Book summary of
Why this book
Content is everywhere online, and great noticeable content often originates from good writing. In business, good writing signals clear thinking and is fundamentally customer-centric. This is why it's important to be mindful of what we say (or don't say) and how.
90% of companies use content marketing, but 50% of the marketers surveyed for the book find it hard to create engaging content: we need better content—one that is clear, short and to the point, and that tells a true story well.
Quality content is a factor of 3 things
- It helps the customer do something that's important to her
- The writer relies on data and is creative
- It's written with empathy, from the customer's point of view
Writing is already a habit
You are writing and reading on a daily basis. But to be a better writer, you need to be more deliberate in the way you approach it.
3 aspects of developing a writing practice
- Write when you feel the freshest
- Write often rather than a lot
- Write daily
23 writing rules to write more and better
- Diverge from the 5-paragraph essay (intro, 3 body paragraphs starting with the strongest argument, conclusion)
- Put the needs of your audience first, not yours or your boss'
- The most important idea goes at the beginning of the sentence/text
- Come prepared by asking yourself 3 questions: Why am I writing this? What's my take? Why does it matter to my readers?
- Put yourself in the shoes of your reader: How will they experience your content? What questions might they have? Are my sentences too hard to decipher?
- Your best writing happens when you rewrite.
- Develop empathy for your customers: spend time with them, understand their environment, ask a lot of questions, share their stories, use We or You
- Remove anything that is redundant, obvious, or doesn't support the point you're trying to make. Simplify your wording.
- Each paragraph has to flow into the next one: connect them or add transitions.
- Write as if you were having a conversation with someone that is dear to you (a parent, a child, a lover, or your favorite customer) to overcome writer's block.
- Remove unnecessary background and jump in the topic right away.
- Pay special attention to where you place your words. One misplaced word can change the meaning of a sentence.
- Show, don't tell: make your words come alive—be specific, illustrate the features and benefits of your product instead of merely describing them.
- Use relatable yet original analogies. Avoid clichés.
- Write to teach
- Use fewer and simpler words, but don't be simplistic. Your reader isn't stupid.
- Write before you design: the design supports the content, not the other way around.
- Find a writing buddy and improve together through mutual feedback.
- Don't write by committee. If you have to, set clear expectations and seek approval, but not opinions. Only start writing when your outline has been approved.
- Hire an editor that can push you to write your best. 3 types of editors: copyeditors (check facts and do some cleaning), substantive editors (suggests what can be improved, expanded, or condensed), and line editors (corrects grammar, word choice, and flow while taking note of the writer's voice).
- End your writing session on an exciting note to get back to it energized the next day.
- Focus on reaching a daily word count, because time doesn't measure the actual quality of your process. Start small and progressively try to write more until you hit a sweet spot.
- Give yourself a deadline every day to finish your work. There is always something to edit, but you have to resign yourself to finish at some point.
12 steps of a writing process
- Define your business goal
- Reframe the goal to include your reader (How can I help?)
- Find data and examples
- Organize the article with an outline of your key points
- Write to the one person you're helping: include the reader in the story right away
- Scribble a first draft without worrying about grammar or syntax 7.Take time off 8.Rewrite with clarity at heart 9.Find a great title
- Find someone to help you edit
- Edit for readability: short paragraphs and sentences, straightforward words, lots of white space, visual elements, quotes, sub-titles, lists, important ideas in bold or italic...
- Publish with a Call to Action
6 ways to write a good lead
- Pull the reader in the story as soon as possible
- Describe a relatable problem
- Paint a scene that is instantly immersive
- Ask a question
- Quote a surprising data
- Tell a story
3 ways to write a good closing
- Restate the main takeaway
- Add a twist
- Let someone else have the last word
7 writing rules to improve your grammar and usage
- Remove buzzwords, jargon, Frankenwords (e.g 'solopreneur', 'listicle'), words with additives (ending in -ize, -ism, or -istic), verb-nouns (writings, learnings), noun-verbs (journaling, leverage, incentivize), and weblish ('I don't have the bandwith').
- Prefer the active voice to give strength to your sentence
- Replace weak verbs with action verbs (e.g to cut -> to slash)
- Remove adverbs that don't add anything
- Avoid clichés
- Don't be afraid to break traditional grammar rules from time to time: start a sentence with conjunctions ('and', 'but', 'because', etc.), use sentence fragments ('This.'), split infinitives ('to quickly remove'), end a sentence with a preposition (at, out, in, with, by, etc.), or write one-sentence paragraphs.
- Avoid moralizing (dogmatic sentences usually starting with 'Don't forget', 'Never', 'Avoid', 'Don't', 'Remember to', etc.), you don't want to sound preachy.
5 characteristics of a good story
- It's authentic, narrating true events.
- It tells how it touches human lives: "specific enough to be believable, universal enough to be relevant"
- It offers an original perspective
- It's framed for the customer
- It's in the continuation of a bigger story involving your business mission
10 questions to craft your story:
- What makes you unique?
- What's interesting about your business origin story?
- What problem are you solving?
- What's the inspiration for your business?
- What aha! moments did you have?
- How did the business change over time?
- What's your impression of your business and its stakeholders?
- How can we tell our story in an original way? What analogy is relevant?
- What's cool yet not so-well-known about our business?
- What's our vision?
3 rules to write better stories
- Tell a story that's unique to you
- It doesn't matter if it's already been written done, just find your own unique voice (brand, personality, point of view) to write it.
- Use an analogy rather than an example
13 rules of publishing
- Write like a journalist: use a story-driven people-centric approach.
- Content is mainly used to increase awareness of your company's story, to report news of your industry, to assert yourself as a thought leader, or to generate leads.
- You can find content ideas everywhere, you just have to frame them to be relevant to your audience: talk about things that are mundane to you but interesting to others, events outside of your industry that inspire you, talk to clients and partners, find analogies from your own life...
- Make use of newsjacking (injecting yourself into a breaking news story as soon as it appears)
- Publish news that matter and archive the rest somewhere else (e.g minor product upgrade)
- Be biased but remain balanced by exposing opposing viewpoints
- Always make sure to check your facts (names, numbers, quotes, etc.)
- Find the best sources: the people at the center of the story, not the marketers or third-party organizations
- Take your interviewee's personal agenda into account and disclose possible conflicts of interest
- Cite the source while writing, or you might forget to attribute the idea later on (which isn't cool at all!)
- Curate, but don't plagiarize: diversify your sources, credit the original source, make the sources visible, and don't use nofollow links when linking to your source
- Seek the original author's permission to use copyrighted work: ask for it, get it in writing, and honor the terms
- Use trustworthy data and subject-matter experts to make your content credible
7 interview tips
- Be your audience's advocate
- Don't be afraid to ask questions when you don't understand something
- Have one-on-one conversations
- Use follow-up questions to go past canned answers
- Don't go through a list of questions, converse
- Use superlatives to get interesting answers (What's your best/worst/most/greatest X?)
- Speak less and listen more, but keep digressions under control
Optimized length of your content
| Blog post | 1500 words | | Email subject | 50 characters | | Line of text | 12 words | | Paragraph | 4 lines | | Youtube video | 3 to 4 minutes | | Podcast | 22 minutes | | Web title | 55 characters | | Web description | 155 characters | | Facebook post | 100-144 characters | | Tweet | 120-130 characters | | Domain name | 8 characters or less |
14 rules for content marketing on social media
- Tell your audience who you are and your story, take good care of your bio/profile
- Don't automate your presence entirely, engagement comes from genuine human interactions
- Use social media to find content idea
- Keep your posts short and to the point, with clear calls to action and images when relevant
- Use hashtags to join/launch a movement or display your personality, not just to advertise. Less is better!
- Use humor to set yourself apart
- Niche over size
- Post when your audience is online
- Always try to help/add value
- Always write for your audience, even when you talk about you: find their needs, measure engagement, and answer comments
- Don't write like everyone else
- Personal messages should be personalized (you use I and address the reader by his/her name)
- Use headlines that make the reader curious to read more, promise something, use numbers and adjectives, and/or include the reader directly
- Use social proof: testimonials, press, certificates, guarantees, etc.