Are your Articles Useless to Everybody?

Have you ever wondered about why people bother producing all those articles that get pushed out week after week, only to die and become internet worm food over the months and years as they decay slowly in the archives of their firm’s website, barely read at first and never to be read again?

Don’t worry – you’re not alone.

typing on computer

I’ve produced some pretty awful articles, podcasts and videos over the years – and my guess is that you have as well. Certainly if we look across the professions, there are  millions of articles gradually dying somewhere. Often (although not always) that’s because they’re just not very good.

Here’s the thing though – I’m not talking about spelling errors, bad grammar or even the continuing blight of image-less content. I’m not talking about bad headlines, poor introductory paragraphs or a gross failure of SEO.

That all matters, but today I’m focused on just one thing: content that doesn’t help your target audience.

If you or your firm continue to pump out a dozen articles a month with no real strategy of how to produce good content, then I’m sorry to say that you probably fall into this category as well.

With the pressure to be producing all the time, we inevitably lose focus of what we’re producing, who we’re producing it for, and what we hope to achieve.

Instead our content strategy begins and ends with this: create more content.

Let’s take a look at how to solve the content marketing vacuum and begin writing things that actually help the people you want to help.

First – Actually Intend to Help

This should go without saying, but I’ve found it doesn’t.

So many articles are just “FYI some stuff just happened” but nowhere in the creation of the article did anybody stop to ask the question “how does this actually help anyone?”.  I could write a case note of every single High Court decision and send it out to my email list, but that doesn’t mean a single word I wrote would be useful to anybody.

Usually this happens when you’re just writing something because you have to – not because you actually have something helpful to say.

It comes from this type of conversation “hey, um, we haven’t published an article in a while – do you think you could find something recent and knock up a few words we can put on the website about it?”.

And it all goes down hill from there.

Next – Listen to your Audience

Most professionals know their clients very well. They know the kinds of questions they ask, the language they use, and the issues they face on a day to day basis.

Yet, when it comes to media creation, all of that really important information gets shuffled to one side as they pump out articles with headlines, topics and language the likes of which none of their clients have ever used.

Why does this happen?

Firstly, we forget who we’re writing for and get stuck in our own heads.

Let’s say we’re writing a summary of a recent government initiative. It could, potentially, be interesting to our clients if we cast it in the right way.

However, we go “all technical” on it as we’re writing, because as we put together the article we treat it as a professional update (ie – for our colleagues) rather than a helpful summary (ie for our clients).

Next, we have a tendency not to edit properly. You see, the first issue I set out above sometimes happens by accident. But then, the editing process focuses only on grammar and spelling, and not on the big picture question – does it help my clients?

Finally, we frequently publish things that should just get deleted. We write the article, realise it’s not that good, but put it up anyway.

After all, “it’s been a while since we published anything” right?

Last – Make it Readable

The most useless articles around are the ones that nobody reads.

Your skills might be top notch, your analysis excellent and your words perfect.

But if I don’t read your article, then it’s useless to me.

Readable means:

  • Making the headline meaningful
  • Shorter paragraphs and sentences, rather than longer
  • Using headings
  • Don’t waffle.

If you just followed those four basic ideas, then you would be well advanced beyond a lot of the other people around you.

So Let’s Make an Agreement

It’s true that not all of your media is going to be a world-beating piece of literary genius that gets read 1,000,000,000 times before the next one is published.

But, at the very least, can we agree that we’re all going to do our best to write things that actually help people, rather than just “publish because we haven’t done anything in a while”?

What’s your trick? How do you try and ensure that your content useful for people? Let me know in the comments!

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