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Think first, write later – How planning makes a piece of content great

Guilty of indulging in churning witty phrases? It’s time to reconsider your approach.

Give yourself the gift of time

When was the last time you praised yourself for thinking about something for a long time? If you kick yourself for letting your mind whirl and not putting pen to paper, stop right now. Your teachers always told you to plan your answers for a reason – it makes them much stronger. The same goes for writing great content.

According to recent B2B research, 72% of marketers said that content strategy development or adjustment was the reason for an increased success in their business1. But companies still fall into the bad habit of avoiding the ‘thinking’ aspect of content strategy at all costs. Whether they’re pushed for time, lazy or excited about just ‘getting on with it’, forgetting to plan is endemic across the business world. And it’s about time this all changed.

If you only take three things from this blog, make them …

1 – What do we want to achieve?

2 – What do our audiences want to read?

3 – What are our competitors doing?

At its simplest, planning is all about asking questions and getting them answered. It’s decision time, where you think seriously about what you want to get out of your content strategy. Once you’ve answered these three questions, you should have a unique set of aims and ideas that make you different from your competitors. Remember, successful brands are original, so never copy others.

With your decisions made, you can set KPIs and think of topics to fill up your content calendar. That’s the first step, and be warned, it won’t get sorted overnight.

Another mistake to avoid is to think the planning is done at the start. You should plan continuously by tweaking your strategy based on what’s working and what’s not. Which leads us on to our next point…

Planning in writing

Love a book with twists and turns? It doesn’t just happen accidentally, and chances are there will have been subtle clues along the way to create mystery and keep you turning the pages. Planning how you are going to write something is just as important as what you’re going to write about.

The average reader of a blog will stay tuned for 15 seconds and then switch off2. Make sure your readers stay engaged until they reach your point. Okay, it’s not that easy, we admit, but we do have some tips.

Think of your article more like presentation. You wouldn’t put all your points in slide one – you’d stretch them out to tell the story of your point. Your paragraphs are your slides, and when you plan what each section should say you can move them around to let your story unfold.

If you’ve done your content strategy right, you should know how your article is going to answer your audience’s questions. You could use these questions as the paragraphs. As people love to skim read, chances are your audience will open your article and jump through the various points until they find what we’re looking for. If it’s easy to get the answers they want, they’ll stay on your blog for longer than 15 seconds, improving your bounce rate.

While we’re on the subject of answers, you could set up questions at the start that you’re going to answer in the article. Each answer then becomes a different paragraph. That way you keep them interested with what they want but manage to keep some mystery by drip feeding the answers.

What next?

Let’s not beat about the bush – you want to keep them on your website. Now it’s time to plan the rest of their journey, which is all done through measurement. Watch where they click next and make sure you’ve got something interesting for them to read there, too.

 

1 http://videnmarketing.com/b2b-content-marketing-statistics-2017/

http://time.com/12933/what-you-think-you-know-about-the-web-is-wrong/

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