In today’s “knowledge economy,” most of us are in the business of selling ideas. Whether your industry is banking, insurance, advisory services, consulting, engineering/architecture, pharmaceuticals or medical equipment, chances are your customers care as much about how you think and what you know (i.e., ideas, insights) as they do about the features/functions of what you sell. In this environment, successful marketing means smart thought leadership (e.g., books, studies, analyses, blog posts, articles).
In my last blog post, I shared Six Tips to Jumpstart Thought Leadership. For many, the idea generation phase (i.e., deciding what issues to address, what to say and how to say it) is the hardest. For others, the execution phase (e.g., writing) is harder still. In this post, we offer four tips to make the writing process less stressful – and more effective.
- Write from the reader’s/audience’s perspective. Remember the end-audience. Put yourself in their place and make sure your content speaks to their needs and interests.
- Use subheads and transitional phrases – Subheads guide the reader. Many readers skim or graze. Subheads and bullets help them understand the gist of your message quickly. Connector words – e.g., “furthermore,” “as a result,” “on the other hand,” “similarly,” and “still” – also help the reader understand your argument quickly and easily.
- Spend time on the headline and lead sentence. Headlines and leads grab the reader’s attention and acclimate him/her to your point-of-view. Here are 5 tips for writing them:
- Use active vs. passive verbs.
- Cleverness counts – readers need to be engaged upfront.
- Simplicity counts too. Readers spend an average of 3 seconds on headlines – and an average of 30 seconds on the lead sentence. You need to communicate your message quickly and concisely
- Use familiar words and phrases.
- Make sure your headline relates to – and works with – your content. Your headline and lead serve as a preview. They should excite readers…but never mislead.
- Go back, cut out words, and simplify your writing. Your writing should communicate and persuade – not confuse with hard-to-understand words. Good writers edit and re-edit, cutting complexity with each pass. Look for ways to reduce a six-word headline to four. See if there are a group of words you can replace with a single word. Keep sentences relatively short. Pay attention to rhythm and clarity.
Good ideas rarely sell themselves. They need to be communicated clearly and persuasively. What writing tips work best for you?