Wednesday, August 18

Crafting Content: Five Tips For Better Content

According to Pingdom, there are approximately 234 million Websites (47 million are new) and 126 million blogs. This doesn't count the abundance of Facebook pages or other social network platforms that double as content creation sites.

Although some smart businesses don't care as much about total visitors as engaging prospects and customers, most of them are competing for the attention of some of the 1.8 billion people online (about 260 million in North America and 420 million in Europe). And there are many different tactics to do so.

While there are many possibilities, content remains a primary driver. Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, Live, Baidu, Wikipedia, Blogger, MSN, and Tencent all rely on content. Search engines help us organize global information (usually by ranking for better content). Social networks help us keep up to date on our network of friends (usually by making it easier to share content). Other platforms, like YouTube and Blogger, rely on content from contributors.

5 Tips For Crafting Better Content.

With an increasing number of daily messages from an increasing amount of sources, it stands to reason that the bar for better content will continue to be raised. So the question companies, businesses, public relations, publications, and bloggers need to ask is how to provide better content. Well, the first step isn't presentation as much as it is value identification. And here are five ways to add value...

Recognize and act quickly on story opportunities.
Tracking trends and tying current events often captures more interest than Website content long forgotten. Even stores and e-commerce sites need a steady stream of fresh surplus to keep people coming back. For most Websites and blogs, the easiest tie-in is "news," assuming they understand the definition of news. But news isn't the only opportunity. Topics that people are searching for tend to trend. Or, if you are up for a much more challenging prospect, you can deliver what they never thought to look for and love it when they find it.

Gather facts carefully and accurately.
The quickest way to build credibility online isn't always simply being friendly or being flashy with numbers. Credibility is built on the ability to deliver on promises. If you promise a compelling, interesting, educational, or humorous story, your ability to consistently deliver that content will keep people coming back. If you want to stand out among all the other opinions over the long term, be especially clear about what you know to be facts and what you know are your (or others') opinions.

Provide a variety of sources and ideas (at least one).
There are dozens of different topics where facts alone don't measure up. Generally, people base their decisions on a variety of perspectives. The better content usually provides some insight or understanding of any opposing viewpoints. The mosque near Ground Zero provides a solid example. Every day, I read polarized accounts of why it should be or should not be built there. These varied opinions almost never consider the opposing viewpoint, which diminishes the strength of the argument and turns dozens of posts into nothing more than "I also think" puff pieces. The diatribe on this issue is also why I never covered it.

Add in little known facts and/or fresh quotes.
Every day, journalists and bloggers, with increasing regularity, recap what other people write about. In some cases, it's verbatim. If you want your content to stand out from the pack of recaps, add new insights, perspectives, little known facts, or quotes that haven't been published or are long forgotten. The ability to provide a new perspective on a topic can mean the difference between rehashing or adding value to the content and conversations as opposed to adding to the noise.

Research and explore different story angles.
Sometimes, better content comes from repurposing intent. For example, dozens of people have used Website and blog numbers to demonstrate that online marketing and information is growing at an amazing pace (and to demonstrate why you need to increase your marketing online). But today, I'm using them to illustrate something different. As more people and organizations add to the noise, the bar for what constitutes valuable content is raised. Much in the same way, if I were to write about the mosque (which I'm not), it would be a piece about diatribe in order to drive the topic away from emotions and toward communication.

The takeaway here is simple. Before you concern yourself with techniques and tactics related to presentation, you have to be able to identify the right topics. For organizations and businesses, there is the additional burden that these topics must fall within the strategic communication plan. For individuals, it's simpler still. It's the fundamental difference between being an engaging writer and someone who will bore people away.

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