Now, before I continue, I should note the danger in opening with such a provocative lede. Having what sounds like a strong opinion on the matter, I could easily restate the problem and beseech you not to commit this unforgivable crime. But that wouldn’t make for a useful article; that a blog post should in
fact say something is… obvious.
What’s less obvious is how often a perfectly well-written and factual article can, ultimately, convey little or no value to the reader. So, here’s a thought.
Use the OK, So What? Rule
Recently, I had an epiphany about how to improve simple communications. Perhaps ‘epiphany’ isn’t the right word, since I’ve known how to apply this rule all of my adult life. You probably have to, but it’s an easy one to forget. Being quite the talker, it’s not uncommon for others to ask this question of me.
Way back in my days as an undergrad arguing about philosophy, then as a youth counselor helping kids figure out how to fix their mistakes and make better choices, then as a business coach doing basically the same thing with business owners, and as a sales and marketing professional with something to sell, applying the rule very often made me more effective at what I was trying to accomplish.
OK, so what? Well, in every case, my words had a point. There was some argument to make in the course of dialogue. By asking this simple question, I would remind myself to distill my words into one clear concept that the other person could understand.
OK, so what? If the other person understood my point, he or she would be more likely to take action based on our discussion and I would have done my job.
OK, so what? Without identifying what’s actually important to your audience, your article can very easily fall flat, even if you think you wrote something worthwhile.
Working with writers every day, I can say with full confidence that this the most insidious weakness present in most writing. Rarely do writers intend to produce “fluff,” but it happens. It even happens to good writers.
So, whenever you come up with a topic, as yourself, “OK, so what?” and answer the question as honestly as you can. Then keep asking the question until you’re satisfied that readers will enjoy the ideas you have to share.
Get Beyond the Obvious
Forcing yourself to start with an interesting topic is the most important step. That can be difficult, however, when you’re writing for an assignment and you need to keep the topic relevant. Some topics are just kinda boring, and it’s unlikely the reader is out hunting for the answer you’re trying to give. In such cases, all is not lost.
- Uncover a Golden Nugget
I wrote a long piece about this called The One Point Checklist for a Meaningful Blog Post. If you’re intent on delivering at least one gold nugget the reader can take from your article, then you stand a good chance at turning an otherwise boring topic into a teachable moment.
- Use Numbers and Statistics
Articles about household budgeting, energy savings and productivity plans, to name a few, are dry and tasteless without some added seasoning. Expressing your points in concrete– and perhaps even surprising– terms that numbers reveal can add significant interest to an article that might otherwise feel like taking your medicine.
- Find a New Angle
Apps, hacks, tricks and tips– adding a current instructional element to your article can greatly improve the value of your content and the likelihood it’ll be read, because, you know, apps! Everyone loves apps. And hacks. And tricks.
Package Your Content with Care
I’ve read some great articles, despite horrible titles. How often does that happen? Not often. You’re not likely to run into an awesome piece of work that’s hiding behind a terrible title. So take a moment (or five minutes, because it matters that much), and get your title on.
Not good at titles? Easy. Read these 11 Pro Tips for Truly Clickable Content. Now you are.
Have fun with your content. Use consonance, assonance, alliteration and rhyme. Show your sense of humor.
And finally, get them coming and going with the Aloha Rule. Open your article with a strong introduction– not a boring restatement of a boring topic– and close it out on a point that matters. You won’t get readers past Hello, without a curious intro, and you won’t send them away happy if you don’t tie it up with a bow.
Thank you, Mr. Obvious. 😉
Do you have more handy ways to punch up content for more impact? Please share your tips in the comments!