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

Rank #171 in Management & Marketing category

Business News
Management & Marketing

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

Updated about 1 month ago

Rank #171 in Management & Marketing category

Business News
Management & Marketing
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.

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

262 Ratings
Average Ratings

Nice tone, very informative

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


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

iTunes Ratings

262 Ratings
Average Ratings

Nice tone, very informative

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


By Ehab Mohsen - Apr 17 2017
Read more
this podcast is gold ... every episode.
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 about 1 month ago

Rank #171 in Management & Marketing category

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.

Rank #1: 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

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

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The Show Notes

Jan 21 2019
29 mins

Rank #2: Creative Strategies for Content Writers

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This week, I talk with copywriter and content creator Kaleigh Moore about her tips for staying productive and creative.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

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Start getting more from your site today!

Content marketing isn’t an easy game — and when you create content for clients, you need to develop strong skills and habits to keep the creativity flowing.

In this 21-minute episode, I talk with writer Kaleigh Moore about her favorite tips for generating ideas and getting a high volume of quality work done.

We talk about:

  • Her favorite resource for the blog topics that people will actually want to read
  • Finding and shaping a brand voice for your clients
  • Kaleigh’s tips for structuring longer content to keep readers engaged
  • How to prep to write a great piece of content

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

  • 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 for all the details.
  • You can learn more about Kaleigh at her blog.
  • Kaleigh’s tips on structuring content like a pro.
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!

The Transcript

Creative Strategies for Content Writers

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. It is so 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 am the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hangout with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get additional links, additional resources by putting Copyblogger.FM into your browser.

I am very pleased today to be joined by Kaleigh Moore. Kaleigh, how are you doing today?

Kaleigh Moore: I’m doing well. Thank you.

Sonia Simone: I’m really pleased that you could join us. We just had an interesting email conversation with my team about some of the things that you’re doing with content and content marketing. I thought people would love to know more about it.

Let’s just get started by letting us know who you are, what you do, what kind of clients you work with, that kind of thing.

Kaleigh Moore: Sure. I am a freelance copywriter or content writer, whichever you like to call it. I’ve been doing this full time for about a little over three years now. And the niche that I focus in is the e-commerce and software-as-a-service world.

Some of the people I work with on a regular basis are folks like Campaign Monitor or Kissmetrics. Or a lot of e-commerce platforms, so like BigCommerce, places like that.

What I do for them is I create blog content. So they’ll give me a topic or I’ll maybe pitch one to them, and then I’ll hash out a really in-depth and interesting piece of content for them.

Sonia Simone: Cool. How did you strike on that as your area of specialty? What led to that?

Kaleigh Moore: I had a background in e-commerce. I owned my own store selling jewelry online for about five years. I had some hands-on experience in that world, which made it really relevant to share my expertise and write about those types of topics.

The software one, I just fell into. It s kind of serendipitous the way it happened. I was speaking with somebody on Twitter, who happened to work for a software company. She was the content manager there. She and I just built up a relationship back and forth.

And so organically we were talking one day, and I was telling her about the freelance writing work I was doing on the side. And she said, “Oh, we actually have an opportunity. We’re looking for some freelancers to bring on as well, so would you like to work with us and see if it’s a good fit?”

That’s just the first introduction I got to that type of customer, and so referrals grew organically from there.

Sonia Simone: Wow. That’s awesome. I thought you had — I really like your blog. I think it’s really interesting.

I really like some of the ideas you have around — as you know, content marketing and blogging in particular can be intimidating, because I think people have a hard time knowing what to write about. They have a hard time feeling confident that what they’re writing about is interesting.

I just thought maybe I would throw a couple questions at you. I know one of your specialties is just brainstorming blog topics that somebody actually would want to read. I wondered if you could share some insights with us about, when it’s time for you to sit down and maybe come up with some pitches for a client, what’s your process?

How Kaleigh Preps to Write a Great Piece of Content

Kaleigh Moore: Of course, the first thing I always ask is, What’s your target audience, and what are your goals for the type of content that we’re going to be creating?

Those are, of course, always the foundation of creating a good piece of content. Making sure that you’re writing for the right person and in the right voice that they need to hear as well.

Topic wise, we go through a couple of different things. We look at what content is already out there, because of course you don’t want to be saying the same thing everybody else has already covered. We look for, well what are some new things that are happening — or maybe, what are some past topics from your blog that have performed really well — to find out what people want to read about and what they enjoy sharing.

That’s another thing we look at: What are the pieces of content that are getting the most social shares or the most engagement — comments on Facebook, things like that? And just bringing all those elements together to start with some titles that sound interesting. And then building off of that from here, building out the outline, and really constructing something that’s new and interesting. And bring something new to conversations that are already happening but has a unique angle.

Sonia Simone: Right. Talk about that a little bit — just conversations that are already happening.

I think that’s so interesting, because I think a lot of times folks fall into one or two traps. They either write about things nobody cares about, just things that are not on anybody’s mind. Or then, of course, the other side of that is the it’s so tried and true.

I see this a lot. You see the same — almost to the same headline — blog post come out on 10 or 12 or 20 different blogs in the same category. And why somebody is going to read yours? What on earth are you doing that s different here?

How do you navigate that — that tension, if you want to call it that. Or do you have any tips for that different, but not too different?

Kaleigh s Favorite Resources for the Blog Topics that People Will Actually Want to Read

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. I think an interesting way to, at least the way I approach articles, is a rhetorical standpoint. A lot of the people are churning out these pieces of content that are all about the same topics.

Like marketing automation, for one example, is something we’re seeing a lot about. Just tons and tons of posts. But we’re not seeing a lot of original content about these types of things. So kind of trying to take a unique spin on it.

Some places I go for ideas are unconventional I think. And maybe I’m not talking to enough people, but going to the forums and seeing what kind of questions are being asked around these topics, and then addressing those questions within the content. Places like Or Facebook groups who are for groups of marketers. Or Skype channels, or places like even Reddit.

Just going through channels and seeing what are the types of questions that are being asked, and how can we create something that tackles those questions. But it’s also conversational, and interesting to read, and not super scientific to where it’s really dull and tough to wade through.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s funny because I think we’ve been saying that for a long time. And yet I think at lot of people don’t do it, is that just simple social media, just listening.

I think so many people are really quick to get into the conversation. Which is great, conversation is good. But there’s so much you can do just from listening to the conversation. I think sometimes, especially folks who are social media savvy, they just want to jump in and participate.

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. For sure, I see that all the time.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. All right, good. Well, let’s talk about I think one of the most interesting things for folks like you.

I did this for quite a while as my career. People who write for somebody else, either in a company or freelance — and a lot of times a lot of writers will go back and forth on those.

You’ve got the brand voice, and then you’ve got the customer language, and then you have your writing voice. You come to the game with a writing voice.

When you’re writing for a new client, first how do you find that brand voice for the client? Are there some steps you go through? How much do you work with a client to maybe shape that voice, and then what do you do if you feel like the brand voice for the customer, for your client, is really not hitting it when it comes to their customers. It’s really not resonant.

Finding and Shaping a Brand Voice for Your Clients

Kaleigh Moore: Well, there’s two ways I’ve seen this go. One is I will start working with a new client and they have everything covered. They have a style guide. Here’s our writing voice. Here’s some examples you need to familiar yourself with. In that instance, it’s really just a matter of shaping my writing voice to make it sound like they want it.

They are very clear about what they want. They’ve got everything spelled out, and it’s really just dive right in and write in this style. Just mirror what we’re already doing.

In the cases where they don’t exactly know, I think you have to work through again some of those very preliminary questions about: Who are your audience, and what is your brand persona? Who are you as a company? What is the best, most relevant type of voice for the customer you’re trying to target?

If you’re a law firm or you’re a doctor’s office, obviously it’s going to be very formal and grounded and very serious. If you’re a brand with a little bit more personality, you can experiment with different quirky tones and really conversational content.

And it’s a learning experience at first. You might find that people really enjoy reading that conversational tone, and you can let your own writing voice shine in those instances. In some cases you find that’s just, it’s not really what the customer is looking for, and it feels out of place. So you have to tone it back a little bit.

It’s tough. You really just have to trial and error for those instances where they’re not sure yet.

I’ve personally found that a lot of the time people really do crave that conversational, fun writing voice. Because so much of what we’re seeing is just stale and very formal, and it’s not that engaging when you’re reading it. I tend to lean a little bit more that way, because I have seen it before to well for other clients.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. I think it’s a bit of a revolution.

And I was battling this a little bit with organizations I was in. They have what we think of as a corporate voice. And trying to get them to understand that that may not be really all that resonant for their customers. And if it’s not resonant for the customers, it’s not going to really give you the results you want.

Kaleigh Moore: Very true. Yeah, it’s hard. Because in some situations, the companies need that formality to build their ethos and authority as a very secure company and that people can trust. It’s just not that interesting to read, so you have to strike that balance between fun and your life, I guess.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, for sure. You have some clients you do quite a bit of blog content for. I think, for me, I don’t necessarily have an easy time always knowing which to write about.

Do you have any tricks — any, Oh boy, I just did a big push for this client, and I produced a lot of work I was proud of. And now it’s a new month and I ve got to do it again.

Do you have any tricks?

Kaleigh Moore: I really like going into the Slack channels that I’m part of and, again, just seeing what people are asking questions about, what people are talking about. That’s usually a good kick-starter for getting some ideas.

I also like looking at the new things that are coming out in the news articles about changes in marketing technology. Those are always quickly changing, and new topics to talk about there.

Again, just going to the forums and the places where there’s a ton of content being shared all the time. Looking at which things are getting a lot of engagement, where people are commenting and sharing. Those obviously jump out as the topics that people are really interested in, because they’re taking the time to comment on those.

Thinking about, What’s a unique way I can build something off of this conversation thread?

Sonia Simone: Now, do you take sort of a new, like a breaking-news approach. Like, Okay, a lot of people are confused about how to do this automation, so here’s a tutorial. Or do you come at it with more of a feature-article idea, where using more analogies or storytelling — or what’s your approach usually?

Kaleigh Moore: It depends on the client. Some of my clients really like the step by step with lots of examples, where you have screenshots of how to work through a process from start to finish. And then in other instances, it’s much more high level. They want some statistics that indicate a trend or make some point and then build a story around that, rather than really getting super in-depth with things.

It depends on the medium, but definitely a little bit of both.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. Make it useful and make it interesting. It has to be both.

Well, I know you have — and I think every working, busy professional writer does have a lot of thoughts on structure. Partly because it’s just how we stay sane and how we know we can keep producing good content for our clients. I know you have some thoughts on structuring especially the long content.

Long-form content — it’s great for copywriters, because you can charge good money for all those words. It’s great for clients because it can be really nice for search engine rankings to have a little bit of the more meaty, the more long-form content in there.

Do you want to share your pro tips on structuring that content?

Kaleigh s Tips for Structuring Longer Content to Keep Readers Engaged

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. When I ve written for places that are really known for their authority, for their long, in-depth content, I’ve noticed some commonalities between the way that they structure their content.

And there’s three major things that I try to keep in mind when I’m creating the outline for those types of posts.

The intro is always — and I see this on the Copyblogger blog as well. It’s always short sentences. It really gets the reader into a slow reading process, where they’re really just slowly being lured in. And it’s interesting. It’s one sentence at a time.

You’re not presenting this big chunk of text right off the bat. It just naturally gets the person moving down the page. It’s very conversational. There might be a little bit of snarky humor sometimes. It feels good to read. It’s very easy reading.

I always try to keep the intro in that form. Where it’s fun, it answers a question. It previews what’s coming, but it’s also very conversational, very natural feeling as you’re reading through it. It leads you through nicely.

The middle is where you really dive in with tons of research and examples and screenshots. Maybe a couple GIFs, however you decided to say that. Big debate, I know.

Typically I’ll find myself spending anywhere from four to eight hours working on the middle section, just making it really in-depth. If they want a walkthrough, doing it start to finish Here’s all the steps you need to complete a process.

Really presenting examples to back up a question I’ve asked in the beginning. Or answer that question. Or indicate why something is worth nothing, worth paying attention to if it’s a trend or something like that. Really spending a lot of time on making the core of the article just extremely value-packed for the reader.

The ending is really just a quick wrap-up, where you’re reminding the reader of all the topics and the points that you made within. Just a quick bullet list, or something like that.

It’s about the conversational open, the really meaty middle section, and then just a quick recap at the end. Across the board, I’ve seen that that structure seems to do really well. So that’s what I stick to.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s one thing when you have that many words. You have to have a decent skeleton to hang it all on, or else it can become just not interesting, which is no fun.

I always like to ask people this when I do an interview podcast. Which is, of course, Copyblogger has lots of readers, and Copyblogger FM has lots of listeners who are professional content creators.

Some of them are freelancers, some of them are working in organizations, and some of them have their own companies. If you had a piece of advice for these writers, maybe to make their content more compelling, more effective, what do you think it might be?

Kaleigh Moore: I would say probably just spend a little more time on it. It’s so easy to churn out a thousand words and call it good. But the content that does really well, and stands the test of time, and does all the wonderful things you wanted to for search engine rankings and things like that are the posts that take a long time to put together. Whether it’s research, whether it’s actually writing.

Those really thoughtful pieces of content are what I’ve seen do really well. So spending a little bit more time, even if it a little painful to crank out a higher volume of words or it costs a little more to pay somebody to do that.

Those pieces are extremely valuable, and they can help you position yourself as a thought leader. They can answer questions better that your customers might be facing. They’re just more valuable in the long run, so I would love to see more of that in the content world.

Sonia Simone: I know, me too. I’d rather see you take four times as long on one piece of content than four little pieces of the me-too stuff that we all see.

Kaleigh Moore: Yes, absolutely.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. Because it doesn’t do you that much good.

Kaleigh Moore: It doesn’t. It’s quick and easy to write, and sometimes you can make a quick point in those post. But you’re not getting anything really packed with value or that’s going to change somebody’s mind about something.

Sonia Simone: Right, exactly. I like that.

All right, fantastic. How can people find out more about what you do? I really like, you give lots of really cool tips on your blog. So where can people find you?

Kaleigh Moore: I am at And my first name is difficult to spell, so I’ll make sure that I get that correct spelling to you.

I’m also on Twitter @kaleighf. Also difficult to spell, but yes. Twitter is where I spend a lot of my time, so that’s a great place to connect if people are interested in doing so.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s a funny thing. You notice that writers love it. Everybody else is like, I don’t get why people with these Twitter. And writers are like, Twitter is the best one. That s the most fun place.

Kaleigh Moore: It is. I love it. And like you said, I see lot of other writers spending time there. It’s a good place to be.

Sonia Simone: It’s a great place to be. All right.

Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you dropping by and sharing some pro knowledge with us. And I will talk to you soon.

Kaleigh Moore: Okay. Thank you so much.

Sonia Simone: Thank you so much.

Mar 20 2017
21 mins

Rank #3: 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

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

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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
17 mins

Rank #4: How to Write (Much Better) Blog Comments

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Seems simple enough, right? Then how come so many people are terrible at it?

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

Start getting more from your site today!

In principle, leaving a comment on someone’s blog, podcast, or social media account doesn’t seem too tricky. Enter your name and other info, write down your thought, and click Post Comment.

In practice, too many folks leave comments that are weak, boring, annoying … or just plain spammy. That wastes your time and the site publisher’s time. Here’s how to up your game.

Sonia’s 5 Tips for Good Blog Comments

  1. Make a good, relatable first impression
  2. Understand the site you’re posting to
  3. Stop leaving vague “great post” comments
  4. Understand that commenting on sites is a long game
  5. Bonus: If you disagree, do it intelligently

In this 20-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The benefits of leaving comments on blogs, podcasts, or other content venues
  • A peek behind the “comment spam” curtain at Copyblogger (warning: it’s not pretty)
  • The kinds of comments we love
  • How to make sure your comments are relevant
  • How not to be “that guy”
  • What no one (except me) will tell you about playing the Devil’s Advocate
  • The art of constructive disagreement

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

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 194,000 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress
  • Hey, you should leave a comment on our content challenge! 2017 Content Excellence Challenge. (We really do love to hear from you.)
  • If you don’t have a Gravatar (globally recognized avatar) yet, snag one here: It’s easy and free.
  • Some more thoughts on content promotion strategies (with a link to a free book I wrote for you about that)
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in (yes) the comments

The Transcript

How to Write (Much Better) Blog Comments

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by StudioPress, the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins. 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.

Well 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 find more links, extra resources at the show notes for this podcast. You can find them at Copyblogger.FM, and that’s also where you can get a complete archive for the show.

The Benefits of Leaving Comments on Blogs, Podcasts, or Other Content Venues

Today, I want to talk about a subject that might seem obvious, or it might seem simple, and every single day I am reminded that many people aren’t very good at it. That is leaving a good blog comment. You probably know if you followed us at all for any length of time, Copyblogger turned off comments for quite a while, I think it was over a year. The main reason we did was we just were not seeing super high comment quality. Now, some people were leaving wonderful comments, and then a lot of people were leaving the other kind. Spam comments are one thing and they’re taken care of tolerably well by spam filters.

That wasn’t really the problem. The kind of spam that gets caught in spam filters was not really an issue. The issue was the volume of comments that were really intended for a different purpose other than connecting with the community. Some people on the Copyblogger team hate comments, not all of those people are named Brian Clark, and some people on our team love comments, and not all of those people are me.

The Kinds of Comments We Love

Every one of us loves the real community building kind of comments. It’s always great for all of us to hear from the people who really, truly make up the audience. Folks who are working on their content, interested in content quality, trying to make something happen, and maybe they have a question, or something catches their eye. Those are just awesome and we still love those.

Now, it’s probably worth talking about why leave a comment on a blog at all, other than just you ve got nothing else to do for the next two minutes. The biggest reason is that commenting on blogs still works. When I say works, what I mean is that one of the biggest questions people have is, How to expand their audience, especially when your site is new and young? How can you expand your audience, how can you promote your content, how can you get other people to find out who you are and what you’re doing?

One of the most important ways to do that is to create some conversations and relationships with other content publishers, with other people who have YouTube content, or blog content, podcast content, what have you. The web is a social place and the whole commenting system is a way that we can foster our community, and make connections with each other, and make new connections with people we haven’t met yet. That doesn’t work when people leave comments that feel dodgy or feel spammy.

I wanted to just give some suggestions for folks out there to leave the kinds of contents that are going to open up relationships with the people that … Whose work you respect. Of course, it’s a not very thinly disguised encouragement to come on over to the Copyblogger blog, or this podcast, or both, and leave comments so I can get to know more about who you are and what interests you.

I’m going to give you five things to keep in mind when you’re leaving a comment on someone else’s content. Again, really any kind of content. This also counts on social platforms. The first one is you want to put your best foot forward. Things like, make sure you’ve spelled things properly, make sure that your remarks are reasonably grammatical. Nobody needs to be perfect and things don’t have to be … You’re not submitting a paper to your eighth grade English teacher, but fluency counts and presenting yourself well counts. In my opinion, you must have a Gravatar. You get a Gravatar by going to the Gravatar website, it’s easy to Google, I will give you a link, and just give them the email address that you use when you post comments and put a picture of yourself up there. Your Gravatar needs to be your face.

A Peek Behind the Comment Spam Curtain at Copyblogger (Warning: It s Not Pretty)

Now, once in awhile you can get away with something kind of silly like, a cartoon face. In fact, on one of the email addresses I use sometimes, if I have trouble commenting with my regular one, it has a cartoon face, and that’s sort of okay. What does not work is to have your logo, or to have something else where you’re hiding behind some kind of organizational identity. Because organizational identities cannot get into relationships, and the only reason to comment anywhere is to have good conversations and create relationships. There are now a few sites that will simply throw into the trash any comment that does not have a Gravatar or that has a Gravatar that is a logo. Similarly, we will trash any comment where you use your keywords as your name, or usually, if you use your company name as your name, we will just throw it away.

Part of putting your best foot forward and part of making a good first impression is that, let us know that you’re a person and not, literally a bot, or perhaps some very poorly paid freelancer who’s just going around the web leaving comments, because people believe it has some kind of SEO value. I have no interest in starting a conversation with, Best SEO agency Atlanta, and I’m just choosing Atlanta at random.

Now I will definitely talk to you if you work in SEO. I like a lot of people who work in SEO and any glance at my Twitter stream will show you that. What I don’t want to have a conversation with is a collection of keywords. It just makes you look like a spammy jerkface. Okay, so that’s putting your best foot forward, making a good first impression.

How to Make Sure Your Comments are Relevant

The second best practice is please know the site that you’re commenting on. Please actually take some time to familiarize yourself with what’s going on there. You want to comment on sites that you actually know something about. You want to be able to make comments that are relevant. You cannot create the relationships that we’re talking about creating with content publishers with this kind of shotgun approach. I see it all the time. It’s often outsourced, and it’s clear that somebody’s got their little spreadsheet and they’re going down to 30 or 40 blogs a day and leaving a comment. It doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. You want to find a select group of sites that have content that you really resonate with. It really works for you, you’re really getting it, it’s meaningful to you. Then participate in an ongoing conversation there.

Because I’ll tell you a secret, the first time you comment, nobody is going to notice you, really. You’re just not going to stand out. Although, it does help to have your face in that Gravatar icon, because that starts to give the publisher something to hang onto. “Oh, that Susanna person seemed nice.” Now, when that Susanna person shows up consistently, not every day, not like being the first commenter … That it just becomes so obvious when it’s completely done as a tactic. I just see Susanna fairly regularly and I start to recognize her avatar and she’s participating in an ongoing conversation. Then I start to say, “Oh, Susanna’s cool, I like her. It makes me happy to see her on the site.” For example, and yes, this is absolutely a hint, you could participate in our content challenges at Copyblogger.

We just kicked off the January prompts last week. If you want to do that, let us know in the comments, you know, How’s it working for you? Let us know, “I tried this and then that happened,” or let us know that, “I tried the thing you recommended, but I ran into a snag,” or let us know, “I don’t know what it is about me, but I just can’t deal with the Pomodoro method, it gives me hives.” Just have a conversation that’s relevant to what we’ve been talking about.

Another nice way to do this is to ask a relevant question. Something specific like, “Should I try this technique that you’re recommending in this piece of content given the set of circumstances?” Now, you probably don’t want to have five or six pages of explanation, but enough details that we’re talking about a real world scenario, and not just the vague show.

It shows that you’re actually connected to the topic and you’re kind of working with the material and making it your own. That’s really what virtually every content creator wants to see happen. We want to see people who are taking the material and actually doing something with it. That’s a huge win for almost any content creator. We love to hear about what you’re doing.

Make Sure You Have Something to Say

That kind of leads to my number three point, which is, let’s please stop with the vague comments, the content-free comments. “This certainly seems like a high quality site, your advice with this is very good. I will try it.” That just goes right in the trash. It doesn’t say anything. It’s completely meaningless. I mean, it’s an attempt to be pleasant and I like that, rewards for being polite, but it doesn’t contribute anything to the conversation. You can’t create a relationship with a publisher and a relationship with a community, and don’t overlook that element of it, until you actually start sharing something specific about what’s going on with you.

You should realize, if you’re going to use blog comments to widen your network and get to know more people who publish content so you can just organically grow your audience, you should know that as a content publisher, the reason that I have comments on my site is I want to know more about who’s reading, and who’s listening to the podcasts, and what kind of things bug you, and what kind of things work for you, where are you coming from.

The content-free comments, those vague comments, they’re sort of vaguely pleasantly complementary without ever getting specific, they seem like they’re no big deal, they don’t seem like they’re hurting anything, but they create all of this clutter. I gotta tell you, after awhile, they get incredibly irritating. So please just don’t. If you don’t have something to actually say, think about having something to say and post comments on the sites where you actually feel moved to add something to the conversation.

How Not to Be That Guy

The fourth kind of best practice or recommendation is really, you have to realize that this is a long game. Commenting on a blog or commenting on a podcast is not going to get you a flood of traffic, it’s not going to help you make your numbers this month, it’s not going to help propel your book to Amazon number one. If you’re using it as that kind of short term tactic, it just shows, it’s so apparent, and it feels creepy. Even if you follow the rules kind of to the letter, the spirit is off and it feels off and your comment s going to get trashed.

I’ll tell you what that reminds me of. If you’ve ever been to a networking breakfast, like a live thing, and you know that there’s always those couple of people, often guys, but definitely not always guys, who relentlessly hit everybody up with their thing. It’s usually a multi level marketing thing and everybody in the room groans when that guy walks in, because he never asks a question, he never has any curiosity about what anybody else is doing. He’s for sure not there to buy, he’s only there to sell his crummy thing that you could get anywhere.

Nobody likes that guy, do not be that guy. Don’t comment on blogs where you think somehow you’re going to sell something, whatever that means to you. Comment on sites where you’d just really like to make a connection and you’d like to get to know people better, and possibly do some work together at some point down the line. It just needs to really be about making a connection first.

Now, major bonus points if you’re in a situation where you can swing it. If you know the site, or you know that writer from some kind of a connection face to face, so at a conference, a live event of some kind, definitely do say hi. It is so nice to see somebody in the comments, or on Twitter, or a lot of places, if I’ve had a nice conversation with them at a live event somewhere. This applies just as much to conversations on social media, as it does to content comments. It’s really delightful when you can make that connection, it just makes such a difference when I have a real person to connect the Gravatar and the name to. If that’s something that you can do, it really, really is a wonderful way to make a lot better relationships, and make good connections. And then you can maintain those connections with things like comments.

What No One (Except Me) Will Tell You About Playing the Devil s Advocate

The last piece of advice, a lot of people will not tell you this, but I am going to tell you this, because a lot of people are not telling you the truth. Everybody actually hates the devil’s advocate. There’s always that one person who thinks it’s a good way to get attention to be super contrary and constantly say, “You guys are wrong, this is dumb, lol,” usually lol goes in there somewhere.

If you want to be contrarian about somebody’s ideas, whether that person has a big site, small site, I don’t care, do it on your platform. Your platform is a great place to say, “I know everybody thinks those Copyblogger people are smart, but I think they’re totally wrong about this and here’s why.” Then present a cogent, intelligent argument. Smart, well thought out disagreement will do a lot of good on your site. When you come take it to the comments on my site, it’s just kind of annoying.

Now, that in no way means that you’re not allowed to disagree, because that’s just silly and I’m not saying that at all. But, you need to think about how reactive, in fact, how inflamed the social web is, especially right now. If you make a habit of bringing attention to yourself by being contrarian, a) I think it’s a little bit lazy. I’d rather see you actually come up with some ideas. I’d like to see you come up with some recommendations, some … “I think everybody ought to do this, I think this is the way to go and here’s why and here’s my evidence.” A little bit of, Being a contrarian makes a good seasoning, but again, do it on your site. It’s just going to get you a lot more benefit and everybody hates that guy.

No one will tell you that, because we all want to think, “Oh, I’m all for constructive criticism,” and everybody’s for constructive criticism in theory. Nobody really likes it. So, if what you’re doing is commenting to create relationships, a real small amount of that goes a long way. Occasional disagreement is fine. Keep it respectful.

The Art of Constructive Disagreement

My dad, who is the world’s biggest crank, really just on the planet, will go on a major tear and then he catches his breath and says, “Well, that’s how I see it. You might see it differently.” I think this is such a good … That’s such a good way to look at things. Yes, it’s okay to disagree, you don’t have to agree with everything we say on Copyblogger, but if you make a point of showing up and telling us how wrong we are, you’re just being irritating. In most subjects there are multiple good approaches, and so a good content publisher is going to kind of choose one path, and they’re going to publish content about the path that they can speak to intelligently and authoritatively.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any other paths, or no other paths exist, or every other path should die in a fire. But, if you have a real different way to do things, be respectful, learn what you can, engage in the conversation, make friends, and then present your way that you think is the right way on your site and pull your own tribe together. There’s no reason we have to fight, or squabble, or any of this silly nonsense. We can all hang out, and be cool, and each have our own point of view about things.

That’s it, five ideas for leaving better comments on blogs, on video, on podcasts, on any piece of content. They also work when you’re leaving a note or a comment on somebody’s social media platform. This is, as you can tell, a hardly disguised at all little bit of motivation. We love to see your comments on Copyblogger. I particularly love to see your comments on Copyblogger.

If you’re going to be joining us for any one of the content challenges, or all of the content challenges, or if you just see something that you find useful, or you’re not sure about, maybe something feels a little bit unclear, I love it when you leave us a comment. Let us know what’s working. Do let us know if something’s not clear or it’s confusing to you and you need something spelled out a little more, because that really helps us create content that works for you, and that’s what we want to do.

Thank you so much. I sincerely hope to see you in the comments. This is Sonia Simone with Copyblogger FM, take care.

Jul 31 2017
19 mins

Rank #5: Seth Godin and How to Create Change

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A conversation about what matters in marketing and business.

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I was delighted to be able to catch up with our friend and one of my favorite teachers, Seth Godin. In this 19-minute conversation, we talk about:

  • The fundamental shift in how Seth sees marketing differently
  • His thoughts on fake news and the “post-truth” online environment
  • The stories we tell in business without realizing we’re telling them
  • An approach when you don’t feel you have the authority to try something different
  • The reason most marketers are drowning, and a different approach

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

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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 for all the details.
  • Seth will be re-opening his 200-day The Marketing Seminar project later this summer. You can sign up here to be notified when they re-open. Disclosure: After Seth and I recorded this podcast, he was kind enough to offer me complimentary access to the seminar. This is not, however, an affiliate link. If you happen to see me there, say hi!
  • Seth’s blog has been a source of counterintuitive insights, interesting questions, and different approaches to marketing for many years now.
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!

The Transcript

Seth Godin and How to Create Change

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 am 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 get additional links, additional resources, and a complete show archive by pointing your browser to Copyblogger.FM.

I am attempting to have some dignity here and not overly fangirl myself. But I am super charmed that our great teacher and friend Seth Godin is here today to talk with us about stories, marketing, communication, and all kinds of good stuff.

Seth, welcome. I’m so pleased you’re here.

Seth Godin: Well, I’m not shy. I’m getting all fanboy over being with you. So, it’s a pleasure Sonia. How’ve you been?

Sonia Simone: I’ve been wonderful. I hope you’re well.

Seth Godin: Things are good, yes. Thanks.

Sonia Simone: Anyone who pays any attention to me knows, because I always try to give credit where I get ideas, that your work has had a lot of influence on me. And specifically on how I think about marketing, and what I think marketing actually is.

How we define it in a world where marketing is, in a lot of cases and for a lot of people, essentially synonymous with telling lies that you may or may not get caught out on.

I would be interested to ask you, what do you believe about marketing that most other people don’t seem to believe about marketing?

The Fundamental Shift in How Seth Sees Marketing Differently

Seth Godin: Well, I think the fork in the road is, are we doing marketing to people or are we doing it with them?

When the Internet started to show up 20 years ago, 30 years ago, what heartened me about it was that there was going to be a fundamental shift in power. And that humans were going to have the ability to take back their attention, to take back their privacy, and to take back their choice. That has been at the heart of my work all this time.

There is a large contingent of people who want it to be the other way. They want marketing to have victors and to have victims, and they want to take what data they can and just take it. They want to trick people, hype people, scam people. Go for the short-term, play the behavioral economics game, and generally play a game to win.

For me, marketing isn’t that. Marketing is an infinite game. It’s something that we get to do. And if we do it well, it’s something that makes both sides glad they engaged.

Sonia Simone: I think that’s very resonant for me, certainly.

I’m curious to digress a little bit. We’re in such an amazing period of time with the Internet, with how it has shaped how we talk to each other, how we broadcast, and the kinds of things we share. Any thoughts on this insane, crazy, post-truth, alternative-fact environment?

I started out online with a lot of idealism that we were all going to be able to know and no one was ever going to be able to tell a lie because the Internet, just the crowd, would crowdsource the truth. So that didn’t turn out.

Any thoughts, any reaction to this kind of amazing and challenging time we’re in?

Seth s Thoughts on Fake News and the Post-Truth Online Environment

Seth Godin: Well, I think it’s worth noting that the dominant media narrative of any given moment rarely is accurate. It’s just the dominant media narrative. So if 50,000 people had voted differently in November, the narrative today would be totally different even though the world would not have the underlying sources would not have changed one bit.

There’s always been a division between civil scientific method discourse on what’s right and what’s not, the motion and belief, and what we want to have happen.

So you could watch people in 1958 have a fist fight over Ford versus Chevy. Ford versus Chevy is not a cut-and-dried conversation. It’s emotional, and it’s tribal. It’s attitudinal. And the same thing is true now.

Has there always been fake news ? Yes. Has it been weaponized and industrialized like it is now? Of course not.

What we know is that human beings are still making decisions the way they always did. Some of them make decisions in certain situations quite rationally and in other situations emotionally and based on tribal alliance or their personal history. That’s how we end up with religion, and it’s how we end up with people who want to drive a Harley or anything else.

I think that as a marketer, what we get to do is understand that we can get to pick which conversation we’re about to have. Are we about to have a conversation based on facts and checklists and RFPs, or are we more likely having a conversation based on humanity and who we think we are when we look in the mirror?

Sonia Simone: One thing that I’ve seen you write about, speak about over the years is telling stories. Something that I find fascinating about telling stories is that every one of us pretty much tells stories all the time with our friends and our family.

We have all these little stories. It’s how we keep each other current on what’s going on in our day. Then as soon as we get to point where we’re trying to tell a story in a business context, we get real weird. It’s hard, it’s awkward, and we don’t know how to do it anymore.

So I wanted your thoughts on that. And do you have any thoughts on — because I know that you believe in storytelling, I think anybody who understands human cognition, just observes, storytelling matters a lot.

Any thoughts on why we get so noted up, and maybe advice on how to be less insane about this?

The Stories We Tell in Business Without Realizing We re Telling Them

Seth Godin: I think that’s a profound insight, Sonia.

Let’s be really clear, though, about what a story is. Little Red Riding Hood is clearly a story. But there are also stories like the tone of your voice on this podcast. You sound informed, calm, and connected. That’s a story. You might have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, it might not be how you feel right this minute. But it comes through.

So we tell a story whether we think we are telling a story or not. In business, we’re often telling the story of I am profoundly uncomfortable, and I’m going to rely on the base level of facts so that I will not be held responsible. We don’t tell stories like that when we’re offering a four-year-old an ice-cream cone. But we feel like, in a work setting, we have been hired to just be a middle man, to not own it.

If you don’t own it, it’s very hard to find the freedom and the foundation to actually tell a story that resonates.

Sonia Simone: That’s very interesting, because one of the reasons I started a business is I got very frustrated about having a story I thought was meaningful and worth telling in an organization, but I couldn’t get the mojo right to tell that story. I couldn’t get permission to tell a story I thought was meaningful, truthful, and valuable.

Any thoughts on that? On people who are in organizations, where maybe so often, the people who do the work are so smart. And it’s hard for organizations to see how wise their own people are. So if somebody’s wise or just perceived something, has something they want to say that they think is real and useful, but having a hard time getting it approved in their organization.

Seth Godin: Well, I’m not sure I have enough time to go into all of the details. Let me try to just …

Sonia Simone: A quick answer would be fine, yeah.

An Approach When You Don t Feel You Have the Authority to Try Something Different

Seth Godin: Short version goes like this: We want authority. We want a badge. We want a permit.

The reason we want authority is so we can tell other people what to do, and so we’re off the hook when we do it because we have a badge. But what organizations are bad at is giving out authority.

It turns out, on the other hand, we can take responsibility. And most organizations will let people take responsibility. If you start doing that, while giving away credit, you will discover that you get more of it.

If you take responsibility for the repercussions of the story you are telling, if you take responsibility for being human and having empathy as you approach someone who needs to hear from you, I think the whole game changes.

Part of it is the story we tell ourselves about what we do around here and what our job is.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, I like that a lot.

All right, I do want to touch on — you have a project that sounds like it’s been in the work for quite a while. It’s a seminar, and it is a little different. The format’s a little different.

So I do want to talk about that. Because I’m very interested in it, and I think a lot of people listening to this call would be interested in knowing more about it. So can you kind of let us know what it is, how it works, all that good stuff.

The Most Effective Thing That Seth Believes He s Ever Done

Seth Godin: I’d be delighted.

I’m a teacher, and I’m not doing what I do to get likes or clicks or have people look at ads. I’m actually trying to make change happen.

In thinking about how online learning works, the first thing I built was the altMBA, which is an intensive 30-day workshop that takes people from around the world and has coaches and live discussion groups. You have to apply to get in.

It worked great. It’s the most effective thing I think I’ve ever done. But I also learned that a lot of people can’t make that sort of commitment. So I thought about how else could we make change happen that doesn’t just involve putting up some videos.

So I built The Marketing Seminar, which you can find at The idea is that it’s a 100-day seminar. And every other day, 50 times, I’ll post a video lesson. Then people go in to discussion groups to talk to each other, to work it out, to contribute to each other’s work. Because that’s where the real learning happens.

Thousands of people are in it.

Anyway, it’s at And I explain it there better than I could explain it here.

Basically, I believe that humility, empathy, and effectiveness are significant factors in marketing that almost everyone in the traditional marketing world has overlooked in favor of clicks, numbers, and false metrics.

My hope is that people from nonprofits, big companies, and entrepreneurs and freelancers will engage in this community. Because I’m in the business of making change happen, and this is my best shot at doing that.

Sonia Simone: That’s interesting. I was just looking at the description of the project, and I found some words, and I thought they were intriguing. So I thought I would ask you about them.

This is a seminar about building a machine, a marketing machine. A process and a practice that produces value daily. Again, I thought that was fascinating, because I think I have a decent handle on the humility and empathy part of your message. Effectiveness is always something that I can put some more time on. But that machine, I thought that was such an interesting metaphor for you to choose. And so I was curious about where that was coming from.

Seth Godin: The first year I had my blog, 200 or 300 people read it. And the question one would ask is, “How long should you keep doing that before you stop?”

If you think about Airbnb during its opening months or you think about Facebook during its opening years, the question is, “What did you add to the asset today? What did you add to the asset yesterday?” Because if you re counting on winning in one swoop, you’re playing a short-term game. And if you’re playing a short-term game, you cannot possibly have humility. You cannot possibly have patience.

So the only way to be able to present to the market with both the enthusiasm, the confidence, and the humility that’s going to be necessary is to realize you have to build an asset. Day by day, drip by drip.

Too often we miss that, because everyone’s always promising us the secret and the shortcut. I believe that the most direct shortcut is the really, really long way. That is what happens when you get a virtuous cycle.

So the idea of a machine is that every day, we are layering something on top of the thing we did yesterday. And over time we move from the early adopters, who are eager to dance with us, to the people in the middle of the market, who are basing their decisions on what the early adopters told them. If we look at the arc of Copyblogger, that’s exactly what you guys have done.

Sonia Simone: For sure. It’s interesting. My attempt, some years back, in channeling Yogi Berra, I once said that, “Don’t take shortcuts, they take too long.”

Seth Godin: There you go.

Sonia Simone: I have consistently found that to be absolutely, literally true. That the more shortcuts you take, the more you just delay getting to the point that you want to get to.

Seth Godin: It’s so hard for people to hear that.

Sonia Simone: It’s hard.

The Reason Most Marketers Are Drowning — and a Different Approach

Seth Godin: I’m so glad you said it so cogently, because many people who do marketing are drowning. We’re drowning because we’ve made big promises to people.

The average CMO lasts 18 months before she gets fired, because they’ve expanded those promises in their head to come to the conclusion that if they just make average stuff for average people and give the marketer some money, all problems will go away.

Faced with trying to keep that promise, marketing is super stressful. So I think we have to begin by making a different promise. And once we make that promise, we can follow your insightful advice and stop looking for shortcuts.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. I’m gonna ask you a goofy question, because I don’t think that humility lets us, in a way, think about this.

Assuming you were okay with just changing what people think with a magic wand, and you had a magic wand, is there some belief that you would at least invite people to consider? If you could just wave a magic wand and people would think about something differently, what do you think it might be?

What Seth Would Change about How People Think

Seth Godin: Can I have two?

Sonia Simone: Yeah.

Seth Godin: I’m gonna take two.

Sonia Simone: That would be awesome.

Seth Godin: The two are: One, this is a revolution. We’re standing on the precipice of it, and we’re likely to waste it if we just keep doing what we’re doing.

Two, in order to move forward, we have to own our words. We don’t get to say, “Well, I was just parroting the company line.” Or “Well, that’s what my party needed me to do.” Or “It’ll all work out.”

It s on us, that our name is on it. It wasn’t true when you were the 800th highest-ranking person at Ford Motor Company. But that’s not the case anymore, that there’s so much leverage for every individual. We need to own it.

If you knew you had to own it, what would you do? That’s what I would like people to understand.

Sonia Simone: That is really cool. That’s very interesting.

All right. Well, I will end with the thing we always end with. Which is, let s say somebody finds this. Not that we’ve been obsessively focused on the seminar, which actually sounds like a really cool project.

But let’s say somebody finds this interview in six months. Seminar’s not an issue anymore. Do you have some little piece, like a small evergreen question or a small evergreen touchstone, that people might take away with them on their day and maybe do something different with their day?

Seth Godin: Would they miss you if you were gone? If your email didn’t show up, if your memo didn’t arrive, if your meeting was canceled, if you couldn’t offer your service and they had to buy it from a competitor — would they miss you?

Sonia Simone: Oh, I love it. Wonderful.

Thank you so much. This is been such a delight. I really enjoy the way you think, and I really enjoy the way you teach. And I’m excited about your project.

Thank you. This had just been a delight.

Seth Godin: I hope we can do it again soon, Sonia. I miss talking to you, and I wish you a buona sera.

Sonia Simone: Ah, grazie. Grazie mille.

Seth Godin: Very good. See you later.

Sonia Simone: See ya.

Apr 16 2018
19 mins

Rank #6: 10 Quality Factors Search Engines Need to See on Your Site

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What do the search engines mean by a “high quality site”?

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While technical SEO still exists, a huge chunk of modern search engine optimization consists of “generating high-quality content.”

So what does that mean? When a search engine ‘bot looks at your site, what kinds of things is it looking for?

In this 23-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Some of the things (both simple and complicated) that can mess up your search rankings
  • Why you need to use professional-quality tools if you care about your web traffic
  • 10 factors that generate the “signals of quality” that search engines look for
  • Other ways to get discovered beyond the search engines

The specific quality factors I talk about include:

  1. Mostly original content (not scraped)
  2. A reasonable commitment to quality
  3. Freedom from stupid tactics like keyword stuffing
  4. Using the language of your audience (in other words, keyword research)
  5. Usefulness
  6. Truth
  7. Creativity and interest
  8. Smart content promotion
  9. Good links
  10. Breadth, depth, and richness — showing you actually know the topic

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

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by for all the details
  • Sean Jackson’s post on OCDC (optimizing content for discovery and conversion)
  • Follow the link in this post to pick up my ebook on content promotion (it’s free with registration)
  • Good tools include reliable site monitoring to keep malware and hackers away. We like Sucuri
  • A post I wrote about the right way to think about Google
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!

The Transcript

10 Quality Factors Search Engines Need to See on Your Site

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. That s 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. You can always get extra links, extra resources, and the complete show archive by going to Copyblogger.FM.

SEO for the Rest of Us

It is March already, and this month on the Copyblogger blog we’re going to be talking quite a bit about SEO, search engine optimization. The art of getting found by the search engines and more important, getting found by people who use search engines. I try to never talk about SEO without introducing the subject by saying there are so many people who know a lot more about the technical side of SEO than I do. Many, many, many people. We’re going to be inviting some of those people, some SEO heavy hitters, to the Copyblogger blog this month. They’re going to be talking about some of the more advanced scenarios, some of the more technical considerations of search engine optimization.

Today, I am not going to talk about that, because I’m not qualified to talk about that. Instead I’m going to talk about, I guess you could call it SEO for the rest of us. The kinds of best practices, solid business advice that normal businesses, especially smaller businesses that don’t have massive websites or massive budgets, things that we can do, good best practices that we can use, to improve our chances of getting found in the search engines, and just as important, not to waste money on things that don’t work well, things that are outdated, or something that’s being sold to us by somebody who’s really not fantastically great at SEO themselves.

If you are trying to rank for the keyword weight loss, or something along those lines, something ultra competitive, if you have a massive site, a very database rich site, lots of queries, lots of data, lots of things going on, this podcast might be a little bit beyond your ken. Although, I do think that there are going to be some things you’re going to find useful here for how to structure your content, because that’s the part that I do know something about. Just to put the thing as crudely as possible, a search engine will rank your site well, in other words it will come in toward the top of the search engine’s results page, if it feels that your site is generating signals of high quality.

Some of the Things (Both Simple and Complicated) that can Mess Up Your Search Rankings

There are two approaches to search engine optimization. You can try to figure out what the algorithms are looking for today. That, of course, could change tomorrow. Then you can try to figure out how to generate a signal that matches what the algorithm is looking for. Or, you can create a site that is high quality. Immediately, all the SEOs are going to be yelling and rightly so, because that is really putting it overly simply. However, for a smaller business, for an individual website, for somebody who has a blog who’s just trying to get some search traffic on some keywords that are not ferociously competitive, it’s a thing. Creating a site that actually is good is a thing and it helps.

I’m going to talk about some of what goes into that in this podcast and also in my Copyblogger post on the same topic. Now I’m not going to tell you that gaming the search engines never works, because that’s not true. It certainly has worked, it still works in some cases. The thing I will say is that I have been in this business for quite a while now, a good chunk of years. I have noticed that the ones who really crow about the results they get from being fairly creepy and fairly spammy and the ones who are really condescending about how well their creepy spam fest is working are the ones that one day you just don’t hear from anymore, because all of their clients overnight lost their rankings.

Does a certain amount of tomfoolery still work? Yeah, it probably still works. The problem is, when it stops working it’s really irritating to try and figure out why and fix it. I ignore those kind of tactics. I don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with them. It’s not what I’m good at. What I look at are essentially content fundamentals. For me, that’s really where the success is. That’s where I really see results.

Let’s start talking about specific recommendations. The first one is make sure your site isn’t borked. In other words, make sure that there is not something technical going on on your site that is messing you up. There are any number of things that you can do to mess things up.

For example, you can buy links and get caught, that will mess you up. You can also have, and this is a bit embarrassing when it happens, you can have some code on your website that tells search engine bots not to crawl the site, or not to index the site. In other words, not to analyze it, or if they do analyze it, don’t report it in the search engine s results page. It’s a little thing on your site called the robots.txt file. I’ll give you a link that’ll show you what to look for, what not to look for.

It seems a bit silly, but sometimes, for example, somebody might have been working on your site, set one of these parameters to don’t index the page because I’m working on it and I don’t want it to index right now. Then you wonder why you’re not getting rankings. It’s just ’cause somebody forgot to turn that off. These are things that can happen. Small things, but a small thing with technology will bork it up just as bad as a major problem.

Why You Need to Use Professional-Quality Tools if You Care about Your Web Traffic

To that end, I really recommend if you care about your website, if you care about how much traffic you get, if you care about your search engine rankings, you have to use a reasonably professional grade class of tools. In other words, you’re going to use a premium WordPress theme. You’re going to use real hosting, you’re not going to use like the $2 a month stuff. You’re going to pay for site monitoring to make sure that some weirdo hasn’t hacked your site without you realizing it. You’re going to use tools, professional grade tools. These are not necessarily ultra crazy expensive. I’m not talking about something that’s going to cost you $1,000 a month, but I am saying a moderate professional investment.

If your site is teeming with malware, then your customers are not going to want to go through, Google is going to have a little warning on the search engine s results page that’s going to say, “This site seems to have something yucky going on,” and other bad things will happen. You have to take reasonably good care. The most common problem that I hear from people about or that I hear about when I talk to people at conferences is a site that got borked by a bad SEO. This is a thing that can happen. Somebody comes in whose sales ability is a ten and whose actual technical SEO ability is like a 1.2 and implements all kinds of shenanigans and problems happen. Again, that’s not a bash on SEOs. It is a bash on terrible SEOs. Just like every other profession, there are plenty of them out there.

If somebody who comes in, they don’t know what they’re doing, they either buy a lot of really bad links or they stuff your content with a lot of keywords and tell you that they’re SEOing your content. Somehow, SEOing as a verb can be a red flag. I’ve seen that not work well, or people who make a lot of technical behind the scenes changes that instead of making your site cleaner and simpler for the search engines to analyze, which is an important part of technical SEO, they’ve made things complicated or confusing because they’re trying to play games.

I do not know of a remedy for a bad SEO who’s come and messed things up for you, other than to hire a really good SEO to come in and fix it. That person is not going to be the most budget person. I’m not going to say they’re going to be a fortune, but don’t expect to be a cheap fix and do not expect it to be an instant fix, unless you do have something silly like you’re robot’s text is set to no index or something.

Most SEO problems, if they’re real problems, take time to get corrected. If you’re using somebody’s time who’s very good at their job, then that’s going to cost money as well. Hopefully no such terrors have visited you, and we can talk about creating a quality site. And more to the point, what does a search engine mean when it’s looking for a high quality site?

10 Factors that Generate the Signals of Quality that Search Engines Look for

I’m just going to give you a little bit of a laundry list of some of the things that these algorithms are looking for that shows the search engines that your site is better than somebody else who’s writing about the same topics. Your content needs to be original. It’s content that you created, it’s not something that you scraped. People get hysterically worried about the duplicate content penalty, which is not exactly a thing. It’s okay if there is some content on your website that also appears in other places on the web. There are ways to finesse that and manage it, but your site’s not going to get dinged by Google if you have some content that also appears elsewhere.

Much of your content should be original. If you do have something that is original but also appears in other places, then you need to follow some basic, decent SEO practices and help the search engines recognize that yours is the one that they should consider to be the real one, this is the real post. The second factor is a reasonable commitment to quality. What I’m saying is not that all of your content should be able to be republished in The New Yorker at any moment, but that if you would like to rank for a particular term, a particular phrase, you have to be creating better content around that phrase than other people who are writing about it.

The more competitive your keyword phrase is, or your phrases are, the more amazing your content is going to have to be. That’s just logical. Your content is going to be free of foolishness like stuffing it with keywords in a extremely outdated attempt to fool the search engines into thinking it’s super, super relevant. You don’t ever want content that’s had something done to it in the name of SEO that makes it weird or awkward for a person to read. That, for me, is my most important north star, my most important rule of thumb. The content has to work for human users first and foremost and then you tweak it lightly, lightly so that the algorithms can find you and efficiently understand what your site’s doing.

A good site, a high quality site from the point of view of a search engine is going to use language that is related, that mirrors the kind of language that users enter into the search engine when they’re looking for something. That’s what keyword research is all about. It is very simply using the language that your audience is using to write about and think about the topic. It’s not any more exotic than that.

How does your intended audience think about this? What kinds of specific words do they use when they have a question about your topic? For this reason you can get into some issues with your search traffic if you use a lot of cutesy, in-terms, things you made up, for concepts that nobody else really shares with you. That can work well if you get a big enough audience for it. I’ve seen some marketers, and it’s kind of good from an audience building perspective, they have this whole private language that they use around their stuff. That’s fine, but make sure there’s some normal human speech in there as well.

High quality sites are useful. They answer questions that people are searching for. They are true. They’re not fake news, they’re not … Has fake news been doing well in search engine results? Yes it has. Is that going to keep being true? Probably not. It is a problem that is being worked on. Please publish information that is true, that is useful, that is helpful. If all we want to be is true, useful and helpful, we might as well all go work for Wikipedia, right?

Useful is not enough. It has to be interesting. The reason it has to be interesting is not that the bots that conduct these crawls and analyze content get bored easily. It’s because content that is interesting to people gets people to generate those signals of quality. Those are things like links, spending a lot of time on your website, sharing them. If your content is useful and interesting, it’s going to generate those signals of quality. And PS, special bonus, those signals of quality tend to get your content in front of more people. It’s building your authority with search engines, but just as important and really more important, it’s getting your content in front of people who could benefit from it, which is the point, right? It is the point of the exercise.

One thing I want to talk about is I think sometimes we definitely fall into this trap of thinking that if the content is good, so we made it interesting, we made it true, we made it useful, and so we’re going to publish it and then through some kind of magical event, Google is going to know that it’s good and reward it with a good ranking. That’s not really how it works. We have to publicize our content in order for people to start looking at it and generating the signals of quality. It has to be good first, because if you publicize crappy content you’re not going to get what you want. That means we have to start thinking about things like developing our professional network, about cultivating a community of publishers in our topic, about supporting each other’s work. All those good things.

I have a whole ebook on content promotion that will help you with that if that concept stresses you out. The ultimate signal of quality at this point is still links, as far as I know. Real links from real people, not links from weird sites that nobody’s ever heard of, but solid links from credible websites created by people who know what they’re talking about. Those are still the strongest signal. You get that signal by creating something worth linking to. Incidentally, I just talked about that community of publishers in your topic, give links to people who are producing good stuff on your site. Link to people who are good. It’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for your audience, it’s the right thing to do just in general. Be part of the community. Don’t imagine that this whole thing takes place in some kind of isolation ward, because it doesn’t.

The final thing I’ll talk about in terms of quality signals is really the breadth of your site, the richness of your site. We are not in the world anymore where one really well optimized web page will tend to rank. It can for a specific enough set of keywords, but by and large your site needs to have some richness. It needs to have a good volume of content that addresses your topic in different ways, in important ways. That’s why one of the more useful things you can do, especially when you’re launching a site, but really anytime when you want to just give your site some vitamins in terms of getting more attention, is to put together a cornerstone of the most useful, the most interesting kinds of content, the how-to content, answering the most important questions, that just essential knowledge cornerstone.

Other Ways to Get Discovered Beyond the Search Engines

If you can get 10 posts, 12 posts, 20 posts written about key topics in what you write about and get them published, that really helps. Again, it helps the bots, the algorithms, understand that you know about the topic, that you have a lot to say about it and you really have something to offer the searcher. That’s what they’re looking for. The final thing I’ll say is just keep in mind that Google is not the only game. For one, people do actually use other search engines. Google has a very large share of search traffic, but it doesn’t have all of it. More to the point, people discover sites and they discover content in multiple ways.

One of my business partners, Sean Jackson, wrote a post about this on Copyblogger. The way that he refers to it is OCDC, which is optimizing content for discovery and conversion. I have to admit that around the digital office the phrase OCDC makes some of our rather OCD people twitch a little bit. The point is we don’t live in the world of, Hire the right SEO, buy the right links, make certain technical tweaks and then you’re going to get traffic and you’re going to make a lot of money. That’s not the world we’re in anymore. The world we live in today is about people finding you from all over the place. More to the point, they find you from all over the place and they come across you again and again. You keep crossing their path.

They might see you from a search in a search engine, but they also might see you on social. They might see your social advertising. They might see a Facebook ad that you ran. Then they might get a recommendation, a referral from a friend. All of these things add up and work together to create a path that leads people to you and so it’s not just ranking the search engines and then a miracle happens. It’s more complex than that. The nice part about that is, you can be working on the whole path while your search game is being built. Over time, search is going to become an important part of it but it probably won’t be the whole thing. Really summing it up, the best practice in search engine optimization is to create content that deserves to be found.

I will repeat that because it is important. The best practice is to create content that deserves to be found. Then you figure out the path to getting found. The search path, the social path, what have you, and you make the tweaks, you make the changes that are going to make it easier to do that, that are going to smooth that path out a little bit and make it a little easier to see you in this vast forest of content. SEO techniques that help you do that or that are harmonious with that goal of creating content that deserves to be found are probably going to serve you well.

SEO techniques that you would never in a million years do if you weren’t trying to rank, those are the ones you really have to look at and ask yourself, “Is this a good use of my time? Is this a good use of my money? Is there any way in which what I’m doing is compromising my larger goal?” That’s what you want to stay away from. I hope you will tune in this month for SEO month. It’s going to be, of course, very content focused, but we’re also going to have some more technical people who understand lots of things I couldn’t begin to explain to you. I think it’s going to be fun and interesting and can’t wait to see you there. Take care.

Feb 19 2018
23 mins

Rank #7: The One-Two Punch that Creates the Most Successful Copywriters

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In the copywriting world, some of us are poets and some of us are killers. The really great ones are a blend of both.

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William Maynard once said,

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 advertising legend David Ogilvy added:

If you are both killer and poet, you get rich.

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why cultivating your inner poet is more important than ever for 21st-century professionals
  • Where creative wordsmiths can build their skills as “killer” strategists
  • How to become a more talented writer
  • Some details about our Certified Content Marketer program, which is going to open up (briefly) to new students in early August

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

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!

William Maynard of the Bates agency said 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.

Today I’m going to “embroider” a post I did for Copyblogger some years back, about that combination of the killer and the poet. Why? Because I like David Ogilvy’s whole “get rich” suggestion.

The Killer and the Poet: How to Get Rich as a Copywriter

Copyblogger has really always been about that combination. The creative element — and that only gets more significant for most professionals in the 21st century. The stuff that can’t be done by a robot. It was important when Ogilvy founded his agency in 1948. It’s that much more important now — because robots and algorithms, as well as a global workforce, are taking jobs away.

The more you cultivate your poet, the stronger your defense against that — but poetry alone usually doesn’t pay the bills.

Ogilvy famously despised creativity for its own sake. He had no patience for advertising that won awards and praise, but made no sales.

When I write an advertisement, I don t want you to tell me that you find it creative. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.

He also favored advertising that used real content to educate prospects, whether it be a mouthwatering Guinness Guide to Oysters or a one-page tutorial on how to remove stains with Rinso detergent.

Advice to poets

For all Ogilvy s famous disdain for creativity, he also recognized that intelligently applied creativity was crucial to effective advertising.

Like all great copywriters, he understood that formulas can only take you so far. Advertising breakthroughs need a poet as much as they need a killer.

Most good copywriters aren t particularly good writers. If you are, you have the potential for a remarkable competitive advantage. Just remember that you need to marry the grace, elegance, and thoughtful novelty of your words to a well-thought-out business strategy.

You re lucky the strategic part is much easier to learn than the poetry bit.

The hard part for you can be accepting your inner killer. Make peace with the desire to make money (for yourself and your clients) as well as making something beautiful, and you ll be unstoppable.

Also, did I mention rich?

Advice to killers

You re a direct response disciple. You ve studied what works. You test and measure and keep your eyes open. You re street smart. And all of that is probably serving you very well.

Where you get into trouble is thinking that talent doesn t matter. Don t kid yourself.

Talent is the difference between a ten thousand dollar ad and a ten million dollar ad.

Now talent, we all know today, isn’t something you’re born with. Poets always knew this. You get creative by doing creative work. Remember the phrase “deliberate practice.” That means the stuff that isn’t too easy for you. If writing dialogue is difficult and painful — write some dialogue every day for a month. Or a year.

Don t scorn that forgotten poetic corner of your soul because you think it s bad for business. Actually, it s terrific for business.

Every human being is creative, and every human child is a poet, a singer, a musician, and an artist. The only reason you quit being all of those things is that you got scared.

So ok, killer, it s time to face the really scary stuff. Put the work in to make your copywriting extraordinary. Put some art into your marketing. Don t throw away all the oddball ideas. And, independent of work you get paid for, spend some time playing with language.

That means doing work you don’t get paid for. (Sacrilege, I realize.) Take a screenwriting workshop, or a short story class. Get some books for fiction writers and start doing exercises as warm-ups for your writing day. Rewrite classic poems. Write a magic realist fable.

Write things you don’t ever write. They don’t have to turn out well, these are for you.

You and I both know it s not about putting pretty descriptions of sunsets into your copywriting. It s about caring about language and making the words sing.

If you want to create breakthrough work, and not just acceptable work that makes you a decent living, you need to get tough with yourself. As a killer, you should be good at that. So get going. Raise the bar.

We’re about to re-open our ultimate course to help poets develop their skills as killers — our Certification program. It’s all about taking your talent and ability, and deploying it more strategically. When you complete the four-week course — you can do that at your own pace — you’ll have the opportunity to apply for certification and show that you’ve mastered the material. Writers who pass are added to our “recommended content marketers page” — which is a killer way to find new clients.

Just one note — if you don’t have a strong writing voice, you won’t pass certification. That’s an essential part, and we don’t teach it in this course.

The information about content strategy and putting together a comprehensive, integrated content marketing program is still valuable whether or not you get the badge, but I want to be very up-front about that part.

Trudi Roth gave us a beautiful quote, and I’m proud so I’m going to share it here. The question was, what was the one thing you did this past year to build your writing business:

Hands down it was taking and completing Copyblogger s Certified Content Marketer training program! I know it sounds like you guys paid me to say that, but having a listing on the Copyblogger website as a Certified Content Marketer has brought me at least a dozen excellent repeat clients that know their stuff because they are fans of Copyblogger, too. (And my listing has only been up for a couple of months, so that s really exciting!) Trudi Roth

As you know if you’ve hung out with us at all, we like to give you free things when we launch an offer, and we have a nifty ebook with some of our favorite advice for professional writers, and particularly for the content-focused types of writers who tend to be Copyblogger readers.

WORD: Writers Offer Reliable Direction – Free ebook

I’ll share a link in the show notes, and if you want to get all of the details about the Certification program when we launch, boogie over to Copyblogger, go to that products tab, and choose “Certified Content Marketers.” Then add your name to the email interest list.

This program tends to open up once or twice a year — we don’t want the “recommended writers” list to get flooded. But we’ve had folks who needed to be added to a “no new clients” section because they were booked solid, so the time seemed right.

Jul 28 2016
19 mins

Rank #8: How to Turn All that Marketing Advice into Action

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Are you a “training addict”? Wondering how to handle all of the marketing and business information you’re taking in? Allow me to suggest a plan.

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It’s easy to say, “Just don’t read or listen to any more marketing advice until you implement what you already have.”

But digital marketing and business do change. Besides, learning is fun. And it doesn’t have to get in the way of doing … if you have a system.

Here’s my system for capturing the ideas from newsletters, tutorials, blog posts, and courses, and turning them into action steps for my business.

In this 21-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The tool every creative person needs to capture ideas as they fly by
  • Understanding the top-level categories all marketing advice falls into
  • The 16-year-old productivity advice that I still use every day

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

  • 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 for all the details.
  • David Allen’s classic Getting Things Done methodology still has a lot to recommend it
  • A quick run-down of how to get started with a bullet journal (strict adherence is not necessary or probably even helpful)
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!
Jun 12 2017
21 mins

Rank #9: 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?

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

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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

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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
21 mins

Rank #10: 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
19 mins

Rank #11: 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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Jul 23 2018
16 mins

Rank #12: 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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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
21 mins

Rank #13: 7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity

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There’s so much content marketing out there that’s perfectly ok … but it lacks creative spark. Here are some ways you can get more vitality into your blog posts, videos, and podcasts.

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When we write, day-in and day-out, it’s easy for things to get a little stale.

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about some of the techniques and approaches we use at Copyblogger to keep the creative flame burning. Specifically:

  1. Tell quick stories
  2. Find striking metaphors or analogies
  3. Mix the senses
  4. Maybe you’re funny?
  5. Practice your voice (social media works!)
  6. Escape your echo chamber
  7. Fire off The Godin Hack

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity

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. That s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Hey there. It is 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 links, extra resources, and the complete show archive by pointing your browser to Copyblogger.FM.

Today I want to talk about some ways you can bring a little more creative spark to your content. Maybe you’re producing content. It’s technically good. It’s useful. It’s structurally sound. It’s well written in terms of grammar and usage, but it’s too similar to too many other things, and it just doesn’t have that kind of juice to it. It doesn’t have that creative edge that you need to have if your content is going to work in today’s super competitive environment.

I pulled together seven techniques or approaches you can use to just get a little more life into your content and to bring that something extra, that something special to what you are creating, whether it’s writing, videos, podcasts. It works for any of these.

Tell Quick Stories

The first one is the most powerful one, but in a lot of ways, it’s the hardest one to bring in, and that is to tell a good story. You can tell a good story right off the bat, or you can lead into it. They’re both very, very powerful. Your ability to tell a quick, relevant, punchy little story is something that can do more for your content than probably anything else you’ll ever learn how to do. If you want to get some ideas about how to tell these quick, effective stories, look at jokes. Look at the way that jokes are constructed and the way that they’re told, especially fast jokes, quick jokes.

You also want to keep an eye out for good stories. If you read popular nonfiction, popular nonfiction is full of good stories. It’s just required now for that genre. Keep an eye out for how they’re told, and when you find one when you’re reading, take notes about it, really look at it. How does it establish the characters of the story? You cannot have a story without some kind of character, at least one interesting character. How does it establish the conflict in the story, the thing that keeps the story interesting and compelling? And then what’s the punchline? What’s the moral of the story? What’s the point of telling the story in the first place, and how is that delivered? How is it shown? How is it illustrated? How is it highlighted?

I did write about this for Copyblogger, so I will get you a link in the show notes, with just some kind of specific craft tips for how stories actually get constructed. I think a lot of people think that storytelling is an innate talent, and some people for sure seem to be very good at it, but it is something that can be learned.

Find Striking Metaphors or Analogies

The second way that you can put some more creative life into your content is to keep an eye out for interesting metaphors or analogies, comparing one thing to something that it is not very much like on the surface. The more different the two are, the more energy it creates, and the more interest, the more texture it lends to the content.

Now, metaphors and analogies, as you can imagine, often combine nicely with story. You can tell a quick story, even a two or three sentence story, about something completely off topic, completely different to what you typically write about. Maybe you’re going to tell a story about the lifecycle of a particular kind of moth, and that brings you around. The punchline of that story makes a point in your primary topic, and then you elaborate a little bit about why that is.

These kinds of metaphors and analogies really bring life, really bring something fresh to content. Again, Brian Clark actually wrote about this quite recently on Copyblogger, so I will go ahead and give you a link in the show notes.

Mix the Senses

The third thing that you can do, and this takes advantage of the actual wiring of the brain, is that when we have memories or experiences that involve multiple senses, they make a stronger impression. They’re more vivid, and they’re much more memorable, in fact, if you need to learn something, anything. You need to learn Spanish verbs, or you need to learn the periodic table of the elements, or whatever it might be, if you could combine multiple senses so that you think of copper as being green and smelling like bleach, you will remember it more effectively than if you’re just memorizing a two letter symbol for the element and its atomic weight. That’s why post images matter, because they immediately give you a visual element that combines with text to create a multi-sense experience that makes the content more engaging and more memorable.

Beyond just try and find some good post images, in your writing, and again this applies to spoken word writing, like you have in a podcast, or video tutorials, whatever it might be, work hard to think about invoking specific images. Do things like describe smells, describe sounds. Obviously in a podcast or a video, you may be able to introduce interesting sounds as part of the texture of that content. Talk about colors in your writing. A single color word can create a visual impression very, very economically.

You don’t want to go overboard. You don’t want to have, “It was a dark and stormy night” flowery descriptions all over the place, because those get boring very quickly. But weaving in some of this multi-sensory texture into your writing will really help your words make an impression.

Maybe You re Funny?

The fourth one is a little tricky, but I’m going to include it anyway, which is maybe you’re funny. I say it that way, because everybody says, when they’re talking about writing or content marketing, usually the common advice is, “Well, don’t use humor, because humor is very subjective.” What that actually means is it’s very possible you are not in fact at all funny. Just because you think you are funny does not mean you are funny. If you are, like people often laugh when you say things, and those people, you don’t pay them, they don’t work for you, being funny works really, really well.

Obviously the humor has to suit the audience, so if you are writing content for attorneys, you’re going to need a very, very dry kind of a touch, just that little bit of a raised eyebrow. The word “arch” will help you when you’re thinking about the right tone if you’re going to work in a little bit of humor to make your content a little more memorable. If you’re writing for engineers, think about The Far Side, the great, the great, comic strip of engineers and scientists with an absurd, educated, slightly surreal, and then just slightly goofy kind of combination. It’s a classic piece of American humor, and it works really well with engineers and scientists.

I am not brave enough to go out with very much content that is supposed to be funny the whole way through, because when you bomb, it’s really painful. Much safer is when it doesn’t have to be funny, when it’s just an aside. It’s a way of putting things, it’s a little wry observation, and somebody can smile, or they can not smile, and it works great either way. That’s what I would suggest. If you include some of that, just some kind of wry observations, some little asides without it being overwhelming, that goes a long way, again, to making the voice of that content more distinctive.

Practice Your Voice (Social Media Works!)

My fifth point is to talk about voice, and in a way, I was wrong about story being the most difficult. This one is probably the most difficult. You get a writing voice by doing a lot of writing, and if you do enough writing, then you can’t help but acquire a voice. You will have a voice. You will have a way that you tend to frame things, a kind of range of words that you tend to gravitate toward.

Something that a lot of people might not think of is that social media is hugely helpful in developing your writing voice, because it gives you a place to put a lot of words together in front of other people and see how they come across. Are you making your point? Are you making people smile? Are you making people angry? Are you making people think? Social media can be a really, really good proving ground for writers, which is why there are so many writers on Twitter, even while all the normal people think it’s a horrible place and can’t understand why anyone would ever go there.

When I say that social media is a good place to develop your voice, it’s not about sloppiness. It’s not about that excessive informality that you get very often on social media, or being too lazy to type out the entire word “you.” It’s three letters, I mean seriously? It’s really about getting comfortable with communicating with text, communicating in writing, and getting to a point where you can be relaxed and confident when you have something to say. Social media actually, oddly enough, can really help you with this.

If you are spending some time on Twitter, or on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or wherever you like to be, think about how you’re using language, and maybe make an effort to use all the prompts that are talked about in this podcast, and use your language more creatively and more compellingly, and see how it goes. Social media’s a great place to test these things out.

Escape Your Echo Chamber

My sixth tip, this is almost .. you almost cannot do without this one, is you’ve got to get out of your echo chamber. If you are a writer, go do something that’s not writing. Join a hiking club, or a sketch group, or try skydiving, or do something that’s not about writing, whatever sounds fun, and whatever has absolutely nothing to do with content marketing.

You also want to read outside the topic you write about. You want to read about biographies, or adventure, or romance novels. I don’t care. What is important about this is that it has nothing to do with what you’re spending all day every day writing about, because you’re going to get very boring very fast when the only thing that you think about is your content marketing topic.

Fire Off the Godin Hack

My final tip for you is what I call the Godin Hack, the Seth Godin Hack. In other words, I pretty much stole this technique wholesale from Seth Godin’s blog back in the day when I started my blog. I actually used this very explicitly on my other podcast, Confessions of a Pink Haired Marketer, which I think will rise from its state of slumber at some point soon, and that is things I love, and things I hate.

In other words, you go around through the world doing your thing, going to work, getting to work, taking a lunch break, etc., and you encounter things you love, and you encounter things you hate. And you’re thinking about this all day long. You’re thinking, “I hate that. I love that. I love that. Oh, I really hate that.” You want to capture those, because any post written around those things is almost guaranteed to be interesting, because you’re building on a foundation of an emotional response and a connection, and emotional responses are interesting. Look around for the things you love, the things you hate.

Seth Godin has this way of walking around through the world, and maybe he’ll see a sign in a coffee shop, and he’ll write a two paragraph long post about why it’s a great piece of marketing, or why it’s a horrible piece of marketing. If you think about the world in that way, it applies to the things that are relevant to your topic, and also it applies to all those things that are outside of your echo chamber.

Keep a list. Capture this stuff when you see it, so that you’ll have ideas for either more interesting whole pieces of content, more interesting blog posts, more interesting podcast episodes, or you just need an interesting analogy. You need an interesting example. You need to tell an interesting story. That’s where you’re going to find it, is by capturing these little scraps of things, small observations, as you go around your life doing what you do.

That’s it, seven creative prompts for you that will help you just get more spark, more life into content that works, that is certainly effective and useful but just might need a little more vitality.

If you have not checked out our Content Excellence Challenge posts yet, every month of the year this year, we’re putting up two creative prompts for you. One has to do with your skill, your ability as a writer, with developing you as a writer, and one has to do with making you more productive, with helping you get more writing done, more content created. Both of the prompts this month are directly related to ways that you can get more creativity, more spark, more vitality into your content, make it more interesting, and that’s going to make it more competitive, and more useful.

Check those out if you haven’t already. They typically will run up the first week of every month. April’s challenges are up Thursday from last week. And as always, of course, I will give you a link in the show notes. That’s it for this week. Thank you so much, and I’ll catch you next time.

Aug 13 2018
16 mins

Rank #14: 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
34 mins

Rank #15: Get 10 Content Marketing Boosters in 20 Minutes

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“Document your content marketing strategy” can sound about as exciting as “buy new socks.”

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Improving your content marketing strategy might not feel like the most fun thing you’ll do this week, but if you want all of that content to actually help meet your business goals, it’s an important place to put your focus.

It can be helpful to break your strategy sessions into manageable chunks. In this 19-minute episode, I go over 10 important elements that will boost your content marketing success.

For your reference, here’s the overview:

  1. Develop a solid understanding of your “Who”
  2. Start to explore your business’s “big idea”
  3. Identify 3-5 supporting “cornerstone” ideas
  4. Uncover the paths to purchase
  5. Design cornerstone content
  6. Use different content for different purposes
  7. Sketch out sequences and funnels
  8. Uncover opportunities for repurposing
  9. Craft smooth transitions from content to conversion
  10. Tailor your marketing strategies to your own unique experience

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The Show Notes

Apr 15 2019
18 mins

Rank #16: 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 Don’t delay, because our enrollment period opens in mid September, 2018. That’s

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
15 mins

Rank #17: Are You Leaving Money on the Table with Weak Headlines?

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Your headline is the epic gateway to your content. Are you doing everything you can to pull your readers across the threshold?

Tune in to hear from two Copyblogger heavy hitters (and serious headline nerds) Pamela Wilson, Executive Vice President of Educational Content, and Stefanie Flaxman, Editor-in-Chief.

They bring along a satchel full of tips, techniques, and tools that will help you create killer headlines that get clicks from the right readers.

In this episode, Stefanie and Pamela talk about:

  • Why headlines matter more now than ever before (it goes beyond just getting clicks)
  • How much time you should spend writing your headlines
  • Two innovative tools and one indispensable resource you can use to write strong headlines
  • How you’ll know when you’ve hit on a headline idea that works

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Are You Leaving Money on the Table with Weak Headlines?

Jerod Morris: Hey, Jerod Morris here. If you know anything about Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, you may know that we produce incredible live events. 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. You can find out more at Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit. We’ll be talking about Digital Commerce Summit in more detail as it gets closer, but for now, I’d like to let a few attendees from our past events speak for us.

Attendee 1: For me, it’s just hearing from the experts. This is my first industry event, so it was awesome to learn new stuff and also get confirmation that we’re not doing it completely wrong where I work.

Attendee 2: The best part of the conference, for me, is being able to mingle with people and realize that you have connections with everyone here. It feels like LinkedIn live. I also love the parties after each day, being able to talk to speakers, talk to other people who are here for the first time, people who have been here before.

Attendee 3: I think the best part about the conference, for me, is understanding how I can service my customers a little more easily. Seeing all the different facets and components of various enterprises then helps me pick the best tools.

Jerod Morris: Hey, we agree. One of the biggest reasons we host the conference every year is so that we can learn how to service our customers — people like you — more easily. Here are just a few more words from folks who have come to our past live events.

Attendee 4: It’s really fun. I think it’s a great mix of beginner information and advanced information. I’m really learning a lot and having a lot of fun.

Attendee 5: The conference is great, especially because it’s a single-track conference where you don’t get distracted by, “Which session should I go to? Am I missing something?”

Attendee 6: The training and everything — the speakers have been awesome — but I think the coolest aspect, for me, has been connecting with both the people who are putting it on and then the other attendees.

Jerod Morris: That’s it for now. There’s a lot more to come on Digital Commerce Summit. I really hope to see you there in October. Again, to get all the details and the very best deal on tickets, head over to Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit.

Pamela Wilson: Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. If you are a loyal listener, you’ll notice right away that I am not Sonia Simone. My name is Pamela Wilson, and I’m the Executive Vice President of Educational Content at Rainmaker Digital. Sonia asked me to sit in for her this month. Today I’m here with my colleague, Stefanie Flaxman, the Editor-in-Chief for Rainmaker Digital. Hi, Stefanie.

Stefanie Flaxman: Hi, Pamela. Thank you for having me.

Pamela Wilson: I’m so glad you’re here. I cannot wait to get started with this topic that we’re going to talk about, because it makes such a difference if people can get this piece of their content right. For listeners, if you’ve heard this podcast before, you know that Sonia always says, “I hang out with the folks who do the real work over on the Copyblogger blog.” Guess what? We are the folks who do the real work over on the Copyblogger blog. Stefanie and I manage the blog. Stefanie, you’re really the one who’s on the front lines. You’re doing the bulk of the work. But we work together on the content that we put together.

We’re going to talk about headlines today. This is something that you and I are both passionate about. We have lots of email and Slack conversations about headlines that we’re editing. It tends to be something that we change a lot in our content, and we are passionate about creating these headlines that are very clickable and that are irresistible. It’s what we’re known for on Copyblogger, so you and I spend a lot of time on it. I think it’s going to be a great episode. Are you ready to dive right in?

Stefanie Flaxman: I am so ready. Passionate is the nice word, because it’s like serious headline nerdery.

Pamela Wilson: Yes.

Stefanie Flaxman: I’m also very excited because we just love this topic.

Pamela Wilson: It makes such a difference. I think it’s where the relationship with the reader begins. It’s that opening bang that you can make that will attract attention from them and hopefully extend the reach of your content, motivate people to dive in and start reading. The thing about it is, we all know that content marketing is the smart thing to use to promote your business, but content marketing doesn’t actually work if people don’t find your content and read it and take action. Headlines are one of the things that make a difference. They make people want to dive in and consume.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, it’s no different than news headlines. In content marketing for a business — it’s not breaking news in the world or your city or anything like that, but it’s that same idea of, “How do you immediately communicate in a clear way to who you want to speak to.” Whenever I’m on with Sonia, I always make this disclaimer that I’m going to probably bring up a lot of Copyblogger posts for reference because that’s what I look at all day long. I’m already stewing with, “Ooh, I could talk about that post and this post,” and things like that. We have show notes for Copyblogger FM, but if anyone wants to write it down, I will probably be mentioning the headlines of certain posts as we talk about examples.

Why Headlines Matter More Now Than Ever Before (It Goes Beyond Just Getting Clicks)

Pamela Wilson: As illustrations. I think that’s a great idea. I always tell you, you’re like the walking encyclopedia of all the Copyblogger content. Stefanie’s one of those people that you could say, “Didn’t we have a post 4 years ago,” and she can come up with it in about 15 seconds. I love what you just said, and I think this is so important. I don’t know that people talk about it enough. The fact that a headline not only helps your content to get the click and to get read, but if it’s working right, your headline will actually attract the audience that you want to attract to your content. That’s important because when there is a match between the reader and the content that you are serving up, that’s when things start to get really interesting.

Stefanie Flaxman: My first example — because this is exactly what I was thinking about — was a post that will have been published recently on Copyblogger at the time when this podcast episode goes live. It is called “3 Smart Moves that Supercharge Sales Funnels with Content.” I won’t give away the whole post there, but one of the main points is attracting the right people to your content. Headlines are really powerful for that.

You could have an amazing headline that you think would just attract a wide variety of people, which is great. There is a time and a place for attracting attention. But if you attract a lot of attention but none of those people are actually interested in what you sell, if they’re not interested in the rest of the content you produce because this one viral post — I don’t like the word viral — this one post with a broad appeal doesn’t apply to who you’re actually selling to, the results will fizzle out. Having a focused outlook when you’re crafting headlines to who you’re speaking to is where you want to go with that for your business, rather than, “What’s going to make everybody like what I’m writing?”

Pamela Wilson: Exactly right. It’s not about making everyone like your content. It’s about making the right people like your content. I love that you brought up sales, because I do think that’s an important thing to think about when you’re writing a headline. When you write a headline it is not a time to be shy. I think you have to get comfortable adopting a little more of a sales-y tone to the copy that you’re writing, because honestly, that headline is out there in the world advocating for your piece of content. It really is selling the piece of content that you wrote. As long as your content is excellent, you should not feel embarrassed about giving it the best possible chance to be discovered by taking the time to write a headline that really has impact and makes people want to click.

How Much Time You Should Spend Writing Your Headlines

Pamela Wilson: Let’s talk about some dos and don’ts so that people — hopefully they’re fired up to write amazing headlines at this point. Let’s talk about some real dos and don’ts and get into some tools that you and I use and techniques that we’ve discovered that work pretty well. When it comes time to write a headline — in comparison to the amount of time that you spend writing your content, and this is totally an estimate — what would you estimate would be the amount of time that you would spend writing a headline versus the amount of time you spend on the content?

Stefanie Flaxman: I don’t want to say they’re equal, that’s a terrible overestimate. But there is a lot of time spent on the headline — 20 to 30% of the total time, probably. It sneaks up on you, that time that you spend, if you’re really fine-tuning and finding the precise, exact words that you need. Not to say that the rest of the article doesn’t have that same energy and passion and focus, but you don’t want to miss an opportunity to speak to who you need to speak to and hook them in so that they read the rest of your content.

Pamela Wilson: Right. That’s such an important point. You don’t want to leave this as one final touch that you’re going to put on your content. You want to really devote a lot of time and energy. Now, there are times that you come up with a headline — it’s happened to me before that this headline has dropped out of nowhere into my brain, and I’m like, “Oh, I need to write that post.” You get a headline almost like a gift and then you write a post for it. Then there are other times that you spend so much time. You’ve got a great piece of content. Maybe you started out with one headline and you’re not happy with it anymore, and you just find yourself generating all these different ideas until you come up with the one that works.

The one thing that I wanted to say is that if you spend a lot of time writing headlines, that time is not necessarily wasted, because we also encourage people to write subheads in their copy. Sometimes you come up with a headline that’s okay, but maybe it’s not the best one you came up with. There might be a way to repurpose either the exact headline or some concepts from the headline in some of the subheads in your piece. It’s not time wasted. I think you can always put that content to good use. Now, are you a believer in writing the headline before the content? I know there are different schools of thought on that.

Stefanie Flaxman: I am. It’s like what you were just saying, at least a rough headline. It doesn’t have to be the headline that you end up using, because new ideas could come up when you actually write the piece. It might go in a different direction. There are two questions that I always like to think about when I’m coming up with a rough headline, and the answers to those questions don’t necessarily go in the headline. They might not even … Yeah, actually, usually they don’t go in the headline, but it’s a reference point when you go through your article when you’re done writing, you can refer back to the answers to these questions to see if the headline idea that you have really is spot on with what the content is. These questions …

Pamela Wilson: Okay, now I’m dying to hear these questions.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah. I do.

Pamela Wilson: They sound powerful.

Stefanie Flaxman: Sometimes the headline completely changes, but yeah, I have to reveal what the questions are. If I have an idea for a content — just a rough idea — I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to write this article.” I ask myself, “Who am I talking to and how do I help them?”

Pamela Wilson: Oh, that’s so great. So simple, but so great.

Stefanie Flaxman: So it’s really simple. You can write all those questions without thinking in terms of a headline format at all. Just answer those questions. They’re in your back pocket, and then you can go along and write your article and draft headline ideas. That’s really what it’s about with content marketing. You’re making these individual connections and you’re helping people to move them along. Get them familiar with your business. Show that you have a solution to the issues and the problems that they’re struggling with. Yeah, the words in those answers, again, don’t necessarily go exactly in the headline, but they’re your foundation to go back to.

Pamela Wilson: I love that. Even if you don’t write the headline first, if you at least have the answers to those questions, that’s going to help you. I usually recommend people try — it’s not always possible — but that they attempt at least to write a headline before they start writing. The reason I do that is because I think it helps you to clarify your thinking about the topic you’re about to write about. I know that it has always helped me to come up with some good headline ideas before I start writing content, because what tends to happen is if I come up with a headline I’m really excited about, then I start to feel really enthusiastic about writing the piece of content. I’m like, “Oh, I can’t wait to write this one.” It can have that effect. When you come up a really great headline, it can have that effect of injecting a lot of energy into the content creation process.

Two Innovative Tools and One Indispensable Resource You Can Use to Write Strong Headlines

Pamela Wilson: I want to cover tools, because I think it can be really helpful to have a set of tools that you keep at hand when you’re doing this work. The tools that I use — I’d love to hear about yours — I use a very simple set of tools. I always have a thesaurus open when I’m writing headlines. I just use the one that’s on my computer, but what I find is I tend to lean on certain words. I’ll write all these different headline ideas — I’m generating lots of ideas to see if I can come up with something — and I tend to reuse the same words. It starts to get boring. I crack open my thesaurus because that helps me to look up words that are a slightly different take on the same concept. I always have a thesaurus open.

I always have a blank text document open. I just write. I just write headlines. I write 10 headlines, 20 headlines, sometimes 30, 40, and 50 headlines. Then what I’ll do, is I start to bold the ones that look good. I start to make them look like a headline because I bold them. That helps me to eliminate them. Sometimes you take a word from one and you add it into another. Eventually I go through that process and I come out with some kind of a winner. You and I have some online tools, but I want to hear, do you use any tools that are different, or do you do anything different?

Stefanie Flaxman: No. My process is really similar to yours. I think it’s important to note, just write down every idea, even if it’s one word different from the last one that you wrote. Having them all mapped out is how you get to … No one’s going to see that, but it helps the process. It’s all about the process of fine-tuning and finding your best solution when you’re looking for a headline. Yeah, mine is really similar. I love pen and paper, so I will often … I’ll do that in a blank Google doc. I’m a fan of Google docs.

Yeah, my process sounds very similar to yours. The only thing different is I have lots of notebooks where I might start writing them out. Sometimes I like the way it feels to write them out, where I can see something in my own handwriting that sometimes I don’t recognize on a computer, or I’m waking up in the middle of the night for it and I don’t want to open my computer. No, very similar.

There was a comment in a blog post on Copyblogger. It was an infographic we did called Explore the Content Editor Cosmos. The headline was longer than that, but that’s enough for anyone who’s listening who wants to go look it up. The first point in the infographic was about headlines, but there was a comment in that post about, “What do you do when you’re stuck for the right word?” That’s exactly what I said. Write out every idea that you have, no matter if you think it’s dumb or silly or it won’t work. Just having it out there for you to look at is all part of the process.

Pamela Wilson: Okay, so let’s talk about tools. One of the tools that we want to share with people that we’ve been using lately actually forces you to do that. It forces you to write a lot of headlines. We discovered this tool because Demian Farnworth put together a post for Copyblogger and he mentioned this tool. He mentioned the next one we’re going to share as well. The first one is the CoSchedule headline analyzer tool. What I love about this tool is that it’s almost like a gamification of the headline writing process.

You write a headline, you plug it in, and you hit return. It basically analyzes your headline using a variety of different concepts that make a headline better and stronger. How long is it? What is the makeup of the words you’ve used? The general concept. It’s looking at all of these different things, and then it gives you a grade. Then it’s like, “I want to get a higher grade, so I’m going to keep writing headlines until I get one that gets the highest grade I can possibly get.” It’s amazing. We’ve had so much fun using that tool.

Then there’s this second tool that we also use to double-check the quality of the headline — the emotional quality. It’s the Advanced Marketing Institute Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer. It’s a super long name.

Stefanie Flaxman: It’s a really long name.

Pamela Wilson: We will put all the links in the show notes for it this episode, but that one is great. What I tend to do is I’ll come up with something I’m happy with on the CoSchedule tool, and then I’ll take it over to this Advanced Marketing Institute Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer and then I test that. It will tell you, “Compared to talented professional copywriters, your headline ranks this.” You can see — if it’s a boring headline it’s not going to get a very large percentage. They do theirs with a percentage grade. If it is a good one it will get a high number. It’s another way to gamify this headline writing system. But honestly, even if you don’t use either of those tools, what they do so well is they force you to keep coming up with headline ideas. That’s the trick behind headlines, is to come up with a bunch of them until you finally get a good one.

I don’t know about you, Stefanie, but what I find is when I start writing headlines, my first ideas are terrible. They’re really cliché. Any creative work I do, even artwork that I do or design work, my first ideas tend to be the most obvious clichés that are at the surface of your brain. I always feel like you have to get those ideas out of your system. You have to unplug your brain and get the good ideas. They’re more at the back, they’re hiding. But you have to unplug your brain and get the stupid stuff out first so that you can get to the good stuff that’s behind. To me, that’s what these tools do, they just give you a place where you can get the dumb stuff out of the way first. Then you can get to the good stuff, which is a little more hidden, maybe.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah. Oh, I think I rarely use my first idea for a headline, but it helps shape what you’re writing, which goes back to what we were talking about earlier. I would joke, I’d be like, “Okay, this article is about how to edit.” That is so vague and not good and boring. But if I wrote that down, say I was writing an article about editing and I just wrote, “How to edit.” If that was my first idea, I would just keep fleshing them out until I fine-tune, “Well, what am I really talking about? Who am I speaking to who would benefit from that?” I keep asking myself those questions and fleshing out more ideas. That silly first idea, “How to edit,” really is the base of what ends up turning into the more accurate headline that comes down the line.

I was not interested in those tools when we first discovered them from Demian’s article. I came around. At first, I was like, “I don’t want an algorithm telling me how good a headline is or not.” I’m very human. Humans have a gut feeling, and humans have all of their knowledge. I would rather not look at a tool. The reason why I came around is because one of the reasons that you just mentioned, Pamela, how it forces you to write a lot of headlines, which is just beneficial. Even if you don’t like an algorithm judging your headline for you.

Also, with tools, you can’t get carried away with them doing all the work for you or thinking that they’re going to solve your problem, but having a point of reference. It’s almost like those questions that I talked about, “Who am I writing for and how do I help them?” Those answers aren’t going to go directly in the headline, but when you have that as a reference point, “Does my article and my headline answer those questions clearly? Do I need to fine-tune what I’m writing?” The tools are very similar in a way.

It gives you another opinion. It forces you to work a little bit harder if you don’t like your score. Pamela and I are — I just mentioned you, but I’m talking to you. We, I could say we. We have lots of conversations, but sometimes if you’re creating content you don’t have someone to bounce ideas off of the way that we do. Having these tools are kind of like your co-worker.

Pamela Wilson: Yes, It’s like having another opinion. Both of those pages have lots of headline tips on them if you’re feeling stuck, and you’re not remembering what you need to be taking into account when you write a headline. They’re just good pages to spend time on because they do have reminders about what really works. Now, I have to tell people. I could not have gotten to a point that I could even use those tools if I had not studied from cover to cover the Magnetic Headlines ebook that we give away free on My Copyblogger. I will put a huge link to that in the show notes. That is really the starting point.

If you have not read and absorbed every word in that book, I would highly recommend that you start there before you try using any tools or even before you try generating lots of headline ideas. That ebook has incredibly solid guidance on what makes a good headline, and it has lots of ideas. Ideas that you can use to plug your headline concepts into and see what they do when you use the basic structures that are in that ebook. Magnetic Headlines, I highly recommend that. I’ll put a link in the show notes, but you can find it on It’s some of the free content that we give to anyone who registers on that site. That is a great place to start.

How You’ll Know When You’ve Hit on a Headline Idea That Works

Pamela Wilson: You talked about the human element and knowing when a headline is good. How do you know? What is it that tells you that a headline is going to work? Let’s just put all these tools aside and talk about, what is that human feeling in your gut that tells you, “Oh, this headline’s a good one”?

Stefanie Flaxman: Oh, wow, what a big question. Again, I go back to those questions. I want to make sure … I always say, “Lead with the most important information, lead with the benefit.” That’s in writing sentences, paragraphs. It applies to headlines too, I feel like. When I’m reading headlines on, say Twitter, if there’s a benefit for what I’m looking for in a headline, I’m going to click. I love when I fall for a headline because it promises something that I want to know the answer to. I keep that in mind when fine-tuning headlines or even writing my own headlines if it’s something that I’ve written — leading with the benefit.

I don’t want to say there’s a formula. I’m anti-formula. What’s great about the Magnetic Headlines ebook — just to go back for a second — you can absorb all that knowledge in that ebook that helps give you your own feeling for what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. If you know your audience, that is something to keep in mind as well. It all starts with the audience and who you’re speaking to. I think being specific and having a benefit for who you’re talking to in the headline is going to produce that juicy headline where someone goes, “Oh my gosh, I need to know the answer to that. That’s exactly what I’m trying to figure out.”

Pamela Wilson: Exactly, right. I think that feeling of, “I need to know the answer to that,” happens when your headline creates curiosity. You are promising a benefit. You’re making a big promise. The other thing to keep in mind is you don’t want to deliver on the promise right in the headline, because the idea is that the delivery happens in the content, not in the headline.

I’ll give you an example. You know I’m writing a book about content marketing. I’ll give you an example from the book. A headline that says, “3 simple strategies to earn your new kitten’s unending devotion,” is always going to get a lot more clicks than a headline that says, “Make your new kitten love you with good food, fresh water, and a clean litter box,” because you’re delivering the benefit right in the headline. You want to avoid doing that.

You want to promise a benefit without necessarily delivering how that benefit is going to happen, because that’s the leap that people will take. That is what will make them click. You’re saying, “Oh, I want my kitten to give me unending devotion,” because what cat gives any human unending devotion? It’s like this really juicy promise that you can’t resist. I think when you write headlines like that — keeping in mind that you’re not necessarily delivering the benefit, but you are promising it — those are the ones that get the clicks.

Stefanie Flaxman: I love that example. It’s so perfect. If you’ve delivered the benefit in the headline, why would they click? It’s giving away the farm.

Pamela Wilson: Right.

Stefanie Flaxman: Do people still say that? Is that something that people say?

Pamela Wilson: Yeah, I think so. I think so.

Stefanie Flaxman: I feel like I say that too much. It’s very cliché. Don’t write that in a headline. No, I love that example. Great, great distinction from what I said. Definitely.

Pamela Wilson: Oh, great. I want to thank you so much for being here for this episode. You and I geek out on headlines all the time, but I’m proud of the headlines we’ve come up with for our Copyblogger content. In some cases, I think we’ve really transformed the content by coming up with these amazing headlines. It’s one of the most fun parts of the job that you and I work on together. I just love it. I’m really happy that you could join me for this episode.

Stefanie Flaxman: Me too. Thank you for having me, and thank you everyone for listening. I hope you got some good tips for your own content.

Pamela Wilson: I’m sure everyone did. I will be back next week with more content marketing information for you. Every episode of Copyblogger FM has show notes, and this one has a lot of links to the tools and the resources that Stefanie and I mentioned. You can find them all at Copyblogger FM. Thank you, as always, for your time and attention. Now go forth and be excellent. See you next time.

Aug 11 2016
31 mins

Rank #18: The Evolution of a Successful Copywriter

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How one freelance copywriter found his groove, and how you can find yours, too.

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Lots of our listeners are freelance copywriters — and many more would like to do some writing as a “side hustle,” whether or not you ever want to go full-time.

In this 31-minute episode, I chat with freelance writer and content strategist Chris Cooper. We talk about:

  • Where he started when he needed to figure out copywriting
  • Chris’s “client finding secrets”
  • His #1 tip for writers who want to be happy and successful as freelancers
  • How (and when) to decide on a specialization or niche

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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 for all the details.
  • You can get more from Chris Cooper on his site, Real Good Writing
  • We offer heaping portions of copywriting advice for you on the Copyblogger blog
  • And you can get more advanced copywriting advice in our content marketing library — it’s free with registration
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments
Sep 18 2017
30 mins

Rank #19: 5 Suggestions When You’re Writing About Controversy

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Expressing deeply­ held values in your content can have powerful results. But what happens when the conversation becomes controversial?

There’s no shortage of sensitive, controversial topics in the public conversation today. Some of them are handled skillfully … and some aren’t.

In this 21 ­minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why you may want to consider sometimes addressing “hot button” topics in your business content
  • Playing to your communication strengths when the stakes are high
  • Why the truth is not “always in the middle”
  • How to manage conversations where values are coming into conflict
  • The danger of “rushing to kumbaya”
  • How right­handed people can learn from left­handed conversations

Note: If you have an example of a controversial or sensitive topic handled well in content, will you share it with us in the comments? It can be an example from your own work or someone else’s.

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The Show Notes

For this episode, I thought I’d include some examples of powerful communication around a difficult topic.

The Transcript

5 Suggestions When You’re Writing About Controversy

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!

So, anyone who’s seen the news at all knows that the Independence Day week in the U.S. was brutally hard. We started with a pair of grave stories about African-American men killed by police, then a sniper attacked a peaceful protest and killed 5 police officers, as well as wounding other officers and civilians.

So, a week when a lot of folks had something they wanted to communicate, a lot of grieving, a lot of calls for action, and a lot of very powerful communication — sometimes at cross purposes, and sometimes very constructive.

It is not — please let me hasten to say — my intention to trivialize any of the strong conversations we’ve been having globally about these matters. It’s instead my intention to unpack how we speak, write, or film when we intend to persuade, and see if I can help more conversations fall on the “constructive” side.

For many years now on Copyblogger, we’ve talked about taking a stand on what matters to you — including in your business-oriented content. When you stand up for your values, you pull some closer to you, and push others away.

I don’t want to trivialize the conversation by leaning too hard on the business value to this — but this is a content marketing podcast, so I’ll underline the point lightly: this is a relevant topic for business-oriented content. It’s important to handle controversial points skilfully, whether those are large societal issues or controversies within your topic.

Thought #1: Know Thyself

We all have a communication style, and each of us has communication strengths.

Some people are wired to take a strong, passionate position and articulate it beautifully. There’s a great place for that. If that’s you, play to that — although I do advocate doing it with respect and keeping an eye on your own biases.

I have no idea why this is, but I’m always the person who can look at both sides and try to start finding the middle ground. I’m sure a therapist and I could work on that one for a long time. But it’s who I am.

I spoke a great deal about these events on Facebook, which for me is 100% personal, versus my Twitter account which I use as a more public presence.

To support my asssertions, I tried to look for resources that had a foot in “both sides” — in this case, for example, I looked for accounts from members of law enforcement who had a position on what needed to be improved within that community.

I know the kind of persuasion I’m good at — speaking to the middle, trying for fairness, and nudging perception rather than shoving it.

Other folks are great at mobilizing passion and motivating the most committed to take action. These are both very valid ways of addressing strong topics.

Realize that this can be tricky, and can devolve into “the truth is always somewhere in the middle.” It isn’t.

Thought #2: Beware “the truth is always in the middle”

When I was in college, my favorite history professor told us something that has always stuck with me.

If one source tells you the wall is red, and the other source tells you the wall is white, that does not mean the wall is pink.

In other words, some sources are simply unreliable.

Some scientific studies are using faked data, sloppy methodologies, or simply have never been replicated. So we can find a study to support nearly any conclusion — but we need to look for studies that are well conducted.

Some news reports are the same — they’re not fact-checking, they’re approaching the story with a preconception of what they’re going to find. So we can always find a news report that supports a particular conclusion. We need to look for the news organizations that follow good journalistic practices, and we need to look critically at what gets shared.

As the saying goes, you have the right to your own opinions, but you don’t have the right to your own facts. Make sure you’ve got a credible source for the facts.

One thing I think we fall prey to is assuming that anyone who changes their mind is somehow weak. But one of the strongest things you can do is change your mind in the face of new evidence.

Thought #3: Take a compassionate stand

We’re living in a time of unprecendented diversity.

Among other things, that means we all bump into one another’s conflicting values a lot more often than we used to.

People’s private statements are now public. Our private preconceptions get aired out. And that includes our private prejudices.

At the end of the day, I think this will prove useful. For example, one of the early tactics that the marriage equality movement used was to convince gay folks to come out — so that more straight peopel would realize they actually did have gay friends and relatives.

More awareness eventually led to more acceptance. We realize we are more alike than we had thought. But on the road to get there, it leads to a lot of conflict and tension.

It is extremely hard not to hate people who hold a belief you find abhorrent. However, I have found it helpful to try. “Hate the sin, not the sinner.”

It sometimes helps to realize that almost every human on the planet is afraid, and we are not at our best when we are afraid. If you can see that someone else is afraid too, it often helps soften up the antagonism — even if you still think their position is completely wrong.

Thought #4: Don’t rush to reconciliation

On the other hand, our timelines are full of messages along the lines of, “We’re all equal, let’s hold hands, the good people outweigh the bad,” etc.

Which are beautiful messages, but they can also be a rush to help ourselves feel less traumatized while people are still bleeding in the street.

I’ve seen this referred to as “rushing to kumbaya.”

While it’s very difficult to acknowlege pain, violence, and suffering, we can’t really get to a more peaceful and whole place as a species without recognizing those things. It isn’t very comfortable — but these are not comfortable times.

It’s a balance. Expressions of unity can also give us the courage to keep going. For me the dividing line is, Am I posting this to mask the problems, or could this encourage folks to find common ground?

Thought #5: Listen more than you talk

We all have a worldview, and we all filter everything that happens through that worldview. It’s just how your head is put together. It’s not wrong or wicked, it’s how human cognition works.

This gets tricky when something is happening to a group you aren’t part of.

So let’s say that left-handed people are having some serious issues, and you’re right-handed.

As a right-handed person, your worldview is shaping everything you see that the left-handed folks are dealing with.

So maybe it doesn’t seem that bad to you. Or maybe you think left-handed people should be handling the situation differently. Or you think if left-handed people conducted themselves better, we wouldn’t have all of this War on Left-Handed People. Or you have some left-handed friends and they seem ok.

Notice that this kind of thinking can happen on both sides of just about any debate we find ourselves in, from the trivial to the gravely serious.

My point is, if you’re a right-handed person, spend a lot of time listening to left-handed folks before you enter the conversation. Your initial, strong point of view may have a bias that is almost impossible for you to see.

The world will wait for your brilliant insights while you take the time to hone them. I realize Facebook needs you to weigh in on this, but make sure you’re seeing as clearly as you can first.

So much of this, for me, comes down to this: If you’re going to communicate about something that’s sensitive or controversial, you need to do it from a place of a lot of humility. Keep looking at the holes in your own argument. Keep looking for where your own cognitive bias is shaping what you can see.

Things get better when we can communicate clearly

Constructive communication about conflict is one of the most important things we can do as human beings.

It’s important in our families, our communities, our businesses. Again, we’ve talked quite a bit on Copyblogger about the power of expressing your values in your content — this is where we get to Hard Mode.

I’ll give you some examples I thought were well done in the show notes — and if you have something you think would be a good addition, let me know. If I agree that it’s constructive and well handled, I’ll add it to the list.

Have you ever addressed a controversial topic in your content? Was it business or personal content? Let us know in the comments …

Jul 14 2016
20 mins

Rank #20: Becoming the ‘Chief Empathy Officer’ of Your Copy and Content

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The lines between content and copywriting, and why you want to make yourself the “Chief Empathy Officer” for your audience.

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Today I wanted to talk about some distinctions that have been on my mind lately — the differences between crafting content and writing copy for conversion, and how much of ourselves to put into our marketing writing.

In this 15-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The differences (and similarities) between content and copy
  • How to write about your own experiences without being self-centered
  • Why we can’t get away with “feel bad” marketing any more
  • Getting real about audience problems — without blaming or bullying

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

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The Show Notes

Apr 08 2019
15 mins

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