How I Showed Entrepreneurs to Write Brilliant Content

Today I am feeling happy and relieved. That’s how you want to feel after you’ve done a presentation. The presentation I gave was for Network Ireland Waterford, an organisation for women in business. They were running a Let’s Talk Digital event; I talked about creating brilliant content and Linda O’Connell from Digi Nomad demystified SEO. 

It was delightful to get back into the content training game after the summer. I gave people a whistle-stop tour of the storytelling module on my content training course, showing people how to use the storytelling techniques of bestselling authors to create brilliant content.

Why Bother Writing Content

Before I launched into the techniques, I talked about why brilliant content is worth writing in the first place. It comes down to this. If you invest time in telling an interesting story, it will stick in people’s minds when they’re reading it.

They’ll remember you and ultimately they’re more likely to buy from you. It also saves you time because once you’ve written your story, you don’t need to keep creating content from scratch every time. And it does actually get results you can measure.

This infographic from SEMrush demonstrates the importance that companies put on content and the results they see it giving them. It shows information with percentages in coloured bubbles. For example, it says 84% of companies have a content strategies but only 11% of companies regard it as excellent.

First Storytelling Technique: Character

Then I launched into the three storytelling techniques. The first one is character. I believe that by treating customers as characters in your story, you can get under their skin, understand them better and create content that speaks to them. Authors create character sketches, or profiles of their characters, to get to know their characters.

You can a character sketch for your customers, to figure out what they buy and how they buy it. Above all, you can identify a problem they have that needs solving – and demonstrate how you can solve it.

Second Storytelling Technique: Plot

The second storytelling technique, plot, will help you tell the story of how you solve your customers’ problems. In the presentation, I talked about the three-act structure, the classic plot structure of beginning, middle and end: First, you set the scene, then you get to the heart of the action and finally you reveal the solution.

In the case of your customers, you would first lay out the problems and then talk about the actions you took to solve it. Finally, you reveal the solution you arrived at, and what outcome you achieved for your customers, both practical and emotional.

Third Storytelling Technique: The Senses and Language

The third storytelling technique centres more on the words you use when you’re telling the story. It’s called Language and The Senses, and it helps you to describe your services more vividly. You draw on all of your senses to create memorable product descriptions. You can have fun writing product descriptions comparing your product to a food, a song or a smell, and this helps customers to feel as if they’re holding your product in their hands.

Language is also important in setting the tone for your content; in other words, what kind of atmosphere do you want to create. I talked about how to choose words to describe your business and your customers, to create either a chatty, friendly tone, or a more professional, polished tone. I also showed them how to avoid the pitfalls of corporate, clichéd language.

Finally, I gave a quick plug for my content training course, and if you want to find out more about how you can learn to tell your own brilliant business story, drop me an email on derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie for more info.

How to Create Engaging Content For Your Website Homepage

Once upon a time, website homepages were pages you didn’t pay attention to. There’d be a few words of welcome on them and you’d bypass them as you chased down the information you were looking for. But now website homepages are all-singing, all-dancing affairs, designed to draw you in and keep you browsing.

Website homepages are now designed for scrolling, as more and more people browse using phones and tablets. Instead of just one block of text in the centre of the page, homepages now have several short snippets that give people information about the different parts of your website.

This pic shows the homepage of my own website, beautifully designed by Digi Nomad. You can see a typewriter at the top, and then some text. This is my welcome message, with the call to action underneath.  

That’s a lot of white space to play with, and you may be wondering how to fill it. The most important thing to remember is that even though the layout of your website homepage has changed, the purpose of it hasn’t. With your homepage you’re encouraging people to find out more about your business and to stay on your website.

Here are some ideas for types of content you can create that will help fill that white space and keep your visitors browsing.

Welcome Message

Your welcome message is still really important. It’s your first chance to introduce yourself to your website visitors and to tell them what you’re about. In your welcome message, hit them with your core message right away. Tell them what you do and what you hope to achieve for your customers. This shows potential customers what you’re about, and if that resonates with them, they’ll want to read more.

About Us

In this section, your goal is to bring people to your About Us page. You can do this by giving us a snippet of text from that page: your mission statement or your why, the reason you started the business in the first place. This will draw people in, and they’ll hit the Read More button to go to the About page and find out more about you. You can also tell people what information they’ll find on the page, so they’ll know what to expect.

Have a look at my Solutions for Entrepreneurs page to find out about my content training course, which will show you how to write your own web content.

Products and Services

This part of your homepage is the shop window for your products services, giving people the chance to choose the one we need. Give people a rundown of the types of products and services you offer and who’s likely to benefit from them. Some web designers create little boxes for each service, where you can include snippets of introductory text that will invite people to browse further.

Why Us

This can be a web page in its own right, but rather than create an extra page, you can add a section to your homepage telling people what helps you stand out from the crowd. Tell them how you go the extra mile with great customer service and how you offer them value for money.

Adding a Why Us is useful if your business is similar to many other businesses in your field. You can show people that the way you deliver your service is different – and better – than your competitors.

Calls to Action

For every section of your homepage, give people a clear call to action. Your web designer will ensure your contact details are displayed prominently, but you still need to make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you.

In each section, lay out what you would like people to do next. Do you want them to visit another page on your website? Do you want them to call you? Or do you want them to sign up to your newsletter? Try out different calls to action and see how they work.

I’d be delighted to show you how to write inviting content for your homepage. Here’s my call to action. Drop me an email on derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie for more info.

Three Questions That Lead to Brilliant Content

I think we’re all agreed that why is the most important question you can ask yourself as an entrepreneur. It’s the question that inspires you as a business, and as I explained in my last blog post, it’s the cornerstone of brilliant marketing content. But there are three other important questions to ask yourself that will help you understand yourself and to create content that speaks to your customers. These questions are what, who and how.

What do you offer?

It’s important to be able to tell people what you do. We get asked that question a lot, even in social settings. But it’s not just about what you do in general, but what you do for customers. Identify the goal you want to achieve for customers and tell people what that goal is. Don’t just assume they’ll know. For example, you could say you’re an accountant. But wouldn’t it be a lot more interesting if you tell people, ‘I can solve your money problems,’ or ‘I can make numbers work for you.’ When you’re creating content, use your what to show people what you can do to make their lives better.





This is an animated infographic with the words What and When printed on it in 3D capital letters. To the left, there’s a question mark, and to the right, there’s a drawing of a man with a  speech bubble coming out of his mouth, but no words on it. On the far right is a signpost pointing in two directions.. Image credit: Finola Howard.

The What question can also cover what you value. In your content, you can talk about the values that are important to you in running your business and how these translate into great service for your customers. Write a list of the values that most matter to you and brainstorm about how you bring those values into your business. For example, creativity is important to me, so in my content, I tell people how I bring out their own hidden creativity through my training. Through your content, you can demonstrate to people that you run your business according to clear principles and that you know what you’re about. And people will be impressed by this.

We explore these what, how and who questions in my content training course for business – take a look.

Next Question: Who

Who will benefit most from what you offer? Of course you’re going to say everybody, but there’s usually one group of people who’ll benefit more than others. Or there may be different groups of people who will benefit from different products that you offer. So, it can be helpful to have a broad brush-stroke idea of who they are. You can keep those people in mind when you’re writing your content, and you can write content that shows them you understand them and can help them.

Final Question: How

We all want to be different, and your how will help you show your customers what makes you different. The how question centres on how you deliver your service. How do you go the extra mile to deliver brilliant products to your customers? How do you personalise your customer service with little extra touches? It’s a great question to consider if you’re in a very crowded business field, like coaching, or you have to follow a set process to deliver your service, like a solicitor or accountant. You can create content that tells people about the free consultation sessions you offer to help them make up their minds, or the ebooks you offer when people sign up to your service.

Your how also centres on how people will feel after they’ve used your service. You may have heard the saying, that we don’t always remember what people do or what they say, but we’ll always remember how they made us feel. Some businesses tap into feelings more than others – people who produce crafts or beautiful food will fill their audiences with delight. But a finance broker can offer people relief and peace of mind knowing that the future is secure for themselves and for their families. Appealing to these feelings we all have is another important way to differentiate ourselves from the others in our market.

What questions do you ask yourself about your business? Send me an email on derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie and we can explore them together.

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A Glorious Mix of Writing and Editing

As you know, I love to mix it up when it comes to writing and editing, meaning I love assignments that allow me to combine the two. For the past few months, I’ve been doing a somewhat unusual assignment which allows me to do just that. In the past, I have been asked to write newsletters and to edit newsletters. For this assignment, I write part of the newsletter and then edit the rest.

A Remote Working Assignment

The assignment is for a start-up company that is developing event management software. They have a remote working model, meaning they hire freelancers to supply services from home, in a way that fits into the freelancer’s timetable. My role is to edit the newsletter for events professionals, people who organise events, and to write an intro that will engage readers and entice them to read further.

As it’s a remote-working model, all communication is done by virtual means. The newsletter is compiled by an in-house employee, who alerts me via the instant-messaging app Slack that the newsletter is ready for editing. I then access the newsletter through MailChimp, a software platform that allows people to design and distribute newsletters. I read through the newsletter first to familiarise myself with the content, edit it and then write the intro.

Approach to Editing

When I edit, I look for typos and for errors in sentence structure, which are actually more common. I change the sentences so that they read more coherently. I also edit for tone. The company is aiming for a chatty, informal tone, so I change any wording that I think is too stilted and informal. When I’m familiar enough with the content, I’m then able to write the intro, and I make sure to write it in a warm, friendly tone that invites people to read further.

Deadlines are often tight, so I don’t always get a chance to go over the newsletter a second time. But if time allows, I go over it one more time to check for stray typos. I nearly always spot ways to make a sentence flow more smoothly, or a glaring typo that escaped my eye the first time. Then I sign it off and the in-house team sends it out to a growing list of subscribers.

It’s satisfying to know that I’m playing a role in making the newsletter more readable for subscribers, and that the polish I give the newsletter may be instrumental in attracting new subscribers. Also, it’s a gift to have a regular assignment that I can rely on every week, one that neatly fits into my schedule.

I do also write full length newsletters. If you’d like to find out more about my email marketing and other content creation services, have a browse through the content creation section of my website.

How to Create A Brand Spanking New Website

Ten years ago this month, I started WriteWords Editorial. And not long after that, my website went up. It was designed by Samantha Clooney of The Virtual Office, who has since become a good friend. I went for a blue and white design to match my logo. It was soft on the eye, and the blue writing against a white background was easy to read.

And this website has remained more or less untouched ever since. There have been some changes here and there, but the fundamental design, layout and content have remained the same. But now, on the tenth anniversary of WriteWords, it’s time for a change. It won’t be a radical change, because if it ain’t broke, why fix it. But in the years since the website was created, people have begun to access the Internet in various ways, and the website needs to be adapted to respond to that.

The website will have the same blue colour scheme and roughly the same information. The message of the website, that WriteWords helps people tell their story, will be fundamentally unchanged. But the information will be arranged differently. It will be arranged so that it will all be in one place, and if people want to access the information on it, all they have to do is scroll down through a homepage which will be a hub for all the website’s content.

Choosing a Template

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an enjoyable time window shopping for templates which will form the basis for the design of my website. In recent times, templates have taken over as the main design tool for websites. So, on Samantha Clooney’s advice, I trawled through Template Monster and I found a template that I believe will deliver my goal of a clean website that’s easy for people to browse through.

I was pretty dazzled by the choice on offer, so Samantha gave me some pointers to tell me what to look for. In the template I have chosen, people can see two things straight away when they visit the website: my list of services and my contact details. Then as they scroll down, they’ll see a homepage message and an about us, telling them what WriteWords is and what it can do for them.

Exploring the Website

As they scroll further, they’ll discover more about the services I offer and how they can be of help. There’ll be snippets of teaser content on the homepage that will entice them to read on. If they decide to read on, they’ll be brought to a new page, which will give more details about each service, and the services within each service.

My core services will remain unchanged. I’ll still have a page for my writing workshops, a page for my content writing services and a page for editing. But I’ll be adding two new service pages. One is for my transcription services, which I’ve kept under the radar up to now, but I’ve discovered that transcription is an in-demand skill, so I’ve decided to let people know what I can offer.

The other is a writing consultancy. I already offer some of these services, but now I’ll be putting them under one umbrella. Rather than create content for people, I’ll give them strategies for writing their own. I’ll help them get to the heart of what they want to say and give them a structure which will help them to say it. These will be one-to-one sessions, in which I’ll discuss people’s ideas with them and then compile a report outlining recommendations that will help them take their project to the next level.

When you browse through this website, it will be clear to you what WriteWords is about and what it can offer you. You’ll also see the latest entries in this blog. Even though my offering will be the same, I’m hoping it’ll look and feel fresh because of how it’s presented. The website will be launched in the next few weeks, and I’ll be shouting about it from the rooftops when it is. I’ll post a link to the website on this blog, and I hope you’ll take a moment to browse through it. ccent 4; \

How to Develop A Content Strategy For Your Projects

Hi all. I’ve decided to revive this blog for 2019, because I think it’s a good way to keep you all updated on what I’m doing. I also see it as a way to explain how I help people tell their stories and as a complement to my website. Besides, if I’m telling people that content is worth investing in, it’s a good idea to walk the walk. Thanks to all who supported the blog in the past, and I hope you’ll continue reading it in the months and years to come.

I’ve been doing lots of exciting things in recent months – an intellectual disability writing project, a stand-up comedy night, writing workshops, blogs for businesses and some newsletter editing.

Just before Christmas, I was approached by two different people who were working on two very different projects, but they had the same request of me. They needed help with structuring their thoughts and identifying exactly what they wanted to say. And for both clients, I wrote content strategy reports which would give them the clarity they were looking for.

The first person was writing a thesis and needed help structuring her arguments. She was a visual person, so words were a struggle. She had a brilliant hypothesis to explore and she knew what she wanted to say, but the words were locked in her head and she didn’t know how to order them on the page. The second person was setting up a new business and wanted to be able to summarise what she was offering for potential funders and future customers. She felt it would take her too long to do it herself.

Process for Developing Strategy

Though the projects were radically different, but the process I used for both clients was exactly the same. First, I arranged to meet them. This does involve an initial time investment, but talking to people face to face allows you to get to grips more quickly with what their projects are about. You’re establishing a relationship with them, so they feel they can talk to you more openly. This in turn makes it easier for you to decipher their message. I also recorded the meetings to make sure my reports would accurately reflect what they were trying to say.

I then used the information I gathered to create strategy documents that outlined a structure to follow. These reports pinpointed the central message of their projects as I saw it, and outlined the ways in which the clients could transmit their message. In the case of the thesis, the report gave advice on how to structure the arguments the client was making and how to divide the points she was making into chapters. I also gave tips on how to use language more effectively.

question-marks
Developing strategies to help people come up with bright ideas for their projects.

I am actually still writing the report for the business owner. The report will come in two parts. The first part will summarise what her business is about and how her products will benefit her customers. She can then use this information as the basis for all her content, for her business plan, her website and her promotional material. The second part will guide her on how to use that summarised information in her content. For example, I will show her how the different parts of the summary can be used to populate the pages of her website.

I cannot tell how successful these clients will be with their projects, but they are both determined, and I hope that my reports will play a small role in their success. These clients were mired deep in their projects and couldn’t think clearly, so I aimed to give them clarity of thought, to help them find their way through the maze and achieve their goals.

If you feel you’d benefit from a strategy that would help you structure your content, you can email me on derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

How to Benefit from Facebook Writers’ Groups

A couple of years ago, I set up a Facebook group for writers. I love running it, partly because I’m addicted to Facebook groups. As opposed to pages, groups are designed to be communities of like-minded people on Facebook, where people can exchange tips, advice and experience. I set up the Facebook group for Irish writers and book professionals because I felt overwhelmed by the information overload on the web, and wanted to meet other writers and get information that would be relevant to me as an Irish writer.

Facebook groups are intended more for information sharing than for promotion, but they can help you get the word out about your books or writing services if you use them cleverly. Here are some tips for how to use Facebook groups to enhance your writing reputation, drawn from my own experience of running the Irish Writers, Editors and Publishing Professionals Facebook group.

  1. Start Chatting

Like anything in life, you’ll get out of a group what you put in. If you join in the discussions, you’ll get to know the other authors on the group and build relationships with them. Writing can be a lonely life, and just knowing there are other people out there ploughing the same furrow can be a comfort. As an extra bonus, over time, these people will be your audience when you have book or event that you want to spread the word about.

2. Be Generous

If you’re a writer or a book professional with some experience, a Facebook group gives you the opportunity to share what you know. If someone on the group asks a question, give them a comprehensive answer. This will enhance your reputation as an expert in the book field and may attract people to your books or services in the future. Give encouragement to a fellow author who doubts themselves and share useful information that group members post with your own networks. People will appreciate these little acts of generosity.

  1. Ask Questions

If you are breaking into the world of writing or the book world in general, a Facebook is a great place to gather the knowledge you need. A well-run Facebook group offers a safe environment where you can pose any question you want without fear of ridicule. You’ll have access to a warm, friendly community of people who know what they’re talking about, and the information you gather will help you achieve your writerly goals.

  1. Respect the Group’s Promotional Policy

Some groups allow no promotion at all, while others are very liberal, allowing you to trumpet blast your latest book release. In the group I run, we try to achieve a balance between promotion and information. We allow promotion using certain designated posts, and promotions are not allowed outside of them. In general, Facebook groups are more about information than promotion, and with blatantly promotional posts, you may run the risk of looking a little desperate. If this is your promotional style, you’ll get better results using more direct promotional mediums like Facebook ads or e-mail campaigns.

  1. Use Moderate Language

You’re on Facebook to represent yourself professionally as an author. My Facebook group doesn’t allow profanities, but even if there is no such restriction, be careful with your language choices. A remark which you think is made in jest can seem offensive out of context. Also, avoid making personal remarks against individuals, even if you have good reason to. You could run the risk of libel charges, and at the very least, you’ll give the impression of someone who’s bitter, which won’t do your reputation any good.

How do you use Facebook groups to promote yourself? And if you run a Facebook group, how do you make sure that the group is beneficial to members?

Three Hard Truths About Promoting Your Writing

I write this blog to tell you about my writing projects, for myself and other people, and also to help you with your writing. And I’m doing it (says she, blushing slightly) to promote myself. As a result, I try to present myself and my work as positively as possible, adding a glossy sheen to my writing. This week, I’m dropping the gloss and I’m going to talk about how hard promotion can be.

People who know me know that I’m honest and frank, possibly a bit too much so for my own good. So I’m not going to hide the fact that like many writerly types, I find it hard to promote myself. It feels like boasting. But there are things I have learned about promoting yourself which are hard, but which give me the motivation I need to start spreading the word.

Here are my hard-won truths about self-promotion. I

You Have to Tell People

First of all, you have to let people know that you exist. Nobody is going to come and pluck your brilliant book out of your bedroom door or your hard-drive. Nobody’s going to ask you to come and speak on a panel. Nobody is going to avail of your business-boosting copywriting service. You need to let people know what you have to offer them. The good news is, that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to trumpet blast them with a showy sales pitch. You’re just telling them the story of what you do. The upside of promotion is that you get a chance to share your passion, and that passion will make people sit up and listen.

trumpet
You don’t need to trumpet blast about your writing.

Nobody Owes You Their Custom

This was a harsh but useful lesson for me to learn. I used to fret about the fact that people weren’t buying my book, weren’t turning up at my writing workshops, weren’t following through on requests for me to do editing or copywriting work for them. Then I realised that they weren’t under any obligation whatsoever to do any of these things. Instead, it’s up to me to show them how I can be useful to them, and to show an interest in their own projects and personal goals. This is what will get them to pick up the phone, to come through the doors, to open up that book.

Keep Telling Them

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that once you’ve announced your latest book/workshop/event, all you now have to do is sit back and watch the sales roll in. But people are being bombarded with information from every corner. To make sure your information cuts through the babble, you need to tell them over and over again about your offer, using various different mediums.

These truths may be obvious to some of you, but I’ve found that reminding myself of them gives me a sense of perspective, and when I follow through on them and do the promotion, I reap the rewards with plenty of interesting work. What are your tough promotional lessons?