Cover image of Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing
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Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing

Updated 3 days ago

Rank #133 in Careers category

Business
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Copyblogger FM is a weekly, short-form broadcast hosted by Sonia Simone. Each week, she and a cast of rotating experts analyze the week in content marketing, copywriting, email marketing, conversion optimization, mindset, and much more.

Read more

Copyblogger FM is a weekly, short-form broadcast hosted by Sonia Simone. Each week, she and a cast of rotating experts analyze the week in content marketing, copywriting, email marketing, conversion optimization, mindset, and much more.

iTunes Ratings

268 Ratings
Average Ratings
227
17
5
12
7

Nice tone, very informative

By Byrd4I - Jan 13 2018
Read more
Always a pleasure to listen to this podcast.

mindblowing

By Ehab Mohsen - Apr 17 2017
Read more
this podcast is gold ... every episode.

iTunes Ratings

268 Ratings
Average Ratings
227
17
5
12
7

Nice tone, very informative

By Byrd4I - Jan 13 2018
Read more
Always a pleasure to listen to this podcast.

mindblowing

By Ehab Mohsen - Apr 17 2017
Read more
this podcast is gold ... every episode.

Listen to:

Cover image of Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing

Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing

Updated 3 days ago

Read more

Copyblogger FM is a weekly, short-form broadcast hosted by Sonia Simone. Each week, she and a cast of rotating experts analyze the week in content marketing, copywriting, email marketing, conversion optimization, mindset, and much more.

3 Almost Magical Headline Ingredients for More Traffic, Engagement, and Shares

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Want to do a little bit of work and see really good results with your content? Make some time to learn about crafting great headlines.

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Copyblogger has long been known for its articles about headlines, and today I’m going to share three “nearly magic” ingredients that will start getting your content more engagement and shares.

In this 20-minute episode, I talk about:

  • How to avoid the “all hat, no cattle” headline
  • The keys to using benefits to make a compelling promise
  • How to use numbers in your headlines without degenerating into the dreaded “listicle”
  • Using headline formulas without descending into the land of cheese
  • What you should do if you use the word “secret” in your headline

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The Show Notes

Jun 17 2019

19mins

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Real Talk about Generating High-Quality Content

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Thoughts on how to create really good content … without a huge team or an unlimited budget

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Content strategist Ronell Smith joins us this week to talk about how to tackle high-quality content … even if you don’t have all the time and money in the world.

In this 29-minute episode, I chat with Ronell about:

  • Where to put your time and energy in the quest for “great content”
  • Ronell’s somewhat surprising definition of content
  • Why chasing too many trends in your topic can damage your authority
  • A “negative” content habit that can have very positive results

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The Show Notes

Jan 21 2019

29mins

Play

5 Essential Copywriting Techniques from Copyblogger

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If marketing or content strategy plays any role in your professional life, you need to understand copywriting. Here are five of our most important bits of advice for writing that persuades.

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Persuasive copywriting is a big part of what Copyblogger is all about.

In this episode, I pull a few posts out of our archive, to focus on some of the most important elements of good copywriting. I’ll also give you a quick tip from each one right in the podcast … but to get the most out of this, you’ll want to read through the posts as well.

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about:

  • When to bring in a professional writer
  • Where to find a highly qualified writer if you’re looking for one
  • Why headlines matter so much — and how to get a lot better at them
  • How to keep attention in the few seconds after the click
  • Writing numbered list posts that won’t make you barf
  • The roles of emotion and logic in decision making (and persuasion)
  • The quickest way to make persuasive copy work better

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Sonia Simone: So glad to see you again, and welcome back to CopybloggerFM, the content marketing podcast.

CopybloggerFM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone, I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I hang out with the folks doing the real work over on the Copyblogger blog.

Note: See the show notes for all the links!

When to hire a writer

5 Situations that Demand You Hire a Professional Copywriter

I wrote this post for two reasons — one, if you’re, let’s say, a business owner who’s good at writing, to let you know when you should bring in a pro. And two, if you are a pro, this is a piece you can send to clients or potential clients to let them know just why it is you charge money for what you do.

If you do need a pro, you may or may not know that Copyblogger actually has a certification program for content marketers. Their work is reviewed in-depth

So, if you are a writer or if you want to be a better writer, particularly for web copy, today I’m going to cover five points of focus for you.

#1: Get great at headlines

Copyblogger as a blog was known for headline advice from the very, very early days, for one reason: If the headline is weak, your content won’t get shared which means it won’t get consumed which means it won’t help you accomplish your goals.

When Brian started writing about that on Copyblogger, the environment was different. We didn’t have Buzzfeed, and overall we didn’t have the level of sophistication about the importance of headlines.

It’s so much more important now. You’re competing with a lot of people who are pros at headlines, and you have to be able to compete on that playing field.

We have a free ebook for you in the member library, go to MENU > FREE! MY COPYBLOGGER on the site.

It’s free, you should go get it, and you should spend the time between now and the next podcast practicing headlines. Even if you’re already great.

I’ll give you two to get started but don’t shortchange yourself, go grab the ebook.

  • Make your headlines clear. Cleverness, puns, and confusion won’t get clicks.
  • Make sure the person can see a benefit of clicking. Sometimes it’s dumb, like “Which of the 7 Dwarfs are you,” and sometimes it’s smart, like 10 Ways to Build Authority as an Online Writer. But let people know that the content on the other side of the click will be worth their time and attention.

Bonus third point: Actually make the content worth their time and attention. Don’t put great headlines on crummy content that fails to deliver on the promise.

#2: Start strong

This has always been important advice, but it’s extra important now because people’s attention spans are so fragile and finite today.

Brian Clark has a dandy classic Copyblogger post with five strong, proven ways to get the party started quickly. You’ll be able to use them again and again, and you’ll start seeing them in the content that captures your attention.

My #1 tip on this is, on the Copyblogger blog, we use a More tag. That means you get a teaser, then you click the “More” link to read the full post.

Whether or not you use this on your own site — put an imaginary “More” tag on your content after the first few lines. Be honest with yourself — would you click? What could you do to create a stronger desire there?

#3: Don’t fear the numbers

A lot of good writers shy away from the proven techniques like the numbered list post, which is now called by the most horrible noun ever coined, the Listicle.

Please can we stop using that word ever. It’s writer abuse.

But, numbered list posts can be some of your strongest work, and they still do get more shares and reads. I wrote a post on this, but I’ll give you just one tip from that post:

Don’t start with an arbitrary number and then find points to fill in. Instead, write out what’s important to know about the topic, then assign the number.

If it turns out to be a weird number, like 17 or 6, that can be great. Excellent professional copywriters know that weird numbers often work better to capture attention. “10” is boring. “13” is interesting. “25” is boring. “27” is interesting. It feels less padded, less arbitrary.

Also, make your last number a call to action that moves to whatever your goal is for the post.

#4: Emotion, then logic

Good persuasion always combines emotion and logic. You need to get into the emotional benefits of doing what you’re trying to persuade them to do, then justify it with logic.

This is old-timey copywriter stuff, again. The interesting thing is, it’s very much validated by neuroscience. We actually, physiologically do make decisions first with what we think of as “emotions.” But if we can’t give ourselves logical reasons — justifications — to move forward, there’s a real possibility we’ll balk, because that creates fear and uncertainty.

Again, I’ve got two posts for you with some more details.

#5: Call to Action

This one is a favorite of mine because it’s so fast to fix, and it can make such a difference.

If you want your audience to do something, tell them exactly what to do. Clearly, simply, and succinctly.

Again, sometimes good writers will shy away from this because it “sounds like an infomercial.” It sounds commercial because when you’re paying millions of dollars for infomercial spot, you have to make sales.

You don’t have to be cheesy, but you do need to be direct. Don’t hint around and let them connect that last dot. Ask for what you want.

And yes, we have a post for that! It’s called How to Be a Copywriting Genius: The Brilliantly Sneaky Tip You Must Learn.

And on that note, it’s time for me to make an “Ask” — it really helps the show when you give it a review or a star rating on iTunes, so if you’re an iTunes listener and you feel moved to show us some love there, that really helps us. And a big thank you to everyone who has already left us reviews and ratings, it’s so appreciated.

See you next week!

Oct 22 2018

17mins

Play

3 Skills to Master to Become a Marketing Badass this Year

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Most of us won’t make a living making “pure art” that only serves our creative expression. But you won’t make a reasonable living writing cynical garbage, either.

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Hope your new year is going well! Brian Clark and I have had some great conversations about what we want to write and teach in the new year, and it boils down to two words: killer and poet.

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why it’s a silly (and expensive) mistake to try to promote a business with cheap, crummy content
  • Why we think 2018 will be the year of the Word Nerd
  • The key element to content strategy today (and yesterday, and probably tomorrow)
  • How (and why) to get over your fear of the “A-word”
  • Why a technology-first approach can actually kill your content strategy

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The Show Notes

Jul 09 2018

15mins

Play

Storytelling for Modern Content Marketing (Part 1 of 2)

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Tech and tactics come and go — but storytelling lasts forever. In this episode, Shane Snow and Joe Lazauskas of Contently share their favorite techniques for developing a storytelling edge. (Part 1 of a 2-part episode.)

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We all know that stories are powerful — but sometimes it’s hard to know how to tell stories that work in a modern content environment. Shane and Joe from Contently joined Sonia in a wide-ranging conversation, to talk about what might be their favorite topic — how timeless storytelling techniques can benefit 21st-century content.

Rather than cut the conversation artificially short, we’ve broken this into two parts for you.

In this 19-minute episode, Shane and Joe talk about:

  • What happens in our brains when we hear a good story
  • The 4 elements of great storytelling
  • What brands get wrong with storytelling
  • The data-driven secret to a breakthrough content strategy
  • The simple formula for building an audience that loves you

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by StudioPress.com for all the details.
  • Learn more about Shane and Joe’s new book at TheStorytellingEdge.com
  • The HP Dad video is a great example of a powerful story told in an ad (warning: you might cry)
  • More details about Alan Gannett’s upcoming book, The Creative Curve
  • Feel free to say hi or ask a question over on LinkedIn @soniasimone — or I always enjoy hearing from you right here in the comments

Feb 26 2018

19mins

Play

How to Write an Epic Blog Post, Part 1: Thinking and Research

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New series! Part one: How to prepare to write an epic blog post or other piece of remarkable content.

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What’s the best antidote to the glut of content?

Better content. Much better content.

This episode is the start of a three-part series on how to write a genuinely remarkable piece of content.

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Digging to uncover the transformation (for yourself and for the world) that you want to create with this piece of content
  • Taking research (way) beyond the basics
  • How to refine and re-refine your idea
  • When to “go shopping in your own closet” for a post
  • Getting unique quotes from experts in your topic

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The Show Notes

Jun 24 2019

17mins

Play

5 Stinky Sardine Secrets to Make Your Content More Fascinating

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How to stand out in a sea of boring content? It might be time to get stinky …

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Content marketing only works if your content is interesting enough to make people want to read, listen to, or watch it.

So how can we make our content more fascinating? You can start by thinking about what gets your audience excited to know more. In this 24-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why you want to aim for content that’s “stinky and irresistible”
  • The old-school technique that makes your audience want to know more about you
  • How to decide what kind of headline structure will work best for your site
  • Two keys to telling effective stories in your content
  • The “cubicle test” that makes you unforgettable for your audience
  • What a fake cartoon character can show you about commanding audience attention

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The Show Notes

Oct 08 2018

23mins

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Fix These 3 Points of Failure to Get Better Results for Your Content

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A quick three-step check to make any piece of content more interesting and more effective.

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While doing critiques for our private community of content marketers, I noticed a pattern emerging. That pattern turned into three quick checks you can do for any piece of content. Try looking over your last few podcasts or blog posts and see how they measure up. Then, keep these three points in mind as you create new work.

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about:

  • How to figure out “the point” for your audience — and how to get there quickly
  • Two resources to help you understand your content strategy — and how every piece fits together
  • Sales funnels and content paths — how to make content “pave the way” toward your business goals

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The Show Notes

Jul 23 2018

16mins

Play

Getting Your Big, Scary Projects Finished: A Conversation about Growing Gills

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A look into why it’s so hard to move forward with creative work

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This week I was so pleased to be able to connect with Jessica Abel, author of Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life.

In this 34-minute episode, Jessica and I talk about:

  • Business (especially digital and content-driven business) as creative work
  • How to move forward on that really big project (the one you care about so much it’s scary)
  • Idea debt: What it is, why it messes us up, how to deal with it
  • The distinction between creative process and creative projects, and why that matters
  • The four criteria to look at when you’re deciding on a big creative goal

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The Show Notes

Mar 11 2019

34mins

Play

A Simple Content Strategy to Make Your Site Massively More Useful

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Here’s a simple way to make the best use of your time when you’re creating new content, improve your SEO, and create a great user experience on your website.

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Whether you’ve created a lot of content already, or you’re just starting out, here’s how to structure your site with strong “cornerstones” so you do an amazing job conveying your message.

In this 22-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The creation (and timing) of “conscious cornerstones” that answer your most important audience questions
  • Where to find your “mystery hit” content, and what to do with it
  • What to do about content you just aren’t proud of any more
  • What to do with content that’s popular, but not particularly relevant to your goals for your site
  • A new workshop we’re creating for beginning and intermediate content marketers

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by StudioPress.com for all the details.
  • To find out when we open the new Creative Content Foundations course, just add yourself to the interest list here
  • Here’s Brian Clark’s classic (cornerstone!) Copyblogger post explaining how to create cornerstone content
  • If Google Analytics makes you nervous, check out this podcast episode of The Digital Entrepreneur: What every online marketer must know about Google Analytics
  • My Copyblogger post on having a point … and getting to it with your content
  • If you’re fuzzy on copywriting calls to action, this Copyblogger post will help
  • An example of a cornerstone post added later in the game: I asked Pamela Wilson to write this post about scannable content for us, so we’d have a great resource to link to when we discussed the concept
  • Feel free to say hi or ask a question over on LinkedIn @soniasimone — or I always enjoy hearing from you right here in the comments

Feb 12 2018

22mins

Play

7 Powerful Content Strategies Borrowed from Advertising Masters

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The Copyblogger blog was founded on a simple but powerful idea — that our content (blogs, podcasts, video) can be strengthened by adapting techniques from the world of direct response copywriting.

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Today, Sonia drills into some specific techniques and approaches that we can profitably swipe from our direct response brothers and sisters.

In this 24-minute episode, Sonia Simone talks about:

  • The crucial difference between subscribers and an audience
  • How to develop a “big idea” that tells the world who you are
  • The boring-sounding secret of the really great copywriters (this is especially powerful today)
  • The fascinating world of recommendation algorithms
  • Working toward business goals without sounding like an infomercial
  • 9 quick ideas to make your content more interesting

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

7 Powerful Content Strategies Borrowed from Advertising Masters

Sonia Simone: This episode of Copyblogger FM is brought to you by Digital Commerce Summit. We’ll be telling you more about this amazing life event later in the show, but check out Rainmaker.FM/Summit for all the details. That’s Rainmaker.FM/Summit.

Hey there, it’s great to see you again. My name is Sonia Simone, and this is Copyblogger FM, a content marketing podcast. For those of you who don’t know me yet, I’m the chief content officer over at Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog.

This podcast is about content marketing best practices, tips, strategies, news, and the occasional rant. Today, I wanted to talk about one of the first themes, one of the original themes of Copyblogger, which was this intersection of copywriting, persuasive copywriting, and content. Back in the day, when Brian Clark the heretic first started talking about this combination, we didn’t call it content, necessarily. That’s why the name of the blog is Copyblogger.

We talked about blogging. We talked about social sharing sites, that kind of thing. Brian was a student of what’s called direct response copywriting, and he perceived that you could make the whole blogging thing more effective if you took some lessons from some of the things that direct marketers have learned over the years in their quest to sell us stuff. So the great advertisers and especially the great direct mail, if you want to avoid the euphemism junk mail — those folks really knew how to craft content to capture attention that persuaded us to take an action.

That intersection is really the foundation of Copyblogger, and it’s what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about seven practices that the traditional direct marketer copywriters knew about and practiced and made part of their daily routine that are going to help you out with your content, whether it’s your podcast, your blog, your video channel, what have you.

All right, let’s dive into it. We’re going to start with headlines. It was one of the first things that Brian wrote about consistently on Copyblogger. It’s always been a big hit for us, and that’s because if your content doesn’t have an excellent headline on it, then it’s not going to get the attention. It’s not going to get the interest. It’s not going to get the shares. And if we can t capture that attention at the outset, then you know nothing else can happen. We cannot deliver the rest of the message.

The Crucial Difference between Subscribers and an Audience

I want you to keep in mind that just because you have subscribers, that doesn’t mean you have an attentive audience. You still need to earn that attention, day in and day out. And I think that really great headlines have the reputation of being a trick or shallow. And they’re not a trick, and it’s not shallow.

It’s really about creating of a beautiful, elegant, and relevant package for your thoughtful content. If you think about it as a beautiful gift wrapping that makes your content appealing and special, honor the work you put into your content by crafting your headline as carefully as you craft the content.

We do have a free ebook for you all about crafting headlines that will give you some more concrete tips on how to write headlines that are going to get the kind of results that you’re looking for. Like a lot of the direct response advice, it’s probably 90 percent craft and 10 percent art. So if you can pick up the craft, if you can pick up the techniques, you really will find that you’re able to get a lot better results.

It s a Fine Line between Smart and Clever

The second thing I want to talk about, and this is dangerous to talk about in the world of social media and blogs and podcasts, but consider working on maybe not being quite so clever, which is kind of a loaded statement. Most of us listening to this podcast — certainly me, certainly all of us at the Copyblogger team — are wordsmiths. And we believe in craft. We believe in wordsmithing. That’s all good, but I wanted, when you’re talking about your content, to be in the service of clarity, rather than cleverness.

When I say clever, I’m not saying smart. They’re two different things. Cleverness tends to imply being a bit showoff-y. And it’s a fine line, because I don’t want you to have something generic, something without personality. But the puns, the in jokes, the kind of showoff-y, look how cute and smart I am doesn’t do as well as the more thoughtful, intelligent, insightful but very, very clear content.

Just something to keep in mind. Sometimes we’re much too clever for our own good. I am as guilty or more so of this than anybody on the planet. But you always want to be on the lookout for it, because cleverness tends to be the enemy of clarity. And clarity is so important.

How to Develop a Big Idea that Tells the World Who You Are

The third point I want to talk about today is developing your big idea. And this is a good ad campaign that would go nowhere until they had really pinned down an interesting, compelling big idea. The big idea is essentially — it’s an instant communication of a desirable benefit that’s compressed into a memorable statement. One of the ones that gets mentioned a lot, I’ve certainly mentioned it on the blog, is a thousand songs in your pocket, which is of course more like 10,000 these days. But that was an early big idea statement that Apple used to market the iPod.

It goes beyond a sound bite. Big ideas should be able to be expressed in sound bites, but not all sound bites are big ideas. It’s really about conveying something that matters a lot to your audience in a very memorable and very pithy way. There are wonderful examples all over advertising.

One of my favorites came from a book by Mary Wells Lawrence. She was one of the original Mad Men. She was one of the few women working at a high level in that field, in advertising in the ’60s, and she has a great book. It’s called A Big Life in Advertising, and she tells a great story about a campaign she did for Braniff Airlines. Her agency convinced Braniff to paint their airplanes these really saturated bright, fun colors — bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, these tropical hot colors — which was totally not done. At the time, airlines and airplanes were gray and subdued and stately.

The big idea was that Braniff was an advertising that was hip, that was young, that was fresh, that was modern. Keep in mind, this would have been in the early to mid-’60s, so that was a very resonant big idea at the time. But the thing about the big idea is, not only did Mary Wells Lawrence have to convince Braniff Airlines to paint the planes. She had to convince Braniff Airlines to live that promise, to live that big idea.

They actually had to — of course, they carried the colors through in things like the flight attendant uniforms, but they also had to carry it through in the attitudes that the flight attendants had and the attitudes that their advertising had. You saw an echo of this later with Virgin Airlines, kind of cheeky, very fresh, very modern. This is a big idea, and this is an example of a big idea that goes way beyond a tagline and really is just to permeate the whole business.

That’s the kind of thing that you’re looking for when you’re crafting these. We’re going to take a very short break and then after the break, we’ll be back with Copyblogger FM and I will let you know one of the best places to find those big ideas.

Jerod Morris: Hey, Jerod Morris here. If you know anything about Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, you may know that we produce incredible live events. Well, some would say that we produce incredible live events as an excuse to throw great parties, but that’s another story. We’ve got another one coming up this October in Denver. It’s called Digital Commerce Summit, and it is entirely focused on giving you the smartest ways to create and sell digital products and services. To get all the details and the very best deal on tickets, head over to Rainmaker.FM/Summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/Summit.

The Boring-Sounding Secret of the Really Great Copywriters (This Is Especially Powerful Today)

Sonia Simone: Super, welcome back. It’s good to see you again. All right, I promised you that we would talk about where to find those big ideas that we’re looking for in our copy, in our content, and in our businesses. And the somewhat unsexy word that’s the answer to this question is research.

Gary Bencivenga is one of my favorite direct response copy teachers and masters of the craft. He once said that the best copywriters are the most tenacious researchers.

It’s about digging and then digging some more. It’s about continuing to be on the lookout for interesting little snippets or facts, compelling little scraps of dialog or phrasing from your audience and from your customers that you could use. You’re keeping an eye out for interesting stories, for case studies. You’re keeping an eye out for your customer problems, and of course your customer solutions.

The direct response copywriting folks always knew how important that was to research and research and research some more until you knew that target market better than they knew themselves. And now, 21st century fast-forward, we are competing with an incredibly high volume of content that is thin and weak and lacking in precisely this element of deep, solid research. It really is a way that you could stand out, that you can stand above the crowd, and that you can get your content to rise among this clutter and noise of the junky shallow stuff.

Just so I don’t miss the main idea here, when we talk about research, we’re talking about researching your topic as it pertains to your audience. So their view of your topic, their problems with it. What works for them, what doesn’t work for them. Where they get frustrated, all those good things. Research, combined with some time to really mull over and process what you find, and also combined with creative best practices — and these are things like taking lots of walks, looking outside your topic for fresh ideas, giving yourself plenty of time, doing lots of writing, free writing.

This combination — research plus time plus nurturing your own creativity — is the best place to get big ideas. The big ideas will hatch if you give it the right environment. And that is the right environment: immersion in your topic, taking care of your creative self, and giving yourself time for the idea to step forward out of the fog.

Stephen King calls this the boys in the basement. I really think he has actually a terrific book on writing. I think it’s called something amazingly innovative, like On Writing, and he talks about the boys in the basement. In other words, the part of your brain that’s not necessarily front and center but works on things, chews on things in the background.

The Secret to Success? It Takes a Starving Crowd

All right, more big ideas from the direct response copywriting crew. This one comes from Gary Halbert, and Gary Halbert was a very, very capable direct response copywriter, actually quite a great direct response copywriter. A little bit notorious. He did go to jail, so he’s a figure of some legend. But Gary Halbert would like to tell a story about: What does it take for a restaurant to be successful? And he would speak about copywriting, and people would say, It takes great location, or It takes the best food, or It takes impeccable service.

His answer was no — it takes a starving crowd. If there’s a bunch of people who really need lunch or dinner, and they’re just starving, your restaurant’s going to do well.

Your job as a content marketer is to pull your starving crowd to you, to pull the audience to you that is hungry for something in your topic. Then, of course — and obviously you can see this ties closely with the point about research — it’s your job to figure out what they’re starving for. What are their questions? What are their problems? What are their frustrations? But you always want to keep that eye out. What is the audience hungry for? What is it that’s lacking in their experience today that you might be able to help them out with or fulfill?

On some level, that sounds like an obvious point, except I can t tell you how many businesses, and especially digital businesses — I think because digital businesses are so simple to create. You fire up a website, you throw out a payment process, or you do a couple of things. You don’t have to sign a year lease and do all these things that brick-and-mortar businesses do.

A surprising number of digital businesses launch and put some investment into it, and they have no idea what the starving crowd is. They don’t know what the crowd is hungry for. They know what they want to sell. They don’t know what the audience wants to buy. Really, it’s a critical point, and it’s surprisingly easy to overlook when you’re excited about a new project.

The next point is just to really understand your goals, to understand where you’re going. A direct response copywriter would work with a very, very specific set of measurable goals — inquiries or sales, or there would be some call to action. And you would measure how well you did based on: Did the action happen or not? It was very binary. Direct response tends to be very binary: yes or no.

We do have a content marketing strategy ebook that will help you to understand some of the goals of content marketing, how they fit together, and will help you map out your own strategy for how you’re going to get where you want to go.

This podcast is based on a post I wrote called 7 Things the Great Copywriters Wish You Knew. And it was so interesting, but there was an advertiser or a marketer who was reading the post, and she got really upset that I pointed people to the content marketing strategy ebook, because she felt like it was supposed to be content and then that was like advertising. Somehow, I was muddying the well.

This is the point that I would argue the point on: Content marketing has to have a goal. And if you’re creating content marketing just to make the audience feel good, it’s really great to make the audience feel good, and it’s really great to educate the audience. It’s really great to create a warm environment in which you can do business with less friction.

Those are all valid points of content marketing, but at some point, you also have to make some of the traditional calls to action. You have to persuade. People have to go from feeling warm and fuzzy to actually doing the thing you need them to do as your customer.

Working toward Business Goals without Sounding Like an Infomercial

She and I agreed to disagree on that one, but the thing that made her uncomfortable was something called the call to action. So I want to talk for a minute about calls to action, because this is a very important part of traditional direct response copy of traditional advertising, and it is interestingly the thing that will make you feel like your content might sound like an infomercial.

That phrase comes up all the time: It sounds like an infomercial. And the reason for this is that infomercials are extremely expensive to produce. They’re extremely expensive to buy the airtime, and so if they don’t use an effective call to action, they’re leaving a lot of dollars on the table.

A call to action is simply a very direct statement of what you want the person to do next. You just come out and tell them, Here’s what to do next. In old infomercials, it was Call this number 1-800, and then they would read the number 10 times so it would stick in your head. Operators are standing by. Call now and you get a free bonus. Those are all calls to action. They’re specific, clear statements of what the person should do next.

In web copy, sometimes it is the words click here. So interestingly, if you tell somebody to click here, you will get more clicks, and if you don’t tell them to click here and you just put a button — very strange, but sometimes marketing and advertising is kind of strange. You just go with what works.

Now, don’t do that all over the place. First of all, it’s not wonderful from a usability standpoint. If you want somebody to click on a link and it’s really important — it’s the one time in 20 when it matters more — then I’ll use click here to learn more about the program, or something like that.

I use it sparingly. If you use it for every link, it’s not going to work. People are going to get blind to it, and it’s going to be very clunky and annoying. Calls to action are very cool, very effective. They can always use tightening. And in my opinion, every piece of content should have some kind of a call to action. It could be to read another piece of content. It could be to subscribe to your podcast channel or your YouTube channel. It could be to get started on an email list or pick up some kind of supplemental material.

But content should have calls to action. You should be moving people from one step to the next. That’s what content marketing is for. Otherwise, it’s just your hobby, and hobby writing is a wonderful and beautiful thing. It’s just, art is great — but art and content marketing are not exactly the same thing.

My final point, again that was made in that original post — you can always get additional links and resources and materials if you check out the show’s show notes. You can always find them on Copyblogger FM, as well as the complete archive for the show. I will leave that original post for you and if you’re interested, you can read through it and see how it compares. The points are all the same. Some of my examples are different.

Avoiding the Worst Sin of Business

The seventh point that I’ll leave you with is: Just don’t be boring. Dan Kennedy calls this the worst sin of business, I think. David Ogilvy has a great quote, “You can t bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.”

Boring content never worked particularly well. It really doesn’t work now, because there’s so much content on the web that people can always find something interesting to compete with your content. Make your content interesting. Make it exciting or compelling to read, and there are a lot of different ways you can do that.

One of the simplest ways you can do that is just to put more of your personality into your writing. Write with a point of view of voice, an interesting writing voice. But also you can use things like imagery and good design, and you can format your content so that is easy to read or easy to consume.

Your big idea is another thing that’s going to work against being boring. Big ideas are interesting by their nature. Storytelling is a great one. Stories are such good hooks, so when you find stories, become a collector of stories. And when you find them, use them. They really, really work with content, and they really help us to make that human-to-human connection.

Humor can work if you’re funny, and I will tell you the secret about why so many marketing teachers or even writing teachers will say, “Well, humor is very subjective.” I’ll tell you why so many marketing teachers will say, “Well, humor is very subjective.” When you hear somebody saying that, in my opinion, they’re telling you not everybody is funny.

Only use humor if you’re actually pretty sure you’re funny. It is true that different people find different things funny, so you have to make sure if you’re going to use humor that your audience is appreciative of the kind of humor that you’re using.

Another one that’s a maybe — it’s not boring, and it can be used well or it can be used badly — is controversy. You can use controversy to take a stand for what you believe in. That’s really effective. It really works, it s very strong, or you can use controversy by picking a fight with everybody in your topic and just being an irascible bad-natured pest. That doesn’t tend to win you any business. It’s just hard for people to like you and trust you if you’re constantly getting into fights. Controversy is one. It can work, but it has to be used thoughtfully. And don’t overuse it.

That’s it for this week, that intersection of copywriting, direct response copywriting, and content marketing that we all love so much. This is Sonia Simone with Copyblogger FM. Thanks so much, and I’ll see you next week.

Sep 26 2016

23mins

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5 Mindset Habits that Actually Work

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There’s so much mindset advice out there to make you more successful … but is it doing you more harm than good?

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A lot of advice about business and success focuses on mindset — those mental habits we can adopt to make ourselves more productive and effective.

In my experience (and my reading of the research), some of them are useful, and some are completely counterproductive.

In this 20-minute episode, I talk about five practices that I’ve seen actually work:

  • Affirming your value (this is a completely different practice from self-help affirmations)
  • Adopting and practicing a growth mindset
  • Growing your network and asking for help
  • Seeing that success is possible for people like you (finding role models and community)
  • Flipping the switch that doesn’t want you to be uncomfortable

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

5 Mindset Habits that Actually Work

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those of you who are selling physical products, digital downloads, or membership programs.

If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why more than 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. You can check it out by going to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Hey there, good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant.

My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. If you want extra links, extra resources, or the complete show archive, you can just head on over to Copyblogger.FM.

So it’s been a little while since we’ve talked about entrepreneurial mindset or success mindset. And I have been reading Oliver Burkeman’s book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, which I could not resist. When I saw the title I had to pick it up.

It gave an interesting springboard, because there’s a lot of advice about how you should think. Or what kinds of mental habits you should adopt if want to be more successful. If you want to have a better career, launch a business, or improve your business. A lot of the standard advice, a lot of the typical advice is not only not supported by the evidence, in some cases it’s actually countered by the evidence.

So Burkeman’s book talks a little bit about that. It’s a good read. You might want to pick it up.

I’m going to talk about a few things that he brought up in his book. A few things that I’ve seen the research on that I think are pretty compelling, and then a couple of things that I have noticed tend to work well for a lot of people. They might work well for you too.

The Research on How Conflicting Affirmations Can Make You Less Successful

So one of Burkeman’s things that he writes about is some interesting research that was done on affirmations. Affirmations are the Stuart Smalley thing. You know, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough. Gosh darn it, people like me.” Those are affirmations. Statements, positive statements about what you want to be that may not be aligned with how you actually see yourself today.

And the theory was that you would say these things to yourself and you would convince yourself that they were true. That’s not supported by the research so much. In fact, there’s some interesting findings that if your affirmations are really divergent from how you see yourself, they’ll actually make you less successful at the kind of tasks that researchers assigned grad students and psychology experiments.

So they seem to work better for people who already pretty much believe in themselves, which you could sort of argue makes them a complete waste of time. So just telling yourself, “I am successful, I am wealthy,” etc., doesn’t really seem to work particularly well.

Closely related to that is visualization, or sometimes called creative visualization, where you spend a lot of emotional energy vividly picturing the scene that you’re going to be part of. So you’re going to picture yourself with all the things that you want — the material things, the freedom, the relationships, the tiny fit body, whatever you might want.

Just by itself, if you just do visualizations it appears to make you less likely to do what you’re trying to do, not more likely. For a funny reason that is often mentioned by people who talk about visualizations, which is, your brain kind of already thinks you did it. So if you visualize, for example, drinking water when you’re thirsty, you’ll get less thirsty, which is kind of peculiar, and you’ll drink less water when offered water.

So visualization all by itself appears to move you the wrong direction. However, I do think there is some places for it. And I’m going to talk about what those are in a few minutes.

The first thing we’re going to talk about is a couple of techniques, mental habits, that the research, at least as it stands at this point, does suggest are effective in helping you do more of the things you want to do. And maybe even fewer of the things you don’t want to do.

Affirming Your Value (This Is a Completely Different Practice from Self-Help Affirmations)

The first one is called values affirmations, so it gets confusing because it shares that noun with the old self-help affirmations. Values affirmations — I’ve talked about them before, and I’ve written about them as well — are statements of your values, the things that make you who you are, your beliefs. Things like integrity, faith, justice, fairness, or freedom. These kinds of abstract nouns that are really about ideas and beliefs.

If you connect yourself with what those are, maybe pick a handful — five or six — that are really your guiding values and then write short writings about them, a paragraph or two. That has very good science behind it in making you more effective. So making you more confident, making you better able to power through difficulty, helping you to beat the odds.

For example, if you’re in a scenario where a lot of people who look like you or come from the background you do don’t do well, and you do this exercise, you’re much more likely to be the one that’s successful. To be in the successful minority rather than the unsuccessful majority.

Lots of experiments done on that. lots of grad students, lots of researchers writing papers that suggest that that quick exercise. It does not have to take very long at all, and you don’t have to do it endlessly. You don’t have to do it every day. But if you do this once in a while, it has quite a good track record.

Adopting and Practicing a Growth Mindset

The other one that has quite a good track record is Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, her observation about growth mindset, that she lays out in her book Mindset. I consider it a total must-read. And growth mindset is simply looking at difficulties, problems, obstacles, things you did not do well at, and saying, “Okay, well I’m not good at that yet. Clearly I need more work. A better kind of practice, more volume of practice. Maybe I need a teacher, maybe I need a model.” As opposed to fixed mindset, which is when you encounter an obstacle or an error, you say, “Clearly I’m no good at that.”

It really turns out there are very few things that are innately given to you as a gift, and that you can’t make better with practice. You’re never going to be the right height to play basketball in the NBA if you didn’t get the right genes.

But making art, making writing, making a business, working with people — these are all learnable skills. And it’s really about how much time, effort, and sincere, deliberate practice are you putting in.

Some of these things do come more easily to some people than others. A lot of times, it’s just an accident of your history. Maybe when you were a kid, you might not even remember this. You used to love to write stories, or you were just really interested in diagramming sentences, or something funny like that. And you got really good at it, because you did a lot of it.

You don’t even remember anymore, that was so long ago. But now you feel like you have a gift. “Oh, I have a gift. I’ve just always been good at that and never really had to work at it.” At some point in your history you probably did work at it. But it may very well be that when you were doing that, it felt like play. And that’s my favorite tip for doing more of that kind of work: Try and make it into a game.

So values affirmations and growth mindset are both well supported by evidence. We’ve got wonderful researchers out there doing all kinds of experiments. Again, roping graduate students into doing all kinds of peculiar things and then writing down what happens.

Here are some other things that I have seen work well with people I work with, with people I teach, and I can recommend with some confidence based on my observations.

Growing Your Network and Asking for Help

The first one is, if you aren’t where you want to be today, I would very strongly recommend you expand your network of people doing what you want to do and that you get into the habit of asking for help. Now, like everything else, there’s a way to go too far with things. So you can ask for so much help that you’re not standing on your own feet. You’re not doing your own work.

But a lot of us I think err way far the other direction. We never ask for help. This, by the way, is very much a sign that you might have some fixed-mindset stuff going on. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for help in something, then it’s really hard for you to figure out what specific kinds of practice to do to get better.

Again, you can play chopsticks for an hour a day for 40 years, and you’re never going to become a concert pianist. When you have a good, rich network of compatriots, of colleagues, of people who are engaged in the same kind of work you’re engaged in. And some of them are maybe a little more successful than you right now, and some are a little less successful — and trust me, over time these things ebb and flow. Make some connections with some people and ask people to give you a hand.

Ask people to look at something you’ve written. Ask people to take a look at your website. It’s so hard to see our own stuff. So learning to ask for help can be a major, real life-changing kind of habit to build.

The other thing that I have noticed is, you’re never going to do the thing you want to do if deep down you don’t really think it’s possible for you. And again, this goes right back to growth versus fixed mindset. But it can be very strong if your identity is “I’m not the kind of person who is good at that.” And this could be an internal thing about the values of your family, it could be an external thing about how society sees you.

You have to know it’s possible before you can do it. And that’s where I think it’s quite possible that the people who do well with visualizations and affirmations, that may be why. Because they needed some kind of message that it was possible and people like them were permitted, allowed, to have the thing that they wanted to have.

So it’s possible that visualizations and affirmations may be quite helpful for that. But there are some other things that I think might work faster and better. First one being, going back to the last point, having a community.

Seeing that Success Is Possible for People Like You (Finding Role Models and Community)

If you have a community of people that includes lots of people who look like you, that come from your background, or they have the limitations that you might have, the constraints that you might have, maybe the assets that you have as well. If you are in a community of people doing the thing, you will see that it is possible for people who are a lot like you to be successful. And that will allow you to take the kinds of actions you need to take.

So community, again, is so tremendously helpful. And reaching out to that community and saying, “Does anybody know how I could get started with this?”

The writer Barbara Sher, who I think has really interesting ideas, talks about idea parties, where you get people together. Just people who want to do stuff, who have dreams and think about things. We’re not talking about a community of Nobel Prize winners. Just regular people.

And they get together and they talk about, “You know, I’ve always wanted to be a professional illustrator, does anybody know how you get started with that?” And somebody says, “My cousin’s a professional illustrator. Let me connect you and figure that out.”

So again, it’s going to the community and asking for help. So useful. And you never know who’s going to have that little piece that’s been the thing that’s been getting you stuck.

It’s also really important to have models. People who, from your self-identity of what’s holding you back, people who share that constraint, who are successful anyway. So whatever it is that’s on your mind, that you feel possibly entirely correctly. I mean, there are things, right? There are things in our society where it’s easier for some people to do things than other people.

Whatever you believe is holding you back, correct or not correct, find some models of people who share your trait and succeeded anyway. And then do what you can to make a connection with that person. That connection may just be following their work for a while. But you never know, you may in fact create a friendship there at some point.

Find the models who do what you want to do from the background and the point of view that you have. There are seven billion people on the planet, and I bet somewhere there’s somebody who has your constraint, who has done what you’re trying to do.

And one little side point on those visualizations, picturing that future in your mind, picturing what you want. I find that this is much more useful if you visualize exactly where it is you’re going. So “My business is going to look like this. I’m going to have this many employees. I’m going to have this much revenue. I’m going to have this much free time.”

And then you pair that time and energy with looking at where you are right now and noticing what doesn’t match. “Right now my business has one employee — me. And it has $30 a year in revenue, and I have no free time at all.” So you notice where you are, and you visualize where you want to go.

That I believe gets you out of that complacency that visualization can sometimes create, where your brain thinks you’re already there. You’re showing your brain, “We’re not there yet. Here’s where we are today, here’s where we want to go. Let’s notice the difference, and let that spark some ideas about what we should do right now.”

And that idea is not at all mine. It comes from somebody named Robert Fritz from his book The Path of Least Resistance. He calls that the pivotal technique.

Flipping the Switch that Doesn t Want You to Be Uncomfortable

The final mindset shift that I’ll share with you today — or mental habit or way of thinking — is something that Burkeman talks about quite a bit in his very interesting book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.

You have to turn that switch in your mind that doesn’t want to be uncomfortable. So you have to remember that it’s totally okay not to be comfortable every second of the day. And that’s really what Burkeman’s book is about.

If you think that every moment of your life has to be bliss, and that’s how you pursue happiness, you’re just going to not feel good. Because it’s not a natural state. It’s not how human life exists. We have light and shadows. Everybody’s life, no matter how wonderful, has light and shadows. You have to learn to be comfortable with the shadows, to be in the shadows, and say, “Okay, these are the shadows.”

So some of the things that you can do to get more comfortable with this. Read Burkeman’s book if you feel like that would be important to you, cause he has concrete suggestions. Mindfulness practice, very useful for this, because it’s really all about noticing “I feel good right now, hearing that bird singing really made me feel happy.” “I feel horrible right now, because my left knee is cramping up and it hurts.” “I feel mad at myself right now, because I can’t focus on my mindfulness practice. I keep thinking about how irritated I am at my work situation.”

You’re just noticing things come and go, and that noticing starts to loosen up that tight grip that we have on “I hate it like this, I hate it like this.” And you just say, “Hm, yup, I hate it like this. I always hate it when it’s like this. That’s interesting. Oh, look, another thought.”

It just loosens that tight grip. And that’s all it is. You don’t have to be somebody who’s constantly taking ice-cold showers and doing brutal workouts that make you injured, and all the other things that sometimes people recommend to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

There are a lot of practices you can do without hurting yourself. That just get you into a state where you realize that sometimes things feel bad and sometimes things feel horrible. And this is part of all human life, all human existence. You could just be with it, and let it be what it is, and then let it move along when it’s ready. And that really works better than trying to hammer away any kind of grief or sorrow, self-doubt, impostor syndrome — all those uncomfortable feelings.

If you can just learn to say, “Oh yeah, that’s impostor syndrome. I feel that a lot when I start something new.” “Hi impostor syndrome, good to see you again.” If you can get there, and a lot times it’s a question of really just making a decision that you’re going to try to adopt that mindset, it can make all the difference. Because you will not get better at the thing you’re working on unless you can become comfortable with something you’re not too comfortable with.

The 5 Ways to Be More Happy and Successful

So that’s what I’ve got for you. By my count, it’s five different things you can try to be more happy and successful. The values affirmations, the statements and the writing about what you believe, looking into and working harder on your growth mindset, growing your network and asking for help, understanding and seeing that it’s possible for people like you, and then flipping the switch that refuses to be uncomfortable.

Those five things — from my point of view, from my experience, from my teaching, from my own path, and from my reading in psychology experiments — are five things that seem to me to have proven the test of time. That have really shown themselves to be genuinely useful.

I do have some links for you on some more thoughts on different techniques, different things you can try. And I would love to know what’s worked for you. So if you come on over to Copyblogger.FM, you can leave me a comment and let me know what might have worked well for you.

Haven’t made this reminder in a while, but just always good to remind folks. In the spirit of asking my community for help, star ratings and reviews on iTunes are super helpful to the podcast. They help us find new listeners, and they really help us grow and make more connections.

So if you feel so moved, it makes a big difference to us, to me personally. And I am very grateful for all of you who do it. Thank you so much for your support.

Thanks so much, take care, catch you next time.

Apr 03 2017

21mins

Play

3 Content Marketing Strategy Fails (and How to Fix Them)

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No, content marketing strategy is not “make a whole bunch of spaghetti and see what sticks to the wall.”

“How come my content marketing isn’t working?”

This is a great question … and the answer isn’t necessarily, “you need to create more content.” Often, you aren’t creating the right kind of content — the kind that leads strategically to your business goals.

In this 21-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The painful question you have to answer to stay out of “Me-Too” content death
  • The path to purchase, and how to make it more appealing
  • How funnels work with content
  • Why we get stuck using the wrong tools for the job
  • The right moment(s) to ask for the sale
  • How to discover exactly what your content marketing strategy should look like

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes

The Show Notes

The Transcript

3 Content Marketing Strategy Fails (and How to Fix Them)

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by StudioPress, the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plug-ins. Built on the Genesis Framework, StudioPress delivers state of the art SEO tools, beautiful and fully responsive design, airtight security, instant updates, and much more. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why more than 190,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. That’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices along with the occasion rant. My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital and I hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can get additional links and resources at Copyblogger.FM along with the complete archive for the show.

This month we’ve been talking a lot about content marketing strategy over on the Copyblogger blog. You’ve probably already noticed that publish a lot of stuff is not a strategy. Publishing lots of content or do your best to make good content is a worthy endeavor. It’s a good tactic but on its own it’s just not likely to do much for you. I think that a lot of the more visible critics of content marketing seem to think that that’s what content marketing is. You make a whole bunch of spaghetti and see what sticks against the wall.

Well, you know of course that’s not going to work and we know that’s not going to work so let’s look at some things that will. Today we’re going to talk about strategy, and content marketing strategy is not just for fancy ad agencies or massive marketing departments, it also doesn’t have to be this jargon fest that sometimes those kind of organizations make it into. I thought I would talk today about some of the points of failure that I see all the time in people’s content marketing strategy and then how you can do better.

The Painful Question You Have to Answer to Stay Out of “Me-Too” Content Death

It wouldn’t be Copyblogger if the first point of failure that I talked about wasn’t a quality problem. It really is the problem that I see the most often. I have somebody who, they might leave a comment on the blog and say, “I don’t know what’s going wrong. I’m producing lots of high quality content and nothing’s happening.” I click through and there’s no voice at all. It’s completely generic. It’s the same exact information I’ve seen on 10,000 other sites. There’s nothing new and there’s no real answer to the question, “Why would anybody go to you when they already have so many high quality things that they can already read?”

Because of the topic that Copyblogger has, I see a lot of sites that really make me say, “Well, okay, why should I read your site when the world already has ProBlogger, and Copyblogger, and Search Engine Land, and Moz? What is it you feel you’re contributing to this conversation that’s not being found on those sites?” It’s a hard question to answer but if you don’t have a good answer, you can’t win. That is a lot of what Copyblogger is about is helping people to create content worth consuming. If it’s text content, it has to be worth the time somebody takes to read it. Of course if it’s video or audio, it has to be worth that time that it takes to watch or to listen. You’re asking for time and attention. These are resources that cannot be replicated. It’s not like asking for $10 and then what you have isn’t very good and they’re out $10 bucks.

When you waste somebody’s time with your content, you have wasted something that cannot be replaced so it’s a big deal and people treat their time and attention as a big deal. They should. You have to be worth that time and attention. If you aren’t, partner with somebody who is because there are people out there creating great content. They just don’t want to trouble themselves with learning the business elements. If you don’t think the quality of your content is too good, you know, read Copyblogger and come up with a strategy to improve that.

But I’m going to assume for the rest of this conversation that you have got some good stuff, you have got a real voice. You’re speaking to a real audience about something they care about and there’s a reason to tune into you versus somebody else even if it’s just your personality and the way you look at the world, which is a perfectly acceptable answer, by the way, to that question.

The Path to Purchase, and How to Make it More Appealing

The second point of content marketing strategy failure I see a lot is there’s either no path to purchase or the path to purchase just isn’t very well thought out. Long, long ago in Internet time marketers used to buy content. They used to buy it on Google. They would buy traffic. They would buy eyeballs to come look at their site and that traffic would come check the thing out. They would read a sales page. They would buy or they would not buy and we were done. That’s how it used to be. It used to be really simple; buy some eyeballs, put a well written piece of copywriting in front of those eyeballs, convert or don’t convert. That’s not really how it works anymore, which is a good thing because that got really expensive.

Today, 21st Century, 2017, people are going to find you all kinds of ways. People are going to find your content. Some of them will find it on social, and some on search, and on different social platforms. Some of them, their aunt will send them your email with a link in it. It’s your job to make sure that however people find you all the roads, once they get to you, lead to Rome as the old saying used to say.
Now, this is not really just cram everybody who comes onto your site into your email list and then hit them with an ad every day until they unsubscribe. That is a thing. That is a strategy people use and it seems to work for some people but it’s not really content marketing strategy. It’s actually much more closely related to the old strategy of what they used to call spray and pray. Somebody finds your site and then you just spray them with offers until they buy or they flee in horror.

What we want to focus on, when we have this path to purchase, is the “what” from Brian Clark’s trio of “who,” “what,” and “how.” Who do you speak to? What kinds of information do you give them? Then how do you do it? In other words, your voice, your craft, your creativity. That “what,” the middle chunk is really the bulk of your content marketing strategy. What information does this person need? What order do they need it? Do they need it quickly? Do they need it slowly? Do they need really massive, meaty pieces of content, whitepapers, and case studies? Or do they need something more bite-sized? What’s their journey?

Whether you’re a big organization or a small organization, you have to map that journey out. You have to put yourself into the shoes of your prospect and figure out where they are when they come to you and then what are the steps that they need to go through in order to move further. Where are the buying points on that path because a lot of times there’s more than one? A lot of times there might be small purchases that they would make along the way that would lead to something larger.

Now, Brian Clark has written a lot about this. He is continuing to write a lot about this so I will give you some links over at Copyblogger.FM if you want to pursue this in more depth, which I would encourage you to do.

At the heart of it, you have to understand precisely what a person needs to think. What do they need to know? What do they need to feel? Then what will they need to do before they actually purchase from you. Content exists at as many points as possible precisely to lead the person to get to the next step on that specific journey. Content exists to help them know things that they need to know and to present an argument to think about things in a certain way. That’s what content is for.

How Funnels Work with Content

Now, we should also talk about something called funnels and many of you know what funnels are and some of you don’t. They’re just little sequences of relevant information and they lead to an offer. It might be three pieces of email or four pieces of email that would be sent, opening the conversation, presenting some relevant information, and then letting people know, okay you can pick up the solution to your problem here and here’s what it costs, et cetera.

Now funnels are not really the same thing exactly as the path to purchase. Funnels are sort of little stopping points or tiny little diversions on the path to purchase. They’re the last few steps so each funnel you could think of as a little path from the trail to a place where they can actually get to the holy land of making a purchase. A funnel gives them the right information at the right time but it’s not the whole thing.

The people who are really doing this well have like a rich content kind of a path that people can walk down, explore. They can go different directions with it. They can try different things. They can follow their own interests and then at various points on that path there’s a way that they can take that little nicely paved funnel into making a purchase. Then they might stay on the path and make a different purchase or they might just go home and be happy and be a customer and they might be done. That combination of really strong, robust, interesting content path with some well crafted funnels to take them toward a purchase a little more smoothly, it’s not the same thing.

I think sometimes this gets interpreted as entice people with like one piece of content that you paid a writer for and then slam them with offer, after offer until they completely regret ever giving you their email address. It’s a way. It’s not the best way. Content marketing strategy is really much more about presenting the right information well presented at the right time to the right people and then creating that possibility for action. That means making an offer in the copywriting sense at a moment that makes sense in that sequence.

Not understanding that path to purchase is a point of failure I see a lot with content marketing strategy either kind of rushing the gun so it’s all offer and very, very little useful content, or sometimes you see people who meander around from New York City to I don’t know, San Francisco on this wonderful content path and there’s never any place to make a purchase. Neither of those really work. You have to be strategic about how the road leads to the result you want, which is to create the transaction.

Why We Get Stuck Using the Wrong Tools for the Job

Another really common point of failure that I see is people use the wrong tool for the wrong job. Something that I find really interesting about this whole path to purchase idea is that as the person who discovers your content and discovers your site kind of walks along the path, they go through different states. At a certain point they sort of, eh, they’re not really sure they have a problem. They’re not that interested in it. Then they go through various states of being more and more interested in a solution and possibly considering your solution to their problem. When they’re in these different states, you’ll want to be using the right tool for that moment in the process.

To give you one example of what I mean, there’s a moment in that path when the person really, they either don’t know you or they don’t have much relationship with you. Maybe they’ve heard of you. Maybe they’ve sort of seen you around somewhere but they certainly don’t feel closely connected to you. That’s the point where you’re using tools like social media, and blog posts. You might be using YouTube or podcasts. These are all great tools for getting audience attention, for getting people who either don’t know you at all or haven’t really had a lot of content with you to pay attention to who you are and to realize that this provider might be a very, very good solution for whatever this problem is that’s been bugging me. These are the tools to find the people who don’t really know you yet.

As so often happens with tools, we get comfortable with these. Like we get comfortable on Facebook, I see a lot. You get comfortable making blog posts and then that’s all you do. All you do is more Facebook posts and you’re not making any sales so you triple the amount of blog posts you write or the amount of Facebook posts you make. Well, that tool isn’t super well optimized for that work. You can do more of that work if you want to but you’re not going to get the results you want because you’re using a tool that’s ineffective. All of the attention-getting tools tend to be noisy. They just tend to be in a kind of open web environment that has a lot of noise. It’s a little bit like trying to have a conversation about the meaning of live in the middle of a busy street. It’s technically possible but it’s not really the optimal environment.

The Right Moment(s) to Ask for the Sale

I believe that that’s why email works so well, and study after study shows that it does do so well, to take the conversation, when it’s time, to focus attention a little bit more and start talking about, “I don’t know if you realized but I have something to offer that solves your problem and here’s how you can pick it up.” In other words, a copywriting offer.

Email is a super tool for channeling attention. Social and the public web are great tools for getting attention. Emails are a really nice tool for managing attention, and channeling it, and directing it, and saying, “Hey, I know you’re busy. I know the web is crazy but you might want to check this out and that out.” You don’t only send people to offers. You also send people to other good, relevant stuff that you’re creating.

When you do send them to an offer, what you send them to is something that’s called a landing page. It’s a web page that’s optimized for taking somebody’s attention and their interest. It’s gone beyond attention at this point. They’re actually interested. They’re actually engaged and translating that engagement into a behavior like making a purchase. If you try to make the sale in email, that’s really tricky because people get fed up trying to take in a longer, more complex message from their email inbox. Our attention spans are kind of fragmented with email. It’s great for channeling attention but it doesn’t hold attention as well as other tools do. You use the right tool for the right task.

How do we know what are the right tools for a particular point on this path to purchase? There are definitely a lot of places you can go to learn more about different options and good practices. I won’t say best practices in this case because it does change. The best place is really to just observe your audience.

Now you can always ask them but sometimes how we behave doesn’t completely match what we say because sometimes how we behave doesn’t match how we think we behave. You can, for example the classic example would be, you can ask your audience, “Would you buy an eBook on this topic for $20,” and they will say, “Yes,” and then you give them an offer for an eBook on that topic for $20 and nobody buys. What they do and what they say are not always the same.

When you observe, you know. When you observe it happening, you know. At least for now you know. Things do evolve but they don’t evolve in the sense that they start off as a tadpole and then they turn into an elephant. It kind of stays in the same realm of species type. Things do evolve. Your audience is going to change. They’re going to change where they like to hang out but it’ll tend to be recognizable from one stage to another, especially if you keep paying attention.

How to Discover Exactly What Your Content Marketing Strategy Should Look Like

As you keep giving that your attention, you’re going to be able to watch, and see where it moves, and how it moves. You’ll see which tools are working well for you, email, social media, which specific social platforms, what kinds of contents. Then you’re going to see what might be underperforming for you. Maybe it worked well last year but this year, you know, not exciting. You’ll get some good ideas about what to experiment with next. If you watch the audience, the answers always, always lay with audience.

One thing about marketing online, because the world is changing so quickly and the digital world really, really changes quickly, it’s never stagnate and it never stays still. You get it figured out and then it kind of morphs on you. It can be stressful for sure but it’s also what makes it interesting. I think it’s what keeps people kind of in this business for the longer term because it is definitely a situation where it’s always evolving and growing. It would be very hard to get bored because it’s very hard to find something that works long enough that you can get bored.

I mentioned earlier in the episode, Brian Clark really thinks a lot about the strategy of content and about the different places that people stop along this path to purchase and the different states that they’re in as they walk that path. One thing you can do to find out a lot more about it is just stay tuned to Copyblogger. Brian has been writing quite a bit for us on this exact topic so keep tuning into those because those will give you a lot to work with.

You may or may not know, he also has written quite a few eBooks for us that are available in what’s called the My Copyblogger Library. These are all free. There’s, you know, a good chunk of them are written by Brian specifically about different points of strategy. For example, one of the ones I really like is called How to Create Content that Converts and that really dives into the different types of content, and when to use them, and what they look like, and what their function is. Again, right tool for the right job.

You can pick up the content marketing library if you haven’t yet. If you just go to Copyblogger.com there’s an education tab and you’ll see under that tab, Free! My Copyblogger. Just drop your email in there and you’ll get access to this complete comprehensive content marketing library. It’s all free and there’s a lot of very meaty stuff in there if you want to study this in depth, which I think would be very beneficial.

That’s it today, three points of failure for content marketing strategy. The first is just your content is too me too. It’s too cookie cutter. It’s not distinctive enough. The second is you don’t understand what your path to purchase is. You don’t have a well-paved path to purchase so that somebody gets from discovering your content to actually going forward and making a sell. The third is that we tend to use the wrong tool for the job because we get comfortable with certain tactics or certain tools and we don’t step out of our comfort zone. But we need to use the whole range of tools available to us if we really want to optimize the experience for the audience. That’s really what it’s all about.

That’s it for today. Thank you so much for your time and attention. I’ll catch you next week.

Jan 23 2017

21mins

Play

5 Rules of Thumb to Relieve SEO-Induced Stress

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Does search engine optimization seem depressingly hard to stay on top of? Things do move quickly, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it drive you nuts.

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Over the past 10 years, Brian Clark has drummed some important things into my head about what we should (and shouldn’t) do to keep Google and the other search engines happy. I’ve boiled them down to five fairly simple rules.

In this 15-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why we don’t have to accept Google-induced stress disorder
  • How to formulate an evergreen search strategy, even though the rules of search change constantly
  • The question you must answer right away if your livelihood depends on your search engine ranking
  • Why you don’t “deserve” a search engine ranking (even if you follow the rules)
  • Who you should be working on making happy (it isn’t Google)

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by StudioPress.com for all the details.
  • This podcast is based on my Copyblogger post, The Right Way to Think about Google
  • Google isn’t the only giant company you need to be wary of overrelying on: The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Digital Business
  • Brian Clark’s 2013 post on Google Authorship — note the important question he asks and answers in the middle of the post — “So what happens if it never happens?”
  • We gathered some of our longtime recommendations on SEO copywriting in an ebook, free with MyCopyblogger registration
  • Lately I’ve been spending more time on LinkedIn @soniasimone — feel free to drop me a question or note there, or right here in the comments

Jun 11 2018

15mins

Play

Storytelling for Modern Content Marketing (Part 2 of 2)

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Tech and tactics come and go — but storytelling lasts forever. In this episode, Shane Snow and Joe Lazauskas of Contently share their favorite techniques for developing a storytelling edge. (Part 2 of a 2-part episode.)

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We all know that stories are powerful — but sometimes it’s hard to know how to tell stories that work in a modern content environment. Shane and Joe from Contently joined Sonia in a wide-ranging conversation, to talk about what might be their favorite topic — how timeless storytelling techniques can benefit 21st-century content.

Rather than cut the conversation artificially short, we’ve broken this into two parts for you.

In this 22-minute episode, Shane and Joe talk about:

  • What happens in our brains when we hear a good story
  • The 4 elements of great storytelling
  • What brands get wrong with storytelling
  • The data-driven secret to a breakthrough content strategy
  • The simple formula for building an audience that loves you

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by StudioPress.com for all the details.
  • Learn more about Shane and Joe’s new book at TheStorytellingEdge.com
  • The HP Dad video is a great example of a powerful story told in an ad (warning: you might cry)
  • More details about Alan Gannett’s upcoming book, The Creative Curve
  • Feel free to say hi or ask a question over on LinkedIn @soniasimone — or I always enjoy hearing from you right here in the comments

Mar 05 2018

21mins

Play

How to Recognize a Great Content Idea

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It’s hard enough to come up with ideas — but when we do, how do we know they’re any good? How can we evaluate our ideas and make sure we’re choosing the ones that will create the best content?

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Shannon left us a great comment on the blog with exactly this question, so I thought it would be fun to address here in the podcast.

In this 15-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why content processes are so valuable, no matter how frequently you publish
  • How often to write those “wild hair” posts that might be off your general path
  • The “compass” you can use to find the best ideas
  • The questions you can answer for the most resonant content
  • Finding the right balance between inspiration and practicality

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Nov 27 2017

14mins

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Advice for Poets, Advice for Killers

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William Maynard of the Bates agency once wrote that “… most good copywriters fall into two categories. Poets. And killers. Poets see an ad as an end. Killers as a means to an end.”

And David Ogilvy famously added,”If you are both killer and poet, you get rich.”

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We’ve talked before about the Killer and the Poet — and how you can learn to boost the qualities you might be lacking.

In today’s 21-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why it’s so useful to have that mix of killer and poet in our content
  • The key difference between persuasion that works today and the copy from traditional direct response
  • The specific “tricks of the trade” to look for when you’re reading writing books

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by StudioPress.com for all the details.
  • Copyblogger s Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful program that helps writers attract better clients — and more of them. New students will be able to sign up for a limited time soon. Add your name to join the waitlist and to get all of the details when they re available.
  • Whatever you want to work on in your writing, you’ll probably find a good reference on our summer reading list of writing books over on Copyblogger
  • My earlier podcast with additional thoughts on Killers and Poets
  • My Copyblogger post on The Killer and the Poet
  • Joanna Wiebe and Lance Jones’ site Copy Hackers has lots of terrific resources to improve your Killer abilities
  • Bob Bly’s Copywriter’s Handbook is a solid choice for fundamental copywriting techniques

And, of course, I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!

Nov 13 2017

21mins

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How to Develop a Compelling Marketing Idea in 4 Steps

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Want to be more persuasive? You need to start with a great idea. Here’s how to develop one.

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We think of ideas as coming in a flash of inspiration … but when you’re talking about the “big idea” that informs persuasive communication, it pays to actually develop your idea systematically.

Brian Clark thinks a lot about what makes for a great copywriting premise — that big idea that attracts an audience and makes them want to hear more.

In this 21-minute episode, I steal borrow some ideas from Brian’s ebook to talk about:

  • The four elements of a great premise, and how to develop them
  • Some ways to develop a premise that’s fresh and interesting
  • The necessary (and sometimes difficult) work of finding simplicity
  • The key difference between good storytelling and just telling lies
  • Why the truth can sometimes feel like hype … and what to do about it

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The Show Notes

Important: Our Certified Content Marketer program typically opens only once or twice a year. If you’re interested in getting involved, get your name on the interest list right away by dropping your email here: Copyblogger’s Certified Content Marketers

Jun 05 2017

21mins

Play

How to Make Smarter Decisions about Your Website

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Neuroscience tells us that making decisions for our content strategy or our websites is “cognitively expensive.” In simpler terms — it’s exhausting. Here are a few “back of the envelope” factors that can help you zero in on the right choice.

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The internet is an endless parade of exciting shiny things we could be doing instead of the boring old thing we’re doing today. How to decide which ones to pursue?

In this 17-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The problem with futurism
  • Josh Kaufman’s Big 5 and how to use them for better decision-making
  • When it’s wise to (temporarily) overcome your natural optimism
  • Short-term and long-term decisions
  • When to move in sync with trends — and when to move against them
  1. Value Creation — Discovering what people need or want, then creating it.
  2. Marketing — Attracting attention and building demand for what you ve created.
  3. Sales — Turning prospective customers into paying customers.
  4. Value Delivery — Giving your customers what you ve promised and ensuring that they re satisfied.
  5. Finance – Bringing in enough money to keep going and make your effort worthwhile.

– From Josh Kaufman’s The 5 Parts of Every Business.

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Oct 23 2017

17mins

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The 7 Things Writers Need to Make a (Good) Living

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Ever been frustrated by the daunting task of making a (really good) living as a writer? I have some thoughts on what it takes …

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Your friends and family might think you’re nuts for pursuing it, but it’s more possible than ever to make a good living as a writer — but (in my opinion), you need a few things to make it happen.

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The squishy-but-real foundation of any writing career
  • Balancing the desire to make art with the needs of serving clients and audiences
  • Writing confidence (and humility)
  • The kinds of training to seek out to improve your income
  • The “butt in chair” factor
  • The key thing you have to be willing to do
  • Finding your community of support

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

The 7 Things Writers Need to Make a (Good) Living

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Well hello there, it is awesome to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone, I’m the Chief Content Officer for Rainmaker Digital and I like to hang out with the folks who the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get extra links, extra resources, show notes, and the complete show archive by pointing to Copyblogger.FM in your browser.

Today I wanted to update a piece of content that I wrote a couple of years ago that I really liked and I thought it turned out well, I thought it gave useful advice, and I wanted to just give you an updated version of it. It’s all about making a living as a professional writer. It starts with, if you like to write, if writing is a passion or an interest of yours, you were probably told at one point or maybe multiple points of your life that it’s just not practical to be a professional writer, that writers don’t make a good living. But, that’s not really true, and it’s especially not really true anymore, because the web runs on writing. All of that text that’s published on websites, all of those podcasts, any kind of decent video, all of that relies on good writing to make it work.

Now, we both know that not all writing is well paid, it’s regrettable that a lot of my dear friends who are journalists are having a tough time with more traditional outlets. If writing is your thing, it can be a great way to make a living, if you are willing to kind of embrace a couple of things and adopt a couple of things and learn a few things that may be new to you. I’m going to talk about my take on the seven things that writers need to make a living.

The Squishy-But-Real Foundation of any Writing Career

The first one is going to sound kind of squishy and hippie-dippie, not a major surprise to anybody who listens to me regularly, but I actually think it’s really a true thing that you need, which is you have to love the craft, you have to love the language. You have to care about words and you have to care about getting it right. Professional writers care about language. It just goes with the territory.

If you don’t get a little twitchy when you see bad writing, or bad usage, it’s hard to successfully make that transition to being a paid writer, much less a well-paid writer. Now, I will say you need love, but it’s not necessarily fun. If you go to your computer, or your tablet, or what have you, with a certain amount of un-fun feelings, that’s actually quite normal, probably the case for more pro writers I know than not. It’s not fun every day, but you do have to have a love for it that kind of transcends that not-fun moment.

Balancing the Desire to Make Art with the Needs of Serving Clients and Audiences

The second thing you need if you’re going to make a living writing is you have to have an attitude of service, because you’re going to be writing for clients and you’re going to be writing for the audiences of those clients. Or alternately you’ll write for your own business, but for the audience that supports that business. You’re serving the audience that’s going to read the content, listen to the content, what have you, and you’re serving the business that pays those bills.

Now, it can be art and I think you should always strive for it to be art, but it’s not really self-expression. It’s selective self-expression at best. So, if that bugs you, then something that helps me to think about, it might help you, is that a great deal of the greatest art in history was made for patrons. When we are making something for someone else, that does not mean it has to be crummy, or cynical, or poorly crafted, or anything of the kind. It can be amazing, but you have to approach it from an attitude of service.

Writing Confidence (and Humility)

The third thing that you are going to need is a good dose of confidence, of professional confidence. Actually, better than confidence, I like my colleague Jerod Morris’s term, “primility,” which is pride combined with humility. You have to have some confidence, you have to have some pride just in doing the work. In the amount of time that you have spent putting sentences together, putting paragraphs together, thinking about the words, thinking about the music of the language, thinking about structure, and clarity, and all that stuff that writers think about.

You have to be able to have some confidence and pride in that. The flip side of that coin is you will never ever stop learning this craft, you will never completely master it. There is an element of humility there, and it’s a very wise thing to cultivate that humility and realize that there’s always more that you can learn.

The Kinds of Training to Seek Out to Improve Your Income

The fourth part is where it can get somewhat non-obvious, that is that it takes training. You have the wordsmith part of being a professional writer, that’s the craft of writing, making good sentences, that kind of stuff. You also have, honestly no matter what kind of writing you’re doing, there’s a marketing component. If you want to get paid, you have to be able to persuade. Even if you’re writing fiction, you’re going to have to market that fiction, you’re going to have to find the audience for it.

Well paid writers understand the strategy of writing that makes things happen, whether it’s for fiction writers and of course we primarily talk about commercial writers at Copyblogger, fiction writers write to create strong emotional states and create kind of a transported world that people can go to. Persuasive writers write words that make people want to go do a thing, make them want to buy a product, make them want to sign up for an email list, all of that stuff.

If you want to be a well-paid writer and you are interested in going in the commercial direction, you have to get some decent training on things like copywriting, on persuasive writing, on using writing to sell, on writing with different commercial strategic goals in mind, that kind of thing. Obviously, Copyblogger has a ton of resources for you on that, just starting out with the blog and lots and lots of professional writers read our blog for which we are terribly, terribly grateful. We also have a whole free e-library with books all about content strategy and you can just go grab that for free.

Copyblogger is known for content strategy and writing advice, but did you know that we certify content marketers? If you have a great writing voice and are willing to learn rock solid content strategy, check out the opportunity to be a Copyblogger certified as a content marketer, by going to rainmaker.fm/certification. Don’t delay, because our enrollment period opens in mid September, 2018. That’s rainmaker.fm/certification.

The Butt in Chair Factor

The fifth thing every professional writer needs is discipline, is that ability to get the butt into the chair and get the work done. There’s not really any way around it, right? You can create hacks and habits that will help you get it done, but you can’t be a professional writer unless you can put the time in to put the words together. I am a giant fan of creating small habits and then rolling those up into bigger habits.

I’ve written about that a few times, I’ve podcasted about it a few times. And so, if that’s what it takes and your discipline is not where you’d like it to be, I tend to have all kinds of resources here on the podcast about that, because I have a hard time with it. So I have lots of advice to share with you about how I work with that, but you do have to make the time to put the words together and craft them well.

The Key Thing You Have to be Willing to Do

The sixth thing that you’re going to need, and I touched on it a little bit earlier, if you want to make a good living as a writer, no matter what kind of writing you’re going to do, you have to be willing to be a marketer as well. The word fairies, the writing fairies are not going to fly in through the window and give you a giant grant to just kind of write whatever you feel like. It’s not going to happen, and you know it, and I know it. You might as well kind of take control of your own thing and be willing to learn more about how to get people interested in what you’re writing, and how to do the kind of writing people want to pay for.

On one level, that’s very obvious and very self-evident and yet, so many really capable writers that I know just prefer not to do it. I think that they prefer not to do it, because they feel like it’s not what good writers do, right? Like, good writers don’t do any marketing, good writers don’t write commercial material, good writers are above all of that. I would encourage you to do what you need to do to work through that idea.

There are a lot of ways that you can care about your craft and do really excellent work and do the kind of work people want to pay for, but you have to be willing to do it. It’s actually quite interesting. There’s a kind of a science, it’s a soft science, but there is a science to communicating with an intention to persuade, and communicating with an intention to do all the different strategies of content marketing. The kinds of things you write to get attention when we’re in a very crowded sort of a verbal environment on the web, and then the kinds of things that you write to educate somebody about a product or a service, and the kinds of techniques that you use when it’s time to maybe sell something.

It’s a whole new set of things to learn, and they’re all quite interesting, and they can all be done in ways that are not cheesy, or creepy, or dopey. I would really encourage you to pursue that if you’ve been a little reluctant. Again, we have like a million things for you to look at on Copyblogger and I have a couple of posts that have some ideas for you along those lines. Again, you can find them in the show notes by going to Copyblogger.FM.

Finding Your Community of Support

Then, the final thing that I really want to encourage you to pursue, if you want to make a living as a writer, if maybe you are a professional writer and you would really like to make a better living as a writer, which I’m all about that, I support that, I think it’s a good goal, is you need to get some support in place. You need to get some other people who understand this peculiar way that you have chosen to make a living and can help you out with the tough times and encourage you when things go well. I think so often we turn to our families, we turn to our significant other, or our parents, or whoever it is, and we kind of expect them to be that support crew for us.

I think that is tricky and often, it just doesn’t work, because you have to recognize that what you have chosen to spend your life doing is peculiar. Unless those people are peculiar in the same way, they’re going to have a very hard time getting it. They’re going to be worried about you, they’re going to tell you that making a living writing is just not really in the realm of the practical. It’s not really fair or reasonable to expect people who are not writers, who don’t make a living as creatives, to support you as you’re trying to figure it out and you’re trying to kind of do new things with it.

Find a community, again, I mean, it can be as simple as just talk with the folks who comment on the Copyblogger blog, and go to their blogs, and make connections there. You can come to the Authority community, there’s a whole thriving community of content marketers there who get what you’re doing and may have some advice for you, as well as encouragement when things are … when you’re having a tough day.

But, get that community of support. I think it’s one of the most important factors in helping you get through the bumps. There’s always bumps in the road. Anytime you do something that most people don’t do, you’re going to encounter problems, and hurdles, and frustrations. And if you have other people who have kind of been down the same path, it’s so, so helpful. It just really makes a world of difference.

So, that’s what I’ve got for you today, my take on the seven things that writers need to make a living and not just to make a living, but also to make a good living. If you have additional thoughts, if you think I’ve missed one, or maybe there’s one of these that’s really been powerful for you, I always love when you come by and leave me a comment, let me know your thoughts. Again, you can just go to Copyblogger.FM and let me know what’s on your mind. Thank you so much for your time and attention and I’ll catch you next week. Take care.

Sep 04 2018

15mins

Play

The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur with John Jantsch

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In this episode, Darrell talks to John Jantsch — the founder of Duct Tape Marketing — about his new book titled The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur.

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The two talk extensively about the why behind entrepreneurship, and how writers like Emerson and Thoreau give lessons to modern-day entrepreneurs.

In this episode, Darrell and John talked about:

  • Where John found inspiration for his new book
  • Why classic literature can offer entrepreneurs important lessons for today
  • How radical ideas written 150 years ago stand the test of time
  • Why self-reliance is the cornerstone for John’s writing
  • How small business owners eventually shift their perspective to “marketing is everything”
  • And why mindfulness is so critical to your success

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Oct 23 2019

27mins

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Consistency Will Take You Further

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In this episode, Darrell talks with Matt Ragland, the Director of Customer Success for Podia.

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Darrell and Matt Ragland dive into more thoughts about online education, Matt shares his story of building an audience, and the time-tested secret that helped him get to more than 35,000 subscribers today.

In this episode, Darrell and Matt talked about:

  • What Podia is and how they view the future of online education
  • Why “one thousand true fans” is still such a strong model
  • Why Matt put so much time into creating content on YouTube
  • The story of how Matt consistently built an audience over time
  • Why Matt is creating a weekly email newsletter, course, and community for his channel
  • And great advice on starting small, listening to your audience, and being consistent

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Oct 02 2019

42mins

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The Past, Present, and Future of Online Learning

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In this episode, Brian Clark and Darrell Vesterfelt talk about the past, present, and future of online education.

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Brian shares about his most recent product and launch, and he and Darrell compare notes on how things have changed over the years.

In this episode, Brian and Darrell talked about:

  • What inspired Brian to launch a new product (unrelated to Copyblogger)
  • How technology is helping solo founders and small teams scale with less resources
  • Why Brian opened an exclusive community prior to the launch of his new coaching program
  • The evolution of online education, it’s perception, and positioning
  • How to build a real business around online courses
  • And why succeeding in online business is about iteration and nailing product to audience fit

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Sep 25 2019

37mins

Play

How to Get More of the Right Things Done

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Productivity coach Charlie Gilkey talks about going from ideas to completed projects — and how to take a more balanced approach to getting it all done.

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We all have amazing ideas for projects. What we don’t all have is amazing finished projects. Charlie Gilkey is on a mission to help you out with that.

In this 30-minute episode, Charlie and Sonia talked about:

  • What Charlie sees as the missing piece of most productivity advice
  • What to do if you feel like you’re one of those people who’s “doomed” to procrastinate
  • Why our current environment makes it so tricky to ship our important work
  • Addressing real obstacles that can stand in the way of getting stuff done
  • Why Charlie didn’t finish his PhD … and why that’s ok with him

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The Show Notes

Charlie’s book Start Finishing publishes September 24, 2019.

Sep 16 2019

29mins

Play

Why the Future Is Still Email

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In this episode Brian Clark and Darrell Vesterfelt dive deep into the topic of email.

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Think email is an outdated tool? Think again. After learning some interesting data, you might reconsider past conceptions about the most powerful tool on the internet.

In this episode, Brian and Darrell talked about:

  • Why email isn’t even close to dead and why it’s still so important for your business
  • Hot takes on “trendy” marketing tactics versus the tried-and-true ROI of the inbox
  • Why your email newsletter should be the value proposition itself
  • The paradigm shift for media companies based on email and why it’s more than a marketing tool
  • How list segmentation and automation are changing the game
  • And why trust is king

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Sep 09 2019

35mins

Play

What’s Next for Copyblogger Media?

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In this episode, Brian Clark hosts the Copyblogger FM podcast for the first time, and reveals — among other things — why he’s returning to Copyblogger and aiming to reinvent it along with new partner Darrell Vesterfelt.

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Brian shares some exciting news about the future of Copyblogger Media, along with his co-host and new business partner Darrell Vesterfelt. Listen in to hear about exciting things to come.

In this episode Brian and Darrell discuss:

  • How and why Darrell joined Copyblogger Media
  • Darrell’s storied history as a digital marketer
  • The past, present, and future of content marketing
  • Exciting changes in store for Copyblogger, and Brian’s return
  • Darrell’s vision for an on-demand, educational content strategy

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Sep 03 2019

35mins

Play

How Smart, Nimble Companies Are Using Webinars Today

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Copywriter and webinar strategist Beth Hayden talks about some of the most effective ways companies are using webinars.

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Some people feel that webinars seem a bit old-fashioned. But there are a lot of fresh, effective ways that smart companies are using webinars for lead generation, prospect maturation, and customer retention … as well as getting the sale.

In this 27-minute Episode, Beth and I talked about:

  • How smart companies are using webinars to drive business results
  • Ways to use webinars other than sales presentations (although those are great, too)
  • Recommendations on specific platforms and their benefits
  • Some do’s and don’ts for your own webinars

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  • The best place to connect with Beth is her website at BethHayden.com
  • You can also catch up with her at LinkedIn.com/BethHayden
  • Beth has written a lot of terrific articles for us, including many on webinar strategy. Find her complete Copyblogger archive here: Beth Hayden on Copyblogger
  • At Copyblogger Media, we use GoToWebinar for our educational and marketing webinars
  • Another option is StealthSeminar, particularly if you hold evergreen webinars
  • BigMarker is a webinar platform that doesn’t require users to download anything
  • For a simple way to get started with webinars, Beth recommends Zoom (which I like, as well)
  • We mentioned YNAB as an example of a cool company using webinars for customer onboarding
  • Here’s a classic Seth Godin post on bad PowerPoint — for lessons on how to create a compelling visual deck for your webinars
  • Another good resource for webinar slide design is Beyond Bullet Points

Aug 26 2019

27mins

Play

The Clarity Method: A Conversation with Tim Brownson

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Tim Brownson talks about how we can use our values to design our businesses and make wiser decisions.

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Tim Brownson has been coaching (and teaching coaches) for decades. In that time he discovered that working with clients’ values is one of the most useful tools for change.

His new book, The Clarity Method, explains his process for uncovering the values that matter most to you, and how that knowledge can help you in virtually any aspect of your life.

In this episode, Tim and I talked about:

  • Some of the ways values can drive motivation and behavior
  • Whether “safety and security” are a true value, or another factor
  • The role of risk-taking in business
  • The problem both Tim and I have with the “Law of Attraction”
  • A giveaway for Tim’s book!

Leave us a comment below (ideally mentioning some of the values that matter to you) for a chance to win a copy of Tim’s book! U.S. residents can choose between a physical or Kindle option.

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Aug 19 2019

21mins

Play

Digital Business Trends and the Latest on the Rainmaker Platform

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Challenges and opportunities for content-driven business in 2019 and beyond … and a new look at a content marketing platform.

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Ed Bardwell, president and new owner of Rainmaker Digital Services, dropped by to talk about digital marketing and advertising, as well as content marketing and business trends that are informing site design. And he talked with us about Andromeda, the brand-new version of the Rainmaker platform.

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Aug 12 2019

30mins

Play

4 ‘Naive’ Business Principles for Enduring Success

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Ever been told you’re “too nice” to run a business? Yeah, I’m gonna call BS on that.

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I lack the “killer instinct” to run a successful business.

All I can say is, I’ve been very happy with the success of Copyblogger and my other businesses. In this 15-minute episode, I talk about four “Naive Business Principles” that I think any business can profitably adopt — whether it’s a one-person show or an international mega company.

The principles are:

  1. It’s all invented (so it might as well serve you)
  2. Nothing matters more than people
  3. Cluelessness can be an asset (if you do it right)
  4. Naive is not an excuse for stupid
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Aug 05 2019

14mins

Play

How to Write an Epic Blog Post, Part 3: Polishing and Promotion

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Part three of our series: How to polish and promote an epic blog post or other piece of remarkable content.

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You’ve got your first draft of a solid, dare we say “epic” piece of content. Now it’s time to polish it to perfection, and promote it for the widest possible audience.

That’s what I cover in this 25-minute episode. I talk about:

  • Why this is one time it’s wise to be a bit of a perfectionist
  • Specific elements to check and polish
  • Tips on working with grammar checkers and human editors
  • Suggestions for effective guest posting and content syndication
  • SEO recommendations
  • Advice on how to grow your professional network without being “that guy”

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Jul 08 2019

24mins

Play

How to Write an Epic Blog Post, Part 2: Getting It Written

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Part two of our series: How to write an epic blog post or other piece of remarkable content.

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OK, you’ve assembled a pile of research and done some careful thinking, and now it’s time to write.

Now what?

You may have heard the advice to “tell them what you’re going to say, then say it, then tell them what you said.”

Let’s face it, that’s not much help. (And probably a recipe for a post that’s less than exciting.)

In this 27-minute episode, I get a lot more specific about what goes into a really good blog post or other piece of content. I talk about:

  • Why it’s so important to narrow your topic to one big idea — and what, specifically, that entails
  • Strategies for creating a powerful first impression that draws a reader in
  • The one technique you should never use to grab audience attention
  • How to organize the “meaty middle” and make it epic
  • Wrapping your post up with a stirring conclusion that moves your audience to action

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Jul 01 2019

27mins

Play

How to Write an Epic Blog Post, Part 1: Thinking and Research

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New series! Part one: How to prepare to write an epic blog post or other piece of remarkable content.

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What’s the best antidote to the glut of content?

Better content. Much better content.

This episode is the start of a three-part series on how to write a genuinely remarkable piece of content.

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Digging to uncover the transformation (for yourself and for the world) that you want to create with this piece of content
  • Taking research (way) beyond the basics
  • How to refine and re-refine your idea
  • When to “go shopping in your own closet” for a post
  • Getting unique quotes from experts in your topic

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Jun 24 2019

17mins

Play

3 Almost Magical Headline Ingredients for More Traffic, Engagement, and Shares

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Want to do a little bit of work and see really good results with your content? Make some time to learn about crafting great headlines.

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Copyblogger has long been known for its articles about headlines, and today I’m going to share three “nearly magic” ingredients that will start getting your content more engagement and shares.

In this 20-minute episode, I talk about:

  • How to avoid the “all hat, no cattle” headline
  • The keys to using benefits to make a compelling promise
  • How to use numbers in your headlines without degenerating into the dreaded “listicle”
  • Using headline formulas without descending into the land of cheese
  • What you should do if you use the word “secret” in your headline

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Jun 17 2019

19mins

Play

Lessons Any Business Can Learn from an Impressive Influencer Marketing Fail

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Has the “influencer bubble” really burst? Maybe, but … probably not

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This week I’m talking about some real-life lessons any business owner or marketer can learn from a very public marketing fail.

Instagram personality Arii shows 2.6 million followers … but couldn’t sell 36 t-shirts. Is this the beginning of the end for influencer marketing … or just a lack of a solid business model?

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why more engagement wouldn’t have helped Arii move a significant number of t-shirts
  • Why building a brand wasn’t the answer, either
  • The essential business ingredient that was missing in Arii’s offer
  • Why “know, like, and trust” isn’t enough for any business
  • Why there’s no such thing as a copywriting formula that just consists of the letter A

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Jun 10 2019

18mins

Play

13 Ways of Looking at a Headline

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Having a hard time coming up with headline ideas? Here are 13 tweaks, prompts, and hacks to keep you moving.

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We’re working on headlines this month for our Copyblogger content challenge — but sometimes it’s really hard to come up with ideas!

Fortunately, there are lots of structures out there you can use to spark your creativity. I brought 13 of them together for you here, with apologies to Wallace Stevens and his nice poem.

13 ways to look at your headlines:

  1. Start with a number — or tweak an existing headline by adding a number
  2. The “Cosmo” technique, taking the structure of a magazine headline and adapting it for your topic
  3. Play with the promise. Amp the promise up with strong words … then try a quieter version that sets a more realistic-seeming expectation
  4. Try a warning — the “What Not to Wear” headline
  5. Answer the “protest march” questions: What do they want? When do they want it?
  6. The “monster” post — “101 ways to …”, “The Ultimate Guide to …”
  7. The “brief guide” — identifying the small set of key steps to getting started
  8. “The X Questions to Ask Before You …” (this is often nicely paired with a checklist, cheat sheet, or worksheet)
  9. The question without an obvious answer. “Do Lower Prices Lead to More Sales?” Remember: the audience needs to understand the relevance!
  10. Useful: What will the audience get out of reading, listening to, or watching this piece of content?
  11. Urgent: Increase the sense of urgency with time pressure or warnings
  12. Unique: Can you use an unusual word? Can you challenge conventional wisdom? Remember: Don’t let “unique” turn into “confusing”
  13. Ultra-Specific: Precision is interesting. Replace vague, waffly words and round numbers with specifics

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The Transcript

13 Ways of Looking at a Headline

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone:

Hey there, good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the Chief Content Officer for Rainmaker Digital and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get extra links, extra resources, as well as the complete show archive by pointing to Copyblogger.FM in your browser.

If you are joining us this month for our content challenge, or even if you aren’t, the group, the audience over at Copyblogger.com is doing a challenge to come up with better headlines. We start by coming up with more headlines. The challenge for the month is to come up with, let’s say, 20 or 30 headlines, brainstorm a whole big stack of them, and then keep adding to that every day by brainstorming a couple of additions.

One of the things we’ve heard back, and this is not surprising really, is that coming up with that many headlines is just hard, it’s just kind of a brain teaser. Today I thought I would revisit an exercise that I did way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I went to college. I had a poetry class, and we did a riff on Wallace Stevens’ poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. I don’t remember what the exercise was, but it was a poem to use that same idea, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Banana, I think it was.

So today, I am giving you Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Headline. This is intended as a way for you to kind of shake up your creative mind, shake out some additional ideas for headlines that you can try. Now, you might not use all of these ideas, you might only use one or two, but it’s a way for you to generate more ideas, so you can pick the ones that really jump out at you, the ones that you say, “Okay, that’s actually … seems like something I might want to read.”

If you’re doing the content challenge, and that’s awesome, I would love it if you were. This will help you get that done. If you’re not officially doing it, you can certainly sit down and brainstorm a big stack of headlines. It is so useful, no matter what you do to create content, to just have a bunch of headlines that you can start from and start writing something, or recording a podcast, or whatever it is that you do. Let’s get it started.

1. Start With a Number Or Tweak an Existing Headline by Adding a Number

The number one tweak you can make to an existing headline or jumping off point for a new headline is to work with numbers. You might have seen there are lots of numbers-oriented posts and content all over the web. The reason is that just numbers and headlines just seem to work really well together. Now, my favorite way to handle a numbered list post, or, 13 different ways to do X, Y, or Z, is to write the piece first and then pull the number out of that.

I’ll write a comprehensive how-to post about something and then I’ll just go back and count, “Okay, I’ve got 17 ways here, so this is going to be 17 ways to do a better job of X.” Starting from the content and then working back to the numbers, for me personally, is a best practice, but it doesn’t always work this way. For example, this podcast, I knew that I wanted to just have a little play on the Wallace Stevens poem, Thirteen Ways of a Looking at a Blackbird, so I knew that I wanted to come up with 13 ways to tweak a headline and come up with a new idea.

You can go either direction. Just realize that most of the time you should be willing to tweak the number to fit the content, rather than the content to fit the number. If you can only come up with 87 really good ideas and you had originally thought about a 101 list post, I would go ahead and go with the 87. Keep it strong, really make sure that the content is keeping the promise that the headline is writing the check for.

2. The Cosmo Technique, Taking the Structure of a Magazine Headline and Adapting it for Your Topic

Second tweak, this one is one of my favorites. I mention it nearly any time I talk about headlines, because I find it just handy and it’s something you can do right away, you can do it immediately. That is to head over either to a physical magazine stand or you can head to a virtual magazine stand, like Magazines.com, and look at very popular magazines. Look at their headlines and then just tweak those for your topic.

This is sometimes called the Cosmo headline technique, partly because Cosmopolitan magazine is really, really good at giving you headlines you can tweak for any topic at all: fitness, parenting, relationships, finance, business-to-business marketing. Their headlines structures are so tight and so solid, and so it’s a great place to go and you just take the shell, the skeleton, the structure, and then you just change the words around until it makes sense in your topic. It’s a really good way to knock out a bunch of ideas very quickly.

3. Play With the Promise. Amp the Promise Up with Strong Words Then Try a Quieter Version that Sets a More Realistic-Seeming Expectation

Technique number three is to play around with the promises you make in the headline. Sometimes some words imply a big promise, like breakthrough, or sure fire, or instant. Those are just words that imply a big promise, they imply that the content is going to deliver on something big. Play around with using some big promise words and then generate a couple of more alternatives, dialing down the promise, making it less hype-y, for lack of a better word.

To take a big promise and, what would that big promise look like if you managed expectations on it a tiny bit and dialed down that promise? Play with the promises, go big, go a little softer, and see which one feels more compelling to you. It’s not always the big promise headline. Sometimes a more realistic headline is the one that will actually get more attention, but you have to play around with it and experiment and just try different possibilities.

4. Try a Warning the What Not to Wear Headline

Technique number four is the What Not to Wear headline. In other words, the negative headline. This is a headline that implies some kind of a warning that strongly suggests that people avoid some terrible fate, a headline that tells people what not to do, or what to avoid. These are always compelling, they are always interesting.

5. Answer the Protest March Questions: What do They Want? When do They Want It?

Technique number five is to answer what I call, the protest march questions, and those are, What do they want? and, When do they want it? So, How to teach your first grader to tie his shoes in less than an hour, okay. What do you want to do? I’d like my first grader to be able to tie his shoes. When do I want to be able to get that done? I’d like to be able to get it done in under an hour. What do they want, and when do they want it? Answer those questions. Those are just always very solid headlines.

6. The Monster Post 101 Ways to , The Ultimate Guide to

The sixth technique is the monster post headline. So, 101 ways to do X, Y, Z, keeping in mind what I said earlier that if you actually only come up with 87 or even 64, just go with the smaller number, it’s still impressive. The ultimate guide to, is another very time tested post formula. It can work very well, it’s used a lot, but it still has good promise. Think about what monster, massive, gigantic piece of content could you create and write a headline for that. Kind of an additional pro-tip on those, sometimes those can be turned into really interesting larger pieces of content also, like eBooks, tutorial series, autoresponder series, something like that.

7. The Brief Guide Identifying the Small Set of Key Steps to Getting Started

Countering that, the seventh possibility for a headline is the brief guide headline. This is a headline that promises the most important steps to getting started with a particular topic or a particular thing that the audience wants to do. Really think about selecting, winnowing down from all the possible advice they could get, what’s the most important, most salient how-to you can provide, and then create your own brief guide to getting more whatever it is that they might want.

8. The X Questions to Ask Before You (This is Often Nicely Paired with a Checklist, Cheat Sheet, or Worksheet)

Closely related to that is number eight, and this is the X simple questions to ask before you … The eight simple questions to ask before you publish your blog posts, the six simple questions to ask before you do your workout today, whatever it might be. This is very related to the earlier one, which is it’s very step-by-step, it’s very concrete. You’re telling your audience what they should do and in what order. This is a great kind of content type to pair with a checklist or possibly a worksheet, so that you can actually give them a cheat sheet to remember the eight simple questions to ask before they move forward with their project.

9. The Question Without an Obvious Answer. Do Lower Prices Lead to More Sales? Remember: The Audience Needs to Understand the Relevance!

All right, technique number nine is more difficult to pull off, but they work really well when they work. That is the question that doesn’t have an obvious answer. I’ll give you an example from Copyblogger, Do Lower Prices Lead to More Sales? That one was written for us by Sean D’Souza and I like that because your first thought is normally, “Well yeah, law of supply and demand tends to suggest that when you lower price, you increase demand.” Then there’s a question mark and I think, “Well, maybe not. Maybe that’s not true.” There’s not an obvious answer there and I’m going to want to click through and find out why.

In one of his books, Bob Bly found this great one from Psychology Today, Do You Close the Bathroom Door Even When You’re the Only One Home? Now, I have no idea what that piece of content is about, that article in Psychology Today, but I think I would probably read it, because I’m just really intrigued. Now, these are tricky headlines, because curiosity is an important factor, but the pure curiosity headline, where the person really has no idea what they’re going to get on the other side of that, that, it tends not to get good results.

If I’m reading Psychology Today and I get that headline, I’m going to read it because I read Psychology Today to find out what makes people tick, right? I read to find out more about human psychology. That’s going to share an interesting fact about human psychology with me. That headline is very relevant for Psychology Today. It is not relevant for Copyblogger, and I think if we got clicks on that, it would be to ask us if we had been hacked.

However, Sean D’Souza’s headline, Do Lower Prices Lead to More Sales? is very relevant to Copyblogger and any reader of ours is going to know, “Oh, well that’s interesting, that’s going to be an article about the relationship between pricing and sales. That’s a topic that I think about and I’m going to click through and I’m going to see what Sean has to say about it.” If you have the question without an obvious answer headline, it has to be clear to the audience how it relates to what they come to you for. Otherwise, it just gets confusing and confusing is not helpful.

All right, so I’m going to wrap up the last four suggestions for you with the four U’s of copywriting, or the four U’s of headlines, which are useful, urgency, unique, and ultra specific, and I’ll walk you through how each of these might be something that you could use as a prompt to come up with some headline ideas.

10. Useful: What Will the Audience Get Out of Reading, Listening to, or Watching this Piece of Content?

The first U, letter U, stands for useful. This is a really major tried and true thing to keep coming back to for your headlines. Which is, to ask that question, What does the audience get out of reading this piece, or listening to this podcast, or watching this YouTube video? These are the how-to’s, the tutorials, the guides. These are also the warnings and the pitfalls.

If your headline makes it really clear what the person’s going to gain from checking out your content, you’re going to have a good headline. Even if, maybe your other skills are not incredibly fantastic, that’s probably the most important one to master. Some people apply the so what test, so you keep asking yourself, “Well, so what? Well, so what?” You should have a good answer for that. It should be an answer that makes sense to your audience.

11. Urgent: Increase the Sense of Urgency with Time Pressure or Warnings

The second letter U stands for the word, urgency. This is about getting people to check out your content today, rather than never. Urgency language can include things like, introducing, or announcing, that suggests, “Okay, there’s something new here, I want to look at it.” It appeals to that sense of novelty. Another good urgency phrase is why you must, and this is often paired with the word, immediately. So, you know, Why you must secure your WordPress based website immediately. That’s an important post, because there are actually super bad things that could happen to you if you don’t do it.

12. Unique: Can You Use an Unusual Word? Can You Challenge Conventional Wisdom? Remember: Don t Let Unique Turn into Confusing

The third letter U stands for unique. This is about catching attention and catching attention with things like, something unique, something that people haven’t seen before. You can get this done with possibly an unusual language choice, including one of my favorites which is, use words like weird. Now, we’ve all seen that terrible stupid ad on social media, this one weird trick to doing whatever.

Don’t use this one weird trick, because it’s horribly overused and associated with something that looks not very high quality. There are lots of other ways you could use the word weird, that would cause people to just pause for a second and say, “Huh. Weird. Well, I wonder what that’s about?” Think about playing with that. Any unusual language choice is going to make people just take that moment and stop and look at it.

Another very tried and true way to work the unique angle is to challenge conventional wisdom. To take something that everybody believes is true, and turn it on its head. You have to be able to do this legitimately. Don’t just be a contrarian to be contrary. This actually has to support a real and useful position. Otherwise, you’re getting attention, but you won’t keep attention, because you’re not perceived as being reliable.

Again, I just want to caution you that when we want you to try and put a unique element in your headline, that’s not the same thing as confusing people with your headline. A lot of people go for unique, and what they end up with is unique and confusing. Again, it just won’t help. If people are confused, they tend to get a little bit nervous and when people are a little bit nervous, they don’t act. Anybody who’s a little bit nervous about what they’re going to find on the web will just tend to not click. It just feels safer to not click, rather than going to that weird thing that I’m not sure what that is. Be unusual, be different, be unique, but don’t be so different that you’re confusing and scary.

13. Ultra-Specific: Precision is Interesting. Replace Vague, Waffly Words and Round Numbers with Specifics

Our thirteenth tip is to be ultra specific, that’s the fourth U, ultra specific. This kind of brings us full circle, because one of the best ways to get ultra specific is to use a specific number. Let’s talk about numbers for a moment. We have a tendency to want to round numbers, so we want to write posts with, Ten things you should know about this, or, 100 things you should know about this.

It is often more compelling and more interesting if you go with kind of a knobbly number. If you go with a non-obvious number. 17 is a much more interesting number than 20, and 17.2 is more interesting than 17. Getting incredibly specific with numbers, with the facts, getting really, really pointed about what you have to say … very, very useful, very compelling. It just makes it feel like this is somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about.

Of course, you always want to back that up by, in fact, knowing what you’re talking about. If you see vague words in your headline, then take advantage of that and create a second iteration of your headline that makes that word much more specific, that really speaks to a specific individual. Use specific, crisp, clear, especially verbs and nouns, rather than vague, waffly, fluffy ones.

Those are 13 prompts or tweaks that you can use to look at your stack of headlines and grow it by quite a bit, double it, triple it, perhaps. I will go ahead and post all of these in text. If you go over to Copyblogger.FM, you can get the complete list in text just for your general reference. I would love to hear from you. If you guys have some headlines that you have tried one of these out on, let me know, drop them in the comments, always interested to see what you’re working on. And keep an eye on the Copyblogger.com blog for the next content challenge, which will be coming up in early February. Thanks so much guys, take care, and talk with you soon.

Jun 03 2019

19mins

Play

The 7 ‘Bad’ Habits of Incredibly Successful People

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It turns out those successful people you admire aren’t always so perfect.

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We love to give advice about all of the good habits you should be cultivating as a marketer and businessperson. But in the real world, a lot of actual successful people have plenty of “bad” habits.

I don’t advocate adopting any of these, but if you already have one or two, you may want to explore the upsides.

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about some benefits to these 7 “bad” traits or habits:

  1. Thin skin
  2. Flakiness
  3. Selfishness
  4. Greed
  5. Distractibility
  6. Self doubt
  7. Arrogance

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The Show Notes

May 27 2019

18mins

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Writers: How to Move from Making a Living to Driving Revenue

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Are you writing for a paycheck … or to create revenue for your organization?

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Professional writers make a living.

Conversion writers generate revenue.

A lot of otherwise capable writers are a little fuzzy about how the words they write actually generate money that an organization can spend.

In this 17-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why the advice “not to sell” in early content is misleading, and what you should be selling with early content
  • Some powerful advantages content-based marketing has in getting prospects to complete a purchase
  • How data privacy laws can actually help your business
  • Using engaging content to improve list segmentation and audience relevance

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The Show Notes

May 20 2019

16mins

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Choose the Right Frame to Boost the Power of Your Content

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Looking to create a much greater impact with your content? Start by understanding how it’s framed.

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It’s a little early for a Book Club episode, but I just read the new edition of George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant, and I was blown away by the simplicity and power of his ideas.

In this 19-minute episode, I talk about some of the key ideas in Lakoff’s book:

  • What a “frame” is, and how it shapes the information we take in
  • Why facts aren’t, by themselves, persuasive
  • Why you must at all costs avoid using the language of your competitors
  • The two big frames that inform culture and politics in the U.S. (and are active in other places as well)
  • What to do with an audience that has both frames “installed” (a common scenario)

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Choose the Right Frame to Boost the Power of Your Content

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Hey there, good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the Chief Content Officer for Rainmaker Digital and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get extra resources and links, as well as the complete show archive, by visiting Copyblogger.FM.

Today is a little bit early for another book club, but I really want to talk to you guys about a book that was recently released by George Lakoff. It’s called, Don’t Think of an Elephant. Just a word of warning, it is political, in that it is a book about political strategy and persuasion strategy. If you totally hate politics, then you probably should not pick it up, because you will probably not like it.

Now, Lakoff is not neutral, he has a point of view politically, and as a matter of fact, he makes a good case that no one’s really neutral, that we all subscribe to what he calls frames, which are sometimes, but not always associated with a political side. Given that both political sides have used his work, have benefited from his work, and in fact, I think you could argue that the side he doesn’t agree with has benefited more from his work, which is interesting. It’s not particularly a book for one side or the other of the political spectrum.

It is a really fascinating book if you are interested in the psychology of persuasion and how that works its way out in the real world. Lakoff is a linguist, I believe his cognitive linguist is his particular specialty over at UC Berkeley, which is my alma mater, so I think that’s cool. The ideas that he talks about are actually quite simple. They’re also quite deep in the sense of being very much underlying so much of what we do, so much of what we think about, and since all of us have situations where it would be useful to persuade other people, I thought that these ideas would be interesting and fun to kind of explore and maybe even play around with.

What a Frame is, and How it Shapes the Information We Take in

The first idea is the idea of a frame and this is what I would call a fairly common sense idea. This is something that every one of us sees every day and we tend to think when we see it, Why is the other side so weird? This is not just about politics, this is about, really any aspect of human life. You see it with nutrition, with parenting, exercise, art, entertainment, work. It doesn’t matter what it is, you see this at work, this idea of frames.

I’ll give you his description, “Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world.” For example, if your frame is low-carb, that eating carbohydrates makes you fat and unhealthy, then sugar is always going to be the devil, full stop. No matter if there was a massive new study that came out tomorrow that said that eating a small amount of sugar every day was critical to health, you wouldn’t believe it, because it wouldn’t work within your frame. If right now, you’re saying well that kind of study wouldn’t come out tomorrow because it’s not possible, and in any event, I’m sure it would be fake science. I’m sure it would be funded by the sugar industry. That’s a sign that that’s your frame. Right? Your frame is that sugar is destructive.

Now we don’t get to opt out of these. These are sometimes called cognitive biases or confirmation bias. It’s what we believe to be true and so then the more we hear of that, the more we accept. But it goes deeper than cognitive bias or confirmation bias. It’s not just what you believe about climate change, it’s why you believe what you believe about climate change. When Lakoff is talking about frames, for the purposes of our conversation today and for the purposes of his book, we’re talking about very deep and broad landscapes for cognition.

Why Facts Aren t, by Themselves, Persuasive

A couple of things that are really interesting about how these frames work. Possibly the most interesting and the one that we are all seeing a lot of right now, is that if you take in a fact and it doesn’t fit your frame, that fact will just bounce off. That is confirmation bias. If you get a mountain of evidence that says that we live on a comparatively tiny blue-green rock that orbits the sun, but your frame is that the earth is flat, then that mountain of science is just going to turn into a conspiracy theory. There is no evidence that’s ever going to convince you that the world is round because your frame needs it to be flat.

Just to be totally clear, because we have seen political spokespeople talking about alternative facts with a straight face, I want to make it clear that I do not believe that this belongs to one side or the other side of the political spectrum. I have seen lots and lots of confirmation bias and every single point on that spectrum and others beside. It’s not a left thing, it’s not a right thing. It’s just how we operate.

If we get a fact and it doesn’t fit the frame, it’s gonna be incredibly difficult for us to incorporate that fact into how we see the world. There’s simply too much stuff in the world for us to go through every single fact, every single thing we learn, and then weigh it for its truthfulness. I would also pick up, speaking of good books, Daniel Kahneman’s, Thinking, Fast and Slow. It’s really long. I got through a good two thirds of it. I felt pretty proud. He’s another UC Berkeley alum so, go Bears. Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in economics. It’s a very interesting read about quick mental processing and slow mental processing.

Frames are one of the things that enable that quick processing, where you can just take in a piece of information and essentially immediately decide, Is this relevant, is it credible, am I going to add it to my store of information or not? Human brains use frames and since I’m just going to guess that you are issued a human brain, that’s kind of what you have to work with and what I have to work with. We might as well get some clarity about how they tend to process information. Both for ourselves, but also when we’re talking to other people.

Why You Must at All Costs Avoid Using the Language of Your Competitors

The second thing Lakoff talks about in terms of frames that I found was super interesting was the observation that negating the frame reinforces the frame. Here is an example that is fairly easy to understand. When Richard Nixon tried to defend himself by saying, “I am not a crook.” In fact, he repeated it, “I am not a crook. I have never been a crook. I don’t even know what a crook looks like.” We had Nixon and we had crook. We had Nixon and we had crook and everybody walked away from that thinking, yeah, that guy’s just completely a crook.

For a much more recent example, we can see that many people who have very controversial voices will tweet something on Twitter and it gets retweeted like hundreds of thousands of times by people who say, Look at this. This is terrible, it isn’t true. It’s bad. It’s wrong. All of that retweeting, all of that restating the frame, even though you’re stating it in a negative context actually helps that frame solidify in people’s mindsets.

For this reason, Lakoff has a recommendation and I think it is sound, I think it makes sense, which is, Do not use your competitor’s language. Don’t spin off clever versions of their catchphrases, or their taglines, or their slogans. Don’t use their language to talk about what it is that you’ve got to offer. Use your own language that’s rooted in your own frame. Otherwise you’ll actually reinforce their message even if you’ve just piled up a magnificent mountain of evidence against their point of view.

The Two Big Frames that Inform Culture and Politics in the U.S. (and are Active in Other Places as Well)

Continuing with Lakoff; he identifies two big frames in United States culture. I don’t, for a moment, think these are the only two frames at work, but I think they’re important. I also think that they definitely play out to a significant degree in Europe. One of the frames that we see play out in quite a few different walks of life, different spectra is the strict father frame.

Here are some of the tenets of the strict father frame. Human nature is fundamentally evil. There is a concept here of original sin. People are basically born bad, and because people are born bad, kids need a lot of discipline so that they can learn to be good. That kids are not naturally good, they need to be taught how to be good people. The strict father model, as the name implies, is very hierarchical. You might know the name of that television series from the 1950s, Father Knows Best. That’s kind of the tagline for this model.

The head of the household, who is the father, makes the rules and then everybody else needs to get in line and obey those rules because he’s the one who knows best. He’s the one who takes care of everybody. Discipline is a really key concept in this frame. Discipline is created by punishing wrongdoing and part of wrongdoing is questioning authority. Okay, so that’s a frame that’s important in our culture, the strict father frame.

Another frame that’s important in our culture is what’s called the nurturing parent frame. In this frame, human nature is fundamentally good. Kids are fundamentally good people, and if you don’t wreck them, then they’ll grow up to be good people. That’s what this frame believes. The family structure is much less hierarchical. One of the cornerstone values is empathy. The family’s job is less to discipline and punish and more to just create a space where children can learn and grow by making mistakes without making major problems. That kind of idea is in the nurturing parent frame.

What to Do With an Audience that Has Both Frames Installed (a Common Scenario)

For me, one of the more important things to notice about these two frames is that there are people that are nearly all one frame and there are people who are nearly all the other frame, but many people have both frames What Lakoff calls activated at the same time. They have some strict father beliefs and have some nurturing parent beliefs. Both of those frames are active and which one is gonna get used to make a decision is going to depend on the context. That’s where most people are.

Just as an aside that I found actually bonafide amusing, I taught nurturing parent, like I used those words, for quite a few years as a particularly solid, particularly reliable archetype to use when creating content marketing. Thinking of the nurturing parent as the archetype for an authoritative figure, but in a different way with a very different flavor from that strict father figure. I kind of chuckled when I saw that in Lakoff’s book, because again, clearly it’s probably not a massive surprise to you that would be the frame that is much more activated in my worldview.

Another thing to notice about these is that … Again, many people do have both frames activated and often one will be activated in one context. So, like, one will be active at work, and a different one will be active at home, or one is active in the political sphere, but maybe not in a hobby, or in health. People will tend to activate these frames differently depending on where they are, the context they’re in, and what’s going on around them. People who have both frames installed can have one or the other triggered, depending on your messaging.

That’s where it starts to become quite important about how we communicate. We’ve already talked about facts. If they don’t fit the frame, will just bounce off, just like meteors bouncing off the atmosphere. Messages, apart from just dry recitations of fact, are going to activate a frame of some kind. They will probably activate one of these two frames most of the time, for most of the things that we do.

I think it’s really critical, if you are in the business of persuading people, that you know what your frame is, which most of us tend to recognize it fairly immediately, and then really study the language, and more important, study the ideas of your frame, because these are going to inform everything you say and everything you do. They’re going to inform the kinds of stories that you tell. The kinds of language that you use. The images you use on your website. Your pop culture references. Everything is going to come out of that frame.

You may have noticed, if you’ve been reading Copyblogger, we talk a lot about this. This is the Unity principle from Robert Cialdini. This is belief. These are our values. Where I think the frame model comes in handy is just giving the whole thing, like a framework, to sit in. That it’s not just that I have the value of integrity, or have the value of empathy, but that those values sit in a frame. They relate and connect with other values.

One other thing that Lakoff stresses … He gets asked by political parties, Could you please come up with a tagline that’s going to be the next great political tagline? Could you please give us two words put together that are going to change everybody’s mind about an important concept? It doesn’t work that way. It’s not about a catchphrase. It’s not about a tagline. It’s the idea and it’s the framework of values that that tagline activates. You can’t just zoom in and go right to that skimming off the top and come up with a couple of cheap words that convey what you mean. It’s really about the whole message resonating properly within the frame that is the correct frame for your organization or your personal communication.

Some Parting Advice

I’ll leave you just with the advice that is his advice very much, which is that the time to start is now. Because repetition strengthens the activation of the frame. Literally every word of your content, every syllable, every pixel should be consciously chosen to fit within a frame. You have to know your frame. Now, I’m not saying that you necessarily, wholesale, take the frame from Lakoff’s book, or from this description.

These frames have flavors. These frames have exceptions. They’re not tied to a single group. They’re not tied to a single religious group. They’re not tied to a single part of the country, but each of these frames has flavors. You need to understand the specifics and the nuances, the deep beliefs, the family beliefs, those dinner table beliefs that your frame implies. Then work with that as your ground level and construct it from there.

I would be very interested in hearing, if you would drop a comment. Swing on over to Copyblogger.FM and leave a comment. Let me know, what’s your frame for your organization? The communication that you’re doing right now, whether it’s your own blog, a podcast, work you’re doing for your company, which frame is it? Is it a strict father frame? Is it a nurturing parent frame? Or do you think it’s a blended frame or maybe a flavor of one of those frames? I would be very, very interested to know.

The book is by George Lakoff, L-A-K-O-F-F, it’s called Don’t Think of an Elephant. Again, you don’t have to be a political junkie to just find this take on communication and communication strategy really fascinating. He has a million interesting little linguistic insights. If you’re not turned off by politics, I definitely recommend picking it up. It’s a fascinating, fast and fascinating read. Thank you so much and I’ll catch you next week.

May 13 2019

19mins

Play

How Copywriting Teacher Belinda Weaver Reenergized Her Email List for Massive Engagement

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Some advice from Rainmaker Digital Services spun copywriter and teacher Belinda Weaver into a surprising new direction with her content.

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When our colleague Robert Bruce told me about some advice he’d given copywriter Belinda Weaver, and that she was seeing great success with it, I knew I wanted to have her on CopybloggerFM to tell us more about it.

In this 25-minute episode, Belinda and I talk about:

  • How she’s created nearly 200 nurturing emails for her audience — without spending a ton of work
  • The SEO-friendly, audience-friendly, and business-friendly advice that Robert gave her
  • Why she deleted the opt-in incentive for her email list, and why that hasn’t slowed her list growth

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The Show Notes

May 06 2019

24mins

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