Creating compelling content for an organization presents a challenge for even the most seasoned writers. Working in higher education, I’m lucky to have several audiences to supply stories. Student achievements, faculty accomplishments and notable alumni all go into the metaphoric hopper to be spit out as stories, web content, testimonials and pitches.
The other side of this situation demands that I find ways to communicate to those audiences, each of which has different needs, expectations and levels of interest in the college. You probably find that same challenge in your own industry. Consumer products, service providers and healthcare don’t have students and alumni in the same sense that a college does, but you do have prospects, current customers and former clients whose relationships parallel the audiences of higher education.
The Audience Matters
To get started, it doesn’t matter if you’ve worked in your industry for two weeks or 20 years. Take a favorite pen to a large piece of paper and map out each of your audiences. Draw the connections between them, and think through the last time you developed content that spoke directly to them. You can write interesting, grammatically-correct stories to your heart’s content, but if the story doesn’t interest the right audience, you’re wasting your time.
Once you’ve got a handle on who will receive your messages, start using the following ideas to generate robust, worthwhile content.
Content Doesn’t Have to Mean Text
Writing a story once and posting it to a web page no longer works. Outlets for content – print, web, mobile – have multiplied like weeds. Don’t discount the opportunity to use combinations of video, text and photos to tell your stories. Consider picking through your organization’s archives and bring back pieces of history: Photo galleries of past company picnics, old logos and even remembrances from long-time employees can all have a place in your stream of content.
Pick a Different Narrator
All too often, content that comes out of an organization has a bland corporate tone. A new voice can bring out a sense of familiarity and conviviality that will endear you to your audience. Break out of the repeat bland, corporate style where “Company ABC announced…” or “It was decided by senior management at Hospital XYZ…,” and instead consider new and memorable formats. Maybe that announcement about a new program should feature an employee, a faculty member in my case, talking through the news in a video clip where natural enthusiasm shines through.
To use another higher education example, I might have a graduate interview a student for a magazine article, a parent write about the financial aid process for an admissions newsletter or a faculty member compile a photo gallery for our web site.
Most audiences will respond more favorably to a person than to a nameless, faceless thing.
Ask the Question, “What Do I Want This Content to Do?”
Any content you produce represents a significant investment of your time and mental energy. Make that final piece count by having a goal in mind as you set out to create something. If your audience calls for an informational tone, make sure the end result is clear and complete. Trying to persuade a group to take action? Outline what steps they need to take and provide compelling reasons to do so.
Bottom line, if you are a poor writer, you’ve got some work to do before you can become a great creator of content. You need a firm base of grammar and a sense of writing style before you can hope to have content that people will want to consume. If writing is not your strongest suit, find a friend or colleague who can honestly critique what you write. Consider your writing skill as a muscle, one that needs constant exercise and use.
• Understanding your audience is key.
• All text all the time is boring.
• Different voices lend credibility and interest to your content.
• Write with a purpose.
• Keep your writing skills up-to-date, and don’t slack on basics like spelling, punctuation and other pesky concepts, like subject/verb agreement.