Are the days of the Mad Men officially over? In the land of content marketing, that may be the case. You need a Super-Blogger to produce the kind of content that gets shared. But what are the characteristics of this super-scribe? And do you really need one to produce tremendous results?
I remember the moment vividly. I was reading one of the greatest books on copywriting ever written: Luke Sullivan’s “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This! A Guide to Creating Great Ads.” I read the book around 1999 when I was a copywriter for an ad agency.
The book gave great insights into the creative process and what it takes (took) to be advertising copywriter. This was back in the days when agencies focused heavily on print, radio and television (like the “Mad Men” of the 50’s and 60’s did — only without most of the booze and tailored suits).
I was a “copywriter,” not a “communications writer.” My job was to come up with ads that had catchy headlines and great visual concepts that blended to create the equation 1+1=3. (Two standalone elements, when added together, produce an entirely new effect.)
The “communications writer” of the day wrote more newsletters, corporate reports, press releases, etc. These tended to be more the journalistic types — the guys who actually paid attention to whether the comma goes inside or outside the quotes at the end of the sentence, and other such grammatical dilemmas.
One Internet revolution later and we enter the age of inbound marketing. With the ability to search, interact and comment upon anything and everything, consumer can now seek out info, rather than having it jammed down their throats via traditional ads.
So in this new era, what type of writer do you need: the creative copywriter who can craft those punchy, attention-grabbing ads, or the communications writer who can write the long-form narrative?
Truth be told, you need a little bit of both. You need the Super-Blogger
Who is the Super-Blogger?
Today’s main tool in the world of content marketing is the blog. Whether you’re producing written or visual content, the blog is the home base for all content.
For most businesses, the blog is also the point at the top of the sales funnel where the traffic enters your website. Thus, your content generators are, for a lack of better terms, bloggers. And the ideal blogger is the Super-Blogger — a combination of the creative ad writer and the long-form corproate communicator.
What powers does the Super-Blogger have?
The Super-Blogger blends powers from both sides of the brain, a stunning mixture of Kirk and Spock that is bound to build traffic, leads and customers from your content marketing. Specifically, the Super-Blogger (SB) can:
Conquer the clutter with a single headline – The copywriter in the SB can craft a headline so convincing, so riveting, so straight-to-the-point, that it leaps head and shoulders above all the other content afloat in cyber space. It’s not unlike those headlines for print ads, but in slightly different form.
Create a structured, easy-to-read post – The communications writer is used to crafting well-structured, longer articles. Whether they’re filled with lots of information and sourced data, or if they’re straightforward op-ed material, the corporate communicator knows how to write a longer, well-structured piece that keeps you interested.
Keep a marketing focus – Both the copywriter and the communications writer have a sense of the bigger picture. The really good ones aren’t writing just to see their words in print (or on screen.) They understand that their job is to sell widgets, because the sales of widgets lead to their paychecks.
Draw out the story – The communications writer is particularly adept at probing with questions to find a story. Many clients don’t realize how much of their expertise is not common knowledge; the SB has the ability to draw out a compelling angle that the client may be overlooking.
Focus, focus, focus – Call it super-vision, but the SB is always looking for the single thought that can carry a post. What’s the specific pain this blog post is going to ease for the targeted reader? What is the point? How can we can expand on a central theme without drifting too far from the point?
Deliver speed and complete sentences – The copywriter of old was distinguished by the ability to produce rapid-fire big ideas. The communications writer was efficient with time, but was more relied upon to produce well-crafted long-form prose.
The SB must combine both traits: be creative in a hurry, but also write compelling content that readers just can’t put down (or click away from).
Adhere to the form – One interesting struggle I’ve seen with the folks who come from the copywriter world is the struggle to color within the lines. Accustomed to breaking the rules, they’re always looking for new, creative ways to package a blog post.
That’s admirable and welcome, except you also have to remember who is on the receiving end. People reading a post are accustomed to its format: The intro paragraphs, the bullet-point lists, the skimmable subtitles.
It’s like the readers of the romance novels: They know how it’s going to be delivered, every time. It’s the content that you place within those well-defined parameters that makes the difference.
So yes, a blogger must be creative like the copywriter, but harness it within the structure of the medium. Search engines aren’t literary critics, after all. They search for certain elements and structures, and they do NOT reward creative re-structuring of the blog format.
Build from scratch – Conversely, an area I’ve seen my communications writers struggle with is how to build a story when there is seemingly none there to begin with. Creative copywriters almost seem to feed on this.
“Give me a minute – let me work on this…” they’ll say, as they lick their lips and unleash their creativity to find the killer angle. Much like the communications writer can draw out the story, the creative type can create the story out of analogies, metaphors, and whichever direction the breeze blows ’em.
Where do you find the Super-Bloggers?
Sometimes you’re lucky and you’ll stumble upon a SB who has all the traits. Sometimes you don’t. Generally, you won’t get writers who are split down the middle. They tend to lean one direction or the other.
Your job — as the content manager or marketing director — is to understand which type of content specialist you’re dealing with. Provide them the guidance and framework so they can succeed.
Is your SB / copywriter a bit weak on structure? Encourage them to use outlines, or pitch the entire piece to you before they write. Ask them to back up assertions with facts or specific examples, to give their style more substance.
Is your SB / communications writer writing the same old, same old? Hold a brainstorm session with them, and pitch some creative ideas. Tell them stories about interactions you and your employees have with customers.
The fact is, most SB’s rely on some help to really soar. Provide them with some super direction, and you’ll have them leaping tall buildings in a single sentence.