Guidelines for writing engaging content
Reaching educated decision makers requires quality journalistic-style storytelling. Approximately half of B2B buyers say they rely more on content now—primarily whitepapers, e-books, case studies, and infographics—than ever before. While every content piece is different—each is customized for a specific audience and to map to key objectives—some general rules still apply. Without strong content, ROI will suffer.
Our approach focuses on quality writing delivered in an attractive digital format to place key messages front and center, so it’s easy for readers to find the information they need.
In a nutshell, be concise and to the point! This is how to accomplish that:
- Journalistic approach: We write using the inverted pyramid. This means front-loading the most important information first (in B2B writing this usually encompasses what, who cares, why, and how), with important facts following, and additional background information at the end.
- Strong lead: Journalists are experts at knowing how to balance the pragmatic inverted pyramid with compelling storytelling. Even the most technical B2B content opens with a strong lead (or in journalist jargon "lede") that piques curiosity, provides insight into the subject matter and invites the reader in.
- Get there faster: In the same vein as the inverted pyramid, key takeaways appear “above the fold,” so that the reader reaches important information quickly. This is especially important for the many readers that will skim for just the facts. We write in terms of tier one information (key takeaways) and tier two information (context and supporting facts) to guide what appears above the fold. For example, this approach is useful when converting webcast or conference presentations into a digital content piece—the key points of a slide live above the fold, with speaker notes or deeper dive appearing below the fold.
- Emotion: If you think B2B writing can’t evoke emotion, think again. Remember, your reader, though they may be reading for professional reasons, is still a person. And people love stories. We strive to unfurl an interesting narrative that offers something new and fresh to readers, in every piece.
- Elicit action: Include calls to action (CTAs) throughout the piece to engage readers and reinforce influence. Since many readers may not finish the piece, we don’t wait until the end to request action. CTAs include polls, signups for a webcast or newsletter subscription, opt-in for follow-up, links to connect via social media, etc.
- Word count: There’s a reason why most editors will no longer publish anything longer than 800 words. Readers today have short attention spans—develop thought leadership content accordingly. TED Talks are capped at 18 minutes based on extensive research on attention spans. Similarly, Medium has claimed that the ideal length of a post takes seven minutes to read. Using these as guideposts, we suggest that most content fall within the range of 7–18 minutes to read, or 800–3,000 words.
- Kill your darlings: In addition to being mindful about word count, we follow Faulkner’s advice (“In writing, you must kill all your darlings”) and think like editors when fine-tuning our pieces. Cuts are hard, but necessary to ensure the clearest, most interesting copy shines through.
- Add value: To make impact, content cannot be self-serving. Offer something of meaningful value (education, opinions, advice, etc.) to the audience with new and authoritative insights.
- Use words wisely: Readers tune out and get lost in buzzwords and jargon. Write in the same way you would speak to your audience. To achieve this, omit all superfluous and extraneous language.
- Be consistent: Ensure every point in the piece is consistent with and reinforces the broader corporate/product message. Content is the most impactful when it reinforces and repeats things the reader has already read/heard. We find opportunities throughout a piece to achieve message emphasis.
- Bring it full circle: You still want to wrap up with a conclusion that ties back to the lead/story and sums up key takeaways. Strong conclusions are succinct and include a final call to action.