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Does Good Writing Still Matter?

For the last two years or so, all of the rage in the world of social media marketing has been “content marketing.” Grouped under this umbrella are marketing tactics including blog posts, webinars, white papers, and more. The idea is that if you create content that is really interesting and really useful, you won’t have to “sell” your products. People will naturally gravitate to your company because you have established your company as a credible resource and you perhaps have engrained your brand into peoples’ minds because of all of the content you’ve thrown at them.

The wealth of information on the web about content marketing is almost infinite, or so it can seem. CopyBlogger.com, long a leader in the world of blogs, has made available several e-books on the topic. There are numerous posts about how to generate ideas for content, how content can be used to differentiate your company in your industry, and more. Despite all of this, however, the actual quality of the writing seldom seems to grab the spotlight. Your content should be “awesome” is the most common advice you’ll see, but what does that mean exactly?

We saw an article a couple of weeks ago in Search Engine Journal with a title that almost made us pass it by. The article was titled, “Content Marketing: The Secret To Creating Awesome Content.” Awesome content? Again? Luckily, we decided to skim a little beyond the title, and we found a post that highlights many of the reasons why your “content” still needs to be produced by a writer who knows the craft.

What you write is often your handshake today

A few decades ago, meeting up with prospects meant actually going somewhere and meeting with them. These days, you can virtually meet people if they visit your blog or your Facebook page. That means that your written message will be the first thing people see and learn about you.

As the author of the Search Engine Journal article, Jason Corrigan, writes, “the sad fact is that a lot of the blog posts and articles you see out there are simply not well-written.” We have seen blog posts that start out one way and then end up 180 degrees away by the end. We’ve seen a self-proclaimed blogging expert promote their expertise with a blog post whose title had a huge glaring error. We’ve seen spelling and grammatical errors more times than we can count. This can leave the impression that you don’t take much care with how you present your brand or that you don’t really care what the quality is of the message you’re asking people to read. Neither of these is a great way to start a relationship.

If we agree that good writing does in fact still matter, how can we make sure that the content we are pushing out is in fact good? Corrigan offers a few ideas.

1. No one-trick ponies

Corrigan notes that a lot of company blog sites essentially cover the same topic over and over again. The blog titles and specific word choices may differ, but the story remains the same. This can get extremely boring for regular visitors to your site and perhaps suspect to a new visitor leafing through what you’ve written so far.

2. Actually plan out your posts

Corrigan comes from a journalism background so he naturally gravitates towards the “5 Ws” approach – answer who, what, where, when, and why. You don’t have to approach your writing in just that way, but if you tend to go off-topic, do a brief outline first. We always outline longer pieces like white papers before heading into the writing process.

3. Accentuate your talents

This seems obvious, but it is worth mentioning. Corrigan notes that this can mean writers who excel at regular reporting or those who excel at “evergreen” content. We would argue this could also mean that you can gravitate towards writers who can capture your brand with their voice and tonality. Perhaps you want a writer on board who can handle the funny posts or the emotional, more personal posts.

In addition to these ideas, we would offer two other suggestions.

4. Stop approaching content like a content manufacturer

We are a little concerned that this “content marketing” buzz is inspiring companies to create content just so they can feel like they are on top of things. This is one of the worst reasons to approach writing on behalf of your company. If you really believe your customers want information from you, work on quality over quantity. Take care with each message you send out.

5. Proofread

Even the greatest writers make typos or have the occasional brain slip that results in a grammatical error. Proof your work before hitting “print,” “send” or “publish.” The extra five minutes it may take can make a big difference in the end.

It would have been easy for Corrigan to write, given the publication he wrote for, that good writing really does not matter as much as stuffing your blog posts with keywords. However, he did not come down on that side of the argument. We think he raises some valid points. Do you agree?

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10 comments on “Does Good Writing Still Matter?

  1. In answer to the title question, YES! More than ever. Your content needs to be easily understood and quickly digestible. If it’s confusing, people will quickly turn to less confusing sources of information – there’s plenty out there – and they may never come back to you. If you’re going to the trouble of writing, then write well. The pointers above are a great start Margie!

  2. I think one of my big questions is whether content I find “awesome” is considered important to potential clients.

  3. Yes, yes, yes! Good writing matters. It’s something I take very seriously when I craft a piece. I want the words to paint a vivid picture, evoke an emotion/response, captivate the reader and bring them into the story. There are lots of words, but unless they are threaded together in a tapestry that draws the reader in – educates, entertains, informs, humours or evokes some emotion and response – it’s like so much white noise. Yes to good writing! Cheers! Kaarina

  4. Do I agree?

    Yes.

    It’s like asking about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ design.

    Bad design hurts. It hampers. You won’t by a chair which collapses every time you sit on it, would you?

    Good design, meanwhile, is often invisible and intangible, but of vital importance.

    Words, images are no different.

  5. YES! Totally agree with you here, Margie. I think, in general, there’s been an overuse of the “just be awesome” mantra. What does that even mean? I wrote about that a couple of years ago. You did an excellent job with it here too. Both the content itself and the mode of delivery (writing, video, podcast, etc.) has to be excellent. Otherwise, you’ll be hard-pressed to get any traction.

  6. My favorite thought here: “What you write is often your handshake today.”
    I get a lot of cold, clammy, weak ‘handshakes” reading online… but never here, thank you.

  7. Yes! 🙂

    Content … blog, white-paper, whatever, should be structured to maintain client interest, keep the company’s expertise front and center, and bring out some of that uniqueness. It takes time to craft great content and the lion’s share of the work is often up front – interviewing owners, partners, etc. then finding just the right copywriter for the job. To me creating that foundational copy (using a copywriter of course) is the most important: brochure, website copy, etc. Maybe even a few blog posts to get things started, then letting the client try it on their own. If someone wants to talk design first, I always want to direct the conversation back to copy 🙂

  8. […] was almost unanimous consent when we recently asked if good writing still matters. Everyone agreed that writing solid content – not just interesting but put together well […]

  9. […] Does Good Writing Still Matter? (Margie Clayman) […]

  10. All that matters is that your writing earns you money. I have seen people who cannot write well but churn in the cash from their articles. On the other spectrum we have people like David VandeWaa who has spent over a decade teaching writing, literature, and history in high school and college classrooms, but still cannot get a single comment on his blog!

    Get your point across.
    Make it stick in the mind of your readers.
    Make them want to come back because you solve their problems.

    Then watch the cash flow in.

    You could, alternatively, just waste your time churning out brilliant writing only to die penniless like many great writers of the past, and then have your brilliance acknowledged long after the critters of the earth have consumed your body. : )

    The choice is yours.

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