Up for a shortcut?
If you're a student of content marketing, you've read about how your editorial plan begins with answering the questions your prospects and customers ask. You might have read my explanation of how to parlay the approach into the most effective content marketing strategy possible.
All good. But sometimes it's not questions you field; it's complaints. I'm not talking about complaints of the "you suck" variety, so much as the even more common, "I suck."
When I put on my content marketing strategist cap (one of my favorites), I commonly field this fiercesome foursome when I begin offering blogging advice:
- I can't write.
- I don't know where to begin.
- I have little to say.
- Why would people trust I'm an expert?
Let me try to save you some time and heartache. If you're going to say these things forever more you're not going to be a content marketer. Go back to buying media.
However, I suspect your favorite whines and excuses really are questions...
- How can I write blog posts?
- Where do I begin?
- What should I write about?
- How do I come across as an authority
That's better. Now let's get to work. I have the answers to all of the above conveniently rolled into one killer shortcut.
Swipe, smoosh, smooth and spice.
Swipe. Find a blog post you like on a topic you're confident your customers will be interested in. Find two more by doing a search using the topic or keywords from the post. Look for three that bring different elements of the topic into play.
You're looking to create something unique, a post that's more than the sum of its parts in that its perspective is bigger than any single post you're swiping
Smoosh. Copy and paste the three posts into your document. (A shameful hush breaks out. Oh no.) Hang with me here. This is not a lesson in plagiarism.
Smooth. You have work to do now. I promised a shortcut, not a cakewalk. You're smoothing process is going to begin to make this article your article. Consider a variety of tactics and apply the ones that work for your story. Experiment.
- Cut the redundant stuff out.
- Move passages up and down.
- Paraphrase what you can.
- Are there sentences or paragraphs that are too damn good to cut or change? No problem. Quote the author with an attribution and a link to the source.
And then... Rewrite everything else in your own words. Don't revert to your excuses. It's your story now. Tell it like you'd tell it to your buddy.
Spice. Here's the final step in overcoming all that "no can do" rationale and making this blog post yours. Spice up this bowl of gumbo.
Disagree with something? Delete. Or inject your opinion. Does a passage remind you of a related experience? Spin it in there. Know of a real-world example that will help your readers get the idea? Have at it.
Pepper it up if it needs a little bite. Sugar it up if needs some charm. Salt it up if it calls for some attitude. Use the spices that suit your taste.
Look at what you've created.
Your post should be an original. You began with the work of others, sure, but if my smoosh-3 plan went according to plan, ultimately, you should have been able to weave a story together that's all yours.
Have a look at this post, "Email Marketing: Why You Need It and How to Nail It."
This rticle took shape exactly as I've described here.
A dense and informative eBook from HelpScout gave me the idea to do a very thorough primer on email marketing, something I had been pondering anyway. I didn't worry about the fact that such a piece had probably been done hundreds of times before.
In the post, I layered in explanations of the five email types based on information that came from HubSpot. The metrics section came from a post specifically about understanding email metrics. I grabbed the examples from all over the place, including my own inbox.
You could read each of the content pieces I've cited from the first word to the last and although I "swiped" all kinds of source material, you won't find a single stolen sentence. The post is all mine.
The smoosh-3 plan conforms to all kinds of variations. You might try swiping, smooshing, smoothing and spicing like so:
- Use three eBooks or SlideShare presentations
- Mix and match posts, eBooks and presentations
- Use one-part post and two real world examples
- Go with one point, a counterpoint and your opinion
- Smoosh a then, a now, and a future
- Smoosh three related topics
- Smoosh opinion pieces together in the form of an expert roundup
- Smoosh a why, a how, and an example
You're bound to find additional variations and combinations. You may borrow from one or two stories. You may go beyond three. The ideas in this post are merely guidelines. Apply with flexibility and common sense.
Use the approach for a while and as your blogging chops grow, you may find yourself growing more confident and comfortable using less ideas from other content. You may not.
This is the fine art of swiping. Don't get hung up with it. It's a well-understood practice almost every writer uses at some point. Journalists and writers always have sources.
With over 90% of companies now doing content marketing, the sources are everywhere and truly original ideas are scarce. The originality you seek need not be the subject itself. It should come from your voice.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to suppress your creativity. I'm trying to give it a kick-start.