Tag Archives: writing

15 Sure-Fire Ways to Always Have Plenty to Write About

ideas to write about, blog, writing, inspiration, muse, writing techniques, content creation

Elmo, Katy Perry and Charles Dickens can help keep your ideas flowing.

How do you come up with ideas to write about?

It’s a question all writers hear – and sometimes struggle with. And it creates anxiety that keeps would-be writers from getting started.

But there’s no mystery to generating ideas – whether writing at your job, for personal reasons or even in artistic pursuits. And the same applies to creating content of all kinds. Anyone who’s done it for a while knows there’s  no mystery, no magic, no reliance on a muse.

So here are 15 sure-fire ways to keep the ideas coming, inspiration or not. Mix and match with your own to come up with reliable, proven techniques, and apply them as part of your ongoing process. (Even when you don’t want to. That’s why it’s called work, after all.)

  1. Jot them down. Good ideas can come at any time – while you’re driving, trying to sleep, watching TV. And, if you’re like me, you probably won’t remember them later unless you scribble them down on a notebook or make a recording on your smartphone. I compile them later on a Word doc and refer to it regularly.
  2. Tickle yourself. Keep a “tickler file” – either a literal file or something on your computer or phone – of articles, photos or links about things that are coming up that might yield good content. For instance, if your neighborhood organization is hosting a City Councilman, put that in your tickler file – and link it to your calendar for a reminder. This is especially helpful with events that repeat regularly, on a monthly or yearly basis.
  3. Follow the news. That includes niche sources about your topic, profession or industry. You should stay informed, of course, for other reasons. But events and headlines also are great sources of ideas.
  4. What's Tom got to do with it?

    What’s Tom got to do with it?

    That means pop culture and sports. We just had the Super Bowl – one of the biggest sports/cultural/media events ever. Even if you don’t care about football, you should know who played (and won), who performed at halftime, and which commercials blew up Twitter.

  5. Revisit your own content. You should periodically go through your existing content of all kinds, not just articles, and see what you can dust off. Chances are, readers won’t remember that you already covered a topic. And you can easily find a fresh way to top, update or present the information.
  6. Repurpose new stuff, too. Maybe you wrote a long article for your company website that can also be turned into a list for the e-newsletter. Did you have extra material from the Q&A with your CEO that you could put on your company’s internal social media channel?
  7. Read, read, read. Books, magazines, websites. All kinds of things — literature, trade publications, Stephen King, People magazine.
  8. Steal from the best. When you see something you like or find useful, see how you might apply it to your own situation. By the time you tailor it for your needs, you will have made it your own.
  9. timer-15-minutes-18884254Write for 15 minutes. And don’t stop or edit or second-guess. This is favored by a noted songwriting coach in Nashville. He tells students to sit down, with pen and paper (no electronics), and … just. Start. Writing. Let your mind and pen flow freely and, after 15 minutes, you go back and see if you haven’t inadvertently come up with a few good expressions or ideas. Even if you haven’t, it’s a great way to just Shut Up and DO IT. (Write, that is.)
  10. Curate content. We don’t have to write or create everything all the time. Sometimes, it’s best to share what others have written or produced and make a list to share. I did this over the weekend for the Super Bowl and got good traffic. So much content had already been created, and this was an easy way to join the conversation.
  11. Ask your friends and colleagues. You don’t have to say, “I have no idea – help me!” (Although you can do that sometimes.) But talk to people you like and respect, listen to what they’re saying, ask how they might write about a topic or present it in a video or a webinar or whatever.
  12. Get out of the office. Go to community events, conferences, speeches, ballgames – and pay attention. I get great ideas from the monthly luncheons of the Georgia chapter of the  Public Relations Society of America. The panels are interesting, the speakers diverse, and the audience smart and curious. Your topic, business and audience will present similar sources.
  13. Remember the basics. Always ask yourself: What am I trying to say? To whom? And why? That will help you focus, which will help you think of ideas.
  14. Find freedom in boundaries. Your boss or client wants the content delivered on time and on budget, and it has to include some key elements? Awesome. Within parameters, even those we set for ourselves, we can find great freedom to create. It forces us to focus on what is possible, not what might be ideal.
  15. Do one thing different. Try a different grocery store. Watch a different news program. Toss the football instead of a Frisbee with your kid. It doesn’t really matter what. But you’ll be amazed how even the smallest new experience can help you look at things in a new way.
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19 Examples of the Worst Jargon of 2014

jargonHere’s a lesson from the first day of the first writing class anyone ever took: Write to express, not to impress.

That should be simple enough to remember. But too often, we churn our way through clichés, jargon and other stale expressions that indicate we’re not interested in expressing ourselves – we’re just moving our lips or striking the keys.

Relying on jargon, acronyms and the like isn’t just annoying and lazy. It’s bad for business because it says: I do not care if you understand.

Jargon, Buzz words, Atlanta, Business, Corporate communications, language, clarity, stop saying these stupid thingsIt’s always good, easy fun to list ridiculous and overused words, non-words, phrases and gibberish that find their way into everyday discourse. Seems like most of it’s in business, doesn’t it? Corporate-speak can really kill English the most.

I’ve put together a list here of some of the Worst Jargon of 2014. I’m including a few examples that aren’t jargon exactly but remain crimes against the language. Thanks to friends and colleagues who contributed.

1. Learnings. An example: “John is back from his conference and will share some of his top learnings with us.”

2. Stakeholdering. I’m not sure, but I think it’s supposed to mean “relationship building,” or something like that.

3. Conceptualize. Have you used the Business Buzzword Generator? Try it now. It’s a hoot.

4. Skilling. This takes the “learning” example to the next depth. “The team will need some skilling on how to use the new processes.”

Mrs. Jones is the lady on Hudson Street... because a noun is a person, place or thing.

Mrs. Jones is the lady on Hudson Street… because a noun is a person, place or thing.

5. Ask. Here’s perhaps the worst, and perhaps most common, example of using a verb as a noun for no reason at all, except that you heard your boss doing it. Example: “When you go to the budget meeting, what will your main ask be?”

6. Choiceful. “When we’re making those decisions, we have to be really choiceful.”… I have no idea why anyone would ever say that, but people do it every day in Corporate America. See also: impactful.

7. Solution – as a verb. I’m not kidding. “We have a real challenge here, but we also know how we’re going to solution that.” Also: “update.”

8. Eventize. From a friend in Hollywood. An example: “We’re eventizing our entertainment slate.” Translation: We are airing this new show and it’s so incredibly hot that it’s going to be a big event, not just a regular TV show.

9. Utilize. Because “use” was out of town?

10. At the end of the day. Unless you’re in “Les Miz,” never.

11. Iconic. We used to call old movie stars “legendary.” Now, somehow, anyone of any note must be referred to as “iconic.” Stop, please.

Uhm... like, totally!

Uhm… like, totally!

12. Uh… and Uhm… Have these replaced “like” and “ya know” in conversation or business meetings and presentations?

13. Obviously – when it’s not obvious at all. If it is obvious, you probably don’t need to say so.

14. Ideate. “We should spend a little more time with the ideation on this…”  (Translation:  We still need to work on this, and some of that work will require creative thought.)

15. Swirl: “Our intent is to minimize the swirl on this one…”  (Translation: How do we keep the fewest number of people involved in this decision?)

16. Swimlanes: “We need to make sure everyone is clear on their swimlane and stays within it.”  (Translation:  Everyone needs to do what they are supposed to do and not spend time doing other people’s stuff.)

17. Hashtag. Use a hashtag, but stop saying it. With air quotes.

18. Mindshare. An editor friend sent that one. I have no idea.

19. Maximizer. Sounds naughty.

And here’s a fun piece with more examples on CNN.com. Oy!

Share your own examples. I wish I could incentivize you…

‘Everybody Writes’ in the Content Age

Ann Handley, Everybody Writes, content, content marketing, brand journalism, book on writing better, how to write better, improve your writing, public relationsShe had me at “learnings.”

That’s when content-marketing expert and author Ann Handley won my heart. About halfway through her newest best-selling book, “Everybody Writes,” Handley lists the business jargon terms she most dislikes.

I was enjoying her choices, since they mirror mine. The “Yeah, yeah — what she said” admiration I’d been developing through the book warmed as the list progressed.

And when Handley concluded with “learnings” … well, that was it. I have a new girl-crush.

Or in Twitter parlance, Handley is my first #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday).

“Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” is:

  • A leading addition to the growing canon of books on content marketing/brand journalism/storytelling.
  • A snappy guide to help people write better in the Strunk & White vein.
  • And an endlessly valuable resource for anyone wanting to improve his or her communications skills, learn more about writing in today’s marketing context, and make sense of the various social media channels.

ALSO READ… ‘Epic Content Marketing’ … and ‘Tweet Naked,’ 2 More… 

It’s also ideal for browsing, dog-earing and highlighting phrases, experts and websites. It’s the kind of book you go back to and say, “Ooh, where was that thing…” and flip around till you find it. (Buy a printed copy, instead of the Kindle version I read.)

Handley’s helpful, no-nonsense approach seeks to demystify writing, and she breaks it down into endless useful tips — from the basics to a wide range of content creation.

As she points out, in today’s business world, “writing matters more… not less” and it’s a skill to be learned, not a rare talent that alights only the inspired. Her book will be a solid refresher for seasoned writers; helpful to print veterans navigating their way into digital; and most useful to non-writers who realize — or accept or admit — that  they really do need to develop writing skills.

Now that would be a learning.


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11 Ways I’m Terrible at Writing Blog Titles!

53564334Among the key lessons I’ve learned about blogging is the importance of writing a great title. (Or is it a headline? Either one, I guess.)

I’ve written blog posts here that I thought would burn up my page-view counter … and then… crickets.

I can’t say why for sure, of course. But it’s occurred to me that my titles need some work. I looked around the blogosphere for tips, and analyzed what I was doing vs. what worked and didn’t work. Here are 11 tips I’ve found or learned on my own.

If you’re reading this, maybe that means I’m catching on, right? Send me more. I need all the help I can get!

  1. Use numbers in titles. For examples, the one on this post… Content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi says using two numbers is even better. I tried this recently with How 5 Friends Reinvented Themselves, and 6 Resources on How You Can, Too. The results were good, but not great. (What gives, Joe?)
  2. Controversy sells. Maybe, but I’m uncomfortable with being deliberately provocative. Should I have titled this post, 7 Reasons Why You’re Wrong to Focus on Titles? I could have put “suck” in this title, but that’s borderline vulgar, isn’t it? My mother reads this. Damn it.
  3. Use keywords if you can, but don’t be obnoxious about it. Try to optimize for SEO.
  4. Keep it tight and punchy, with bold words and maybe even a little attitude.
  5. Find the right length to maximize on the channels you use to share. Stop at least 10 characters short of Twitter’s 140-character limit so it’s easy for followers to retweet you. “I try to shoot for 70 characters or less in my titles so they don’t get cut off in most emails and search engine results,” says Corey Eridon of hubspot.com.
  6. Some punctuation is OK, like question marks and even exclamation points, which I usually hate! (I double-dipped on this one: Does Exercise Make You More Creative? Go Take a Walk and Let Us Know!) More problematic are special characters like @ and #.
  7. Be topical. I had success with this (‘The Normal Heart’ and How a Story Evolves) because I wrote it the week “The Normal Heart” debuted and was receiving media attention. It wouldn’t have worked months before or later. 
  8. Start with the title in mind and then write to it. This seemed counter-intuitive to me at first. But I caught on pretty quickly, like with this one, 11 Ways to Keep Balance in Your Life.
  9. Be Clear about What You’re Offering. This was one of my best performers: 16 Easy Ways to Write Better.
  10. A blog post is not a newspaper article. I used to write headlines for a living, and I was good at it. But this is not that.
  11. Odd numbers are better than even. So they say…

How’d I do? Here’s a link to a dozen more resources on writing better titles. Check ‘em out.


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27 Writing, Editing Tips for Better Content

Never Say Never, Sean Connery, things to never write or say, jay croft, storycroft, atlanta, communications,

Never, Mr. Bond?

We talk a lot about storytelling and content in business communications, marketing, websites and social media. The conversation is often about the Big Picture, and that’s important, of course. But strategies and UX studies won’t help us if our content isn’t as good as it can be.

Even the little things can turn people off.

If you want your content consumed, understood and shared, here are 27 things you must never do.

 

 

1. Never start a communications project without knowing what you’re trying to say, to whom and why. Talk it out.

2. Never oversell. In headlines and links, don’t promise too much excitement or information. (Nobody likes click bait.) In text, avoid overused adjectives like “amazing,” exclamation points and all-caps.

3. Never assume people already know what you’re sharing about. Or where your photo was shot. Or why they should keep watching your video.

4. Never be needlessly negative. It’s easy to be snarky. But it’s better to be useful and helpful.

5. Never forget to do basic research or to confirm what you’ve heard or read. In the Internet age, we’re all instant experts on everything. Except that we’re not. And you don’t want to be caught reacting to something that turns out to be a hoax.

Grammar meme6. Never let a reader doubt you know “it’s” from “its” or “your” from “you’re.”

7. Never dump your notebook. You have to make choices. You have to focus.

8. Never try to turn perfectly fine verbs into nouns. “Ask” is something you do, not something you add to an agenda. And it’s the same thing in reverse. When discussing a challenge, do not say, “The way we’re going to solution that problem…”

9. Never start a sentence with “I think” or “I feel” or “I believe.” If you write those phrases, see how the sentence reads or sounds without them. Better, almost always.

10. Never say “uh,” “like” or “you know” too much. Or this new entry into the genre, “again,” when you are not actually repeating anything. I’m not sure when that one became common. Listen for it. Let me know if you notice it.

11. Never waste space by metaphorically clearing your throat. Sometimes we want to warm up for a while, back into a story or a point before stating our business. It’s natural sometimes, so go ahead and write all that you need to. And then delete it.

12. Never write headlines full of words that can be verbs and nouns. Readers don’t want to struggle to make sense of a headline.

kill-your-darlings-150x15013. Never fall in love with a phrase, design or image for its own sake. You’ve heard the expression “Kill your darlings.” Yep. You gotta.

14. Never forget to follow a style guide. AP, Chicago, whatever. Consistency is key. It also helps you write faster.

15. Never publish without having proofread, paying special attention to figures and proper nouns.

16. Never confuse proofreading with editing. Do both or find someone who can. (Here are some tips from a master.)

17. Never write or say anything like, “As anyone who knows me can tell you…”

18. Never get political unless that’s your point. Why turn off a substantial portion of your audience?

26715619. Never use too many figures in a sentence or paragraph. Break them up or put them into a graphic, chart or link.

20. Never be crass or vulgar. Avoid using profanity and showing skin. Even in a tweet or status update.

21. Never use a new digital tool just to show that you can. Or publish images or quotes or outrageous things just because you can.

22. Never undermine your presentation with heavy-handed marketing. Ease up and let the content do its thing.

23. Never tell me something is ironic. Especially if you graduated from the Alanis Morissette School for Wayward Pop Stars.

24. Never pile on the acronyms. It’s like saying, “Call that guy about the place where they have the thing and tell him what I’m thinking.”

25. Never call a car crash tragic. Never call the natural death of an old person tragic. Never call something tragic unless it actually is. And then make sure you have a good reason for pointing it out.

26. Never use upspeak. If it’s not a question, don’t say it like it is.

27.  Never say never? Never.


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5 Great Lists and 1 Free Download to Help You Write Better

ON READING: Which book should you pick up next?

The blogosphere is full of great content about content — writing about great writing, useful tips about how to be useful. I love it. Here are six posts I’ve come upon lately that engaged me and helped me. Share your favorite posts or ideas, too. Thanks.

grammar, grammarly, write well, write good, how to write, improve your writing, jay croft, blog, storycroft.com, storycroft, write hard die free, write free die hard, how do i write better

From Grammarly’s Facebook page

  • 15 Content Ideas That Your Followers Will Love to Share, by Kim Garst. She says, “It’s GREAT if our current readers like what we have to say, but what types of content are they most likely to share, retweet or link to?” I’m combining several of these with this post — it’s a list, it’s curated, it’s a roundup…
  • Fifty (50!) Tools Which Can Help You in Writing, by Roy Peter Clark at the great Poynter Institute. The first one’s a bad link, but don’t let that stop you from the rest, which include Seek Original Images, Show and Tell, and Self-Criticism.
  • 13 Vital Reminders for Writers, on The Conversationalist. Tips from great artists like Toni Morrison, Hemingway and Leonard Cohen My favorite, at least today, is from Isaac Asimov: “You are my idea of a good writer because you have an unmannered style, and when I read what you write, I hear you talking.”
  • Words that Get Content Shared, an infographic shared on PRDaily, “aggregates a few studies that look at which words will prompt people to retweet, share, and engage with your content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.”
  • The Marketer’s Pocket Guide to Writing Well, a free download from HubSpot, demystifies writing for non-writers with a helpful no-nonsense guide that should help anybody who’s afraid or intimidated to get past it, get better and get the work done well and on time.

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16 Easy Ways to Write Better

Jay Croft, Atlanta, writer, newspaper, Journal-Constitution, Cox Enterprises, storytelling, corporate communications, content, gay, pop culture, movies, music, TV, Poncey-Highland, Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, who is a good writer in Atlanta, public relations, marketing, social media expertEverybody’s a writer in the Internet age. And I think that’s great.

I just wish more people had an editor, as well.

There’s no substitute for a collaborator who’s looking over your shoulder and pointing out where you could improve. But absent that, you can take steps on your own to make your writing better — whether it’s in blog posts, memos, tweets or articles.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the (many, pre-Google) years as a professional writer and editor. They’ll help you get your message across more effectively. I hope you try them and I hope they help. Let me know!

1. Resist the urge to use exclamation points!

2. Favor short sentences.

3. Remember to vary your sentence lengths, as well, so that some are longer than others.

4. In most instances, don’t start a sentence with a dependent clause. Subject-verb-object works better generally, and relying on it does not indicate you’re simpleminded or lacking in “style.” It means you care about clarity.

5. Get to the point early in your piece, whatever it is. Readers won’t stick with you if they have to look for it.

6. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. Pick the right nouns and verbs, instead.

7. Take advantage of the medium (blog, newspaper, etc.) to enhance your message without going overboard or obscuring it.

8. Write short paragraphs. Dense copy blocks are unappealing and even intimidating to people who are scanning and deciding whether to dive into your blog or article.

9. Write short pieces. Really, no one has time. If you can cut that line, paragraph or passage, then do.

10. Avoid clichés like the plague.

11. Jargon, too. Or you’ll never think outside the box at the end of the day.

12. Write to express yourself, not to impress anybody else.

13. Read it out loud. Listen to the sound, the sound, the sound.

14. Watch out for tangents and stop when you find yourself going on one. A good clue: If you say, “But I digress,” then DON’T. (See No. 10.)

15. Prevent AAOS (Acronyms & Abbreviations Overuse Syndrome). When in doubt, spell it out or find a simpler way to put it.

16. Know your subject matter and audience so well that you learn to relax when writing and editing your own copy. You can even break your own rules now and then! (See what I just did? Ha!)


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Jay Croft, author of storycroft.com, is a veteran communicator in mainstream daily newspapers and large, national corporations. 

 

 

Should You Start Blogging? 7 Questions to Help You Decide

Are you thinking of starting a blog but unsure if you’re writer enough for the job?

I have a friend who’s a brilliant professional, with multiple advanced degrees and an impressive job that make him an expert in his field. He wants to start a blog but has reservations, since he’s not a writer. Here’s a short, multiple-choice quiz to help folks like him get started.

1. What are you writing about?
a)     Your profession
b)    Customers
c)     A hobby
d)    Anything you feel like at any time, so that no one will ever know what to expect from you

2.  Why are you blogging?
a)     To market yourself
b)    To express yourself
c)     To connect with other people who like what you like
d)    To become a rich and famous writer

3. Who’s your audience?
a)     Family & friends
b)    Colleagues
c)     Potential clients
d)    Your international fan club

4. What’s holding you back?
a)     Fear that you’ll be bad
b)    The ghost of your 10th grade composition teacher
c)     Nothing – you’ve written the first sentence 15, 16 times… without getting to the second sentence.
d)    You forgot your answers to the first three questions

5.  Write like you’re…
a)     Scared to death
b)    Going to be a while
c)     Smarty McSmartypants
d)    Talking to a friend or an interested peer who doesn’t have all day

6.     What do you have that Shakespeare, Hemingway and even Gwyneth Paltrow couldn’t ever have?
a)     Your experiences
b)    Your opinions
c)     Your voice
d)    Your original AOL email address

7.     Blogging is a great way for new writers to start because…?
a)     The only pressure is from yourself
b)    Posts can be short, unconventional, interactive
c)     Blogging encourages you to write often
d)    You can communicate easily with other bloggers, readers and people on social media

The short answer to all your questions: If you want to write, just do it.

Was this helpful? Reply at top with feedback or your own tips.

RELATED: A fun way to avoid jargon

 

And Now a Word about Words: 6 Useful Points on Storytelling, Content, Brand Journalism…

Jay Croft, Atlanta, writer, newspaper, Journal-Constitution, Cox Enterprises, storytelling, corporate communications, content, gay, pop culture, movies, music, TV, Poncey-Highland, Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, who is a good writer in Atlanta, public relations, marketing, social media expert

Jay Croft

I used to be a journalist. Hard-news reporter, then a website and features editor. At daily newspapers, for a long time. Later, in corporate communications, I learned how to create and share information in a corporate setting.

Today, communicators in businesses, social media, public relations and marketing like to talk about content, storytelling and brand journalism. Which is great — because I love it all and it makes complete sense within broader technological and economic changes in our line of work — and it makes my dual background ideally useful in today’s communications world.

But terms get tossed around so loosely that I’m not always sure everyone’s using the same definitions. Here are a few examples I’ve found recently that state things well. I’ve edited for brevity, redundancies and clarity.

1. From ‘Just What the Hell is Content?’ on Loyalty360.org

Content includes words, images, video, and physical stuff. Content is everywhere. In law firms, it’s in boxes. In architectural firms, it’s made from balsa wood or CAD drawings. At my firm, it’s often in people’s heads.

There’s no difference between a website and content. Why do you have a web site? What’s it for? Or that mobile site? Or that app?

Content is singular in its purpose: to achieve a desired result for as many relevant people as possible.

2. From ‘Content Marketing – What Kind of Content are we Talking about?’ on exploreB2B

The list of possibilities for content you can use in content marketing is literally endless. As the success of content marketing strongly depends on the content you provide, use your imagination. Your content should stand out from the masses, provide something new and unique.

(A list of 10 suggestions follows. Being an old reporter, I like No. 9.)

Interview someone who can give your readers, and possible customers, some insight – use the questions to direct the content into your chosen direction and show with intelligent questions your knowledge on the topic.

3. From ‘The narrative is the thing: the art of corporate storytelling,’ on ZDNet

All the stakeholders of an organization—customers, employees, investors, partners, vendors, and yes, even competitors—are telling some aspect of the story of the brand.

The issue? They’re not always talking about the same thing.

How do you get everyone on the same page? The corporate narrative provides the framework. It is a story that embodies the essence of your business in action, comprised of more than just products and services, and more even than your mission statement. It’s what your company stands for, and how it’s making the world a better place. It’s a story that comprises your strengths AND your weaknesses.

4. From ‘Publishing Is The New Marketing: Epic Content Marketing,’ on  Loyalty360.org

Some businesses think storytelling is about explaining what you sell or telling people what you do. But effective storytelling explains what you do for your customers. The power of stories lies in making the reader and the consumer part of the story.

I wrote the foreword for Joe Pulizzi’s book “Epic Content Marketing.” In it, Joe states that “Publishing is the new marketing.” As it is the only way to “cut through the noise, commotion and bad information that is right now cluttering up your customer’s digital space.”

If we think and act like a publisher, we will create more of the content our customers are looking for. And LESS of the content they ignore. One of the biggest challenges in content marketing is to put the needs of our customers ahead of our own and to tell stories that connect with people.

Identify your potential customers’ top questions. At a minimum, your content should be helpful. Ideally, try to even entertain them.

5. From ‘A Meeting of the Minds: Content Strategy for Great Storytelling,’ from Pace

(This is the best writing I’ve seen on the subject, from the North Carolina-based agency Pace, winner of the 2013 Content Marketing Agency of the Year from the Content Marketing Awards. Do yourself a favor and click through to the white paper. It’s clear, compelling, useful and entertaining.)

What role does content strategy play in content marketing and brand storytelling? How much content strategy does a brand need? And, oh, by the way, what is content strategy?

The Pace approach to content strategy:
At Pace, content strategy is the carefully conceived and developed plan by which the substance of a brand message is communicated—in various formats via selected platforms—for the purpose of informing and inspiring a target audience to act, thereby achieving a stated business goal or objective.

The role of content strategy in Pace’s content marketing business:
Our methodology puts content strategy (processes, structures and technology) in the service of content marketing (great storytelling), rather than the other way around.

6. From ‘How is brand journalism different from marketing?’ on shiftcomm.com

You could also make the very valid argument that brands have always used journalism-like tactics to promote their own stuff. Marketers invented the advertorial and infotainment, after all. In those cases, that’s not really journalism so much as paid media. That’s not what brand journalism appears to be, however. We’re seeing brands trying to become the media, and attempt to be true, actual media sources. This is partly what differentiates brand journalism from standard content marketing and inbound marketing – brands are seeking in some cases to become media sources that consumers would choose to consume independently, even if it’s not directly related to the brand’s product offerings. That makes brand journalism a true force to be reckoned with.

(For a world-class example of this, look no further than Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola. Its website is as fun and compelling as those of many general-interest publications, with original content on restaurants gearing up for Valentine’s Day, the Olympics, recipes, sustainability and lots more.)

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7 Writing Tips from Country Music: It’s Almost Like a Song

UPDATED NOV. 3: In Nashville, they say country music is a form of storytelling. And in a lot of ways, that’s true. Think of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The Gambler” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” They aren’t just three of the greatest country songs ever written. They’re also examples of what storytellers of all kinds can learn from Nashville. I mean communicators in public relations, internal comms, journalism and everywhere. The Country Music Association Awards on Nov. 5 will offer lots of more recent examples, including songs by some of the performers listed here. Communicators of any kind can learn from country’s focus on craft, detail and mass marketing. If it’s bigger and more calculated than Loretta and Merle ever imagined, we can still learn how to catch our audience’s attention, milk an emotion or drive home a point. Because how much time do you give a song on the radio before changing the station? Exactly.

Florida Georgia Line, "Cruise"

Florida Georgia Line, “Cruise”

1. Don’t Bore Us; Get to the Chorus. What makes this tune — or speech or tweet or blog post — distinctive and relevant? In news, we said, “Don’t bury the lead.” In business, we strive for brevity and avoid jargon. Example: “Cruise,” performed by Florida Georgia Line, which even starts with the hook. 2. Focus, focus, focus. I have a friend whose walls are covered in platinum albums. He reviewed several of my draft compositions, shook his head and said, “Look — a song is about one thing. ONE thing. Not this thing and then another thing and then something else.” That’s helpful when writing in lots of forms. Example: “Follow Your Arrow” performed by Kacey Musgraves, or: Be yourself.

Miranda Lambert, "The House that Built Me"

Miranda Lambert, “The House that Built Me”

3. Get emotional. As a journalist, I was trained to be objective, removed and dispassionate, so this sometimes feels counterintuitive. I try to remember it at the piano and at the office. Reveal yourself. Risk being vulnerable. Connect emotionally. Example: “The House that Built Me” performed by Miranda Lambert nailed me to my seat the first time I heard it. 4. Show, don’t tell. This is important, of course, in all kinds of writing. Hard to do, sometimes. Example: “I Drive Your Truck” performed by Lee Brice starts with describing the inside of a dead soldier’s vehicle… and then rips your heart out. 5. Write what you know. That doesn’t mean to relate only your own experiences. It means: Don’t BS your audience. They will know — always. Example: Imagine Justin Bieber singing a Willie Nelson classic. 6. Be clear. Music Row doesn’t produce tunes that are too poetic, opaque or otherwise fuzzy. Rock ‘n’ rollers and singer-songwriters can do that. But the best country songs, like the best business communications, are sharp and immediately understood. Example: “I Don’t Want this Night to End,” performed by Luke Bryan. Got it. 7. Tell a story. It’s not always the right approach in business, but it often is. And in Nashville, it’s no coincidence that many of the most-honored songs tell a narrative. Example: “Stay,” performed  by Sugarland, about a mistress who decides she’s worth more than second best.


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