Marketing content should be educational, informative or entertaining. But, what if we explore deeper? Rather than sharing blog posts and white papers packed with readily available research and statistics, what if the content you’re assigned next is built upon ideas. Yes, I’m talking about original thoughts that could only come from the writer (or executive you’re ghosting for) making that content truly one-of-a-kind?
This quiet little segment of content marketing is slowly gaining more eyes and ears as readers crave empathy and relatable stories. For example, one of my content marketing brand clients publishes a health-focused magazine. Behind the scenes is a pharmacy delivery service. What do I write for them? I share my ideas on living with chronic illness; each essay is its own first-person reflection of ideas and thoughts blended with actionable, authoritative advice that’s relatable to people like me and their caregivers. I share inspiration.
When do writers write about ideas?
As you prep your next editorial calendar, consider freshening your content cycle with idea-based content. Connecting with your audience using a personal tone is possible through a variety of content types. Simply add a first-person voice requirement to the assignment brief and editorial guidelines. Then, let the writer connect with your audience through empathy, experiences and ideas. Relationship building happens when a personal story aligns with what your readers really cares about, according to the marketing pros at Convince & Convert.
Connect with readers by writing about ideas in:
- Blog posts
- Customer stories
- Letters to readers
- Livestream scripts
- Social media posts
- Webinar slides
2 examples of first-person content
Now, let’s look at a few examples of this type of writing to see how it can be appealing to readers, like you.
1. LinkedIn: Marketing Solutions Blog
Career-focused social networking site LinkedIn offers a section of thought leadership articles on their blog to get the curious mental wheels turning for their audience of critical thinkers. As I browse the current line up of posts, I see topics ranging from corporate social responsibility to a reflective piece on B2B decision-makers. There’s also a thoughtful piece regarding crisis communications in the age of COVID-19. Writing about ideas can span various topics, unified by common concerns or stances embraced by your core audience.
2. The Pulitzer Prizes: Editorial Writing
This newsie at heart is going straight for the gold. Here’s a link to the award-winning editorial writings of Pulitzer winners from 1917 to 2020. These articles are celebrated for their sound reasoning, moral purpose and ability to influence public opinion. Marketers, take heed. Influence. Isn’t that what you want to do to your audience too?
As you partner with freelance writers to nurture your content creation goals, consider leveraging the idea-generating thought processes of editorial writers, essay writers and those who don’t mind crafting prose in the first-person to connect with your audience on a one-to-one level.
How can writing about ideas enhance your content?
You have an idea which content types can support this style of writing, but why put in the effort? What’s the genuine purpose behind writing about ideas, beyond the need to be expressive and heard?
Content marketing manager Elisa Gabbert from the online advertising company WordStream was bored with the content her team was pushing out. That’s when she yelled, “pivot!” and implemented a new content strategy including more long-form content, better content promotion and a vow to disrupt the current content cycle.
“There’s so much noise out there. Most content is noise. I wanted us to be the signal. We’ve made contrarian opinions part of our brand, and it’s helped us stand out when every other blog is saying the same thing,” Gabbert says in a WordStream blog post.
Writing about ideas (especially ones that challenge the status quo) help you stand out as a tangential thinker. Here’s how:
- You break the boredom of duplicate messaging
- You challenge common wisdom
- You command attention by hitting a nerve
- You create a ripple effect of emotions (surprise, anger, intrigue, empathy)
- You give a voice to a back-burner topic/audience segment/ideal
- You can challenge a sensitive pain point in your funnel
In turn, these idea-sharing-and-generating content pieces can lead to an uptick in social sharing, comments on posts, forwards on emails and overall traffic to and from your content. Sounds pretty good, right?
The marketing pros at HubSpot explain that thought leadership and opinion writing helps readers vet organizations they hire, nurture leads and build brand authority. Now, let’s do it!
4 do’s when writing about ideas
You’re fired up and ready to revisit your editorial calendar. Good. Now let’s address a few best practices to ensure your idea writing is well articulated and trustworthy. After all, you don’t want your audience to think you’re haphazardly making unfounded claims.
1. Do share the opinionated nature of the content.
When you’re expressing ideas, mention this upfront. Labeling content as an editorial, essay, commentary, analysis or letter makes it evident to readers that opinions will be woven into the text.
The Digital Resource Center from the Center for News Literacy offers a primer on identifying opinion-based content. You might notice statements that start with the word “I,” a sarcastic tone, exaggerations or even parody of a person or issue. These techniques are used to emphasize the points being made in the piece.
2. Do let your voice shine in first-person content.
Crafting this style of content allows you to break away from the distanced second- and third-person voice often used in content creation. With ideas, the writer gets to take a step forward and share their unique tone, cadence and wit. For readers, this can be a refreshing departure from content that speaks at them solely with “you” and “your” language. Idea-focused content often uses “I” and “we,” to create a sense of camaraderie between the reader and writer.
Digital marketing author, speaker and blogger Ann Handley explains on her blog that, to develop a strong voice that accurately reflects the writer, you must discover what makes you unique, then express it in the writing. This helps you develop a one-of-a-kind voice that can be documented in a style guide and focused on across all the content creation tasks related to the opinion writing, such as social media teasers and newsletter blurbs to promote the content.
3. Do back-up your ideas and statements.
Sharing your thoughts with the world can gain momentum by incorporating supporting facts. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but I love a great commentary that’s fortified with statistics, expert quotes and links to research that helps me understand how the author formed their opinion. Why? As a consumer, this effort helps me learn why I’m having a specific perception of the text.
So, let’s chat about sourcing for a moment. I opined about the importance of this writing staple in Primary vs. Secondary Sources: How to Vet, Cite and Use Sources in Content Marketing. This piece is a mix of my personal experiences as a writer and insight from respected sources, including the Society of Professional Journalists and Federal Communications Commission. As a reader, scrolling through a post about sourcing could be dry and factual, but by weaving in my experiences as a content creator, the topic becomes relatable and engaging.
4. Do use a persuasive tone to align with content goals.
“Persuasive writing seeks to convince its readers to embrace the point-of-view presented by appealing to the audience’s reason and understanding through argument and/or entreaty.” ~Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL)
Marketing is not journalism. We do not have to be unbiased and share all possible viewpoints. In marketing, we’re creating content with a specific agenda (see your sales funnel and content strategy for reminders). We aren’t appealing to the masses. We want to target a specific buyer persona with known pain points. Marketing is calculated and deserving of a tone that nurtures lead generation, so you can hit those sales goals.
Marketers are persuasive. And when you’re writing about ideas, that compelling tone shines even brighter when asking the reader to consider a new perspective.
4 don’ts when writing about ideas
Being mindful of how we write about ideas includes staying focused on why you’re taking this approach in the first place. As you ideate thought pieces for your own content production, keep these faux pas top of mind.
1. Don’t forget to state your purpose.
It’s easy to get into rant mode after those first few sentences fly off your keyboard. Instead, pause after each paragraph and make sure your arguments and ideas are in alignment with the purpose of creating the content.
It’s a good idea to state your specific reason for writing the piece with a succinct statement in the lede or as a nut graph before you dive into the supporting statements. The Moody College of Communications Writing Support Program at the University of Texas at Austin offers a refresher on these basic writing components.
2. Don’t name-call anyone or anything.
Again, don’t let your personal fire for an opinionated piece scorch your professional demeanor. Never, ever, ever defame a person or business, unless you want a libel lawsuit on your doorstep. (You don’t!) Here’s a guide to libel law from the Freedom Forum Institute to browse.
Instead, work to dispute opposing ideas by creating a constructive argument supported by facts and resources. If you must mention a person, weave their words into the piece via a testimonial or quote. Then, let your audience come to their own conclusions. And of course, all idea-based content should get a review from your brand’s legal advisors before publication, just to be safe!
3. Don’t lose sight of your funnel goals for the content asset.
Start with an outline for your piece. Does each section work to get you closer to your specific goal? If not, revise. You’re putting energy into this piece to not only connect with your audience, but to help move them through your acquisition and sales process.
If you need help getting focused, perhaps working with a freelance content strategist is in order. They will make sure you’re not creating content simply to fill a publishing schedule and keep up social appearances. Instead, your content will align with what your audience needs, moving them closer to buyer status.
4. Don’t leave readers hanging.
Finally, be sure the ideas are clearly presented and resolved. Did you make a point? Did you propose a hypothesis and offer a conclusion? Is your reasoning sound and sensible?
Sure your thoughts can be unconventional, but are they tangible to some segments of the population? Or, are they just… unimaginable? You want to connect with your readers, not alienate or confuse them.
Takeaway tips for writing about ideas
Taking the plunge into a new writing style is equally exciting and scary, especially when you’re presenting an opinion that may not be popular. But, it’s worth doing if you want to make an impact on your readers in an unconventional way. When writing about ideas:
- Label the content as opinion, hone your personal voice and back up the statements with respected sources.
- Be persuasive and kind with your words. Nobody wins by beating others down.
- Understand why you’re creating this content (think funnel alignment!), and state its purpose and reasoning clearly to your readers. Don’t ramble aimlessly.
If you’re ready to explore idea-focused content, and need an extra helping hand, consider teamlancing with strategists and writers from ClearVoice. They can seamlessly work with your marketing department to finally check those overdue content tasks off your to-do list. Learn about our Talent Network today.
More articles to sharpen your content:
- Writing About Data: Using Statistics to Strengthen Security
- Writing About Services: Selling the Consumer Experience
- Writing About Products: Sell Experiences That Persuade Buyers to Add to Cart
- Writing About People: Tips for Stronger Interviews, Quotes, Testimonials