Content Marketing is all the rage these days. The Internet is flooded with content that educates, inspires, coaxes and (yes) bores you. As content marketers we all struggle to find quality, engaging content that can be frequently sent out to our audience. In this race, are we missing out on the basics of good communication?

Ask yourself, has anyone ever taken offense to your company’s perfectly well meaning blog? Or perhaps you wrote an article where readers completely misunderstood your message? Got trolled on Twitter for something you posted?

It happens to many of us because written communication (or in this case any communication that is stored for later consumption – video, social, podcasts etc.) is much harder than verbal (or face to face). And the most important reason is because you have no clue how the person consuming it may react. There is no real time feedback for you to adjust your message. Once it’s sent, it’s almost set in stone!

One creates content in their context, and the reader consumes it in theirs. Take for instance this sentence: I NEVER SAID YOU STOLE MY MONEY. This innocuous statement can be read in 5 different ways, depending on which word the reader is focusing on. Try it yourself. Read each instance below, placing more emphasis on the underlined word.

  1. I never said you stole my money
  2. I never said you stole my money
  3. I never said you stole my money
  4. I never said you stole my money
  5. I never said you stole my money

The first instance is perhaps what one wants to say. In the 2nd line the meaning twists a little – I never said it, perhaps someone else did? The 3rd statement says – I never said it, but I’m implying it. For the 4th statement the meaning is – someone stole the money, just not you. And the 5th statement conveys – you stole money, just not mine.

See how complicated communication can be? And so, it’s important to take note of these 6 steps before you create something for public consumption.

1. Have something to say – F.Scott Fitzgerald said, “You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say”. Truer words have never been said; and they apply to all forms of communication. But sadly, most of us forget this advice.

Before you even begin to create your collateral, decide what’s your point? Is there something that the audience stands to gain from it? Avoid saying the obvious – you’ll just bore your audience and lose credibility.

2. Understand your audience – Do you know whom you are creating content for? And what does your audience want? What are there preferences? If you send a 40 pager PDF to a digital native used to conversing in Tweets, your communication is doomed to failure. Adapt your communication style and medium to the audience.

3. Keep it simple – “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” said Confucius; and so is communication. Long, complex sentences, fancy words, paragraphs where a line may suffice – all these are mortal enemies of good communication. Too many messages together can also confuse your audience and dilute the importance of each. As far as possible stick to one main idea.

“Curiouser and Curiouser”, cried Alice; can we make it any better? Yes!

4. Mind your language – Punctuation matters and so do semantics. Which would you rather do?

“Let’s eat grandma!” or

“Let’s eat! Grandma.”

Make sure you are using the correct words in the right context. Following point 3 above is going to help you in minding your language.

5. Tell a story – There is no point in being boring. Can you connect your message to something relatable to the user? Build a context? Give them a glimpse of how this came to be? Stories engage people and make it easier for them to understand the message.

6. Review it before publishing – Nothing is perfect. Before you send out your material review it. If it’s written, read it – preferably aloud. It’ll give you a sense of any disconnects in the flow or any inconsistencies in the message. For written content, scan through carefully and correct language errors if any. Check the tone to see if you have been abrupt, rude or inappropriate.

Did you find these steps helpful? What are some other things you find helpful while communicating?