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Quit Annoying Your Audience! Take 3 Simple Steps to Focus Your Co…

Ever have a friend who tells stories that never seem to go anywhere?

It sounds okay at first, then it spins off to a tangent about how they met their spouse, then we go into their first college dorm room, with a side trip to that deeply formative event that happened in third grade, then …

There might be a point in there somewhere. But by the time it’s arrived, your eyes have rolled back in your head and you’re hoping to get struck by lightning so you can get out of this conversation.

It’s boring. And it’s annoying. So let’s make sure that your audience never feels that way about your content.

In the work I do with our content marketing students, I’ve critiqued hundreds of blog posts.

One mistake I see over and over is content that’s interesting and well written, but that wanders all over the place before it gets to the point … if, in fact, it has a point at all.

Creating aimless, fuzzy content wastes your time. Even worse, it wastes your audience’s attention.

Your audience wants content that makes a solid point and gets there quickly. And improving that for your own content is one of the quickest ways you can get better.

Here’s how.

Step 1: Begin with the end in mind

Ideally, before you start to write, you’ll ask two questions about the blog post, script, or infographic you’re about to write:

  1. What are your goals for this piece of content?
  2. What one thing should your audience take away?

Publishing good content can do lots of great things for you. You can attract a larger audience, nurture prospects so they’re more likely to make a purchase down the line, inspire your audience to take action, find new allies to help you promote your work.

But you probably won’t do all of those with a single piece of content. Instead of creating shaggy-dog content that wanders around trying to do everything, understand which single point in the constellation this piece of content will represent for you.

Even more importantly, what will this piece of content do for your audience?

What will they be able to do, become, have, change, or avoid after they’ve read it? What transformation are you presenting to them?

Now, a single blog post usually won’t create a “Sliding Doors” dramatic life change.

But being able to, say, come up with a headline idea any time you need one is a pretty cool thing to be able to do. It’s a memorable transformation, even if it doesn’t change the course of your life.

What memorable and meaningful transformation will you make possible with this content?

Step 2: Go ahead and write it

You want to know the answers to these two questions before you start writing. And then you want to mentally put them aside for a while and just get some words down.

Yes, you’ll meander. Yes, you’ll have tangents and dead ends and even some fluff. That’s all okay. In first draft land, we get to indulge ourselves.

And failing to make room for that can give you a case of nasty writer’s block.

Just write it. The post, the script, the creative brief. Just write. For as long as you need to. Get the ideas distilled into words, even if they’re lumpy and imperfect.

The more you write, the more raw material you’ll have when it’s time to edit. And pouring plenty of words into the page, as quickly as you can, will often reveal fresh observations that will make your content stand out.

Step 3: Let it rest, then uncover the good stuff

In a perfect world, you’ll have the time (at least 24 hours is great) to let your first draft rest while you do other things. That will let you come back to it with fresh eyes and a sharp mind.

Now carve away the cruft and get to the good stuff.

It’s time to look at your two questions again.

  1. What are your goals for this piece of content?
  2. What one thing should your audience take away?

Does the content you drafted have the same answers? Does it serve the original goal you had in mind for it? And does it deliver the desired takeway to the audience?

The answer might be Yes, which is great.

Or you may decide that in doing the work, you’ve come up with better answers. That’s even better.

Either way, make sure the post speaks to those answers at every point.

  • Every story should answer one or both of those questions.
  • Every paragraph should serve one or both of those questions.
  • Every word should reflect one or both of those questions.

This is also when you make sure that the introduction to your content moves briskly to the point, before boredom or annoyance have a chance to settle in.

Whatever your content creation process looks like, deciding on your goals before you write, then revisiting them during your edit and polish, will make sure that your content gets to the point … and stays there.

And when your content has a well-defined purpose, both for you and for your audience, you’ll banish audience boredom and make sure you’re spending your time wisely.

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