The Magical Sixth ‘Ingredient’ that Can Take Your Content to Greatness

"Strategy combined with voice will create a powerful winning difference for your content." – Sonia Simone

On Monday, Ronell shared with us his five “ingredients” for creating truly high-quality content. These are the consistently important factors he’s observed while working with many different kinds of clients.

We agree! Ronell’s advice will help you create content that genuinely helps your audience. And that content will be interesting because it speaks directly to your audience’s needs.

But sometimes content needs a little more.

There’s one more ingredient you can add to take your solidly useful content and allow it to compete against the best that’s out there.

When you take strategy and combine it with a strong writing voice, you create a powerful winning difference for your content.

Here are some things to keep in mind …

No train wrecks need apply

Some people see the advice to reveal personality with your content, and take that as a suggestion to throw judgment and self-control out the window.

There’s nothing sadder than seeing otherwise capable professionals trash their reputations on social media with regular traditions of Drunk Fool Friday. Or someone who’s got superb skills — and a superbly crappy attitude to match.

You don’t have to be all sunshine and lollipops (unless that’s genuinely who you are), but you do need to convey the impression that it would be pleasant to work with you.

Luckily, there are lots of different viewpoints about what makes someone good to work with.

  • Some people love cranky.
  • Some people love snarky.
  • Some people even love aggressive.

Just be aware that, at least at work, pretty much no one loves unreliable, passive aggressive, or scary.

Own your thing

The internet is big. There are a lot of people here. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever your beliefs, your values, or your peculiar interests, you can find a group that shares them.

So whatever your thing is, own it. Make a virtue of it.

If there’s a “trick,” it’s this:

Find the intersection between “what you’ve got” and “what they want.”

You’re not going to be all things to all people, and you shouldn’t try. It’s a recipe for dullness and mediocrity.

Most of us (particularly the more thoughtful, sensitive types) are afraid to chase people away. But we need to do it, to make room for the people we want.

It’s all a persona

Yes, I think it’s smart to share personality online, whether it’s your own or a characterization of a brand.

No, I don’t think you need to share every detail.

It wouldn’t be possible to share everything that flits across your mind — and your audience doesn’t want you to. (Trust me.)

Every interesting web personality is something of a persona. Some elements are brought to the forefront, and some get edited out.

Too many elements tossed together can make it hard to get a sense of who you are. And a massive pile of interests is just confusing.

So if you talk a lot about CrossFit, knitting, Heian poetry, Star Trek, kittens, gardening, Gregorian chants, NASCAR, your kids, Sriracha recipes, rock climbing, and Ayn Rand, your audience is just going to get exhausted.

Pick one or two. The knitting CrossFitter is interesting. The NASCAR fan with a taste for medieval Japanese literature is interesting.

Being selective about what you share also offers the great benefit of protecting some privacy. Not everything you do belongs to your audience, and that’s a good thing.

Choose your words wisely

A lot of strong web personalities have words or phrases that are commonly associated with them.

You don’t have to have a “signature word.” But within the splendid range of the English language, the words you choose convey a lot of subtleties.

How much slang do you use? What kind of slang?

Are your word choices short and Anglo-Saxon (think Hemingway) or complex and Latinate (think Russell Brand)?

There’s not one kind of good writing. There are as many forms of wonderful writing as there are wonderful writers.

That’s what makes the writing good.

Create great conversations

Effective web writing is conversational.

It might be an elevated, quirky form of conversation (the site SorryWatch offers some nice examples), but it’s a conversation.

If you read it aloud and it sounds stiff or weird, rewrite it.

This holds true for B2B content as well. A professional, thoughtful voice is not the same thing as a wall of corporate slush. Write like an adult, not a drone.

Keep in mind that conversations are not monologues. Look for spaces where you can include your audience’s words as well. They can come from testimonials, comments, case studies, or any other content form that celebrates what they have to say.

All good things come from the audience — so make room for their voices.

Strong opinions wanted

This can be very tricky if you work with a larger brand, but it’s essential.

These are not the times to pretend that everything is awesome, all the time. Too much of that is a recipe for vapidity.

Take a stand. Have a point of view. Tell people what you think they should do — and what they shouldn’t.

Scrutinize everything you’re saying and doing. Do you believe in what you’re putting out? Deeply?

Then say it louder.

Uncover the message

Verbiage is the enemy of good writing.

Too many words. Too much buzzword bingo. Too much corporate huffing and puffing.

Write what you mean. Write it clearly. If you can say it in fewer words, do.

The reading aloud trick will help you here as well. Give yourself time for multiple editing passes to clear away useless words and let your message shine through.

It’s what you say and how you say it

That kind of authoritative but conversational voice is exactly what I look for when I’m reviewing an application for one of our Certified Content Marketers. (As well as, of course, a solid understanding of content marketing strategy and how different pieces fit together.)

Being useful and relevant are table stakes. You cannot play the game without them.

But if you want to win the game consistently, develop and hone a solid writing voice. The combination will make you unstoppable.

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