Concretely, content! (Part 1: Creating it.)

Yes, you should have a plan for developing content for your [blank]. Yes, it would be ideal if your budget allowed for a writer on your team or a freelancer in your stable of extra hands. And, yes, the funds you don’t allocate to writing could get directed to creating visual content like photography, infographics, and video.

Maybe you acknowledge this advice, but you have immediate, not-to-be-ignored content needs. Concretely, what can you do to rustle up some content? Try this advice about creating content:

  • Take the time for pre-writing.
    Creating content ultimately (eventually?) means, “I have to write some words for a [blank].” How do you get started? First, step away from your computer and think about purpose and organization. Yes, I want you to answer a few questions before you start:
    • What is the goal of this communication?
    • Which audience segment or persona is the target?
    • What are the three benefits (pieces of information) to communicate?
    • If for the web, what keywords and phrases are best for search engine optimization?
    • What is the one thing the reader should understand after reading the first paragraph?
      (Capture this one thing in the first two sentences followed by a summary of benefits in the rest of the content. The first paragraph should also include a call-to-action.)
  • Follow the basics.
    Tie your content strategy to the tried and true basics. You don’t have time to mess around. Instead:

    • Use an active voice. Simple, direct language makes your copy better and easier to read. Consider this: “We launched our new site today,” versus this: “Our new site was launched today.”
    • Remember your audience. If your audience can’t relate to your content, they won’t read it. Period. Let your readers’ needs drive your every word. Find a hook. Whether you’re writing an article, blog post, or a tweet, the language has to grab the reader’s attention. Use snappy action words, such as join, watch, hear, or go.
    • Tell good stories. A compelling human interest story will always draw a reader’s attention. Whatever the context, readers thirst for good stories, and it’s a writer’s job to supply them.
    • Less is so much more. Short bits of copy that pack a punch are the way to go. New content patterns on the web call for less and less (and less) words. Don’t spend too many words on generic statements and messages. If your college or university already “owns it,” leave it out. Focus on copy that explains what makes your brand distinctive and engaging.

About now, you may be thinking, “Come on. That’s such basic advice.” In response, I say, go take a look at a few websites, watch a few videos, read a few email messages. Enough proof we still need to work on the basics?

In Part 2, I’ll cover planning and editorial for content.


Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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