Guest blog by Ben Lawton.
Content marketing – especially blogging – is a great way to get the word out, whether you’re a small company with big ambitions or you’ve already reached world-domination phase.
But you already know that.
What you really want to know is how to make a success of this whole content marketing thing. After all, most blogs out there aren’t roaring successes – in fact, a lot end up being outright failures.
So what separates the best from the rest? One of the first things that come to mind is relationships. The authors know how to build them. They're pretty good at nurturing them, too.
In 'real life', people warm to you based on your personality. The online world is no different. And in the blogging world, tone – how you express yourself in your writing – is how you get your personality across.
Tone, for the novice writer, at least, is sadly easier said than done. In school, we're convinced that we should write more formally than we speak. And it's hard to shake that (awful) habit.
But fret not. I’ll show you how to write in a tone that reflects your unique personality. Given a bit of practice, your readers will be head-over-heels for your personal flavour of content.
Here are a few 'tricks of the trade' to help you get there.
Who are you?
The tone you put across in your writing should reflect – to a certain extent – your personality real life…
…There’s no use in acting like something you’re not. It never works, and it won’t be long until you’re dreading writing your next blog post.
So if you're the loud, gung-ho type, reflect that in your writing. Use strong, some might say OTT adjectives like “amazing” and “out of this world”. Use bold and italicto add emphasis where you would in real life.
Or if, like me, you prefer the dry – some might say sarcastic – approach to life, feel free to reflect that in your writing. Use short sentences. Throw in the odd witty odd-liner, even if you might be the only one who thinks it's funny.
If you work in a B2B industry, you might think that showing too much personality is a bad idea. You couldn't be further from the truth. People do business with people, at the end of the day. And no-one likes a bore.
So go nuts. Be yourself. You'll be far more successful winning the hearts of the few than you would by being “meh” to everyone.
But ask yourself...
Who are your customers?
Like I mentioned above, you should express your personality when you're writing copy. To a certain point, that is.
Yes, I just contradicted myself.
Letting your personality shine through in your copy is all well and good. In fact, it works wonders. But don't be blind to the people who you're writing for.
For example, if you're writing a blog that targets conservative retirees, swearing like a trooper probably won't win you many fans. In some cases, you should dial it back a bit.
One trick I employ when I'm writing for an audience that could react badly to my personality – i.e. tone – is to ask myself, “how would I speak to these people in real life?”.
Often-times, if it's for a more conservative audience – say, older relatives – you'd speak and act like a more dialled-down version of yourself. You should do the same when you're writing copy.
It's all about striking a balance – a balance that you won't get right straight away. But it doesn't matter. You'll have more time to tweak it than you think before you get booed off the stage.
What mindset are your customers in?
The mindset your customers will be in when they read your content has a huge effect on how much – or little – of your energetic, playful personality you should put across.
Let's take a 30 year old male as an example. Let's say this male is called John.
If John goes online to catch up on the rugby news, or to read tips on how he can grow his blog, you can probably be a bit more off-the-wall with your tone. He'll probably be in a relaxed, easy-going mood.
But on the flip side of the coin, if John has just received some bad news from his doctor, he'll probably be scared. So just like you would in real life, you'll need to dial back your crazy personality and put across a sympathetic, reassuring tone.
Write it as you'd say it
When you write, you probably use a bunch of long-winded, fancy words. And when you talk, you probably sound nothing like that.
If that's the case, it's time to kick the habit.
The next time you go to write something, say it out loud first. And then write it just as you'd say it. This doesn't just add the human touch, either. It helps you craft your tone specific to the situation at hand.
If you're dealing with a sensitive topic, you'll find that you say things out loud in a more warm, approachable tone. And if you're giving someone the hard sell, you'll say things with a bit more vigour.
Then when it comes to writing what you want to say, you'll automatically have the human touch that's missing in most people's copy.
Read it out loud
No first draft is anywhere near perfection. It's not a great writer that makes great copy, after all. It's a great editor.
So once you've finished the first draft of whatever you're writing – be it a sales letter or a white paper – read it out loud.
When you read your copy out loud, you'll immediately know whether or not it hits the mark. If it sounds too formal, for example, you'll sound stiff and unnatural when you read it.
One thing I do when I'm reading my copy out loud is to put myself in a specific situation. So if I'm writing copy for an insurance blog, I imagine I'm an insurance advising my client in a face-to-face meeting.
Or on the other end of the spectrum, I imagine I'm speaking to a room full of like-minded marketers and entrepreneurs. That's exactly what I'm doing here.
When you imagine yourself in these situations, think about the people you'd be speaking to. How would they react? Would they cringe? Laugh? Cry?
When you think like that, you'll be able to get a 'quick feel' for how your content will be received. It's this ability that leads to great editing. And that's where the real magic happens.