Friday, September 7

Inspiring Content: Inspire Yourself First

A few months ago, one of my students stopped me mid-sentence when I hit the fourth of five ways to find inspiration for writing. I didn't blame her. Any time a professor tells practicing and future public relations people to experience life, it sounds dangerously close to life coaching over professional instruction.

And yet, it's necessary to mention tips like that because most press releases are pretty boring. Sure, some pretend not to be boring. They force connections to current trends. They smack of snappy marketing copy. Or maybe they rely on exclusively on a big brand name. It doesn't matter.

They're still boring, especially those that were written for the sole purpose of trying to gin up some SEO keywords. It's enough to make you grateful that some folks give up and just send the facts.

You might know what I'm talking about — boilerplate releases that come with an unwritten note that reads "I couldn't find anything remotely interesting about this pitch and gave up. Maybe you'll have better luck. Here are the facts and a few bullet points." Not the best idea, but at least they are honest.

Quit Treating Your Audience Like Second-Class Chumps. 

I didn't really write that subhead. I paraphrased it from an article by Danny Brown. He was writing about how many bloggers start to phone in their posts when they're satisfied with some level of traffic.

For whatever reason, once they capture some kernel of attention, their posts become less thoughtful, their platforms feel dated, and all of their popup ads and ebooks begin to blend together into some thick and sticky formula with an aftertaste. You get the point. Whatever it might be, the lesson is still the same. Don't settle for allowing everything to become mundane. The people who read deserve better.

In looking back, about the only thing Brown didn't cover is where it all starts. It doesn't start with the post or platform or press release or client. It always starts and ends with the writer. Bored writers produce boring stories regardless of the medium. Their words scream "am I done yet?"

Boredom Starts With The Distraction Of Everything Else. 

As a writer, whether writing a blog post or press release, you ought to know the feeling by now. There might even be a little voice in the back of your head whispering "All I need is a lead or maybe a gun."

It's misery and you want out. The reason could be anything. Maybe you already wrote ten releases about the same subject and your eyes are tired. Or maybe you have a half a million other things to do, but the deadline or schedule dictates that the content comes first. Or maybe you just feel a little blue today and are having a hard time fining that elusive hook. Or maybe someone bruised your ego last time.

Whatever. Those are excuses, justifications designed to make you feel better about what you might eventually do to pass on your boredom to your readership or the media as if they deserve to be punished for your problem. The truth is as soon as you hit "schedule" or "post" or "send," you've compounded the original block. Too much boring communication is hard to overcome.

As Brown says in his story, doing the right thing doesn't always come easy. But there are solutions to help you avoid blocks or break out of the mundane and get back on the epic track. I'll save those for next week. But you already know the feeling associated with better content. It's when you look up from your keys and an hour has ticked off, but you could keep writing for another hour if you had the time.
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