I think it’s too easy to conclude that how you are distributing content is more important than the content itself. Content and distribution are partners that have to be equally as strong and strategic in order to work. It is a classic ‘garbage in= garbage out’ scenario. If the content is not speaking properly to your audience it will certainly get lost.
I’ll use a press release as an example. Press releases are like resumes—everyone uses them, we don’t think about them until we have to, and when there is an opportunity available they flood some poor soul’s inbox. If you have ever put a job opportunity up on Craig’s List or Monster.com you have firsthand knowledge of this kind of deluge. Well, releases do the same thing to reporters and editors.
With that in mind, it should be easy to see where I’m going with this example—you have to make yours stand out. Think about how or why the reporter would select your release as one of the few they review that day. I guarantee you—guarantee—that if your content doesn’t completely tell the story in the first few sentences it will end up in the trash. I also know that if you send it to the wrong reporter or editor, it’s going in the trash. If the column you are shooting for runs pictures and you don’t send any, it’s going in the trash. This same principle holds true for sales materials, case studies and newsletters. It just isn’t enough to simply put pen to paper.
Here’s how to make your content hit the mark—even if you are not a professional copywriter:
Before you begin writing think about the top three things you want people to know. Make sure those three items are in the first paragraph. If you know that something is important tell the reader why! Turn ‘Joe Smith Won an Award’ into ‘Joe Smith is the Only 2011 Winner of this Award’. As an aside: people make the same mistake on their resumes by saying vague statements like ‘excellent copywriting skills’ and nothing else. If you are excellent don’t you have something to show for it? In the same way if your content is significant you should be able to easily articulate why.
Capture attention in the right place, with the right communication tool. This is where one hand washes the other because good copy sent to the wrong people will still get lost. If your audience is a group of miners without access to a computer then sending out an email newsletter doesn’t make a lot of sense. Take a knee before you send content out into the world and think about how your audience will best digest it. Make a decision based on your own situation. Pro tip: If you are sending your copy to the media be sure it is in AP Style so they do not have to heavily edit it before use.
Lastly, technology surrounds us. Use it. Create video and images to accompany your content that help tell the story. Use social media and the internet to push your content to the right people—video and pictures are far more consumable online than text. Again, if you are working with the media and you know they use pictures—don’t make them ask.
In short, do everything you can to tell the whole story quickly and completely in a way that speaks directly to your audience. Endeavor to be among the last standing after a customer, editor or potential business partner reads your materials.