“As a writer, the more you focus on engagement, the better” — William Ballard
In my coaching and mentoring program, The Writer’s Round Table Club, one of my main objectives is to help new aspiring writers get the attention their work deserves.
One of the things I hear my club members say quite often is, “All of my article or book ideas suck!”
However, the truth is: Their ideas are not really as bad as they think they are, they just need some fine tuning.
In fact, what I’ve found over the years is that most new aspiring writers tend to have this belief that seasoned writers are just able to put fingers to keys, or pencil to paper, and somehow masterpieces just come out of nowhere.
The truth is: Even the most famous and most admired writers very rarely have fully formed ideas that just pop into their minds — it just doesn’t work that way. No, even the most seasoned writers still have to go into their writing workshops, put the tools to work, and even get their hands dirty at times, in order to bring their ideas into fruition.
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The way I like to teach this to my writing club members is by using the concept of a builder building a house. You see, you might have this vision of your ideal home but you wouldn’t just go and start building without first drawing out the blueprint, and then making sure you have the tools and supplies you need to get started -- would you?
Better yet, let’s put it another way. Let’s say you have this dream of traveling to Paris or to Spain, or some exotic location.
Well, you wouldn’t just go to these places without first planning out the trip — researching how much a round trip plane ticket would cost, finding out how much a hotel room would cost per night, or deciding which particular destination spots you would want to visit — would you?
Of course not! There’s quite a bit of preparation that goes into play before going on such a dream vacation.
Well, the same is true for writing an engagement worthy article. You see, what I’m suggesting is that you make the time to get out of your head and into the head of your readers by coming up with creative ways to make your article unique and timely, and specifically catered to the conversation that is already going on in your ideal readers heads.
For instance, consider the idea of Target Marketing. The way target marketing works is that a pixel is placed on a website, and whenever an internet surfer lands on that site he or she is then followed all over the web. Then what happens is that pixel picks up on where that internet surfer is going and memorizes those places so that the marketer that owns that pixel now knows what that internet surfer is most interested in, which then allows that marketer to know what marketing messages that internet surfer will pay more attention to.
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Well, imagine what it would be like if you were churning out article after article after article that seemed as if it was targeting and following your ideal readers every where they went on the Internet. As if it was an article that was written as an addition to the conversation your ideal readers are already having in their head.
Here are three ways to do just that, and in return, make your articles that much more engagement worthy:
1. Use The Polar Opposite Angle
Think about your article idea’s polar opposite. For instance, consider reviewing some of the most popular articles of the main publication you follow the most. How could you take that same topic and write the opposite view of what has been written?
For example, take the subject of SMART Goals. SMART goals is a concept that has been taught about for years. It’s even part of the curriculum in most Business programs and courses.
Well, not too long ago, I wrote this article entitled “How to Make Your #SMART Goals, SMARTER,” where I mentioned the SMARTER concept that I found in Michael Hyatt’s latest book, “Your Best Year Ever: A Five Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals” (AFF). That article did get quite a bit of attention, however.
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The truth is: You can even go one-step further than that. How about doing the complete opposite of SMART goals, and use something like DUMB goals? Now that idea might just get you some overwhelming engagement.
2. Presentation is Everything
You’ve heard it said before, “Presentation is everything!” The fact of the matter is, it’s so true. This is often emphasized in the food industry because, in most cases, if a dish doesn’t look pleasing to the eye, it often gets set to the side.
It doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good, or nutritious. In fact, it may very well be delicious. But if it doesn’t look appetizing no one will ever know just how delicious it really is.
For example, just consider the following images. The image on the left is an iHOP’s customer’s picture of the Tuxedo Mousse dish that they received.
Now, take a minute and look at the promotion image sitting in the center of the table. Here’s another saying I’m sure we’ve all heard before, “False advertisement!”
Look, that plate of pancakes and ice cream squirts may very well taste good, but to be honest with you… It doesn’t look very appetizing -- but I’ll let you be the judge. What do you think?
Now, look at the two part image below. On the left side you see the Tuxedo Mousse promotion image again. On the right side you see the actual dish that was given to an iHOP customer. The actual plate may not look exactly like the promotion image on the left, but it is certainly better than the first attempt above. What do you think?
To that end, this whole idea of your presentation being everything, is similar to the “Can’t judge a book by its cover” proclamation. You see, I would agree that we probably shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the truth is: We do! Therefore, because readers do judge a book by its cover, as writers, we must do everything we can to make sure that our presentation is as pleasing to the eye as possible.
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In other words, are we laying out our articles in such a way that is easy on the eyes? Are our subheads grabbing the attention of our readers (especially scrollers)? Plus, are we utilizing images that enhance our ideas and concepts. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
3. To Go Viral, Become Newsy
Moreover, if you can get your article idea to connect or merge with something going on in the news, or with a particular newsworthy holiday such as Memorial Day or National Prayer Day, you’re article is more likely to get more attention and more engagement.
You see, when I first started pitching article ideas to editors and publications I didn’t really have any clips to show them. But I still pitched anyways. For instance, without any clips, I pitched an article idea to Entrepreneur about what the Marine Corps taught me about entrepreneurship, and made sure to pitch this idea right around Memorial Day.
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Well, believe it or not, they actually liked the idea and gave me the green light to start writing. Because that article when live on Memorial Day it got more attention, more shares, and overall, more engagement then what it would have gotten if it was just published on any other day.
To that end, finding a news angle can help you think of ways to slant your idea to take it from ho-hum to viral-ly engaging.
In closing, I hope this article served you and that you were able to get some real value from these three ways to make your articles more engagement worthy.
Who knows … even if you just implemented one of these three tips, you just might write the next viral article that makes National news.
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William Ballard, MBA is a highly sought after business strategist and content marketing expert. He is a highly respected master copywriter whose passion is to help struggling firms go from merely surviving operations to truly thriving organizations.