How to Create Great Content: A PR Writer’s Guide.
Content is the written material created for clients to connect, persuade, and engage with their audiences. It can run the gamut from blogs to social media posts, op-eds and letters to the editor, as well as native advertising and even sponsored material. Great content is a key element of any worthwhile public relations campaign. But in an online world bursting with new content every day that begs for people’s ever-precious time, the challenge is to create something that will stand out and grab attention and, most importantly, achieve the results your clients want. When a client has a message they’d like to get out to the world, they don’t just want to be heard — they want to be listened to. Great content should make people want to engage with it — to not only read it, but understand it, agree with it, share it, or take some other action. The measure of great content is something that becomes essential to influencing, engaging, and building a relationship for a client with today’s increasingly online audiences. To do that, we’ve put together some pointers to help you create great content and get the results your clients are looking for. 1. Know Your Audience and Your Author It’s vitally important to understand who your content is going to be speaking to, what their values are, and what will appeal to them. For example, if you’re trying to influence business executives, try creating content aimed at outlets like The Wall Street Journal, or Bloomberg. Also, most content is written for an author, like a CEO or spokesperson. So it’s essential to understand their viewpoint and where they are coming from in relation to the message you’re trying to present through them. You must have a strong understanding of their frame of reference and make that POV clear. 2. Write To Persuade Great content should always seek to influence people in one way or another; it’s not enough to simply make a statement. This can get tricky, since clients are usually the first audiences and gatekeepers, and might not want to go out on a limb. But content is wasted if it’s not memorable and persuasive for the audiences it’s intended to reach, especially when it needs to inspire action. For example, if you’re writing a call to action that will appear on a “mom blog,” you’ll want to use language that makes the mothers reading it see the importance of the issue for their child. 3 . Be Direct and Make Your Point Great content should have a point, and you should always try to make that point succinctly and upfront. Don’t bury it far into the piece and don’t let the reader get distracted by other things along the way. Otherwise, you risk losing your audience and their interest. You also don’t want your message to get lost or be misinterpreted. At best, nobody will care what you said. At worst, you can have a crisis on your hands. 4. Be Descriptive and Detailed Details and specificity are the key to creating content that is going to be more engaging and stand out in the crowded field. One way to make that happen is being more descriptive when it comes to word choice; think of the difference between calling a wave big or monstrous. Conversely, think of how bland and meaningless many corporate buzzwords sound (silos, anyone?). Try to speak in strong terms and avoid generic language. 5 . Show, Don’t Tell This is a best practice for all writing, but even more so when you’re trying to change hearts and minds. Don’t just tell your audience what the point is, make sure they can see it by using data points, quotes from third parties, and specific examples or anecdotes to do the heavy lifting of your main argument. Think of how important evidence and testimony are to court trials — it’s not enough for a lawyer to say “this person did this.” They need to show it. And great content needs to do the same. Don’t just make your point, make sure you illustrate it vividly. 6. Utilize Style, Voice and Tone These three elements can work together to create a powerfully persuasive piece of content with a strong and subconscious effect. Style, as seen in structure and grammar, can convey authority while the voice and tone of the piece can help to subtly influence the audience and their impressions. Capturing the author’s voice and personality is essential for the audience to connect to them and their message on a more personal level. Tone is similar to voice, but conveyed on a broader scale regarding the author’s attitude towards the subject (cautionary, accusatory, conciliatory, etc.). Being particular about word choice is the key to tone — inquisitive and nosy may mean the same thing but the choice of words is the difference between conveying a positive tone and a negative one. 7. What Does The Client Have To Say? Talking directly with the client and/or intended author of a piece can be the difference between good and great content. A five or ten minute conversation can inform not just those essentials of voice and tone, but also give you a more specific sense of what the client’s main point is as well as areas they may want to avoid. While sometimes getting access to busy professionals can be difficult, it’s well worth it — hearing directly from them about what they want to say will often avoid major last-minute revisions when they read something that’s been developed without their direct input. The practices described above are a few keys to making great content. If you can answer these questions and address all these issues before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), you’ll be more than halfway there as it’s important to have all this information when starting the writing process. Think of content as a big puzzle and these seven steps are the pieces of that puzzle. When you have all of them lined up and ready to go, you’ll be ready to complete that picture. And by focusing on these seven steps, you can start creating great content that will command the attention of your audience and get the results your clients want.