Wednesday, September 10, 2008

4Cs for Sparkling Results

"Great content is more than entertainment or a way to waste a few minutes. It’s even more than a way to build rapport with your readers. Great content is an asset that can be leveraged. Create valuable, sparkling content and great relationships, for the most enduring success with content marketing."

These 4Cs' are recommended for copy-writing and copy-blogging, but I'm sure they can't hurt for other forms of writing?

1. Clarity - Content is not king. Clarity is king.

Effective content must be absolutely clear if it’s going to persuade. There’s an old advertising saw: “The confused mind does not buy.” Whether you want your readers to subscribe, to bookmark, or to buy, confusion is the enemy of action.

Making your content clear isn’t the same thing as dumbing it down. For models of intelligence and clarity, start with Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, or Jane Austen.

You might find a readability scale like the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test useful. If your content scores above a sixth-grade level, take a look and see if you can simplify it. Shorten your sentences. Use simple, muscular words rather than the multisyllabic ten-dollar versions.

Clear, straightforward writing allows your brilliant ideas to shine more clearly. In fact, clarity is doubly important when your ideas are complex.
If you want a tougher test, give your content to someone who doesn’t know your subject. What seems straightforward to you may be hopelessly murky for your reader.

2. Cut - Great content gets to the point. A book reader might be willing to wade through pages of irrelevant description to get to the good parts. A Web reader is not. The more ruthless you are with that delete key, the brighter your copy will shine.

The first step is to look for extra words and flabby language. Clean up redundant expressions and wording that doesn’t directly get your point across.

Then make another pass to distill your ideas. Blog posts and online content work best when they focus tightly on a single topic. As a happy bonus, this not only makes life easier for your readers, it also makes search engines happy. The more narrowly you focus each individual piece of content, the easier your material is to find, to read and to act on.

3. Color - While you’re polishing and honing, make sure you don’t strip the color from your content! If your readers wanted the facts and nothing but the facts, they’d read software manuals. (Which, as we all know, no one does.) Your audience is coming to you for a colorful, lively take on your subject.

Color comes from two main sources: stories and details.

Storytelling is the most ancient human art, and arguably the most important for a persuasive writer. While there have been thousands of great articles and posts written on storytelling, here’s a quick tutorial: Put forward a main character your reader will identify with, make sure at least one interesting thing happens, and make sure there’s a point. Don’t be heavy-handed, but there should be a “moral to the story” somewhere, even if it’s subtle.

Once you have your story developed, make it shimmer with a few well-chosen details. Each detail should show us a little something about the main character or about the point. If your well-chosen details support those two, your glittering details won’t turn into dull, dusty verbiage.

4. Carats - What’s one of the key factors that makes a diamond really valuable? How much it weighs. All other things being equal, a single two-carat diamond is much more valuable than a pair of one-carat diamonds.

Lots of Web content is flimsy, weightless stuff. It may entertain briefly, but doesn’t have any real worth. It doesn’t build authority or a base of loyal fans.

Strategic content needs to have some weight to it. It’s fine (and a nice rapport-builder) to post something purely silly or entertaining from time to time. But most of your posts should contribute real value to your readers. Improve your readers’ lives on a subject they care about, and they’re much more likely to link to you, talk you up to their friends, and bookmark you on sites like Delicious.

Don’t let yourself be fooled by the ephemeral appearance of the blogosphere. Content of substantial weight and value can continue to bring you readers for years into the future.

5. Collateral - Square cut or pear shaped, these rocks won’t lose their shape~ Marilyn Monroe

If you’ve been reading me for any time, you know how much I treasure the relationship you build with your audience. I’ll never sell that love short . . . but as Marilyn sang so memorably, it’s diamonds that are a girl’s best friend.

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