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Home / Tips / How to Write Content That Resonates, Featuring Stefanie Flaxman…

How to Write Content That Resonates, Featuring Stefanie Flaxman…

Copyblogger’s Editor-in-Chief, Stefanie Flaxman, joined host Darrell Vesterfelt this week to talk about translating the traffic that comes to your website and how to create compelling content to keep them there.

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Stef is a professional writer and editor who manages the editorial calendar for Copyblogger.com, where she helps publish one of “… the most popular [and influential] content marketing and writing blog[s]…,” for a very large audience of online writers and entrepreneurs.

In this week’s conversation, Darrell and Stefanie dig into her mission to help create content that persuades, converts, and helps fellow online marketers stand out from the competition.

In this episode, Darrell and Stefanie talked about:

  • How to get started creating compelling content that resonates with your audience
  • Why understanding your customer is the foundation for attracting and keeping their attention
  • How to return to a younger version of yourself to build empathy
  • The secrets for beating content writer’s block and lifting your content to the next level
  • Why your writing needs to be clear, detailed, and written with a specific person in mind
  • The counterintuitive methods for writing hyper-specific content
  • And much more!

The Show Notes

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Transcript:

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Hey, Copyblogger, it’s Darrell Vesterfelt Vesterfeltand I am back on the podcast this week after Tim took over having a great conversation with Ramit Sethi. And I’m excited to be here today with Copyblogger Editor-in-Chief Stefanie Flaxman. We’re going to be talking about translating traffic. We talked a lot about SEO on the blog in our free workshop last month. Tim was on the podcast talking about it. What do you do with that traffic? How do you write really compelling content on your site after bringing traffic to your website? So Stefanie, thanks for being here today. Super excited for this conversation. I think it’s going to be a good one.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Yeah. Thank you for having me. I’m so glad we get to have this content chat today.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I agree. I think this is a really important conversation because, and maybe this is something I’m totally biased towards, because I’m a marketing guy. We talk a lot about how to get people on your website. We talk about social media, we talk about SEO, we talk about webinars and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All these things that drive traffic to your site. But the one thing that’s awesome about Copyblogger is we have for a long time talked about creating really powerful content that persuades and converts on your website. So today we’re going to talk about that.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I think just jumping off from what you said, a distinction that we’ve had to keep making as content marketing has evolved is, we’re not talking about the type of content where someone clicks on your site, they get information that they’re looking for and then clicks away and then never visits you again. Because a lot of people, if we talk about like content series and things like that think, “Well why would you want to split up all your information into multiple posts over a month or two? Why wouldn’t you just put it on one post?”

And that’s an example of where people don’t necessarily think of content from the perspective of, “Oh you’re connecting with people over time.’ And it’s more than just coming to your site to get information.” It’s creating the content that really resonates with someone on a deep level so that they become part of your audience when anything comes relevant to your topic or the world. They’re like, “I want to go to that person to see what that person’s writing about.”

And you’re really relationship building over time, which is how you build your audience of prospects who will be happy to buy your products and services when they’re ready to make a purchase. So it’s all this nurturing that is so much more than just putting information up on a site. And yeah, so that is like you said, what we talk about after you get the eyeballs on your site, how to keep them there and how to really nurture relationships with them.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

And yeah, this is something that Brian and I mentioned on the podcast last fall, and it still sticks out to me so much, is there used to be a phrase that, “Content is king.” And I think what was really trying to be said and meant by that is that trust is king. We’re building trust here.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

And content, writing good content, writing good content over a long period of time is part of what builds that trust. But my question to start us off here is how do we determine what goes into content that we know will resonate with people who are visiting our site?

Stefanie Flaxman:

You mean Copyblogger specifically, or just-

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Or just in general. How are we-

Stefanie Flaxman:

Just a general way?

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah. What do we do? I have some thoughts here, but I’d love to have you start, but what are the elements? Where do we start when we think about creating content that’s going to resonate with people?

Stefanie Flaxman:

Right. Yeah. Research is such a big part of content marketing that as much as you hear it, I just feel like it’s a step that is overlooked. Because in that research is where empathy for who you are writing for, or who you’re creating content for comes from. You have to find out what’s really going on with them and we’re talking about real pain points that aren’t superficial things that are easy to overlook. What is the transformation someone wants to make in their life, in their business, in their lifestyle, in their education? What is really driving them and how you can help them along the way. And I’m being pretty vague and I normally say vague is the last thing you want when it comes to content. But I’m going to say something, I don’t know, it could be controversial. I’m interested in your take on this.

I think experimenting is really important when it comes to content marketing, because you don’t really know until you publish. So you want to make an educated guess with the research that you do about the people that you’re aiming to serve. But I don’t think there’s really any substitute for actually just starting to publish content and then fine-tuning it from there. Because you learn so much when you are in the act of producing content. You can plan for months and years, really. But from my experience, you don’t find those winning details that will help the people that you want to help until you start publishing content. How do you feel about that? Do you think that is a waste of time, or naive, or it takes too long

Darrell Vesterfelt:

No, I think you’re totally right. And I would call this less experimentation and more intuition. I would call this a content marketers intuition. I think you have some level of understanding of what a customer must want, or must like, or needs to hear, or wants to learn. And so you mentioned this idea of research and it’s a step that a lot of people skip. And it has reminding me of this rant that I’ve been on lately. I just actually started reading a book called Extreme Revenue Growth. And I was really compelled by the title. And it’s by a guy who’s a really important startup voice in San Francisco.

And the first part of the book talks about understanding your customer and understanding the promise that you make. And I was so blown away by that, because he’s not sitting here talking about really fancy ideas about how to increase revenue in your business. He was saying that actually the biggest mistake that people make in trying to grow their business, or trying to grow anything in business, whether it’s your reach, or clicks to your site, or actual revenue, is not understanding your customer. And I am on a huge rant for this, because I think we lose sight of that really quickly. I think that we lose that research step and we make some assumptions about our customers. And then we just go and then we write and we hope it works.

And so, yes, I think what you’re hitting on is really important. I think the intuition, or this experimenting will inform a greater understanding of your customer. But I think this idea of understanding your customer is actually the most foundational step in building really compelling, really persuasive content. I would not consider myself a writer. I write a lot. I wouldn’t consider myself a writer, I wouldn’t consider myself an editor, but I feel like I can write good copy, because I’m really good at empathy. I’m really good at understanding my customer and I’m really good at empathy. And I think those are the foundation steps to writing really compelling content and writing content that will resonate.

And I think that’s exactly what you’re saying here, Stefanie is at first go and get feedback. What are people responding to? Then you’re learning what your customer wants to read, what they’re clicking on more, what they’re commenting on more, how they’re engaging with that content. And then you’re learning what is not. And I think that’s the very basic, the very beginning steps of understanding that. That helps your intuition grow over time, I think. And I also think that this research piece that you mentioned before. So I want to I want to push this back on you a little bit. When you said research, at the beginning, as the foundational step, what did you mean by that?

Stefanie Flaxman:

Well, I think I didn’t want to say intuition. I don’t know if that sounds a little woo-woo, but we’re okay with being woo-woo around here. But I think that is part of… Because everyone starts with an idea and hopefully this won’t be a roundabout way of answering your question, but everyone starts with an idea that they’re excited about. Like, “Hey I have this great idea for this product, or this service, or this content idea, or this game-changing philosophy”, or something like that. But we don’t know if anyone else is really going to care about it. And I think what I’m really getting at is the act of content marketing itself strengthens your empathy.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yes.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Because you’re able to put your initial ideas out there and see if anyone cares about it and pivot from there. Lean into it if people do care about it, but maybe they care about it in a different way that you didn’t even think of, or maybe they don’t care about it at all. And you don’t have to waste your time creating a product, or a service that no one cares about. But maybe you find out that they care about something else that you could also help them with. So I think content marketing itself is research. And there are things that you want to do before you start, if you have a brand new idea and you don’t have your own website, and things like that.

See what else is out there. Because if you have such a groundbreaking idea that nobody’s done before, maybe there’s no market for it. Things like that. It’s really interesting. I say a lot that I’m not a fan of excitement, because it leads to a lot of disappointment. And instead, just taking a more grounded approach to following something that excites you. It’s okay if you get excited about it, but I think it could get dangerous if you assume that other people will. So, finding out about competitors, has anyone done this idea before? Is it viable? It doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be just because no one’s done it before, but doing basic things like that to start.

But, again, I’m just repeating myself at this point, But there’s no substitute for practice in any area of anything that you want to do. And that drew me to content marketing, because it was a field where I could evolve. The nature of it is an evolution. It’s not this fixed thing, and you’re constantly learning. So anyone who’s really into growing and evolving as a creative person, as a business owner, as a writer, editor, artist, whatever you are, content marketing is such a great outlet for it. Because the more you publish, and I’m not saying you need to publish something every day, or there’s a certain requirement for how often you need to publish. But if you do things consistently, you just learn more about the people that you want to serve, and it helps you develop that empathy.

So the research, it comes at different levels and in different ways and sometimes a lot of it’s an accident, that the accidents only happen in the doing. So again, yeah, there’s no substitute for actually doing, you can’t do content marketing in your head.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I like it. And so that brings me to an idea that I often have. Because you said something at the beginning, something along the lines of you started a idea, or a project, or a company because it was meaningful to you. And I think a lot of people who are either entrepreneurs, or freelancers, that’s why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

It was really meaningful to them. And so the one way that you can work on understanding your customer is making a couple assumptions. Assumption number one, that if I care about this, there might be other people who care about this as well. So that has to be the beginning assumption before you can start testing it at all. Right? Because you’re right, there is a fear that maybe I’m the only one who cares about this. I think that fear stops a lot of people. I think that’s one end of the spectrum.

The other end of the spectrum is just assuming that everybody cares what I have to say, and what I think, and all of my ideas. And I think that’s what you are hitting on is there’s a danger on that end of the spectrum as well, is just assuming everybody is thinking about that. But understanding your customer at that point, you may not have any customers, or you made just be getting this content marketing thing at that point. And one of the tools that I use is envisioning a younger version of myself. So writing content for a younger version of myself. So the version of myself before I solved X problem, before I had an understanding of X idea. So then I have a really clear idea of who my target customer might be is this younger, less experienced, less knowledgeable version of myself.

And then it makes it really easy for me to have empathy for myself. The most easy person to have empathy with is yourself. And if I’m having empathy with a younger version of myself, I then am able to create what I think is much better content, because I’m able to understand my customer ,or my theoretical customer. Because I’m hoping that somebody else is curious, or interested in the same ideas as me. But this idea of writing for a younger version of myself has been super helpful when I’m in this testing stage, this understanding and testing stage of content marketing.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think that’s such a great example of that middle road, because the extremes are what keep people stuck. Right? The two that you just mentioned. And that’s actually a finding a way forward in the middle ground of like, “Everyone’s going to care”, or, “No one’s going to care.” And then those are quick ways to your idea fizzling out and nothing happening. I can give you a personal example of my train of thought when I was much younger and I decided to start my own freelance business. I had writing and editing jobs prior to wanting to start my own online editing service. And when I was doing research about other people who were doing similar things, there were so many people who identified as a writer and an editor, or writer/editor, that profession. And to me that seemed really vague.

So I thought,” I’m going to only do editing services, and that’s what’s going to help me stand out. And I’m just going to be an editor.” Turns out there’s a reason why people identify as writers and editors, because, only getting editing work, especially when you’re starting out is pretty difficult. But I thought I was being really specific, and that was going to make me stand out and get me ahead. And what ended up happening was, people found me, but they didn’t need things just edited. They needed things written. So they’re like, “Hey, we found you, but we need you to write this. It seems like you’re qualified to do that.”

And so that was, I don’t know if humbling is the right word, but it was a good lesson that I needed to be flexible and not just… Because I wasn’t going to turn away that work. People were finding me, I was doing something right, but it just wasn’t what I expected. Or there was a reason why people had these like slash titles, writer/editor. It wasn’t that they weren’t experts in either, it’s just the environment. So you have to make mistakes like that. Yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I love that example, because that was you experimenting with an idea. And you gained a greater understanding of your customer. And I think what you understood, this brings me to the second point in understanding the customer is understanding the problem they have that they’re willing to pay for. Right?

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So I think you learned that. In that example, that story you learned like, “Hey, I want to personally differentiate myself.” Which at that point you were only thinking about yourself. You weren’t thinking about your customer.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Exactly.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

What they might want and what they might need. And so then you had that humbling experience saying, “Well actually like I might be thinking of myself and how I can differentiate myself, but what I actually need to do is understand what my customer needs. The problem that they have. The problem they have and that they’re willing to pay for.” And what you came to find out was that they needed a writer and an editor, not just an editor.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Correct. Yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah.

Stefanie Flaxman:

I was thinking of myself. Exactly. And I think that’s so natural. Even when you have lots of experience, I think that can still happen. I wouldn’t put that past me today if I have a new idea. Because it’s just so easy to get carried away with, This is how I want to be seen”, and, “This is how I want to be represented”, and “This is what I want to do.” But you have to be open to want to learn what people are actually willing to pay for, like you said.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So, here’s a theory that I have. I have a theory that when you feel blocked in writing, it’s because you’re thinking of yourself and not thinking about your customer.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

and I think that’s often the case. Because what happens often when people are feeling blocked is like, “Well, I don’t know what to write about.” Or, “Somebody else says this better than me.” All of these excuses that come up, they’re usually fear-based excuses and they’re usually about why you’re not as good as somebody else. Like, Oh, that site over there is bigger than mine and they write it better than me.”

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Well, stop thinking about you and reframe and think about what it is that your customer is needing. And then you can think about step two is how I can uniquely solve that.”How can I solve that problem different than a competitor is the next piece. But if you get those two things mixed up and you do step one before step two and think about your uniqueness first, you get blocked really easily.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

You’re not sure how to create compelling content, content that’s differentiated content that is compelling. And of course it’s not compelling, because I thought about myself first, not about the customer first.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Right, right, right. And it’s natural. It’s just something that happens, because I know that exact feeling. If I want to open myself up to receiving the idea that I need for something that I’m writing, I have to shift my focus into how I want to serve. Not me being a great writer.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Can I tease our free training that’s coming up, because something that I talk about, or it’s something that I will be talking about is the worst thing that you can do, and this really speaks to what you’re saying, is try to sit down and write something good. That’s the quickest way to frustration and writing bad content is when you sit down and say, “I need to write something good right down.” And I have techniques about how to get around that.

So, can I talk about the free training?

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yes. Please. Please do.

Stefanie Flaxman:

So on Wednesday, March 18thm I am teaching a free training about transforming your writing into content that gets shared. And it’s similar to what Darrell Vesterfelt Vesterfeltand I are talking about, because a lot of people work really hard on content and it’s not that they’re not trying hard. And it’s not that they’re not doing a good job or not that they’re trying to be a good writer, but there’s so many factors that go into creating actual, powerful content for your website and your business. So this free training is really for anyone who’s looking to take their content the next level to get more momentum with what they publish.

So, this is free, again, if you’d like to sign up today, we’d love to have you there. If you just go to copyblogger.com/workshop-content, you can sign up right there. We will reserve your seat. And also the posts on Copyblogger, if you’ve read the blog over the past week or so, they all have ways for you to sign up. So if you just happened to be on any post, you can scroll that down to them and sign up there as well.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I am so excited about this. So it’s Wednesday, March 18th at 3:00 PM Eastern, and we’ll have links in the show notes to be able to join that as well. And if you’re hearing this after the fact, we will also have recordings available so you can watch it. I’m super excited about that Stefanie. So I want to recap really quick. Because I feel like we were hitting some really good points that I want to make sure that we’re recapping this conversation a little bit.

So the big idea here is how do we create compelling content once traffic has hit our site? How do we create content that resonates, content that builds our trust, content that persuades and converts, all of this, really good content. And what we’re talking about is understanding the customer and then writing to that customer specifically.

So having an understanding of the customer. We talked about the idea of using the younger version of yourself. We talked about the idea of just experimenting, seeing what resonates and what doesn’t. And then we talked about the idea of making sure that you have the customer in mind first. What other thoughts do you have here about creating really compelling content, using empathy, using customer first mindset, creating content that’s going to be shareable, content is going to convert, content that’s going to persuade, that’s going to resonate, that’s going to keep people coming back later as well?

Stefanie Flaxman:

Details are so important, but unfortunately details are hard to talk about, because we all write for different audiences and we all have different styles. Something that is appropriate for Copyblogger might not work at all for someone else’s audience. And someone who has a huge big audience who loves them, might write something for Copyblogger that isn’t appropriate for Copyblogger. So unfortunately details are hard to talk about. But it really comes down to specifics that hook people. And a lot of that also just has to do with easy reading. Better writing is the foundation of better content, whether you’re talking about writing, whether you’re talking about audio, whether you’re talking about videos. Because it just makes it easier for a person to absorbed your message when you are clear.

I’m the first one to admit, not everything has to be grammatically perfect and especially when I speak, I don’t say things correctly all the time. And I don’t think that necessarily hurts me, or it doesn’t necessarily hurt anyone else. And with speaking, that’s something that I can practice. Because I find my writing is a lot clearer than how I speak, because I record videos for example. And I’ve practiced writing a lot longer than I’ve practiced being on camera for videos. So yeah, I will reinforce practice again, if you are a writer who wants to produce better written content. Because learning to cut out fluff and unclear messages that distract from your main point is something that you can practice over time. But it makes a difference with, again, developing those relationships with people. Because they’re people, they’re individuals who becomes your audience of prospects.

So I think the clearer you can be with making your message crisp and detailed and really for a specific person, instead of a general idea of a person, they’re minor changes that add up to big results over time. So I always write to one person instead of, like I said, an idea of a person. So writing for Copyblogger, there’s obviously a lot of different people in our audience so every piece of content could potentially serve someone else. But I don’t think about writing for the entire Copyblogger audience when I write for Copyblogger. When I have a content idea that I think will be helpful, I’m writing to the one person who I think will help and obviously it’s going to help a number of people. But my writing is going to be more precise and it’s counterintuitive. Because it’s going to connect with more people the more specific I am.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah.

Stefanie Flaxman:

So that’s how you write for such a big audience. Yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

That piece is super important. That is the most counterintuitive part of marketing, in my opinion.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Is the more specific I am, the more it will resonate. It feels like an opposite. It feels like such a subversive idea and it’s a huge mistake. It’s a huge mistake I think people make, which goes all the way back, it loops all the way back around here to understanding your customer. You can only be specific, and I love that you’re saying it’s the specifics that hook people.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

And it’s the specifics that hook people is because they can resonate. They can see themselves in the writing, they can say, “Yes, me too”, or, “Yes I have that problem too”, or, “Yes, I want to solve that too.” And that resonance only happens in the specifics and the specifics only happen when you understand your customer and write for that one customer.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Exactly. Yeah. It brings everything together that we’ve been talking about. There’s so many layers to it, but they’re all connected.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I agree. This full circle thing. This is like if you understand this piece of writing, I don’t care how long you’ve been a writer, you will just write better content. I don’t care if you’ve been writing for 10 years, or 10 minutes, if you can understand this concept of understanding a single customer you’re trying to write for, understanding the need that they have, understanding step three, how you can uniquely meet that need, now all of a sudden you’re beginning to write really specific contents.

And question here, and this is something that I know personally because you’ve said to me before, but what is the role of editing play in these specifics? Because I can imagine that just writing this content, having this understanding is generally going to make our writing better. But what role does editing play in punching up these specifics, and dialing in the specifics and cutting away some of the fluff. Do you have any thoughts about that? I’m sure you do.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Yeah, editing is still magical to me, for how long I’ve been doing it, for how long I’ve been writing, I’m still always amazed. I will think a piece of writing of mine is done, completely done, but I’m letting it sit for probably a day, or overnight until I go back to it. I’m like, “It’s done. It just needs to be edited.” And I’m always blown away by how the editing process really fine-tunes my writing, or someone else’s writing, if I’m letting someone else’s writing sit for a day, into having those winning details. So I would say editing plays half the role, if not more than half of the role in getting specific. Because it is a different part of my brain. I don’t know if it’s like that for everyone, but as much as I might be proud of something I’ve written, writing for me is still just getting the ideas out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone else would care about those ideas.

So for me, editing is the stage where you fine-tune your texts to make other people care about it. And it’s not like manipulating people, but we’re talking to them about persuasive copywriting. So it’s a stage that hooks people with your voice. You can really fine-tune your writing voice a lot in the editing process. Or I always say that the best writers are good editors. Today I was patting myself on the back a little bit for being an editor. But when I read something that I like in a magazine, or online, or a book, I don’t really credit the writer that much. I’m like, “Who is that editor?” And that could be a little extreme.

Yeah, it’s a magical process to take something that looks really good already and to make things clear so that the message shines instead of jumbled text, which is again, why editing is fun to me. Because it can seem technical like, “Oh I don’t want to do that”, or “Proofreading’s boring.” But for me, editing. Is so artistic. And when you’re done with it, I just think even if you were proud of something before, having sharp editing skills can really transform good writing into something that’s really powerful for someone else. And something that makes other people pay attention.

And, like I’m talking about in the free training next week, share it with other people. Because it’s made such an impact on them, that they want to share it online, or however else. But it’s sharing your content and that’s another way of getting those eyeballs to your site instead of like what we were talking about before with search engine traffic. There’s so many ways to get people to see what you do, because it is disappointing publishing when no one’s paying attention. And Content marketing is a long game. We always say that. But anything you can do to make your content better. And especially when you get those opportunities, having a really great portfolio to show when people do start paying attention to you.

And I have two other thoughts that are related, but like you said Darrell Vesterfelt, whether you’ve been writing for 10 minutes, or years, I’m constantly becoming a better writer. The process never ends. I’ve been writing for so many years, but the more I again learn to focus on empathy, the more I practice stop thinking about myself and how this can actually help people, the better writer I become. So it’s a never ending process. And what was the other thought I said about…

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Well while you’re thinking about that, I have a question.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Because you mentioned one really practical and tactical thing about editing, which is letting your writing sit for a day and then coming back to it later. And I know that you wrote an article about editing yourself, but what are some other tips or tricks that we can do to become a better editor for ourselves when we have to be both the writer and editor for our content?

Stefanie Flaxman:

Yeah, I don’t recommend this in life, but it’s good for editing. You have to be hard on yourself and really develop a critical eye, which takes practice just like anything else. But I question everything when I’m writing. Getting into the habit of not taking things for granted. Word choice, for example, I correct a lot of incorrect word choices. The writer thinks that the word’s appropriate. And then I’m constantly Googling definitions to double check things. And then I’m like, “That’s not really what it means.” And then as the editor, you insert the more appropriate word.

So if you were doing that for yourself, just being really hard on yourself and being critical with every adjective you choose. “Is that the correct one?” Being very mindful of punctuation. So again, it’s a small thing, but it really adds up when you want your reader to be focused on your message and not being distracted with incorrect punctuation, or a typo, or things like that. So yeah, it’s a general or vague skill, which again, I don’t love saying, but you can actually do it. It’s not some far off concept. Treat each sentence like it’s the only thing you’re paying attention to. Don’t gloss over a sentence just because you think it’s right.

I have editing training from a long time ago, but how I really became a strong editor was just reading sentences really slowly and being super critical of every word. I mentioned this in an article on Copyblogger. That in school I wasn’t great at standardized testing because I read so slowly and I was analyzing the writing, so I would run out of time, because I didn’t have enough time to finish. But it was really neat honing my editing skills, because I was being very critical with how I read instead of just glossing over things to get the general reading comprehension. Which, it balanced out later in life, I have reading comprehension skills too.

And that helped me discover my love for editing too, because editors do read that slowly. So that is a long-winded answer for how people can actually get started. But it absolutely works. If you slow down and start critically examining every sentence you write, you become a better editor. And you see the opportunities for how you can add in the details that will make people laugh. There’s the thing called the chuckle point. That’s a term that I coined in one of my Copyblogger articles. If you can make someone laugh, they’ll remember you. And it isn’t like, “Oh your content has to be one big joke.” But just little things that end up hooking someone opposed to someone else who could have written the exact same thing and they approach the topic in a more general way that it’s maybe more neutral. But then they’re missing the opportunity to connect with the people who would really appreciate the those specific details that make the content creator more memorable to them.

Yeah, and I think so much of that comes out in editing and not the initial writing process.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I agree. So I think like what I’m hearing too is this is something, a skill you can build over a period of time. But for somebody who’s just never edited their writing before, first of all give it a day. Second of all, read slowly.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darrell Vesterfelt:

And third of all question everything. And fourth I’m going to add this one in, put yourself in the shoes of the customer that you have an understanding of. Again, whether that’s a younger version of yourself, or whether that’s an avatar that you’ve created of customer understanding, give it that critical eye, read it slowly from the position of that customer. What questions are they going to have? What understandings do you just have intuitively, or do you just have because you’ve done it a million times? What insight or language are you using? What generic language are you using? And I think that’s super helpful. So as you’re building up that skill over a period of time, give it time, read it slowly, question everything, and then put yourself in the shoes of the customer I think is a really simple framework for editing, writing right now.

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And your point is a more concise way of what I was saying, or the last point I was making, exactly. Because when you do put yourself in the shoes of your reader and your customer, you find “Oh, what would make them laugh? if I said that instead of that. That’s going to form more of a connection.” I almost snapped, because that’s how I like to make a point. But I didn’t think that would sound great on audio. Which I guess is me putting myself in the listener’s shoes.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

The listeners ears. The shoes of the listener.

Stefanie Flaxman:

The listeners ears. The ears. The earbuds of the listener. And I didn’t snap. Just get excited and I snap when I’m making a point. But yeah. Thank you for summarizing it like that.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

For sure.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Because that’s what I was really getting at.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Well Stefanie, thank you so much for this conversation. This is something I’m super passionate about is this idea of empathy, because it makes people who aren’t as skilled writers, me, I’m a less skilled writer, but I feel like I can become a good writer by understanding this idea of empathy. But tell us one more time about your workshop before we’re done today.

Stefanie Flaxman:

Yes. I would love to have you join us on Wednesday, March 18th at 3:00 PM Eastern. I’m hosting a live training about how to transform your writing into content that get shared. And I’m sharing seven ways to avoid crickets after you publish. So there’s going to be a lot of more specific information than what I talked about today. So you can go over to copyblogger.com/workshops-content to sign up. We will put the link in the show notes for this episode as well. And there will be a replay if you can’t make it live. Definitely sign up to get all the information about that.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Awesome. Thank you, Stefanie so much. And until next week, everybody. This is Darrel With Copyblogger.


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