How To Write Your Content By Copying Feature Writers
Readers are entering forts and pulling up the drawbridge to escape modern content
The success of content is about keywords, low bounce rates, the average time of page view, shares and rankings, conversion. But is that all? Even if you get the metrics correct, many readers are entering forts and pulling up the drawbridge to escape modern content.
A gazillion links make people save articles often to never return
A 23-minute post with a gazillion links might be helpful and awesome, but it’s tiring to read, and impersonal. You lose the point… So you save the article and say you will come back later, but you probably don’t. Yes?
I like to read content shaped by a beginning, middle and end — a story. And yes, before you ask, more content is being generated through Artificial Intelligence never mind content mills. We will be talking about that here another day soon.
Follow business journalists for concise, insightful writing
Business journalism feature writing techniques have a lot to offer content marketing. I have written hundreds of business features on everything from architectural design to dredging, BRIC finance to regional development, CRM, customer loyalty, dentistry, industrial hemp, banana skin recycling, tropical medicine, infrastructure to IT, power, property and (my long-time specialism) the global travel and tourism sectors including hospitality management, booking technology, travel loyalty, airline security and destination management. That list was not meant to bore you. It is to say how it’s possible for you to write about your topic, whatever it is. And yes, you will have preferences just like you do for dinners or weights versus cardio.
Write about (almost) any topic using feature writer tricks
Adopt a clear feature structure for preparing and writing content:
- When you are commissioned by an editor or yourself, research past published stories, study these, list all of the key points that may need to be covered, list the names of all the key people involved in the topic or whom lead discussions, and note who is most affected.
- Refine to choose one question and central theme, and 1-2 sub-themes
- Identify the top 3-4 talents for interview. (Yes, interview, I said, the magical extra that feature writing has over most content) Choose talent from diverse perspectives and experience
- From the talent identify someone who could give you a great overview. Sometimes that might be someone who you may not mention in the story. Approach the talent. If they can’t help, ask if they know someone else who can. Sometimes this Step No. 4 goes before Step No.3.
- Arrange interviews. Remember it is usually the talent doing you a good turn so you need to fit in with their schedules. Send a brief list of questions prior to the interview so they are prepared. (This is not an expose where you are seeking to catch them out! However, you can be encouraging them through your questions to think in new ways about their topic.)
- Put the talent’s answer through your personal BS checker. If it doesn’t sound quite right reframe or read back to them the answer they have given.
- Write the story starting with the fascinating question but don’t reveal the answer or the latest development there. Start with the challenge faced by the company or sector.
- One of the most effective ways is to start with colour, i.e from the viewpoint of an individual directly impacted by this story.
- Interweave the anecdotes and facts gathered from each source making contrasting points through the story. Don’t state the contrast. Simply state the facts. Let them speak. The truth will show. Trust the reader’s intelligence and your own writing that the reader will go along with you.
- Write an ending that brings the streams and themes of the story together and that also reveals where the individual or group you started the story about is at now. What’s changed for them? Like good fiction, the most interesting stories show progress.
- Take a break from editing your story or better yet, have it edited by an experienced features editor.
Want to build authority through your writing?
Do you need more tips or help so you can write content just like a professional journalist? Email! The aim is that your reader — a client or prospect — has gained insight and trusted.
P.S. Your aim is to be the trusted authority. Are you?
Marian Edmunds is a writer, editor & mentor helping writers and non-writers.