Content is once again king! The smart newsletter publishers whether they’re in print or online are finally coming to the realization that readers aren’t looking to buying their stuff. They’re looking for solutions.
And the best way to deliver solutions is by delivering information readers can use. It’s also the best way to build trust with those who may eventually want to buy your solutions.
Here’s a tip: The more niche or the focused your solutions, the better. Why? Because the more you can offer solutions that speak directly to a person’s challenge or pain point, the more valuable it is to the reader.
Whether it’s a B2B newsletter that I charged $1,595 for or a $19.95 B2C publication, one thing that always proved true is that the content had to address solutions for a specific audience. The content is what kept them coming back. The content also helped foster a relationship with readers in which they came to trust us for other solutions offered at conferences, seminars, in manuals, reports, books and other “back-end products.”
But it all begins with valuable content. Here are my 6 tips that have helped me and my staff over the years.
6 steps to create great content
Step #1: You must have a killer story idea to begin. I often required our writers/editors to come to the story meeting with the first paragraph written out as they see the story. Often, it wasn’t great at that point, but by discussing the topic we could usually come up with a great idea and if not, we knew then and there we had to come up with a better lead story. It’s important to have the writers come to the story conference with the lead paragraph already written because you want them to really give some thought to how they see that story shaping up.
Step #2: Every article should answer the question: What’s In It For the Reader (WIIFR)? In fact, the lead paragraph will often answer that question. If the answer isn’t in the first paragraph, it should be no farther down than the third or fifth paragraph depending on the length of the article. Every article should have a reason why the writer is saying to the reader, “This is so important that you should not only take the time to read it, but pay me to read it.”
In order to answer that question, the article has to be written for the reader – not for anyone else. Some of the newsletters I published were directed to very specific markets such as credit union CEOs, bank compliance officers, and auto dealers. Not only is each written for a niche industry, but they are written to and for a specific position in that industry. Every article must be written with that person in mind.
Step #3: What can you do to keep your readers’ interest? Every publisher worth the ink or HTML code needed to produce the content is going to make sure he’s doing steps 1 and 2. So what can you do to make your articles stand out from the rest? If your publication and a competitor’s publication are sitting on a desk or coffee table, what are you going to do to make sure the reader picks up yours first – and not put it down right away?! Can you take a contrarian stand? Can you invoke some controversy by pitting two sources against each other? Marketing expert and business coach Jon Goldman (www.BrandLauncher.com) asks: “Where can you zig where the others zag?” What unique angle can you have? Are there unique sources or ideas you can bring into the article?
Step #4: What sources or anecdotes will you use to make the story come alive? A story is only as good as the ideas within the story. These stories within the story often come from other sources or from anecdotes that help paint a picture. For instance, I just finished working with the writers of US News and World Report’s new car review site, and unlike most other car review sites, it’s entirely based on other sources. The articles are packed with terrific car buying information that is brought to life with anecdotes and comments from other reviewers.
Step #5: Create compelling copy. This is often where I see writers, editors and even publishers get lazy. It’s not enough to just put the information together. It’s got to be compelling. It has to grab you and keep hold of you so you find yourself so involved that anything else would be a rude, irritating disruption. Will every story do that? Of course not. But it’s something your writers and editors should strive for every time! Like I often say, it’s an art, not a science and so therefore it should be an art that is constantly practiced. That’s why I always look for talented writers who care about producing great content first. You can teach the subject matter. That will come. The care and dedication needed to produce great content is something you can’t teach – and great content will always win in a competitive market.
Step #6: Write strong, intriguing headlines and subheads. I mention this last for a reason. All the steps in fact are listed in order of how they should be approached. But it’s important to save the headline writing and subheads for last. I don’t know how many times I found the headline in the first paragraph — or worse, it’s buried at the end of the article. A good headline should grab you, intrigue and tell you why it’s so important that you stop everything you’re doing to read the article. Subheads should not be overlooked, either. The subhead is a tool to keep the reader engaged in the article and in some cases, pull the reader into the article so they must include a benefit. They too must answer the question: What’s In it For Me?
Use those 6 steps and you’ll be on your way to delivering great newsletter editorial your readers can use. For more tips and ideas go to http://www.ThePubGuru.com