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Editorial strategy and blogging

Last week I went to Melbourne for the Problogger Training Day to lead the panel on Editorial Strategy with Sonia Simone from Copyblogger and Lucy Feagins from The Design Files. Each of us had quite different experiences with editorial strategy and how it could be applied to both personal and business blogs.

Lucy, Sonia and I talking about editorial strategy

Lucy, Sonia and I talking about editorial strategy


What’s editorial strategy?

Newspapers and magazines have been using editorial strategy to plan the how, what and when of content since publications first started.

Now that we are all publishers (on the internet) editorial strategy is still an important way to ensure your blog (or website, or newsletter, or other content marketing activity) supports your business goals.

Key themes from the panel discussion

It was a great discussion and one I’m sure could have extended for another hour or two.

Key themes which came out of the panel included:

  • Know your audience and what they expect from your blog. Lucy uses an annual survey to do this, and then backs it up by monitoring metrics to see which posts are more popular than others, and (as she posts daily) which days of the week are more popular.
  • Think about post topics in advance and use an editorial calendar to keep track of what’s going to be written when. Think about holidays and celebrations, seasons, or major sporting events that may be relevant for your blog.
  • Stay flexible enough to still post about hot topics in your niche, or events you hadn’t planned for. The whole day had a strong theme of balancing blogging from the heart with blogging strategically.
  • If you have other contributors to your blog, have some editorial guidelines so the voice and personality of your blog stays true.
  • An editorial strategy can help you come up with ideas for posts by breaking larger ideas into smaller chunks of content.  It can also help with SEO as you can build a number of posts around a particular topic (or set of keywords).

An editorial strategy can be as simple or as complex as your needs. For personal bloggers, it may be a simple list of post ideas. For bigger sites it may be a more complex road map of deadlines, approvals and costings. Sonia said she used an editorial calendar plugin to map out posts at Copyblogger up to 12 weeks in advance. She also provided some fantastic insight into how editorial strategy works at Copyblogger, including how they link post topics with other products and services that are in the Copyblogger Media stable.

If you’re interested in what some of the other panels covered, Annabel Candy live blogged a number of the sessions including the one I was on.

Do you use an editorial strategy in your business?

If you don’t already have an editorial strategy for your business, why don’t you get in contact with me so I can help you write one?

Microcopy: The forgotten persuader

Tweet from my presentation on microcopy

Yes, microcopy does rock

A few weeks ago I presented at Interactive Minds on the topic ‘Optimising your web content to perform’.

While I think some people were expecting me to talk about SEO, I instead focused on what you can do to optimise your content to convert visitors to customers.

I talked about some of the techniques you can use to identify your most important content, how to tell if it’s performing or not, and what to do to help it perform better.

One of the tips I gave to help boost content performance was to improve microcopy.

What’s microcopy?

Think of all of the small pieces of in-context content which help visitors perform a task on your website.

It’s often an overlooked part of content development because it’s found on error pages, forms, buttons and other elements which may not be part of the ‘main’ content areas.

For example, if you have a shopping cart on your site you’ll most likely have microcopy to assist customers making a purchase. It may be a couple of words about which credit cards you accept, advice that shipping is a flat rate, or even tips on creating a password.

Why is microcopy important?

Good microcopy smooths the pathway to conversion. It reassures, it informs, it clarifies. It helps the user engage with the site. And an engaged user is far more likely to convert than a non-engaged one.

On the flip side, bad microcopy can confuse, frustrate and erode trust. Think of a bad shopping cart experience you’ve had. Have you ever abandoned a purchase because of something simple like not knowing if postage is included or not? I know I have.

Or, have you ever got an error message on an online registration form—but no clues as to what went wrong? Do you persist, or do you leave the site?

In both of these situations some well-written microcopy could have helped you stay on the site.

So next time you’re planning a content project, spend some time thinking about your microcopy and how it can help convert your visitors.

If you want to know more, I suggest reading Joshua Porter’s post on writing microcopy. Or, if you have a content project coming up which requires microcopy, get in touch with me so I can help.



Why writing great web content is like selling gloves to rich ladies

A week after finishing my last exam at university I packed my bags and left for London. I wasn’t interested in working in my chosen career (which at that stage was PR)—I just wanted to have fun and travel.

I ended living in a big share house in Camden, and working at the very upmarket department store Simpsons of Piccadilly. Have you ever seen the show Are you being served? Well it was based on that very same department store.

It was awfully proper, and I was in charge of selling gloves.

Posh, expensive gloves.

It was the type of place where ladies from the country (actually I should say Ladies, as often it was Lady so-and-so) would come and purchase a whole wardrobe of clothes while their husbands were measured up for new suits. Such a different world.

How does this relate to web writing?

Well, the key to a sale with these rich ladies was quite often asking them the right questions before we’d even started looking at the gloves. The same can be said for copywriting—if you ask clients the right questions before the project starts you are much more likely to get a positive writing outcome.

Where will you wear the gloves?

Yes, on your hands. But in what situation? A special occasion? Wedding? Driving? Long walks in the freezing countryside? Understanding what conditions the gloves would get exposed to was an important part of fitting the right type of glove.

From a content point of view, I ask:

  • What’s the purpose of the content? Is it help content? Is it sales content? Is it news?
  • How does the content help the visitor complete a task on the website?
  • Will the content be used for anything else? A fact sheet, brochure or the like?

What other gloves do you already own?

Most customers wanted gloves which were different to pairs they already owned. So even though they were after some warm, lined gloves—they wanted brown rather than black.

From a content point of view, I ask:

  • What other content is already on your site?
  • How will this new content fit in with that?
  • What other online (or offline) marketing are you doing which will impact this new content?
  • Do you have a brand guide?

How much do you want to spend?

Some of my glove customers never looked at the price tag (or their credit card bills probably), but other ‘normal’ people off the street did have a budget to stick to and our beautiful soft leather cashmere-lined gloves were probably beyond what they could afford.

From a content point of view, I ask:

  • What’s your initial copywriting budget?
  • How do you plan to maintain your new content? Will this be resourced internally or externally? Do you need a style guide to help maintain the content consistently?
  • Do you have existing content to go from, or does all this new content need to be written from scratch?
  • What other material will need to be updated because of this new content? Will that be done now or later?
  • Do you need an editorial calendar to plan your content?

Over to you—do you normally think about these things when developing new content? What have I missed?

I’m happy to ask you all of these questions for your next copywriting project. Simply get in touch and I’ll give you a quote.

Persuasion is not a dirty word

I am speaking at a Networx event in July with the wonderful Marissa Tree on the topic of Persuasion. The idea is we are going to go through different methods that you can use to persuade people to get them to do what you want.

I was sharing this with a friend, who looked at me, rolled her eyes and said

“You mean you are going to tell them how to trick people.”

I was actually quite shocked.

Then by chance I saw an advertisement on TV for an upcoming current affairs show that was going to “expose the tricks that supermarkets use to get you to buy more groceries”.

It all sounds so negative.

Sure, there are unscrupulous people out there who deceive and lie about their products or services, and as a result consumers feel ripped off.

But I firmly believe that if you have a great product or service that is relevant and useful for your audience – then what’s wrong with ensuring you do you best to sell it? It doesn’t even have to be something for sale. You may want people to register for community consultation, download a whitepaper, sign up for a newsletter. Whatever your call to action is.

Sometimes understanding just a little about the psychology of persuasion will make a huge difference to your conversions.

What are your thoughts?

If you are in Brisbane on 28 July 2010, keep an eye out on the Networx site for ticket details.

Remember to persuade the gatekeepers

Persuasive writing is all about understanding your target audience, their motives, their goals, and their problems (that you’ll hopefully solve with your product or service). By knowing all of these elements, you can shape content that will make them want to buy (or call, or register etc).

But one thing to keep in mind is quite often the end user of your product or service has one (or more) ‘gatekeepers’ that stand in the way of making a purchase. This is especially true if they are part of a larger organisation that could have complex approvals processes, procurement teams, or even purchasing policies to abide by.

  • Gatekeepers may want a different set of benefits from your product or service than the end user (such as value for money, locally made, or warranty)
  • Gatekeepers may receive their information in different ways than the end user.
  • Gatekeepers may also have gatekeepers.

The best thing that you can do is to not only understand your target audience, but also understand their gatekeepers. Make  it as easy as possible for them to persuade their gatekeepers why your product or service should be used.

Do this by:

  • Using scenarios that show the benefit of your product or service not just to the end user, but also to the gatekeeper.
  • Including fact sheets that can be downloaded and attached to procurement requests.
  • Include a ‘how to convince your boss’ section if appropriate. I like the one that Usability Week has.

What have been some gatekeeper hurdles that you have overcome?

If you ever need help persuading gatekeepers to buy your product or service, get in contact with me and we’ll work out a plan of attack.