Next month I will be talking to you, the wonderful folks of the AMA_Wichita Chapter and we’ll be talking about finding your voice–authentic writing to engage and retain readers. So in advance of that, I thought I would share why you need to write for yourself, the leeway you may have in creating or editing your org’s editorial mission statement and what it takes in terms of your schedule to produce good writing. Lastly, I will recommend developing habits and rituals that will enable authentic writing and make the process go more quickly and easily.
Why You Need to Develop Your Own, Authentic Voice (even under the constraints of your organizational brand)
I love the way Joshua Poh explains it in his post, “As A Content Marketer, You Also Need To Write For Yourself. Here’s Why:”
Mr. Poh openly addresses the constraints we all face when developing content for a brand. I own my own company and it’s still a challenge to keep in line with the brand I developed and retain an authentic voice. What tends to happen is what Joshua Poh describes:
“You change the way you normally say things, because you know saying things the way you want to won’t get approved by your editor.
Keep it going long enough and the craft of writing turns from something you use as self-expression, to something you dread because you’re always trying to sell something.
Or after a while, you feel yourself starting to coast.
Your writing gets lazy.”
–Joshua Poh, Startup Marketer, Photographs Life, Documenting his journey of reading and writing to learn more about the world and himself.
Sounds a little familiar, yes?
And when we meet on September 20, we will delve into how to develop and/or retain that authentic voice that readers will want to return to again and again. For now, let’s examine the organization’s editorial statement.
Editorial Mission Statement
If you don’t have one, that’s great because you, as a top writer, can easily craft an editorial mission statement that will enable you to be authentic and adhere to the brand voice at the same time. As Kane Jamison (Founder and Managing Director of Content Harmony) writes, “Content that’s not backed by an editorial mission statement is a bit like a ship without a compass.”
Even if you are a team of one, as I am (often) that editorial mission statement is incredibly valuable to return to regularly to remind yourself of where you are going. You wouldn’t go for a long walk in the woods by yourself without a compass (or a phone with a compass and GPS), would you?
Ann Gynn, (Editor of the Content Marketing Institute Blog) reminds us…”there’s an art to crafting editorial mission statements, and not everyone gets it right. Many statements lack sufficient detail – or offer too many details – to be useful.”
The goal then is that “just right” amount of words that address and remind the writer:
- who the readers are using specific rather than vague adjectives e.g. “value quality of life” is vague but “eco-minded” is specific. Refer to those killer buyer personas you’ve created.
- what you want to accomplish when with the content
- to leverage your differentiation–that thing that sets your organization apart from competitors
If the editorial mission statement is already in place, then remind yourself that it is an ever-evolving document and it’s probably a good time to dust it off and freshen it up.
With the editorial mission statement all shiny and in place, you can now turn your attention to your schedule.
Set Aside Concentrated Blocks of Time to Write
Let’s start with the fact that good writing, humorous or otherwise, requires time and concentration. Even if you have never seen an episode of Seinfeld (Gasp–you have NEVER seen Seinfeld? You need to change that!), you know Jerry Seinfeld (right?), so take a gander at the process he and Larry David used:
“Let me tell you why my tv series in the 90s was so good, besides just an inordinate amount of just pure good fortune. In most tv series, 50 percent of the time is spent working on the show, 50 percent of the time is spent dealing with personality, political, and hierarchical issues of making something. We spent 99.9 percent of our time writing. Me and Larry [David]. The two of us. The door was closed. It’s closed. Somebody calls. We’re not taking the call. We were gonna make this thing funny. That’s why the show was good.”
I will go into much greater detail about the vital importance of setting aside concentrated blocks of time to write when I talk to AMA_Wichita in person but for now, suffice it to say that trying to squeeze in time to write between meetings simply is not a good writing process. It also tends to make the process much more stressful than it needs to be.
Please remember that what you do, as a writer is very important. And if you or the members of your team need a reminder of how important it is, let me remind you by sharing David Dodd’s stats from the article “Written Content Still Matters.”
Dodd writes, …”in a recent survey of business executives by Grist, the three most preferred content formats were:
- Short articles (800 words)
- Blog posts (300-500 words)
- Feature articles (1,200+ words)In the 2018 content preferences survey by Demand Gen Report, survey participants were asked to select the types of content they find most valuable during the early, mid, and late stages of the buying process. Across all three stages, respondents identified thirteen types of valuable content, and all but three were text-based formats.
Writing Rituals are Your Best Friend
Lastly (for now anyway), I am going to recommend you develop a set of rituals to accompany your writing process. For me, rituals put me in the ideal mindset for writing and when I adhere to them, they actually help to take some of the anxiety out of that dang blinking cursor and boost my confidence. Think rituals are silly? Okay, then refer to it as a healthy habit. There is actually scientific data that supports that rituals and/or habits can be extremely effective in helping you achieve a goal. In the Scientific American article titled, Why Rituals WorkWhy Rituals Work, Francesca Gina writes:
“Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work. While anthropologists have documented rituals across cultures, this earlier research has been primarily observational. Recently, a series of investigations by psychologists have revealed intriguing new results demonstrating that rituals can have a causal impact on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.”
I will be sharing my personal rituals with you all in person and I will ask you to do the same but in the meantime, take a look at the rituals of highly successful bloggers and entrepreneurs (you know, those people who have the luxury of writing for a living and having that be their sole focus).
AMA-Wichita, I am very much looking forward to meeting with you all in person next month to delve deeper into the how to write authentically to engage and retain. Please come armed with questions, suggestions, frustrations, and, of course, your writing rituals (or habits).
See you all on September 20, 2018.
Yours in the love of the written word,