How to write content your customers will actually read
by Anna Kaine on 19 December 2018
We’ve all been there – you spend hours crafting a Dickensian or Orwellian-standard blog post, committing facts, drama, tension and humour to the page only to watch it repel readers. Why is noone reading this honed and highly researched tome? You played with language, you told a story, you advised and entertained: why isn’t it your highest-performing content yet?
The reasons can be many:
Or it could be – as we’ll focus on in this post – that you aren’t talking to your audience in a way that they relate to, enjoy or expect. Without a connection or perceived bond between you and your reader, they simply won’t persevere with your content – no matter how good you are. It isn’t merely about what you say, but it’s the way you say it.
So we’ve put together this post to combine everything we’ve learnt about a successful writing style ourselves, and combined that knowledge with some fantastic tips we picked up in a recent The Guardian Masterclass, led by journalist Eddy Lawrence. In no time at all, you may just see the length of time people are spending on your page increase – and more of those precious conversions occur, turning visitors into leads and customers.
This shouldn’t be an illusion at all – you want to create genuine closeness with your customers – but anyone reading your blog post, pillar page or social media posts who isn’t yet a customer still needs to get the sensation that you know them and understand their problems, fears and needs.
During the masterclass, we discussed the importance of our “lizard brains.” They crave familiarity and closeness; at a basal level, we like it when people seem similar to us, as Researcher Andreas Komninos explains:
“Familiar things are usually seen as safe and preferable, while unfamiliar things are treated with suspicion until we have assessed them and the context in which they appear. For this reason, designers, advertisers, and anyone else involved in selling products tend to use familiarity as a means of evoking positive emotions.”
You can do this in your writing by:
“The part of the brain that deals with smell is very close to the part that deals with memory. Put your reader in their mental happy place through smell and they’ll remember what you wrote.”
“It usually helps me write by reading — somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear.”
It’s a widely accepted piece of advice: if you’re reading, it improves your writing skills. As a previous English teacher, I was constantly telling parents at Parents Evening to encourage their children to read, in order to improve their writing skills. And not just ‘read anything’: countless studies have proven the power of reading fiction in increasing brain function, connectivity and creativity. But as a business writer, how does this translate?
You need to read what your audience is reading – find their watering holes. This isn’t only to get an idea of their behaviours and put your own materials into their laps, it’s to learn other things, too:
If you want to write content that your audience shares, you need to hit at least one of the above topics. If you’re funny, use that in your writing. If you’ve got some brand new, ground-breaking research or an inside scoop, use that in your writing. As Eddy Lawrence explained in The Guardian Masterclass:
“People want to look cool. They want to pass your content off as their own, saying “look what I’ve found” when they repost it to gain prestige, respect and, most importantly, their own likes and comments.”
And there you have it – our own masterclass version of some top tips to try for creating content your audience will actually read. We are constantly trying these out ourselves: there is no magic wand. You have to find out what works for your reader – as yours is certainly different to ours. But if you keep mixing things up, never letting yourself get into a writing rut, you’re already doing more than a lot of content creators out there and this will pay in dividends.
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