Tips for Learning to Write New Content Types
Do you like writing blog posts but maybe want to expand your horizons, attract new clients, or simply learn how to do your writing job better? One of the hardest things for a writer to do can be to add new types of content to his or her repertoire. Learning the process is like adding new tools to your writer’s toolbox. It makes you more valuable as a writer, gives you new revenue streams –plus it’s just cool to learn new stuff.
What Kind of Writer Are You? (it doesn’t really matter)
Chances are that if you write, there are some things that you like to write, and some things you don’t like to write. That’s totally normal. Some of us will be more drawn to writing long form content, some of us drawn to writing short form content. That’s just how this thing goes. But chances are, if you are going to make it in today’s world, especially when you are starting out, you are going to probably be asked to write more than just one type of content.
Let’s just outline a few different types of content you could be expected to write as a writer in today’s busy, busy world.
Okay, you know what this is. Blogs can range from anything to a company announcement, product update/release, to a personal rant about how much you like your new slippers. There’s definitely an art to writing a blog post that people will read (or that customers/clients will pay for you to write) –but for now, it’s suffice to say that this is a pretty important skill to have –it’s one of the big ones.
Let’s put this all into one category. Marketing collateral is everything from trade show materials to instructions that come in video games and beyond –it’s the stuff that you pick up lying around and never think to yourself — “Oh yeah, someone actually wrote this crap.” Welcome to the world of writing –it’s now your job to write that crap. When I talk about this stuff, I’m talking about actual physical copies of paper or print –not the various online content that you need to know how to write. Marketing collateral works differently than web content. But there’s no reason you can’t learn to write both.
Okay, this is a bit more specific and specialized than a generic blog post or postcard. Landing pages are hard to write, take time to learn to perfect, and can always be improved. It’s still a great skill to have, especially for writers interested in getting into the digital marketing space.
Not emails that you send to your friend or coworker and passively aggressively CC’ing your boss in to make sure Matt is actually doing his side of the project. I’m talking about the emails you use to drive up business. Direct or Inbound –email marketing, and learning how to write the copy in these emails, is another specific skill to add to your writer’s tool box.
You either like it or you don’t. Either way, writing for social media requires a high level of copy writing skills –you have to say a lot in a short amount of time, and incorporate various hashtags and SEO keywords into that short snippet of content. It’s pretty fun to do –after all, even your little sister can do this. So you should be able to do better than her.
AHHHHHHggghhh yes. You’ll have to write this, too. (if you can’t tell, I’m not the biggest fan of press releases).
White papers work differently than most other online content. Most web content is created to draw users to a specific action, or to give them information quickly and entertainingly. White Papers are the exact opposite. They are supposed to provide a lengthy description or argument on a particular topic. They are informative, educational and authoritative. For this reason, White Papers might actually just be the hardest content type to write. They might not require as much creativity as short copy or blog posts, but they require you to actually know something about the topic. You either learn this by being an expert on a topic, or from research. It’s kind of like your research paper from high school/college on steroids because it has to be perfect. After all, it is going to be out there for everyone in the general public or everyone in your company/organization/client’s organization to see.
Okay –I’m going to be upfront with you. This is not my particular area of expertise (although I have done it before for major organizations). But Technical writing is an in demand field right now. In fact, you can even go and get a specialized degree in it, if you’re into that sort of thing. Lots of tech companies need people who can write technical documents for who knows what. But it’s a big job and a good career for the writer with the right mind set.
Similar or a sub-genre of Technical Writing, somebody has to write those instructions for your IKEA table and SAMSUNG smart phone. Again, not something I’ve dabbled in much myself.
Scripts (for Videos)
If you are working for a startup or if you are the only writer on staff at your company, you could find yourself writing scripts for movies –or at least the short videos companies put on YouTube. This wasn’t a problem for me because I wrote plays (both for stage and for screen) when I was in school so this is just another creative outlet for me. But there are specific rules and things you should definitely keep in mind when writing this stuff, too.
These are all very important types of content that you should learn to write if you want to be successful in the dog-eat-dog world of content writing today. And, lucky for you, I know how to write these things and am going to give you a step by step guide on how it is done in my next few articles. But until then, there’s one more topic I want to cover because it’s really important and you should know it.
Content Strategy is the name for the process behind how to use different types of media and content together to achieve a business goal. That’s my definition. Another one is this:
“Content strategy focuses on the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of content. Content not only includes the words on the page but also the images and multimedia that are used. Ensuring that you have useful and usable content, that is well structured, and easily found is vital to improving the user experience of a website.”
That’s another definition. That one is good, too. So how does content strategy work?
Chances are, if you are working for a company as a writer, you are already engaged in some sort of content strategy. You might have a quota to fill, such as x amount of tweets to write each week. You might have a certain number of emails to write for your sales department, a monthly newsletter. The list goes on. But basically, how you generate and deploy content is your content strategy.
Above is a handy infographic that compares the work that goes into content strategy to an illustrious kitchen setting. So, the content marketing is all the stuff that I wrote about above. The Content Strategy is what I am writing about now. And it’s important. Without content strategy, your team of content creators will be running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They won’t know what they are doing, or how to do it.
After all, it takes a considerable amount of time and strategy before the creation of the content and the acquisition of users or achieving other business goals is even a possibility. And if you happen to work for a small team, chances are you get to be the front office and the back office of the kitchen all by yourself. You get to plan the strategy, and carry out the creation or “cooking” yourself. It’s a hard job. But it’s a lot of fun.
The Master Chef/The Cook
Sometimes, you have to be both the content chef and cook all in one. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this concept, I’m going to try and explain to you how it actually works. Hopefully, after some time and practice, you too will be a master chef/cook of your own illustrious enterprise.
- The Creation
Okay, in a perfect world you might spend most of your time planning and strategizing first. But let’s face it –our world is far from perfect. And sometimes, you are going to have to come up with a pitch or a blog post before anybody even knows what the content strategy is. Because in a fast paced world, content sometimes needs to be made before you can deal with the rest of it. It sometimes needs to be torn apart, and rewritten to make it what it was meant to be.
Okay, so you’ve tried making things, and you’ve failed. Now you are ready to Strategize. Put your heads together. Rework the content that is in front of you. Try something new. Then try it again. You never know where you are going to end up, but chances are it is going to be better than the first draft.
3. The Re-Creation
Using all the information and insights you have gathered –make it again! And this time, that content will be more like the content that you imagined in your mind. With the help of your great team, the content is now ready to be published to the worldwide web.
The content is now ready to be distributed to your many social media channels. And more thinking and strategy is going to have to be put into place here. How will you represent the content on each different channel? Will you share it to all of them, or just some of them?
5. Plan for the next project
Immediately after you finish a hard content marketing project, you are right away ready to start on the next one. Rinse and repeat the process. And hopefully you’ll see some improvement from the last piece. Get things rolling smoothly, and you will see an increase not only in quality but in the amount of your production.
And that’s content writing. Sort of. Let’s talk more about it in my next post where I’ll teach you how to write specific content types and make you a better content marketer, and strategies for how to improve your content strategy.