Bloggers love it when you comment on their articles, link to and share them with their friends and followers. You can do the same for podcasters - and they too will love you for it.
Leaving comments, sharing and linking to blog content helps the blogger in many ways. Most importantly, these activities foster engagement and helps the blog and blogger to grow. I'm not just talking about growing one's audience and influence, but it helps the blogger develop writing chops. It informs and helps to hone one's craft, voice and message.
Podcasters can have all that, too. Most publish a show notes page where you can listen or subscribe, read the highlights and gain access to the links mentioned in the show. Moreover, listeners can do the same for podcasters as they can for bloggers: leave a comment, share it with others and link to it from their website (blog) or bookmark it.
What usually happens is listeners subscribe to or have downloaded the podcast via the Podcast App on their Apple device. The host of the show mentions how to get access to the show notes by going to a particular URL (website address). It needs to be really simple because people who are listening in their car or during their workout are away from their computer or tablet and need to remember it. In my case, I usually say, "Go to B2BInbound/Podcast to get access to all the notes and links for this show." This page then lists all of my podcast episodes with links to their respective show notes page.
Now one of the advantages podcasters have over bloggers is Apple's iTunes Ratings & Reviews. The ratings and reviews feature on iTunes, along with podcast downloads and other factors greatly help podcasters get discovered and keep their show visible to potential new audience members. In a sense, it's a form of crowd sourcing what's popular in podcast shows.
I won't go into the details of how this works. But if you're a podcaster, or thinking of starting a podcast, I recommend checking out two resources that will be invaluable to you as you begin to put your show together, or look to improve an existing show:
But I digress. We are talking about the importance of iTunes Ratings & Reviews to a podcaster, and how this is an added bonus he or she has over bloggers. Then, in just a short while I will explain exactly how to leave a rating and review.
I heard recently there are over 420 million blogs and around 250 thousand podcasts published. If you have a blog you want to be found on Google. If you have a podcast you want to be found on iTunes. How you get found on iTunes is through ratings and reviews.
Think of it this way. The number one destinations for discovering and consuming content are as follows:
- Google: number one search engine for topics of interest and research on the Web
- YouTube (owned by Google): largest search engine for videos
- Amazon: the main place to go for books
- iTunes: major directory and search engine for finding and subscribing to podcasts
My point is if you're a podcaster you're going to love having your show on iTunes and will work your butt off to make it more visible - something after 12 episodes I am acutely aware of. Yesterday I checked and my Expert Interviews Podcast was listed somewhere in the middle of the pack in the What's Hot in Business > Management & Marketing category. That's like being on the 10th page of Google - no one is going to find it there! Today, it doesn't even show up. Yikes!
So there's a couple of things you can do to help make your podcast more visible.
Optimize your iTunes listing
If it can be publicized on the Web it can be optimized. This also goes for iTunes. When I first published my podcast I didn't fully realize how important it is to have search- and human-friendly terms contained in your podcast title, host name and description. I've since seen the light.
Pat Flynn, in the aforementioned podcast, SPI064 details this nicely in the segment on optimizing your iTunes page. I use the Smartcast feature in Feedburner to supply this information, but there are other means available, too. There are three sections to optimize:
- Title. Don't just have the title of your show as I did with the "Expert Interviews Podcast," but include some keywords relevant to what your show is about, and which others may use to find your show in the iTunes search bar. I've since changed mine to read: "The Expert Interviews Podcast: Inbound Marketing |Content Marketing | B2B Marketing." Before, people could find me by searching "expert interviews." Now, as I demonstrate in the video, my show can be found for the search terms, "inbound marketing," "content marketing" and "B2B marketing." There is a character limit so you'll need to experiment with this, but I suggest using as many of the characters available as possible to cover as many of your primary keywords that you can. It will only serve to make you more findable.
- Podcast Author. Again, I just started with my name, Greg Elwell. But you can add much more info that will help people get to know more about you and what your specialties are. This is a little like LinkedIn's professional headline where you showcase your specialties, what you want to be known for and the market served. My new podcast author is "Greg Elwell: B2B Content Marketer, Writer and Thought Leader." A search for "content marketer" or even "thought leader" in the iTunes search bar now pulls up my podcast. It took only about 24 hours since the time I changed it to when it began to appear for these terms.
- Podcast Description. My original description was just a couple of sentences. Now, it goes into greater detail on what my show is all about, who I have on it, my goals for the show and what listeners can expect from my style of interviewing, etc. And of course, I've also included several of my most important keywords throughout the description. I suggest trying to make this interesting and compelling so others will want to listen or subscribe to your podcast. Finally, I indicated where listeners could go for more information and show notes to the episodes.
I'll be honest, it's kind of cool searching your name and keywords in iTunes and seeing that you do pop up in the listings. If you do a decent job with this, you'll find your show appearing right alongside or even before the big hitters and top rated shows!
Using the iTunes Podcast Directory
Here's a video tutorial I put together to show how listeners can search and find podcasts in the iTunes podcast directory they might be interested in listening or subscribing to. It demonstrates how to do general and category-specific searches. And it also shows podcast producers how important it is to have an optimized title, author name and description as discussed above.
How to Leave a Rating & Review in iTunes
I really started this post to talk about how important it is to being discovered in iTunes through ratings and reviews. Certainly, optimizing your iTunes listing as I've discussed will help you get discovered in keyword searches, but ratings and reviews are the holy grail of getting noticed and growing your show.
If you're just starting out and haven't submitted your show to iTunes yet, I really do recommend you listen to the podcast interview with John Lee Dumas on his eBook, Podcast Launch. You will learn why the first 8 weeks of the launch of your show is critical and how to get into the New & Noteworthy section of the podcast listings for your category.
But I now want to speak to podcast listeners vs. podcast producers. I want to encourage you to leave a rating and review for the podcasts you subscribe to and/or the episodes you listen to. It will mean so much to the author or host of the podcast. Beyond helping to make shows more visible, ratings, and particularly written reviews given honestly and objectively, can be instrumental in helping to improve the show's quality.
Here are the steps to follow:
- The first think you'll want to do is find the show in your iTunes software or account. Currently, you cannot leave a rating or review from within the Podcasts App. Hopefully, in the future you'll be able to.
- Open iTunes on your computer. Alternatively, some podcasters have a Subscribe in iTunes link or button on their show page - click that - it will take you to the iTunes Preview Page for that podcast.
- If you are on the iTunes Preview Page, click the "View in iTunes" blue button just below the show's artwork. You may be asked to choose an application in a pop-up window. Choose iTunes and click "OK" to be taken to the directory listing of that show in iTunes. Click on the Ratings & Reviews menu link and you will be taken to the screen where you can now rate and review the show.
- If you are already in iTunes, click on the "iTunes Store" button at the top right. Click "Podcasts" on the top menu and browse by category or keyword, or simply type in the name of the show you want to give a ratings and review for. For example, searching for "b2b inbound expert interviews" will get you to my show :-). When you locate it, click on the artwork (image) for the show and you'll be taken to the page where you will see the "Ratings & Review" option.
Video Tutorial: How to Leave a Podcast Review in iTunes
For you visually-oriented listeners, here's how to do what I've outlined above in a quick how-to video:
Mentioned in the above tutorial: Why five star reviews aren't as powerful as four star reviews in Amazon, by Andy Traub. (Same principle holds true for podcast reviews in iTunes.)
Share Podcast Shows with your Network
One of the pretty cool things you can also do is share a link to the show page in iTunes to your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. You can also copy the link and send it out via an email message.
Just go to the show page again for that podcast in iTunes. You will see a little pull-down arrow right next to the Subscribe button (see illustration to the left). Click that and select how you want to share it.
You have 4 choices: Tell a Friend (sends an email from iTunes with a link to the show), Copy Link (then paste it where ever you want - in your own email, share as a status update in LinkedIn, etc.), Share on Facebook (pre-populates a status update with link and image), or Share On Twitter (pre-populates a tweet with the link that you can send out with just one click). Of course you can modify these posts before sharing them with your network.
Here's an example of a tweet I sent out by clicking the Share On Twitter option:
Most podcasters I know work hard to produce quality content their listeners will find helpful and valuable. Giving them some props by ratings and reviews, and spreading a little love by sharing their show with your contacts will go a long ways towards encouraging them to keep up the good work.
Here's how it looks as a Facebook share:
Hope you've found this post with the video tutorials helpful. What questions or comments do you have about how to make a podcast more visible in iTunes?
Sometimes, even well-written headlines, web copy, landing pages and blog posts fail to engage and move people to take action. By take action, I mean to sign-up to an email list, download a white paper, buy something or just make a tiny shift in consideration of an idea or different course of action.
This is, after all, the goal of content marketing - to persuade and trigger action. This is what the Content Marketing Institute clearly indicated in the article What is Content Marketing?:
"Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action."
Does your content marketing efforts too often fail to drive others to engage, to take action? Any action? If so, maybe you're just being a little too nice and you need to spice it up a bit with some good old-fashioned conflict.
I'm not talking about intentionally rubbing people the wrong way, being nasty, negative or picking fights. I'm talking about introducing the element of a tug-of-war between two ideals; a struggle of opposing forces, viewpoints, paths or practices that reveal what it is to be vulnerable, human.
The reason conflict is so arresting is because we are wired for it. And we experience it, daily. Like the opposing poles of a magnet pulling and repelling, our world is full of do's and dont's, good vs. evil, resistance and cooperation, storm and calm, war and peace, what is with what could be.
Here are a few techniques for inducing the element of engaging conflict in your content:
Uncover the differences between two things
If you look in the margin of this blog under "Most Popular Posts" you will find: What's the Difference Between a Press Release and a News Release? Is there a difference? I'm not sure. But I noticed people were using the terms somewhat interchangeably and I sought to understand if there was a difference, real or perceived, then formed my own opinion and wrote about it. Here's the mysterious thing. It is not, by far, one of my most well-written blog posts. And I've been tempted to re-write it. But why mess with whatever pull or push this thing has done?
Creating elements of conflict in your content is more important to engagement than how well you write. [Tweet that]
As I write this, Seth Godin came out with the post, Writing tip: say it backwards. In it he basically says instead of stating the obvious and what people expect, say the opposite: "That your software might be overpriced." (Gasp!) "Then tell us why. We'd love to know how you're going to wriggle out of that." Conflict connects. resolving it sells.
You can do this too. Where is the tension, wonder, opposites and interest in terms, concepts, practices or ideas surrounding your business and industry?
Examine your "Story" from the villains's perspective
On the hero's journey we heed the call, but along the way dark forces (internal and physical) oppose and aim to destroy our dream of dreams. Conflict. War. In this clash we face key moments where we, like David, must trust what we got to defeat our Goliath. Victory comes. But tomorrow's another day. Another battle ensues.
This is our life. The ups and downs. This is what we know: Tension. Resistance. It is what stirs our emotions, gets our blood pumping, and makes us pay attention, get engaged.
And, if we find ways to include the elements that all good stories are made of in our content, we just might find it connecting, resonating with listeners, engaging and moving them to take action.
The struggle between what our hero wants and the opposing villainous forces makes for great storytelling. And storytelling is the content creator's best friend. Why? One of my favorite teachers on storytelling is Nancy Duarte. She writes in Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, "Storytelling creates the emotional glue that connects an audience to your idea." One of the techniques writers and content creators can employ to help pinpoint and draw upon this emotional glue is to look first to the villain. What does he want?
Start with the Villian, suggests Steven Pressfield. If you know what your villain wants, you know the counter-theme,and what your hero wants. Looking at what you want to get across from the standpoint of what might prevent it from happening will open up fresh insights and inspiration. And once you have that, you have everything you need to fully engage your audience - and make them feel something.
Craft a hint of conflict (and hope) in your headlines
You may have noticed I'm a big fan of Michael Hyatt and Ray Edwards. In a recent guest blog, Edwards wrote an article for Hyatt's blog entitled, 5 Headline Templates That Grab Readers. If you look closely, every one of the 5 types includes an implication of conflict along with something that could be improved upon.
- How-To Headlines: How to Write a Blog Post Every Day (targeted to those not writing daily)
- Transactional Headlines: Try These 5 Tactics for a Week, And Be Twice As Productive (appeals to those struggling to be more productive)
- Reason-Why Headlines: Why Your Blog Posts Get Ignored, And How to Fix That (we don't want to be avoided, we want to be noticed!)
- Probing Question Headlines: Why Don't Doctor's Get Sick? (do you want to learn the secrets of turning sickness into wellness?)
- If-Then Headlines: If You Can Follow a Recipe, You Can Write Better Headlines (my headlines suck...but there's hope...recipe?)
I've mentioned this before, but there's a great little book I keep at arms length. It's David Garfinkel's, Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich. You may cringe a bit when you hear the term "advertising," don't. Instead, get beyond this (conflict) and see what you can learn from direct response copywriters. The book shows you why these headlines work and how you can adapt them to make them work for you.
I'll share just a few examples. Notice the underlining conflicts, emotions and promise these headlines elicit (emphasis added):
- Get Rid of Your Money Problems Once and For All
- Do You Make These Mistakes In English?
- Five Familiar Skin Troubles - Which Do You Want to Overcome?
It's been said that 75 percent of the buying decision in a print ad is made at the headline alone. I believe the same can be said for the decision to engage with your content - it begins and ends with your titles and headlines. And all we have to do is inject a little trouble in River City to make them more enchanting, interesting and engaging. Learn more about turning mundane blog titles into enchanting front doors.
Question: What's one of your favorite techniques for introducing the element of conflict to better engage your audience? Please leave a comment below.
It is with the deepest of sympathy and love for Boston and all those touched by this tragedy that I offer these inadequate, yet heartfelt words.
Yesterday I was gripped with shock and sadness over the terrible tragedy at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon. I was deep in work when, for some reason, I happened to check Twitter and saw a series of tweets about what had just occurred.
Desperate to receive and share information, I flipped on the TV to the news and network channels, monitored Twitter, Facebook and texted my wife. I have many friends, former colleagues/co-workers, business partners and clients in and around Boston. My wife has a co-worker who was running the marathon. This brave man, a stage-four cancer survivor just made it across the finish line, with his wife standing 50 feet away from where the first bomb went off. Thank God they are safe.
But others were not out of harms way. A few were killed, many more were injured, and we who are witnesses have had our hearts broken once more by evil. Many of us find it hard to carry on and to continue to do our work.
This is totally understandable. And while we can't understand these evil acts, we have a comforter who understands us and what we're going through: "The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads." (Psalm 145:14 NLT.)
There are times when, due to personal crisis, a tragedy like this, great loss or overwhelming grief we cannot find our way to do our work. The work can wait.
But know this, too, we're ready when you are. And when you do the work you do, whether to write, develop, teach, cook, coach, or whatever - do it with the love that's in your heart for Boston, for all of mankind. We are in this together.
Let's do our work with greater understanding, compassion and purpose than ever before.
Let's get back to the Start with all the respect and strength we can muster. And with God's grace, let's begin again, to do our work. The work we need to do and share.
Image credit: BostonHearld.com
This is a companion post to a podcast I published with guest, Brody Dorland of DivvyHQ - the spreadsheet-free, cloud-based editorial calendar application.
Check out that podcast with show notes here: Brody Dorland on DivvyHQ the Spreadsheet-Free Editorial Calendar.
What I'm going to do in this post is show you exactly how I use DivvyHQ to set up a blog content project in the calendar and take it through the idea stage through to production. I will use B2B Inbound and this exact blog article as the example, but it could just as well be any content project or something setup for a client.
Side note: I'm currently using this application as the front-end planning and workflow tool for my blog article writing service for clients. The back-end, or production side of my workflow to produce the articles is accomplished via my Pro Agency account with Zerys, the content marketplace.
Prior to step 1, I have created the Calendar in my DivvyHQ account, and added any team members who will be working with me on the project. I am selecting myself (Greg Elwell) as the Admin/Editor and Content Owner, and my other self (Gregory J. Elwell) as a second team member on this calendar to illustrate workflows with a contributor.
Step 1: Getting Your Ideas into DivvyHQ
As I mentioned in this podcast on how to generate a ready supply of blog topics, I record a list of topic ideas in Paperless, an app on my iPhone and iPad. When I get ready to work on that idea, I will put it into DivvyHQ. There are a couple ways to do this. One is to go to the Add New tab in the main menu and choose Content Item. Another is through the Add New Content utility on the (lower right) Dashboard.
Here's a video I made that shows you how:
Once you have "parked" your idea, you can go into the My Content detail tool and begin configuring the settings and additional details. Here's an overview of that process:
Step 2: Complete Article-Specific Instructions
Once you have set up and entered the basics: working title, central theme, keywords, blogging personas, topic/category, etc., it's time to put some meat on the bones of your idea. This is THE most important part of any content creation project.
In my experience, the clearer you are with what you want the blog article to be about, the better the outcome. Give yourself, or your writer as much detail as you can without overwhelm. Too much info can bog the process down and stifle creative juices. So there's a somewhat delicate balance between the two. My guideline and the example given in the next (and final) video tutorial seem to work quite well for most clients, editors and writers. The template looks like this:
- Working title (includes primary keyword)
- Central idea, theme or premise
- Introduction or lead-in (What's going to immediately connect and resonate with your intended reader?)
- Main talking points to be covered in the body of the post
- Reference links, media or files to review (or include)
- Conclusion and CTA
Step 3: Moving from Parking Lot to Production
Watch this video to see how I apply these in the process, then take the next steps to move from Parking Lot to Production status in DivvyHQ. The video also shows the automatic and manually activated notification features, leaving Activity notes and more.
I'd love to hear your comments or questions in the comments below. Also, here is a free copy of the article-specific instructions template I featured in the video and use myself, and also with clients and writers for blog post creation: Article-Specific Guidelines. (PDF opens in new window.)
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now." - Goethe, as quoted by Steven Pressfield in The War of Art
That being said, there are two ways to begin to write a blog post.
Of course you need a topic that interests you. That's a given. Because if a topic is unknown or doesn't interest you how could you begin to write? Some would argue to just pick a topic the audience wants to hear about. But that can lead to a bland, or worse yet, a me-too nothing new composition. No, it must come from you. Something that fascinates, intrigues, captures your interest and the muse to get you from the beginning to end of it. (Learn more about how to generate a ready supply of blog topics.)
If you've got that, if the idea resonates with you, there's a strong probability it will likewise resonate with others. After all, if you were meant to do this writing thing in the first place surely there's an audience who wants, no needs to hear you. They are not everyone, but more like you than you think.
What you're about to give in the work you will now undertake will most certainly bring clarity, hope, conviction and life itself. To you first, then to others. Others, the ones who've had a similiar chatter running fuzzily through their being; the substance of which laid out before them makes perfect sense. Or enough sense to make them journey further.
So, with that fundamental digression in mind the two ways to begin to write a blog post (or to do anything else of a persuasive, artistic nature) is to (1) write like you think, or (2) write like you talk.
1. Write to think
If you were a dancer I'd say to write like you dance. To move and dance was choreographer Gillian Lynne's territory. Thought to have a learning disorder as a fidgety, disruptive child, her mother, upon receiving a letter from school, brought her to a psychologist. During the session it happened that the psychologist turned on his radio and left Gillian in the room while he and her mother went outside to talk privately. Turning back they noticed Gillian rise to her feet with the music and glide effortlessly around the office. Transfixed by her grace, the psychologist turned to Gillian's mother and said, "You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to dance school." (As told to Sir Ken Robinson by Gillian Lynne in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.)
Gillian Lynne was someone who couldn't sit still. She moved to think. She was at her best, most authentic and artistic self when she did the thing she was born to do: dance.
Writers write. They write to think. So the first way to begin (and continue) to write a blog post once you have the central idea or topic in mind is to begin. Just write. Writing generates and clarifies thought. It takes you where you need to go.
Now that you've written it, read it out loud. (Better still read it out loud to a friend or co-worker.) Does it sound natural? Make sense? Is that how you'd talk? Does it sound conversational? Does it have a good "dia" (through or flow) about it? If someone read it who knows you but didn't know you wrote it, would they say, "Oh, that sounds like [Corey's] voice. [Corey] wrote that blog."
2. Talk to think
I prefer to write it out vs. talk it out. But for some, the best way to start to write is to talk it out. I'd rather write an email, but others would rather pick up the phone or drive across town and meet over coffee.
When it comes to blogging, start where you feel most comfortable, natural and able to call upon the muse - to get your thoughts out. Most gifted sales people I know are great talkers. For them, holding a voice conversation with themselves, or with an imaginary person is effortless. If you're a talker first, why not begin your blogs by speaking your thoughts into a device or application that can capture them? You could then play them back or have them turned into text through a transcription service or speech to text application.
So if you are a talker, try free-talking your way into blogging. A few practical steps to begin:
- Schedule time on your calendar (ten or more minutes)
- Sit down (or stand) and focus your thoughts on your topic
- Eliminate all distractions (email alerts, social media and whatever else can interrupt you)
- Set a timer for a segment of time equal to about one-third the total time you've allocated for this session (e.g. 30 minutes total time broken up into 3, ten minute segments)
- Start talking into your MP3 recorder or voice notes app
- Just talk and let your thoughts lead the way without editing
- Don't stop until the timer goes off
- Replay what you just said
- Find something interesting from the recording
- Set the timer again and talk more about what interested you most
- Repeat the timed sessions until your scheduled session time is complete
If you're a talker and you practice a technique like this I have full confidence you'll find it a useful, natural and easy path to begin to write each and every blog post. I imagine it will take a little trial and error at first, but if you stick with it and practice, practice, practice, you'll soon be doing the work of contributing and gifting us with your very own brilliance!
P.S. I actually think talkers can make the best bloggers. Why? Because blogging is about having a conversation with your audience. We should write more like we talk, conversationally. So, in my mind, talkers have a leg up on us writers. Go for it!
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now."
Whether you write to think, dance to think, design to think or talk to think. Begin it. Blog it.
What's the best way for you to begin?
More on this topic
I created a podcast to go a bit more in depth on the subject of how to generate and capture a list of blog topics. You can listen to the podcast or subscribe by clicking one of the controls or links below. Alternatively, you can go to the show notes page for additional information and links to resources that I share. I hope you will find this format and the info from my own experience helpful and inspirational to create and capture your own, ready supply of blog topics!
Listen or Subscribe:
Play non-Flash version of player
Play in new window | Subscribe in iTunes
A working definition of content marketing is the act of delivering information in a structured and usable way that inspires or persuades positive change to occur.
In a CMI blog post, What is Content Marketing? it's defined as "a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action."
Following that, the article states "Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling." (Emphasis added.)
No one has more called our attention to making art in the connection economy than Seth Godin. He says, "Art is the truly human act of creating something new that matters to another person" (The Icarus Deception).
That "act of creating something new" can be the content we make in the form of blog articles, ebooks, webinars, videos, podcasts, case studies and more. It can also be whatever work belongs to us, from our unique genius we share in face-to-face or ear-to-ear conversations with one, or many. It could be as simple as a tweet of encouragement sent from one expert to another who's following one step behind, "Make it happen."
The act and art of content marketing can be many things to many people. Making it is the first step to making it matter. Making it matter, so it's useful, helpful and which drives profitable customer action is what makes it artistry.
For those who want to make better content by becoming a bona fide content marketing artist, here are 3 traits to consider:
An artist is generous and is at her best when she exceeds expectations. Several years ago at a conference I heard Tim O'Reily say, "Create more value than you take."
The content marketer who slaps a benign how-to guide behind a registration form in order to "earn" email addresses is a taker not a giver. The artist, on the other hand, freely gives because he's not in it for recognition, approval or even the money. He does it so he can know first what matters most to the less crowded market of his own choosing. So he can then make more, give more, and find that some will indeed want to pay him for what more they need.
Take Zen Habits. It's one of the top 25 blogs and top 50 websites in the world. Leo Babauta is generous. He encourages his readers to steal as much content on his website as they wish: "You don’t need permission to reprint any article on Zen Habits — this entire blog and all my work is uncopyrighted."
I understand how important it is to build an email list. But if we're to be content marketing artists and give more than we take shouldn't we be as generous as we possibly can? Unprotected generosity is what characterizes Pat Flynn of the Smart Passive Income blog and podcast. I once heard him say something to the effect of: earnings are a byproduct of how helpful you've been to others.
We all have moments of, "That is freaking ridiculous!" We mean it in a good way. It's when we witness or experience something that's right on the edge - something that makes its mark on us just beyond anything we've encountered before - but not too far out there.
In reference to artists, Godin calls this "Dancing on the Edge of Ridiculous." In another article I wrote about making art, I told the story of how a teacher amazed his student by making an 18 minute personal tutorial video in response to the student's question. That was ridiculous. It got every student's attention. Had it been an hour long and brought in dozens of examples it would have been over the edge ridiculous. We might question the teacher's sanity. It was just enough ridiculousness to make it stand out and memorable - it happened months ago and I'll never forget it.
As Godin points out "The hard part of bringing art to your tribe, your culture, or your market is understanding where the line between boring and ridiculous lies." The content marketing artist must always push the boundaries and get to the edges with acts of bridled ridiculousness. I think it should come as no surprise that ridiculous is a kissing cousin to remarkable. Make and package your content with one of these traits and the other is sure to appear.
Mix in enough generosity with ridiculousness and the content marketing artist in you begins to take shape and get noticed. Now you've created and shared something of value, that lifts, inspires, persuades and may even move someone from free to paid status. You're doing awesome work! At this point, human nature may cause us to puff out our chest and feel pretty damn good about this perceived level of expertise. Nothing wrong with doing a little dance and feeling good. But the trait of the true artist is not to get, come across, or think oneself too far ahead of the pack, just a little bit further down the road.
A spirit of servanthood can be powerful for closing the gap between leader and tribe. The more humble you are the more people believe you are an expert. The more you care, the more you connect.
I was moved by the first public appearance of the new Pope Francis as he bowed before the throng of people in St Peter's Square, and asked for their prayers.
Another man, a recognized expert and authority, believed by some to be worthy of the highest honor and place at the table, got up, stripped down and with a towel wrapped around his waist washed and wiped the feet of his closest admirers (John 13). Servanthood makes a difference and opens hearts and minds to the message - the content.
Sometimes it's as simple as asking, "What can I help you with?" or, "What's your biggest challenge right now?" I know several, who I would call, "content marketing artists" who have figured this out. At the end of every e-newsletter they always ask a genuine question. They use the responses to create more content that serve the needs expressed.
What does servanthood mean to you? How can you do some artistic footwashing that shows you care, that you're not that different?
Be generous. Do ridiculous. Respond with the heart of a servant, and become a better content marketing artist.
What other traits do you think make for a bona fide content marketing artist?
The trouble with reading books like The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is they expose you, to you. And what he calls the Resistance. Want to write a blog post, launch a new venture, go on a diet, break an addiction or make a change for the better? "Not on my watch," scoffs Resistance.
Want to do something you feel deep down is important? Resistance. "Rule of thumb," writes Pressfield, "The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we feel toward pursuing it." On the other hand, want to get lost in social media, TV shows or a bottle of vodka? "Go right ahead," says resistance, "I'm with you."
What does this have to do with what a platform and how to build it?
There's a lot of buzz these days about building a platform. I first heard of it through Michael Hyatt's book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. The stone Hyatt tossed into the pond created ripples of thought, views and actions. Soon our spotlights shone on the idea of building a platform.
But what is a platform, really? "Very simply," wrote Hyatt, a platform is the thing you have to stand on to get heard. It's your stage." And he also said, "Today's platform is built of people. Contacts. Connections. Followers." And this, "Your platform is the means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans."
From this we get the idea that a platform is made up of many elements. It's a thing, like a stage to stand on, but it's also made up of people and a means (blogs, podcasts, social media, etc.) enabling connection. Makes sense, but the Resistance is beginning to mobilize in pursuit of even more clarity.
Jeff Goins wrote to subscribers of his Tribe Writers program, "A platform is just what it sounds like: it's a stage, a chance to influence people...However, platform is more than a website. Your blog is to your platform as a logo is to a brand. It's a manifestation of it, but not the thing itself." And this, "Your platform isn't you; it's an extension of yourself." I have a lot of respect for Jeff, but while I think he's heading in the right direction, Resistance tells me I'm not quite getting it.
Then Jeff lost his blog for about a week due to a technicall issue with the renewal of his domain name, GoinsWriter. (It's back now.) Through this ordeal he wrote an email to his subscribers: "What a Platform Really Is."
"A platform isn't what you think," wrote Goins. He said the word is often used to refer to a blog or a website, the traffic you might have or the notoriety you may have as a speaker. But, he says, "it's not just those things. A Platform is much, much more."
And it was because of the experience of losing his blog for a week and the fear people would move on and forget about him that he fully understood what a platform really is. "A platform is not your website; it's the people who give you permission to communicate with them."
So, we're back to the idea of a platform being made up of people.
I don't necessarily disagree. But I think the idea of a body of people supporting and finding ways to connect with you even when it's hard, and missing it when you're not at your usual desk, better defines what it is to be part of a tribe than a platform.
Living your genius
A platform to me has to do with your genius. In the aforementioned email to Tribe Writers, Goins wrote the first step in building your platform is to "Discover your voice." Now the Resistance is on full alert. We're getting warmer.
Your platform is your world view, your why. It's the things you say, make and do that matters most to you, and gives value and meaning to others. I hesitate to relate this to the concept of a politician's platform, but that's the idea. It's about you, your ideas, passions and what you believe matters more than anything else.
For Paul Wolfe it's about teaching others how to play bass guitar by learning to play songs, not scales or arpeggios. For Stu McLaren it's about making software that helps people share information and build community in a way that benefits them, others, and that can change the world. For Yael Cohen it's about helping her generation share the message that 90% of cancers are curable if caught in stage one. Platform is the lifeblood of purpose that pulses through your veins and makes you matter.
It's not anything physical or technological. It's not made up of people. And if it were you certainly wouldn't stand on them like standing on a stage. No.
A platform is what you make, from your unique genius that matters to you and touches others. [Click to Tweet that!]
Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend understands this. Watch his Tedx talk, How to Find and Do Work You Love. It begins he says with becoming a self-expert and understanding yourself. To find your unique strengths and what makes you come alive. Beware, however, the Resistance is telling you, perhaps right now, "It's not about you, it's about your audience," just focus on them, connect on Facebook, build your list..."
No worries, focus...here it is, it will just take 18 minutes.
How do you know you're getting close to building your platform? Resistance.
Your platform (i.e. Genius) is what the Resistance is after. It doesn't just want to sidetrack you from pursuing and sharing it, it is the enemy from within that wants to knock you out of the game. It wants you to de-clutter your workspace, take another training course, build that website or redesign the one you have.
"If you believe in God (and I do)," wrote Pressfield, "you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius [emphasis added]," He goes on, "A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center."
It's the Genius of you that makes up your platform and connects us as a tribe with your art - your scaramental center.
I received an RFP from someone who wanted a website redesign. The reason? "I need to convert more leads so I think that I need a redesign." That's the Resistance talking and you must fight back. You need platform.
Oh, and the best way I'm told to fight the resistance? Do the very thing it's telling you not to do.
Fight Resistance. Live Your Genius. Build Your Platform. Are we clear?
P.S. Right after I posted this I discovered and listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt on How to Overcome the Resistance. It was released on March 6, 2013. On March 9, Michael tweeted it has been his most listened to podcast ever. Yes, we know Resistance is real and wants to prevent us from living our genius. Michael shares 3 countermeasures we can deploy to defeat it. Check out his show notes page for this episode and listen to his podcast.
A couple of years ago, I published a post on the 4 Must-Haves for a Professional LinkedIn Profile. It's become one of my most popular posts of all time. I also included a link to download a handout that could be downloaded and used as a guide.
Well, times have changed and so has LinkedIn, and it's time for a new guide.
LinkedIn hasn't been standing still, that's for sure:
If you had one of the top viewed profiles it's likely you've received an email from LinkedIn thanking you and letting you know where you stood. Several of my connections posted their profile was in the top 1%, 2% or 5% viewed on LinkedIn for the year. I waited for my thank you, and waited.
Then, on Feb. 12, I got my email: "Greg, congratulations! You have one of the top 10% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012!" I really have no idea why I'm in the top 10%. I can guess those in the top 1% to 5% are there because of how visible they are outside of LinkedIn. They have spent years building a blog, brand and/or business, have a strong following and tribe members who love what they do and seek them out on networks like LinkedIn.
To help you take advantage of the new LinkedIn profile design and all its features, I've put together another LinkedIn guide. This one, however, is much more complete and really goes into the details you need to know about and actions you need to take to optimize and polish your profile. It will help you tell your story, stand out and show you how to use the new LinkedIn features to your advantage.
I made this guide for myself first (my profile is still a work in progress). I've shared it with many of my clients. And I want to share it with you too. It's free. I only ask you to register for it as I will send out any helpful updates in the event LinkedIn makes improvements - as we know they will!
I'm pretty confident that if you follow this new guide and use it to build out your LinkedIn profile, your profile will rank within the top 5% of the 200+ members listed on LinkedIn. If you did that, I'd be shocked if you don't get the email thanking you next year for being a unique part in the LinkedIn community!
Go to the registration page to get your copy of the NEW and FREE guide for optimizing your professional profile in the new LinkedIn design.
Think of your blog title as the front door to your blog. If your door is attractive, inviting and interesting people are going to want to enter and come inside. They might just kick their shoes off and stay awhile. On the other hand, who wants to enter a place with an unattractive, boring and drab (or scary) looking front door?
I mean, which of these doors would you like to open up and walk through?
Do you sometimes struggle to write compelling blog post titles? Wonder how to transform titles that seem to sigh "blah" into those that shout "Aha!?" Maybe it's time to give your blog title writing a makeover. I've got just the tools that might do the job.
In the advertising and direct response copywriting world, it's been said between 75% and 90% of any advertising's effectiveness comes from the headline alone. It's not that much different in the content marketing and blogging world. You know how important it is to have titles and headlines that stand out, and can draw your audience in.
With the idea of taking what we can learn from direct response marketers and applying that to blogging for B2B marketers, here are some tools and ideas to help you turn mundane, ho-hum blog titles into a thing of the past. Put these into practice and soon you'll be opening a brand new and enchanting door that will welcome your readers in, and make them feel right at home.
Express only ONE core idea in your title
There are a few resources and insights I'd like to share with you throughout this post of what I'm learning from highly successful copywriters of sales letters, ads and web pages. Looking at titles, headlines and copy that is specifically designed to be persuasive and make money can reveal many practical tips for adapting their "rules" and methods for creating effectual blog titles (and narrative), too.
For example, in the book Great Leads: The Six Easiest Ways to Start Any Sales Message authors Michael Masterson and John Forde talk about the importance of the "Rule of One." They argue the easiest way to write persuasive copy is to be sure you include these 5 unifying elements, from the headline all the way through to the call-to-action:
- One good idea
- One core emotion
- One captivating story or compelling fact
- One single, desirable benefit
- One inevitable response
A single idea expressed in the blog post title will bring clarity of thought plus two major benefits according to John Forde:
- It makes the copy stronger
- It makes writing the rest of the sales letter easier
Rule of One examples are given in commercial advertising. Such as:
- "The Pause that Refreshes," or "Always Cool." But not "The pause that refreshes and always cool"
- "Think Different" (Apple)
- "Milk, it does a body good (National Dairy Council)
- "The Secret of Making People Like You"
- "Are You Ever Tongue-Tied at a Party?"
All of these are driven by a single, clear idea. They also evoke a single emotion and benefit. While examining the top 100 headlines noted by Victor Schwab in his 1941 book, How to Write a Good Advertisement, Forde found that 91 of the 100 on the list were driven by single ideas.
What makes for a great idea? According to the authors of Great Leads, a great idea is:
- Big enough to stir interest
- Easy to understand
- Immediately convincing
- Clearly useful to the intended audience
Resist the temptation of making the front door to your blog too busy. Think about creating your blog post title with the Rule of One in mind. Then stick to that single, great idea as you create the introduction, body and conclusion of the post.
Write your blog post title first
The purpose of the title or headline of you blog post, as Ray Edwards states in his book, Writing Riches, is to "grab attention and compel the reader to keep reading."
If we're working with a headline that doesn't grab us (blog writers) or is just not that inspiring to write from, how then can we expect readers to get into it? Also, how can we deliver on the promise being made in the headline/title if we haven't yet established it? All the more reason to write the headline (title) first.
Some may disagree with this approach and begin to write with a working title, or follow a different process. Then, as they've written their way into the post, a more exciting title becomes evident. And I think that's fine, it has to work for you. But I also believe the sooner you can come to creating an enchanting title the easier it will be to write the post, and persuade your audience of adopting your idea.
The next tip will help you craft that winning title.
Brainstorm a bunch of bad titles
Photographer Jeremy Binns takes a lot of photos. He estimates having shot around half a million images over the past 15 years. "Most of them weren't great," he says, "but if I showed you my portfolio, you'd never know." In a recent post Seeing Life Through the Eyes of a Photographer, a key technique he says is to take lots of pictures.
The same could be said for blog post titles. If you want to find the great ones, create a bunch of so-so ones, first. (It's like looking at a bunch of bad doors, sooner or later you'll find one you like - or makeover the one you have into something great!)
"Ironically," Edwards points out, "the best way to arrive at a good headline is to write a lot of bad headlines." He sometimes writes hundreds of headlines before finding the one he'll choose to use.
With the idea of writing a bunch of titles to discover the best one to use, consider the practice of "Freewriting" as discussed with author Mark Levy on this podcast. In short, the freewriting exercise goes like this:
- With your topic in mind, grab a timer and your favorite writing tool
- Set your timer for 7 to 10 minutes
- Write title after title - one per line - whatever comes to mind - without any judgment or adherence to the "rules" of writing (why it's called "free" writing)
- Stop when the timer goes off
- Review the list of titles you just wrote and find something that interests you - a thought, angle, benefit, emotion, etc.
- With that point of interest/fascination in mind, do it again
- Repeat the cycle of title dumping, reflection and refinement until you've got it
Steal and adapt proven advertising headlines
In lieu of (or addition to) writing bunches of blog post titles to come up with the one that is captivating, consider mining successful headlines from the direct response advertising world. Then adapt the headline to suit your topic.
A terrific resource for this is the book by David Garfinkel, Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich: Create Winning Ads, Web Pages, Sales Letters and More! I have this book within arms-reach of my desk and refer to it often - especially when I'm stuck and looking for a fresh title or headline idea.
In it he features ad headlines that have already been proven to work. Then gives variations of each headline to show how it could be adapted for different business purposes. For example, proven headline "10 Ways to Beat the High Cost of Living" could be turned into: "10 Ways to Lower Stress and Enjoy Yourself Again" for a bed and breakfast (blog) business.
The book has 297 headline variations created from proven winners, plus some bonus chapters. In the second part of the book is a section called, "The Magical Power of Headlines" and the chapter on the "10 Golden Rules for Writing Powerful Headlines" is a list of 5 Dos and 5 Don'ts of headline creation.
Here's a link (affiliate) to it on Amazon if you're interested in getting a copy of Garfinkel's book:
Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich: Create Winning Ads, Web Pages, Sales Letters and More
Use these with a bit of caution. As Ray Edwards points out in his book, Writing Riches, the structure of these headlines have become more and more popular. They still work, but could be viewed as being cliché.
Also, try and keep your blog post title at or under 70 characters (including spaces). That way you'll be sure your complete title shows up in search engine results. (The title I chose for this article is 59 characters.)
I think the greatest benefit of using direct response/advertising ad resources is to inspire your creativity and expand your awareness of the kinds of titles you could be creating.
A few other resources you might find useful and inspirational:
Engage with your readers' mind and heart
Here's another great tip from David Garfinkel's book: "Enter the conversation already going on in the customer's mind." That's powerful when you stop to take it in.
Tap into their mind
There's going to be resistance for your idea or what you want to get across. That's only natural. We don't want to change and come out from our comfort zone. Especially if we feel we're being sold. We want to know WIIFM.
The thing that direct response copywriters know so well (and we would be wise to mimic), is the fact that prospective customers have this soundtrack loop of specific language, feelings, needs and dreams playing in their heads. And the idea is to know your customer/reader. And then, as Garfinkel theorizes: the headlines that work are made from the words and phrases the writer "lifted" - "from the running chatter in our subconscious minds...[they] resonate with people at a deep, deep level."
The importance of the language our readers use and would recognize can't be overstated. Yet, I think we make finding this language and using it more complex than it needs to be. Perhaps we look at other "successful" blogs and become imitators vs. creators?
As content marketers, as bloggers, as people, we just need to be ourselves and, as Godin admonishes, "Write like you talk." Talk on your blog how you would speak with your best customer. Be straightforward, not clever. "Resist the temptation;" writes Garfinkel, "a straightforward headline almost always works better than a clever one."
Appeal to your readers' feelings
Ask yourself: "Where is my reader emotionally, and where do I want them to be?" Where do THEY want to be? How do you want your reader to feel? How could you exceed their expectations and make them feel more brave, hopeful, joyful or less fearful and resistant to change? As noted in the "Rule of One" above, try to include one core emotional benefit.
Making an emotional connection and writing a story-based title is especially helpful if your reader has little awareness of the idea or message you want to communicate. This is often the case in B2B marketing, and is why I believe storytelling is so beneficial at making ideas more digestible and real. As Nancy Duarte wrote in Resonate, "Storytelling creates the emotional glue that connects an audience to your idea."
Consider the 101 Greatest Advertising Headlines Ever Written mentioned earlier. I't been pointed out that 35% of them are story-based, including the most successful ad headline/lead of all time: "They laughed when I sat down to play the piano - but when I started to play!"
Here are a few more story-based leads from that list:
- How a "fool stunt" made me a star salesman
- How I retired on a guaranteed income for life
- The tale of the $2 billion sales letter
Connecting at an emotional level with story melts resistance and can move readers from impersonal data to dynamic meaning.
Here are some B2B blog title examples combining the elements of mind (language of readers) with an emotional benefit from the Openview Partners Blog:
- The Decision Maker's Mark: Why Being a Leader Means Not Being a Waffler
- 4 Mistakes that Will Sabotage Outbound Lead Generation and Sales Team Collaboration
- Interviewing Tips: When Active Listening Gets Annoying
- Too Many Cooks in the Recruiting Kitchen: Simplify Your Hiring Decisions
Keep the elements of your readers' mind and heart in view and you'll have no trouble creating powerful, attention-grabbing headlines that will suck your reader into your post.
I hope you've found this helpful, although I'm probably just scratching the surface. Try one or more of these ideas and tools to make improvements to your blog's front door.
It's like everything else, we get better with practice. So, don't go for perfection, just think and feel like your reader, get inspired and learn from great advertising headlines, fail often, and focus on the Rule of One - you'll soon be writing amazing, attention grabbing blog titles. And your front door will be quite enchanting to walk through.
What are some tips and techniques you've used to write compelling and enchanting blog post titles?
This is an update to a previous post where I shared the story of how I developed a worksheet to provide article-specific instruction to blog writers. (That post also included a free download of the blog writing worksheet I had developed at the time.)
I use this in my blog article writing service for clients who outsource some or all of their blog writing. The effort that goes into creating a clear set of instructions is a tremendous benefit to ensure a positive outcome. It translates into a post that is consistent with a client's voice, style and message, and that resonates with the target audience. This, quite frankly, is an essential ingredient in maintaining an authentic voice for your client with a writer who has the expertise (and information) needed to create a compelling narrative around it.
You could use this if you're ordering blog content from freelancers directly, or through a platform like Zerys for Marketers (affiliate link). If you write your own blog posts, you could adapt this for your own use.
I also find that when I adhere to completing the elements in the template for my own blog writing, the process becomes easier, the message clearer and the outcome more rewarding.
I'm not sure what version of the template I'm on. It seems I'm never quite satisfied. My passion is to continually improve things and make better content. So, in that spirit I share an imperfect template with the hope you will find some value in it. Feel free to add your own touch to it - make it work for you!
This new template is in two parts. The first part (see below) are the instructions for how to fill out the template. The second part, and page of the document, is the actual template with just the section headings. You can download the entire template for free here:
Enjoy, and please share any feedback in the comments.
Review the following section which describes the key elements and the information we want to provide your writer. Then go to the TEMPLATE section to complete the article-specific instructions the writer will use to create the post.
Primary Topic/Keyword: Indicate the primary keyword phrase (2 or more terms) the writer should use in optimizing the post for search.
Blogging Persona(s): These are typically covered in the General Writer’s Instructions. However, please indicate if this post is to address a specific blogging persona or target audience.
Working Title: Use the primary keyword and create a working title you believe would be interesting to the target audience. A great title grabs the reader’s attention and pulls them in to the narrative. We will likely optimize this working title and punch it up to make it as interesting and compelling as possible.
Central Idea or Theme: Each blog post should be narrowly focused around a single idea. We call this “the power of narrow focus in writing.” A single, great idea is big enough to stir interest, easy to understand, immediately convincing and clearly useful to your intended audience. It can be as short as a single sentence.
Introduction or Lead-In: Think of this as the wind up to the message your blog post will deliver to the reader. It could be a particular question or statement that will grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read further. The lead-in will “set the stage” for what is to follow in the body. It could be a short story, a promise, startling fact, new finding or interesting angle. Questions that connects with your readers’ interests, or that challenges their assumptions work very well. The lead-in supports the title and central idea.
Body: Indicate the key points/perspectives of what the writer should say along with any reference links for research or reference the writer can draw from or link to; all of which supports the title, premise and introduction.
Conclusion and CTA: Indicate how the writer should wrap up the post and if there’s a specific CTA to include.
You might also like: A Blog Content Planning Guide and Editorial Calendar (Free Stuff!)
What would you add or do differently?