time having a crack at content writing, sending what you’ve drafted off to a manager or stranger in your company or a PR/marketing agency can be incredibly unnerving. So, is there someone like a colleague or friend who can have a first read through what you’ve written and provide helpful feedback?
That way you can have some confidence that another person you trust has given you honest feedback as a first line of reassurance before you send it on to others for their review. It’s also great for basic proof-reading, because after you’ve written and re-read something countless times you start to read what you think is there, not what is actually there, and typos slip through.
If you’ve tried a few times and content writing is something you like even less than finding yourself seated next to new parents with a very vocal tiny human on a long-haul flight (remember long-haul flights and overseas travel??), then it might be time to call in support.
But remember, if you’re able to call in your company’s or a PR/marketing agency’s content writers for help, you are still an essential part of the process. That’s because professional content writers aren’t experts in your field – they’re experts in writing across an endless stream of topics. Whereas you’re the topic expert and it’s your knowledge that builds the foundations of the content. So, while you won’t be writing the final words, you can still guide the process by sharing your expert knowledge, whether that’s by jumping on a quick call, or jotting down some notes or sharing background documents via email.
Content is how you and your company show the industry, potential clients and customers, partners and competitors that you’re experts in your field, and is how you connect and start conversations with them. If you would like to learn more about content writing, or how the Mulberry Marketing Communications team can support your content development contact us.
Corinne Nolte is Communications Director – Technology at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She is committed to delivering strong communications strategy, content, thought leadership positioning, media relations and digital marketing for B2B clients.