How to Write an Article that Shows Your Value

Written by Lee Schneider

It’s been said that writing is easy. You just sit in front of a blank piece of paper until blood comes out of your eyes. It’s a little less bloody now, of course, because we have computers. But for many, writing can be a mountain to climb.

Getting started on an article, a blog post or a newsletter might just be the hardest part about writing. But beginning is a lot easier when you know that the most effective articles are from 300-500 words. You can keep it short. It’s not a dissertation, and you don’t have to tell all that you know in a single article. You also want to keep it personal, making a connection between your reader and yourself. We are narrative creatures – think of our ancient ancestors sitting around a campfire telling stories. So, tell a story, bring in a short anecdote, connect. You’ll also want to show value, but in a non-pitchy, non sales-y way. What does that mean?

The most successful blog articles, and also LinkedIn posts and Twitter newsfeeds, are 80% informational and 20% promotional. Most of the material is offered in the “spirit of giving” – it’s useful to the reader. You can provide tips, how-tos, recommendations or market surveys. For example, in my line of work, I would offer insights on how to get more people to visit your website, or do a rundown on the best free applications like Buffer, Sprout Social, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or Feedly that help you manage multiple social media accounts and the media you need to post there. I wouldn’t be at all shy about mentioning my company, Red Cup Agency, and linking to it in the article. But you notice I didn’t lead with that. I feel good that I can provide information and be of service and I know that it will eventually come back to me. People are looking for solutions, and if you address a few hot button issues, like time management, how to get more referrals, how to scout for prospects, or how to be a better leader, you’ll find lots of readers.

If you’re experiencing a little writer’s block – and who doesn’t? – just take out a piece of paper and begin listing all the article ideas that come to mind. Don’t censor yourself – just let the ideas flow. Writing by hand actually uses a different part of the brain than when you type to a screen, so think of this as going to a gym for your brain and working on some thoughts instead of your abs. After a page or less, you’ll have a few good ideas to run with. I usually bullet-point those, breaking them out into a short outline that becomes my roadmap for the article.

One last tip: Before you publish, show the finished article to a friend, spouse or co-worker for feedback. If they can reflect back to you in a few sentences what it’s all about, you’ve succeeded.

Lee Schneider is the creative director at Red Cup Agency Santa Monica, CA. He manages email campaigns for clients. He believes that email is beautiful. Find out why. Learn more about  Lee and Red Cup

One Comment

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