Forget the Shovel: Four Secrets of Strong Content

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Sometimes, at the end of a long week, talk like this can make my cynicism flare. How dare they devalue the hard work that writers do, or demean the power of language! Words are more than filler! Get the shovel—we need more content.

But then I remember all the clients who value good writing, who do their best to communicate clearly and powerfully. The clients writers and editors love.

So let’s say you’re a marketer who wants to do more than fill the buckets in front of you—and you are, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Here are four ideas that can help you get the most out of the content you create—and the content you ask others to produce.

1. Concept drives content. Content drives execution.

In strong marketing projects, the client team knows what they want to say, who they want to say it to, and why they want to say it. But getting to the point where it’s actually said—or written—takes work. You might develop messaging internally, or work with branding consultants, or engage messaging experts like those at the Content Bureau.


On the other end of this spectrum, strong content helps designers to produce their best work. How long should a piece be? What is its tone? How do words and images interact? What should be the call to action? The answers to these questions will help you create work that is powerful and consistent, that reinforces your messaging on all levels, and most important, motivates your audience to do what you want.

2. Content conveys personality.

If you don’t know who you are, you won’t know how to represent yourself. Good content starts with a strong, clear identity. The voice—the personality of the copy—is determined by that identity.

Just as the colors and typefaces you select help convey the personality of your brand, language you use tells a lot about you. Want to present yourself as trustworthy, accessible, straightforward, or cutting edge? The voice you speak in tells the world who you are.

Once you find your voice, consider developing a formal style guide to help ensure your voice will be consistent across all of the content that you, or the partners you work with, create for your business.

3. Clarity is king.

Specialized terms can signal to your audience that you understand their business, but even a highly technical audience can benefit from clear, simple language—and intelligent readers know that overuse of jargon belies fuzzy thinking.

One of the best arguments for clarity: You can’t produce clear, persuasive copy without knowing exactly what you want to say. Clear writing helps you focus your thoughts and refine your messaging. Focus on a few big ideas, conveyed simply but powerfully. Know your target audience, and speak to them in clear, respectful, and engaging language.

4. Go with the pros.

You probably wouldn’t design your own house (or website). So, don’t expect that you (or your intern, or your English-major cousin) can write the best copy for your project. Professional writers can help you focus your message and convey it to your target audience with precision and personality. Good editors can save you from embarrassing errors and inconsistencies. Develop a relationship with the right person or team, and you’ll ensure a clear, consistent voice across media and projects, reinforcing your brand.

By Lisa Stonestreet