Want Engaging Content? The Devil's in the Details
Storytelling Communications

Want Engaging Content? The Devil’s in the Details

Every writer wants to create engaging content—work that reaches out to grab readers’ attention and leads to comments, shares, re-posts, and, ultimately, more jobs from companies with bigger budgets. Of course, that’s the end result. How do you get from “writing” to “engaging,” especially if you’re just starting out? Like the title says, the devil’s in the details.

Mr. Technology

When I started freelancing five years ago, I wrote whenever and wherever I could. That meant doing pieces for user-submitted content sites that didn’t pay a dime and slogging through $8 article after $8 article about vacuum cleaners, car parts, and auto insurance. My connection with Skyword was timely, since the other company I worked for was on the cusp of going under. I also quickly came to appreciate the significant pay jump Skyword offered.

Looking at the programs available, however, I started to worry. Could I deliver the kind of high-quality, detail-oriented content required? Despite my fears, I applied and, thanks to the few years of freelancing under my belt, was accepted to the Midsize Insider program. The program revolved around technology offerings like cloud computing, business analytics, and customer relationship management (CRM). I’d done only a few tech articles before, but I dove in—Google me now, and you’ll find I’m known predominantly as a “tech writer.” So what’s my big secret?

Know Your Job

Here’s the deal: The days of farmed content are coming to an end. Companies don’t want writers to churn out keyword-laden sales copy, and they also don’t want writers to just spit out technical details in dry, lifeless lists. Businesses pay for the ability to take complex or proprietary concepts, couch them in plain language, and make them accessible to their target market. In the case of tech, this might be other IT professionals or it might be consumers. It could be C-suite executives or technology investors. But no matter the audience, the goal is the same: create engaging content.

How do you do it? Start with basic research. For me, that meant getting a grip on what “the cloud” was and how it impacted midsize businesses, and then brainstorming about how best to tell stories featuring it. More importantly, it meant leveraging key details—a particular statistic or critical metric—while skipping over information that didn’t add substantive value.

In other words, too many details can sink your content as surely as too few. Think of it like overstimulation. If your piece is chock-full of every number, statistic, and product spec you can find, that’s all readers will see. Critical details, used sparingly, draw the eye and act as your piece’s foundation.

Sales and Marketing

It’s also easy to get our job confused with the tasks of marketing professionals; after all, we’re hired to produce compelling content that will help sell products or talk up services. If that were our only purpose, however, you’d see tech sites spammed with articles like “IT Pros Outraged Over New ‘Skinny Data’ Code,” “Server Is Five Years Old but Looks Three with This One Weird Tip,” or “Admins Want New Tech Supplement Banned for Extreme Efficiency.” Sure, they’re funny, but they don’t equate to engaging content—they’re just clickbait to draw in curious onlookers. Here, the concern is overselling and under-detailing. Avoid this by taking a hard look at your work before sending it off to an editor. Are critical themes out in the open and presented right up front? Is there sensational or overly positive language attached to otherwise impartial facts? If the answer is yes, rewrite it. The story should sell itself.

Story Time

Want to create engaging content and get more jobs? Go for story. Use details sparingly and for emphasis, and do the same with any salesy or promotional language. You’re telling the company’s tale, relating the company’s value proposition in a way that doesn’t sound like a stilted health-insurance commercial or a too-loud ad for terrifying hair removal products. Give readers context and compelling wordplay, and you’ll get them talking. Get them talking, and you’ll get more work.

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