Not all content is created equal. However, when you’ve worked out the types of article that work for you – that resonate with others – you’ll find that people stick with you.
What you should be aiming for is resonating with others, extending your reach as well as bringing people closer in around your campfire.
This article is intended to help you identify the styles of article that have the best chance of striking a chord with others. They’re the ones where people will relate to what you’re saying, respond and share your work within their networks, cementing their bonds with you.
Setting The Scene & The Duds
My first article was written in January 2012. Over seven years later, writing is something I still practice constantly. Looking back over this period I recognise what works and what doesn’t.
Let’s start by being open about the sort of content that will never work, no matter how persistent you are. No one is going to come on board with you, when the work you create:
This is where you choose to speak from a position on high, above everyone else in your sector. Although it may even make you look clever for a while, you won’t be gathering many fans to join you on your content journey. Hands up – I’ve done it. How about Have We Now Forgotten How To Market – golden proof of trying to sound like the teacher at school who liked to rant, but offered nothing his or her class could relate to.
Revels In Being Cryptic
This is something that I’ve also been guilty of. Just because a headline I’ve crafted strikes a (clever – see above) chord with me, it doesn’t mean that anyone else gets it. Forcing others into deciphering mode usually means they won’t care to read beyond that bold headline. Flipping Size Matters To Long Form Thinking or We Don’t Need More Content Vending Machines That Say They Have A Soul. These are actual headlines to articles I’ve published. If I lost you then, trust me, I’m now lost too.
Tries To Please Everyone
This relates to knowing who you’re writing for. When you create content that looks to attract a mass audience, it can’t help but sound like everything else out there. The biggest challenge for businesses is not out-competing the competition but avoiding jumping on bandwagons and being guilty of repetition. I’ve done those too. How about You Grow When You Connect With Others or What Business Are You Really In? These are examples of work that puts no distinctive stake in the ground.
Doesn’t Include Them In the Picture
This can mean a number of things: not leaving enough space for your audience to see themselves in the stories you tell or when you go so niche that you end up appealing to no one. Whilst making a comparison to something relatable should amplify your overall message, going in feet first with the likes of Why Content Marketing Is Like Celiac Disease can end up alienating pretty much everyone. Your audience should never feel distanced from you. Your content should focus on and have meaning for them, not just you.
Here are four types of winning articles, categorised into themes. Creating articles around these themes can help you attract people, gain reach and resonance:
When It All Goes Very Wrong
There’s a degree of schadenfreude in all of us (deriving satisfaction from another person’s misfortune). Allowing your audience to experience this at your expense is ok, as long as it can also be a learning experience for them. This is the type of content where you share something from a unique personal perspective. In being honest and speaking straight from the heart, you make yourself vulnerable, relatable and recognise that your role is not to always have all the answers, but to share the fears we all may face at one time or another. Fears that you’ve already tackled, head on.
Do it this way: set the scene; share the disaster; depict how it was resolved; share how it could relate to others. As an example for you, my most read article so far in 2019 is when I deleted my email database. A story of error, failure and taking lessons from something that could happen to anyone. Share those experiences where you peered over the cliff-edge and nearly fell. They not only build empathy but act as an effective warning to others.
When It’s Very Real (The Storytelling Element)
Similar to when things go wrong, this is the content that makes you more approachable. This is when you share something that you’ve experienced as if you were telling a story to a friend. If your story aligns with what you stand for, then you have every reason for others to make that valuable association between your story and your wider business message.
As an example for you, a much visited article from a few years ago focused on my sitting in a meeting with a prospect who was figuring out whether they should be using Twitter or not. I was bluntly asked, “Can Twitter generate an additional £150,000 for our business?” The question totally threw me, and not much could be said beyond giving a straight “no” answer. I wrote what I should have said in reply, in an article you can read here.
When You Offer A Uniquely Personal Solution To An Issue
This is where you demonstrate how you figured something out for yourself and, as such, is far removed from the explainer content that rehashes what everyone else is saying on, for e.g. “how to get more followers,” (particularly if the numbers don’t stack up, i.e. you have very few followers yourself). It also reflects that idea of something personal having wider, more universal resonance.
As an example, in 2015 I shared how I managed to build a strong rapport with the business editor of the Bournemouth Echo, Darren Slade. He is still someone I consider a great ally, click here for how to work with a journalist.
When You Pick A Particular Side Of The Road
This type of article works particularly well when you’re clear on the message you want to share. It may go against marketplace protocol and you may even be putting your neck on the line. You then validate what you say based on your own experience, values or beliefs.
As an example, event organisers will always tell you that their next event will be the best yet. The reality, and what’s actually happening behind the scenes, may be very different. Usually, this “best ever” content is just a way of promoting the announcement of a new speaker. Read this article on why putting on an event is an extremely tough commitment. It dares to spill the beans on the reality that many event organisers won’t share.
Being able to recognise what resonates with the people I write for, has only been possible through consistent content creation and daring to take a “try it and let’s see what happens” approach. Over time, this means you can identify the categories, themes and approaches that do well.
The more you create, the easier it becomes for you to hit this home run of rhythm, process, content and desired effect. Ultimately, it’s your reader, viewer or listener who will decide whether they identify with what you’re saying.
Building rapport is more important than treating your content purely as a sales funnel. And it’s proven time and again, that anything that brings you closer to your audience actually helps you sell.