The 4 Questions You Need to Answer in Everything You Write
I recently wrote about why people might not be reading your marketing copy. There are lots of reasons people might not read the blogs, white papers, LinkedIn articles and other marketing materials you produce. These pieces might be boring, poorly organized, poorly written or too promotional.
A fellow former reporter reminded me of another pitfall, which is you might not answer the crucial question: Who cares? Indeed, thinking like a reporter will help you in writing for and about your company. You need to let your readers know why what you're writing about is important, why they should care and how they should act or what they should do next. Here are four questions to make sure you answer in everything you write.
1. What's the point?
In new stories, the point is often found in two places -- the headline and a paragraph near the top called the nut graph. It might help if you start with a headline and then write out what you want to convey in two to three short sentences.
For the headline, think about what you want people to know or do, or what you aim to convey or promise to deliver. Think things like "Five Reasons to Be a Better Writer," "How to Be a Better Writer in Five Simple Steps." Pay attention to the headlines of the stories you choose to read all the way through to the end.
2. Why is this important?
There are lots of reasons your topic could be important. Maybe your topic is timely -- pegged to a certain date, holiday, observance or deadline. Maybe there is a limited time to act, say ahead of a promotion ending or new law taking effect. Maybe a lot of people are impacted or stand to be impacted. Maybe it's a growing trend. Your nut graph should quickly address importance and urgency.
3. Why is the author or the experts referenced actual experts on this topic?
Credibility is important, so always include what makes you or your experts an expert. Titles. Credentials. You could link to LinkedIn profiles or add an about the author tagline at the end of your piece.
What about marketing pieces that don't have a byline, but are written from the company's general point of view? Citing research, studies, news stories or subject matter experts will lend credibility.
4. What's the takeaway or call to action?
Finally, make sure your piece ends by telling the reader what to do with the information. Maybe it's the first in a series of articles, and you want them to check back for the next installment.
Maybe you want to direct them to call their customer representative. Maybe you want them to take a survey. So let readers know what to do and what's in it for them. Remember: Who cares?