How to write alluring content for online audiences

Digital audiences can be tricky to reach. Posting a hastily written rough draft unedited spells disaster, says this pro. Never post your first draft—ever!

Artful, unique, high-quality online writing is essential to your brand’s visibility. How can companies create content that supports their mission—dynamic, original, and thought-provoking? The answer is easy-to-read writing that tells a story.

Here are a few tips on writing for an online audience without compromising your voice, code of ethics, artistic standards or mission:

1. Write, revise and proofread.

There are two kinds of readers: those who don’t care about typos, spelling errors, bad grammar or sentence construction; and those who do. Those who care really, really care; those who don’t, won’t. Use a spellchecker, proofread your paragraphs, and edit, edit, edit! When I see an obvious error like “they’re” for “their” or “there,” the credibility of the writer evaporates.

Sure, the occasional typo happens, but a judicious writer should catch those errors. If you read your piece aloud before publishing it or sending it off to an editor, there’s no excuse for typos. If you need a brush-up on grammar and usage, I recommend ” Strunk & White.” Many sites offer a practical advice and usage guidance: Grammar Girl,Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), and Grammarly are very easy to use online.

Nobody writes great first drafts—nobody. The difference between good and horrible writing is whether or not the author believes in revision. A famous quote by K. E. Weick from Sensemaking in Organizations asks, “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?” The word revision means re-seeing, as if for the first time.

2. Write vividly. Use voice, narrative and imagery.

Would you read your site content aloud to a friend or family member? Is it stale, boring, recycled, and full of clichés? If you can’t entertain your audience, revise your piece to be more interesting and fun to listen to.

FREE GUIDE: 10 ways to improve your writing today. Download now.

Your writing should also have a strong voice. It is possible to create content that renders the mission statement and character of your brand so vividly the reader can’t help wanting to be a part of it. Content must pull readers in and make them hunger for more. Only then will your content grab the audience and turn them from spectators into believers.

3. Write something original.

Say you have an idea for your company blog, but after writing a draft you realize your article differs from what you’d intended. You have a few options: a.) Edit the first draft into something closer to your original premise, b.) Shift the aim of the piece to differ from your draft, or c.) Continue to edit the piece until it becomes a solid piece of writing, a compelling marketing piece that represents your brand or mission.

Options b and c are two versions of the same process. The most successful brands always have a compelling story behind them; the story is larger than the sum of its parts. It transcends the bottom line. These companies’ marketing campaigns and mission statements often go far beyond profit-making.

A great example is Nike’s infamous “Just Do It” campaign and tagline. More than a slogan, the three-word imperative embodies fearlessness, daring, and limitless potential. As the University of Alabama at Birmingham points out , it’s been called the best tagline in history: “It took Dan Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy just 20 minutes to come up with the phrase, certainly an act of advertising genius. Wieden credits the slogan’s simplicity as the key to its amazing success.”

4. Manage your brand’s reputation.

Brand reputation management extends into social media sites. If you know Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook, you realize the power of word-of-mouth reviews. Be sure your brand’s social media is as professional and impressive as your site content.

A recent study in the Global Business & Economics Review conducted by Boston University found that “There appears to be a general lack of a strategic framework for thinking about communities, as most firms in the study were not monitoring, integrating and leveraging social media adequately.” In other words, if you’re not networking and keeping your social media up-to-date, you should. Many small businesses fail to use social media at all, missing out on many opportunities to network with their local community or reach out to prospects.

The more fascinating, colorful, and unique your writing, the more people will pay attention. People are bored by lists, but drawn in by engaging details, easy-to-read copy and tailored content. Give your audience valuable information, useful resources or inspiring ideas that don’t come with a price tag. They will want to experience the activities in the story you tell. Make it worthwhile to visit your site.

You’re not just selling content; you’re selling philosophy. If you change someone’s perspective, even for a few minutes, you will have succeeded: Your audience will come back for more.

Daphne Stanford writes poetry and nonfiction, and believes in the power of art, education and community radio. Follow her on Twitter @TPS_on_KRBX.

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