If you are a content creator (and all entrepreneurs should be) then the absolute worst thing you can do, when you attempt to write, is stare at a blank white screen.
First of all, no one’s got time for that.
But secondly, the longer it takes you to come up with a topic, the more forced your copy is going to feel. And the emotions you hope to convey get muddied by the frustration of writing something half-way decent.
Want to know the truth about content? It’s limitless.
There is ALWAYS something to write about. No matter what industry you’re in. However…most business owners have never been taught to see the blog posts and emails and social media posts that are constantly surrounding them.
Let’s fix that right now.
I want to introduce you to a concept I call:
A Conversation of a Thousand Possibilities
Whenever you are speaking to someone about your business – be it a prospect, customer, colleague, or spouse – you are bound to say several things that could translate well as written content.
We’ll discuss how to recognize them in a minute. First, let me give you some examples.
Example 1: Too Many Voices
Last week, I was helping Keshelle Davis with her content calendar. And, in an effort to show me her appreciation, she said:
“I love your emails. I open all of them. I follow quite a few people. And sometimes all the voices get overwhelming. But I do read your stuff.”
Okay…do you see what I heard? Go back and look again if you didn’t spot it.
Keshelle was paying me a compliment. It was a lovely compliment. Even so, I was more excited by the content topic that came shining through.
I think I may have startled her by exclaiming, “Keshelle! What the blog post did you just say?!”
“Um…I read your stuff.”
“No. I mean about the voices.”
“Oh. Sometimes there are too many voices and it gets overwhelming.”
I am now waiting for Keshelle to share her blog post about “The Dangers of Listening to Too Many Voices” with me.
Example 2: Content Scares the Crap Out of People
I was speaking with my colleague and friend, Justin Roberts, one afternoon. And I may have slipped into complaint mode.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “People know they need content. I offer them templates so they can get their content created quickly. How come my conversion rates aren’t higher?”
“It’s not that easy,” Justin said. “Yeah, they know they need it. But content scares the crap out of people.”
“And that is my next subject line,” I told him.
I love me a good statement.
Because…either Justin is right, and using a subject line with this statement is going to attract those business owners who are afraid of content.
Or…Justin is wrong and people who consider themselves to be content creators will click on the email just for that much needed chance to feel superior.
Either way, I get people opening my email.
And if I post this same statement on social media:
Content creation scares the crap out of people. True or False?
I’ve just invited my community to have a conversation with me.
Example 3: We Get Excited Over the Numbers
This next example is slightly different. Because John Walters (CPA extraordinaire) and I were actively working on creating content for his website. We were doing our best to incorporate John’s USP into his homepage copy.
After writing a particularly compelling headline, I said, “I love that. Doesn’t that phrase just make you happy, John?”
“Yeah,” he said. “But you’re a copywriter. You get excited over the right words. I get excited over the numbers.”
And suddenly John had a headline for his “About Us” page.
We Get Excited Over the Numbers
Is it perfect? Well, I like it. And John can massage it if he wants to. The point is, he’s not working from a blank white screen anymore.
How to Find the Golden Nuggets in Every Conversation
Every conversation that lasts more than 10 minutes will provide you with at least one great content topic. And I’ve had conversations where I wrote down every sentence my colleague said. Because they held words of wisdom that could easily translate into marketing content.
Here’s the thing though…I’m a copywriter. I am actively looking for things to write about. If that’s not true for you, then how do you train your brain to identify conversation that can be used to create ?
I’ll give you 5 ideas:
1- Pay attention to your physiology
Let’s say you were watching a conversation take place. You can’t hear what’s being said, you can only see the people talking. Could you guess if the conversation was interesting or not?
Sure. If it’s a boring conversation, there isn’t a lot of action. There tends to be more distance between the participants. And faces are completely devoid of emotion. Right?
In a good conversation, you see a full range of facial expressions. Hand gestures are prominent. And the participants are leaning toward each other instead of moving apart.
Now, pay attention to your own actions. You’re in the middle of a conversation when you suddenly smile.
Why did you smile? Did someone say something that made you happy? Would sharing that thought with your customers and prospects also make them happy? It might be something worth writing about.
Continue with your conversation.
Uh-oh! Now you’re eyebrows are furrowed. Are you concentrating? Angry? Confused? What was said that caused your reaction? Could you write about it?
Would it make sense for your next email to say:
Yesterday, I had a discussion with a colleague that left me feeling angry…
Pay attention to when you smile, smirk, shake your head, frown, bounce on your toes, laugh, etc. Any time your conversation elicits a physical reaction from you, it’s probably worth exploring as a topic.
2- Notice what triggers your need to talk
A good conversation encourages participation. One person says something, triggering a thought for someone else. So they speak. And what they say might trigger a thought for another person.
You know how conversations work.
So what are you looking for? You’re looking for moments when you absolutely have to say something. Whatever was triggered is powerful enough, for you, that even if the conversation starts to drift, you’re going to bring it back on topic so you can share your story, question, thought, etc.
If it was important enough that you HAD to say it. It might make for great written content as well.
3- Admit you’re a genius
As a business owner, you’ve had the same conversations with people 100 times. But every time you talk, you express yourself a little differently. You choose different words and phrases, different examples. And, on occasion, a powerful new thought will show up.
Pay attention to those thoughts. And feel free to acknowledge that what you said was awesome!
I have a brand new writer (Jenny) who doesn’t realize what a unique voice she has. Jenny was tasked with writing an email template introducing a company’s backstory. In her template, she wrote:
We hope that as you take a look at the scenery and potholes that have
surrounded our journey you will better understand who we are. And…
Enjoying her turn of phrase, I commented on it.
“Really?” she said. “You don’t think it’s cheesy?”
“No way! Every business has seen their fair share of potholes. In fact, I think you could write a blog post about “The Potholes in Your Business Journey”. Or write a social media post asking people to share the potholes they’ve dodged over the years.”
A new, fresh analogy is always beneficial in creating content. But Jenny’s having a difficult time admitting she’s a genius.
Don’t be shy. Embrace it! If you say something that causes you to think “hey, that was pretty good”, see if you can use it in your content somewhere.
4- Look for repetition
Ever had one of those moments where you’re really, really trying to make a point. So you say something, and it doesn’t come out quite right? Then you say it again, but in a slightly different way? And if you’re not entirely satisfied with the way it was received or interpreted, you might even try again?
Then, hours later, you think of the perfect thing to say that would have clearly articulated your point and shown your genius.
Moments of repetition – either by you or someone you’re conversing with – are indicators of deeper topics. Topics that might be worth writing about. Maybe you can’t organize and share your thoughts right now. But after spending some time pondering the topic, could it become a great article?
5- See what sticks
How many conversations will you have today? 5, 10, 20? That’s a lot of information going through your brain. But luckily for us, our brains have a way of dismissing the little, unimportant details about our day. Including the insignificant conversations.
Before you sit down to binge watch your show and decompress from a very busy day, pause. Of all the things you said. Of all the things other people said. What’s still sticking with you?
If it made it through the whole day and is still on your mind, then it’s probably something worth writing about.
Now Go Write It Down
There is one last step to the Conversation -> Content process.
You’ve got write your ideas down. And not just your ideas, but supporting content to remind you of how you felt and what you were talking about when that topic was shared.
For some of you, none of the information I just shared is news. You always get good ideas when speaking with others. But you don’t write them down. And suddenly you find yourself needing an email or a Facebook post. And you can’t think of anything to write.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re not sitting in front of your computer when the conversation takes place, text yourself. Walk away from the conversation and send yourself a text.
Then, in that moment of need, you can scroll through every idea you ever had. You should have 3, 5, even 10 pages of content ideas jotted down and ready to write.
Of course, once you have 10 pages of ideas written down, the trick is figuring out how to turn your content creation brain off. 🙂
Great post, Stephanie. YOU are a genius!
I like this post especially the part where you talk about moi (LoL) Enjoyed reading about the conversations that you had with others in the community and now I have some new Headlines for content. Just need to doll them up with some pretty pictures and I think they’ll be winners!
🙂 Can’t wait to see your website finished. And I always enjoy having conversations with you, John.