What’s the most important thing to consider when writing something?

10 points to the person at the back that shouted ‘your audience’. Correct. Also, put your hand up next time, please.

One of the key mistakes businesses make when writing articles is their belief that their audience cares about the same things they do. That’s why you find company blogs full of company news and interviews with the Finance Director telling us about her favourite films and ideal sandwich combo (cheese, salad and salami if you must know.)

Your potential clients don’t care. Honestly.

What they do care about is whether your business understands their issues and how to solve them.

Step one on this blogging journey, then. Put the word around your office and ask, what are the niggling issues that come up time and time again with clients, and how did we (the company) solve them?

You’ll get two replies from your team who really have better things to do. Ask again. Then just get up and go round the office and demand answers. Bang your fist on the table for dramatic effect.

You now have a list of blog ideas.

To help you write this brief, I’m going to use the question: How do I know the ROI of my marketing spend? to illustrate the process.

Step two…pick the most common of your customers’ FAQs and turn it into a compelling headline. What does that look like? Well:

  • It’s direct (5-10 words is fine.)
  • It’s punchy.
  • It’s compelling.
  • Questions are good. How-to’s are good. Yes, lists are good.

If you’re still unsure, ask if you’d click on a similar headline for your industry.

Spend time on this step.

The headline will guide the rest of the article. It’s something you can refer back to sense check your work i.e. are you on-point or waffling?

So, my headline: Marketing ROI: What have you done with my money???

Step three is to define the thrust of the article. Imagine you’re pitching it to an editor with limited time. You need to explain in two sentences what the article is about and what the reader will gain from it. Again, this is a good way to focus your thinking…

My pitch: This article will explain marketing ROI to under-the-cosh business leaders who have been stung by marketing consultants in the past. We’ll look at the intricacies of ROI and by the end, the business leader will be confident that they understand what metrics to measure and how to evaluate whether their marketing is working.

Step four is to plan out your structure.

You can do what you like in the main body of an article, but for the purpose of this exercise, I suggest you cover three main points, separated by three clear subheads:

  1. An empathetic look at the question – This first part should lay the foundations of the piece. You feel this way, you’re not alone, and we understand.
  2. Your interpretation of the problem  – Give a diagnosis of the problem backed with stats and insight from the rest of your team. This is how we see the problem and why it’s such an issue, in our experience, for you.
  3. Something practical; a takeaway or a learning that will help the reader in some way – This is where your expertise comes in. Here is our solution. You have in-house expertise; give it away. You want to be a thought leader? Tell the reader your thoughts. PLEASE, don’t start any sentence with ‘Here at [company name]’ I will find out who you are and come and call you names. Just make sure to bring your knowledge front and centre.

NOTE:

I was crystal clear at the start of this piece that you’ll go away with a brief to write an article. That’s a super practical takeaway. Your article doesn’t have to be so direct. If you can connect with your reader and give them a new way of thinking about their problem, or how to solve it, that’s fantastic.

That is it. Brief ready.

Now flesh all that out, top and tail with an intro (here’s how to nail a great one) and write a para or two as a conclusion.

Give yourself 2.5 hours for a first draft. Then go back 2 days later with fresh eyes and edit it down. Hey presto: highly focused, valuable content for your readers.

If you want someone to critically edit your piece, feel free to send them over to me.

I look forward to reading the results.

Until next week.

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I’m the Head of Content for Future Content and the man in charge of words. As a former journalist for a number of publications, from Chat to MailOnline to that’s Shanghai, I have a wealth of editorial experience and a way of making words do good.

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