Content

5 Tips to Help You Create Amazing Content!

It’s all well and good to talk about technical things like podcasting, but sometimes the problem isn’t the method; it’s the message itself.  Many people will open up a Word document or their WordPress editor and stare at it for hours.  Creating amazing content from scratch is hard. But, nothing worth doing is easy, and fresh content for your website has its own rewards:

  • You can bring people up to speed on what’s going on with your church or organization
  • You’ll have more content for the search engines to index, making it more likely that people will “stumble upon” your site.
  • You’ll have content for your fans or congregation to share out to their followers.
  • There’s always the chance content will “go viral”.

As far as being creative goes, there’s an ongoing debate whether creativity is “innate” or “taught”.  I’m not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole.  I can, however, offer some advice to anyone looking to make their content better.

Structuring Content is Important

Never use 10 words when 3 will work.  There are different “methods to the madness” when it comes to writing content.  The three most common are the “narrative” approach. the “inverted pyramid” approach, and the “hourglass” (hybrid) approach.

Narrative

Narrative content uses setting, anecdotes, and conversation to tell a story.  It plays out like a great movie, with the beginning introducing the characters, the middle bringing it to a climax, and the afterword showing what happens afterward.  Words and conversations drive the story, sacrificing the reader’s ability to get the information quickly.  This is best used for personal stories and items that are not chronologically based, since skipping around the time-line can add to the drama of the story.

Inverted Pyramid

Anyone with journalism training can rattle off what this is.  The writer starts with the main information, getting it all out in the open immediately.  Any other information is written into the end, to add “flavor” to the information mentioned previously.  This is best used with news stories, events, or stories that have lots of factual information.  Remember: the main idea is thrown out early as to let the reader glance over the rest.

Hybrid / Hourglass

This is a combination of the first two methods.  The main idea is introduced early, but then the storytelling elements are inserted to add context to the facts.  Then, more facts are added as an “epilogue” to tell the final piece of the story.  This is the best of both “factual” and “story” writing.

KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)

Once you start writing, it’s easy to slip into a groove and talk in language that you understand – even if that language is above most “lay persons” in a church.  Once you’ve written your content, turn it over to someone else to edit (this is good practice in general – more eyes on a piece of content means more chances to catch errors, typos, and other things that distract from the message).  Make sure that you’re not using jargon or theological terms – you want content that people can read without having to reach for a dictionary.

There’s further debate in the content-world on how long is “too long”.  Some people can write 10,000 words in a sitting without breaking a sweat.  My opinion: If you’re starting to hit the 1,200 – 1,500 word range, it may be more beneficial to break your content into two or three posts.  You get more posts out of it, and you allow the reader to digest the content in between.  Post series’ tend to get lots of traffic because a higher number of posts usually equates to better information (since you’re not trying to cram it into one long post).

Turn Over The Keys – Let Others Write Their Amazing Content

Just because you can write doesn’t mean you always should.  If you have other staff or volunteers that show an interest in writing, then by all means do so.  Set a few ground rules ahead of time if you want to, but having an extra voice or two show up on your content stream gives readers a fresh perspective.  If your writers have their own profile or website, allow them to link to it. They’ll, in turn, share your site to their readers and both of you benefit from the traffic.

Don’t Force Relevance (Unless you can make it amazing)

Nothing screams “I’m trying too hard” than the misuse of references to try to establish relevance.  Pop culture references, for example, can be good.  But, they’re like salt and pepper – you only need to use a little bit to spice up the whole meal.  By overusing (or abusing) pop-culture references, you can actually distract people from the true message you’re trying to send.  Use the reference, but bring it back to the main point.  Even better: book-end your content with an intro and closing that makes the reference, explains the points, and brings it back home at the end.

Mix your Mediums – Amazing Content is More Than Words

One of the biggest things I hear from content creators is that they “hate writing”.  And I totally get that.  The nice thing about the Internet is that there are so many other mediums to explore.  Love taking photos?  Use Instagram.  Are you an excellent speaker? Start a podcast.  Find a social network that plays to your strengths and utilize it to the best of your ability.

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Creating amazing content is the most time-consuming part of any good strategy.  But, if done correctly, it’s often the one that reaps the most rewards.  Seeing your thoughts and ideas spread throughout your friends and followers gives a sense of accomplishment, and helps to establish you as a thought leader in your industry or sector.  Once you’ve gotten the basics down, play around with it.  Mix things up and try something new.  It’s a brave new world out there, and you don’t gain anything by doing the same-old-same-old every time.  Now, go forth and create!

Photo by Sean MacEntee