When Greta Perel started describing the phantom English teacher on our shoulders at the Social Media Club of Kansas City’s February breakfast, I immediately pictured a little lady sitting on my shoulder yelling at me about commas and using words more exciting than the ones I’d used in the sentences before. Perel nailed the challenge that I have daily with writing content for marketing and digital media: I keep applying the rules of writing term papers to content that is supposed to be fun, interesting, and engaging. No wonder I’m frustrated. Thankfully, at Perel’s session, she shared tactics to formulate an unmistakable voice and irresistable writing using a practical and office-ready approach.
Voice is the first component Perel reviewed during her presentation. There are Perel’s four elements to voice:
Humor – It gets people to relax and disarms them. She advises going with the self deprecating variety if you can’t think of anything else.
Likeability – Be vulnerable, it’ll help people connect with you.
Curiosity – Readers are lazy, selfish, and distracted. Your writing has to arouse and fulfill them and you have to create a demand for your supply of information, so make it interesting!
Small words – Writing is different than speaking. In content writing, write the way you speak. The person who uses small words wins.
* A little tip from the question portion of Perel’s presentation. Her advice for building a brand voice guide is to get it down to one word. It’ll take a lot of thought, but that’s the point.
Next, you need a Recipe for Strong Content, advises Perel.
Purpose – When you sit down to write, you likely have a point. Be obvious and don’t bury the lede.
Structure – As in, have one. It could be a list, or before/after, beginning/middle/end or a variety of other structures.
Blend with Voice – You’ve already mastered this one using Perel’s guidance from above.
Shot of Action – Also known as the Call to Action. Give the reader something to do next.
Even with voice and your recipe concocted for strong content, you aren’t finished yet. To end the presentation, Perel shared some helpful tools for taking your content even further. Here are the components in her Office-Ready Toolbox:
AMI Headline Analyzer – This tool will tell you the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) of your headline and help you write better headlines.
Flesch-Kincaid Test – Determines the grade level your piece is written at. The goal is to make your writing as barrier free as possible. Don’t give your readers a reason to bounce.
Computer read-aloud – Get distance from your writing and hear it coming back to you differently than you developed it.
Bottoms Up – Edit your piece from the bottom back to the top. This method will help you read, and edit, more carefully.
There’s no magic bullet to good content writing. Since you’re smart, insightful, and don’t want to bore people to death, the phantom English teacher on your shoulder likely won’t go away any time soon, either. But, by taking into account Perel’s tips, maybe you’ll find your voice on its way to unmistakeable and your writing on its way to irresistible.
For more tips and thoughts from Ms. Perel, visit her website at www.mindfulcopywriter.com.