Getting back to writing? These ‘R’s help me always

In writing, habit seems to be the much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. 

– John Steinbeck

Last month I didn’t write anything, not even a single blog post here or on my personal site. Partly because I was very busy on the work front and partly because I slipped off my daily writing routine. I write first thing in the morning before my family wakes up. Of late, lots of late-night work calls and general randomness in life during this whole work-from-home and school-from-home phase have been making it difficult to wake up early. 

But if I look closely, the key reason to not write would be – not sticking to my schedule.

Following a writing-schedule requires self-discipline and that too a lot of it.

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Whatever happened to writing for humans

Of late I have been interviewing people for content writer positions in my current organization. I had some content strategy in my mind and the goal as product owner was clear to me – create content for user engagement and offer content that the user is looking for. Yes, the operative word was “user”, loud and clear. But as baffling as it may sound, not even a single candidate whom I interviewed in last few weeks mentioned to me the word “user” in his/her opening pitch. It all started with writing content for search engines and ended with content quality being SEO friendly. To add to that, the kind of content that I am looking to create is sort of new initiative for my target audience, so it’s important for the candidate to have basic understanding of the category.  When asked about industry experience, understanding of target audience, pat came the reply – you can let us know which words work for you and we will figure out the content that’s doing well for those words in search engines and create content for you accordingly, the written piece will have all those words with right density and frequency.

Density? Frequency? Engines?  Errrr, what happened to writing content for humans? Last I knew was search engines were meant for discoverability but consumption of content was still done by humans. Isn’t it? And search gods like Google have anyways changed their algorithm to focus on quality of content rather than quantity of keywords inserted in it.

Then, why this focus on promotion so much more than production?

I understand the importance of marketing the content esp. in this age of too-many-of-any type of content but being a hard core marketer I can only say one thing – you try to market whatever, be it product or service or content, if the foundation of it is not in place, then your marketing can only help you just as much and not that much.

I know there are many golden rules that exist for creating engaging content, marketing the content etc but based on all my practical experiences in product & marketing, especially in digital, here is my quick list for new age content creation process:

User first – As basic as it may sound, but this is really important – put your users first above everything. Write for target audience and not for target channels. Content to me especially when I am looking for user engagement is exactly like a product. If you put your users in the heart of your content creation process, half of your battle is won. Speaking of user first, I actually love this quote by Jamie Turner:

Content Marketing

As a simple practice when I write or approve any piece of content for my products, I generally check it on 3 quick parameters – is it offering value to my readers, is the language easy to understand for my readers and is it engaging, inspiring or thought-provoking for my readers?  Yes, “readers” it is, in all three parameters.

Quality can never be outdated – Whatever changes may happen in our content search or content consumption behavior but one thing that can never be changed is the importance of “quality” of content especially in today’s age where there is a content jungle out there. You may adapt many tricks to  get discovered but once the user has landed on your page and if sufficient substance is not there in your content then she will lose interest and is bound to navigate away immediately. To add to that, average attention span of readers has further reduced by more than 30% in last 3 years. While there are many methods to get your content promoted, and content marketing seems to be one of the most fashionable jargons these days but there is no substitute to the quality of content that you produce if you want your marketing to really work for your content.

Engage with readers – Again a term that we have heard quite often but it’s one of the most ignored parameters when it comes to content. Like any product or service, user engagement in your content is a must.  Connect, interact, converse and accept the feedback or criticism graciously. The more the user is engaged, the easier it is for them to act or decide.

To sum it up, if the content is unique, offers value to its readers and is interesting enough to hold reader’s attention, then there is no reason why the reader won’t share and spread the word around it. “Share”, isn’t it the reason as to why content has suddenly become one of the most important marketing channels in the digital world?