The Six C’s of Compelling Content
What Makes Content Writing Effective? Short answer: A story that moves you.
For this blog, when we use the term “content,” we’re talking about words—in all their various deliverables and mediums. For a closer look at “content,” read our recent blog “A Handy Guide to Content Marketing.”
No matter how well your content is written, it will fall flat unless your company has already determined a brand identity and message. Your brand identity and messaging is what sets your business apart from all the other businesses that offer the same goods or services. Once you’ve firmly established your brand identity and message, all subsequent content should be written in support of that identity, sharing your distinct message with your target audience.
Successful marketing relies on storytelling. And every good story is compelling. “Compelling” content causes the audience to take some sort of action—whether it’s to feel something, buy something, or do something. Sure, you can include a formal Call-to-Action or CTA button, but the content itself should be smoothly building its way toward a culminating action that aligns with your brand and overall messaging.
There’s no official call to action or phone number to call at the end of a Nike commercial, but very few among us can watch elite athletes strive and sweat (or even ordinary folks competing) and not feel the logo on the final screen deep in our bones. What’s more compelling than Just Do It?
How to Write Compelling Content
Compelling content is clear, credible, concise, clean, cohesive, creative. The first five criteria make you sound like a professional. Number six makes you sound like nobody else.
We will now explain what each of these adjectives really means. In other words, we’re gonna be clear.
For writing to be clear, remember your audience and know your grammar. Part of grammar involves diction, syntax, and punctuation. The goal of any writing is to communicate—and for the audience to understand you, and you can’t communicate effectively if the writing isn’t clear.
- Diction is word choice.
Example: ” In today’s culture, you want to be mindful of word choices that could offend your audience—or anyone, for that matter. Words are powerful. Use them wisely.
- Syntax is the sentence structure.
Example: Shopper to store clerk: “Can you please help me? I’m looking for green men’s shoes.” Unless we’re talking about Martians here, the structure of this sentence is off, which can hinder understanding. It’s the shoes that are green, not the men. Easy fix: “I’m looking for men’s shoes in green.”
- And don’t forget to give punctuation a second review as well. Punctuation is so important, it can even save lives.
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. In a world of fake news and deep fakes, our recent blog “Building Trust: The Importance of Establishing a Positive Online Reputation for Your Business” can really help you out with this one.
In short, staying credible includes the following:
- Do your research and only use reliable sources. We like to use the CRAAP Test to analyze sources. (if it doesn’t pass the “craap test,” flush it!) DO cite your sources. This means give credit where credit is due—by naming the source when paraphrasing, using quotation marks when quoting verbatim, or embedding a hyperlink.
- Be careful using AI. Tools like ChatGPT can be great resources for research, but if you let the tool write for you, you could run into two big problems: plagiarism (the tool is culling material published on the internet and other public-access sources) and losing your (or the client’s) authentic voice.
People have short attention spans. After the first impression, you have only a couple moments more to present the brand. We recommend starting with a stellar value proposition, which is marketing-speak for one or two succinct sentences that sets you apart from your competitors by stating (front and center, big and bold, on the homepage):
- Why you do what you do
- What you value or believe
- Who you do it for (AKA target audience)
- How people benefit by choosing you
Don’t say in 20 words what you can say in 10. And don’t say in 10 words what you can say in 5. If your content is redundant, pick where you’ve said it best, and cut the other instances.
CHALLENGE: Write an email. Then see if you can then reduce the word count by 20% . . . then 50%. It will get easier and easier. We promise, you can do it!
Some examples from OWL at Purdue:
- Wordy: Working as a pupil under someone who develops photos was an experience that really helped me learn a lot. (20 words)
Concise: Working as a photo technician’s apprentice was an educational experience. (10 words)
- Wordy: Our website has made available many of the things you can use for making a decision on the best dentist. (20 words)
Concise: Our website presents criteria for determining the best dentist. (9 words)
There’s a reason TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes. Just think of the amazing information we can learn from experts in that short time. What do you remember about Gettysburg? President Lincoln’s address, perhaps? Did you know there was another speaker there that day? Edward Everett, the invited featured speaker, talked for two hours. Lincoln’s speech contained 272 words and lasted 2 minutes. Have you ever heard of Edward Everett?
Everybody makes mistakes. The key is to catch them before you publish. The best way to do that is to have multiple sets of eyes on the content, in separate review stages, on every deliverable—no matter how brief, no matter how rushed.
The person who writes the words shouldn’t be the same person who reviews them. Fresh eyes and a fresh point of view will see different things and catch errors the original writer might miss given five chances to review their own work. If your staff is small, at least allow the writer a day in between writing and reviewing, so that it’s almost like the content is being seen with fresh eyes.
When you think the content is clean and ready to go, always use a spell checker tool and one last proofread to look it all over. Spell check only catches misspellings, not words you didn’t mean to use (like “changes” instead of “chances”). This final proof isn’t the time to make revisions; it’s your final chance to catch typos.
The easiest way to differentiate between a mistake and a typo is this: Anyone who takes the time and pays attention could read through the content and find a typo. Maybe the word says “god” instead of “dog,” or the year is 1923 instead of 2023. Easy to spot, easy to fix.
Unfortunately, a mistake might not be caught by the original writer, no matter how many times they reread their own work. For example, the product they’re writing about is priced at $149.99, but the information they received from the client said $49.99. Hopefully, the client is part of the review/approval cycle before the work goes live. Typos and mistakes can both cost your company—in sales, and in reputation.
Do you think Shakespeare, arguably one of the greatest and most creative writers of all time, just sat himself down at a computer and typed out perfection on the first go? Even Shakespeare wrote, revised, wrote, edited, wrote, proofed, printed.
In the end, it’s better for your writing to be clean than fancy. All of the C’s so far have been in service of writing content that is easy for the reader to follow and understand. Point #5 has the same goal. The better a reader understands your message, the more likely they are to act on it.
Cohesive doesn’t mean redundant. It’s better to think of “cohesive” as writing where all the ideas are organized in a logical way that “flows,” or makes sense to the reader. Imagine a map. There are many paths to get to the same place, but most people want the most direct route. Nobody wants to follow a map, or a piece of writing, that goes from A to C to F to Z to D to B, when—if the writer had taken time to organize their thoughts—the reader could have quickly traveled from A to B. (Math folks know, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.)
You can also think of “cohesive” as aligned, or as individual messaging/deliverables that make sense as a whole. Studies show that users expect a unified user experience from brands, so give your users a consistent experience across all your platforms.
Since you have very little control over which platform will be a user’s first contact with your brand, make sure you’re following best practices on all of them. Two biggies are cohesive branding and consistent customer support.
Create cohesive branding on multiple platforms, and make sure the content isn’t inadvertently contradictory. Users may quickly switch from your Google Business Profile to your website to your social media channels. Is your company’s messaging the same on all of them? Staying consistent with your logo, tagline, colors, image style, content, and even the tone of your content will help the user trust your business more.
Don’t change up your branding or messaging. Design new campaigns, target new audiences, but don’t mess with your company’s messaging. Simply say it over and over and over again—in new and interesting ways, in all the places.
A word to the wise: Still be careful when designing new campaigns and targeting new audiences. There’s strategic and daring, and then there’s reckless disregard of the consumer base. The latter can cost a company billions of dollars and result in the firing of marketing VPs and mainstream portfolio group VPs.
Remember: The first five C’s make you sound like a professional. Creativity makes you sound like nobody else.
The first five are how you build trust with a client; they know they can depend on your content to accurately promote their brand and be compelling enough to generate leads. The first five are also how you build your own company’s reputation for being professional and good at what you do.
This final C, creativity, is often the most difficult to achieve. There are a lot of good writers out there, and a lot of successful marketing agencies. Plus, there’s not much new under the sun. We just used a really old cliche (dating back thousands of years to an ancient proverb) to prove our point. So if you can’t reinvent the wheel (there, we did it again)—how do you write creative content without ripping off someone else by copying their great idea?
Be you. Find your voice and use it. A tone and writing style (diction and syntax) that is unique to your brand is a huge first step to making your content creative, because it will sound like you and nobody else.
Next, make the content interesting! If it’s not fun for you to read, it’s probably not fun for anyone else to read. If you’re interested in what you’re writing, others will be more interested in what they’re reading.
Calls to Action Can Look Different for Different People
This blog may have inspired you to do some digging into what qualifies as a credible source. Or, maybe this blog will have your in-house writers focusing on cutting copy so their content is less wordy and more concise. You might simply start thinking about ways to improve your value proposition and tell a stronger story about who you are as a company.
But here’s how those look: If you need help generating compelling content for any of your marketing needs, contact Liquid Creative today. Our talented team of writers are here to help grow your business!
We spend time with each individual client, getting to know them, their company, and their product. But we also spend time listening to them, learning their voice, hearing their vision, mission, and values. That way, we can write for different clients in the same industry—even on the same topics—and the content sounds different for each client.
We don’t want to sound like us; we work hard to sound like you.