When a publisher offers to include your brand, product or service in their media title, they’re giving you an opportunity to attract customers. The resultant coverage is also impressive, proving that who you are and what you do is important and interesting enough to appear in the media.
However, if your article is bad, you risk wasting the opportunity. Following the tips below will help you to write good articles that get results.
Writing excellent articles takes talent that few people demonstrate. Writing good articles can be learned, which is why many journalism, public relations and marketing professionals attend courses to improve their skills. Good writing involves far more than good grammar, proofreading and a spell check. All of that should be obvious.
If you haven’t learned to write like an editorial or marketing professional, it’s unlikely you’re the best person to write an article for your business. Get help from a professional – especially a public relations or content marketing professional. They will often appreciate the commercial imperatives behind your article more than a journalist.
If an editorial professional offers you advice about how to write your article, take it. Ignoring such advice can mean the difference between your article encouraging sales and being totally ignored.
Give yourself time to write more than one draft of your article. Sleep on each draft. It will allow your mind to forget your initial phraseology. When you return to your article for the next draft, you will likely identify numerous improvements in structure, language and creativity.
Headlines and first paragraphs are the most important parts of any article. You should dedicate time to writing good headlines and first paragraphs. That said, inexperienced writers often waste a great deal of time trying to write a headline before moving onto the rest of the article. The headline is about your article. You won’t know what your article is about until you’ve written it. So write your headline last.
Attract readers by starting headlines with words that are relevant to them, not you. It should be written in a way that compels readers to continue reading.
People mainly want to read articles, not advertisements.
Articles are written in the third person (“he”, “she”, “they”, “it”). Advertising is written in the first person (singular “I” or plural “We”). Write about yourself or your brand in the third-person.
“I’m great,” sounds arrogant and unconvincing. “It’s great,” sounds positive and conveys an objective opinion reached by experience.
Commercially, every word in an article costs you money – whether you’ve paid for the space or not. For every irrelevant or unnecessary word you include, you diminish the value of your article to both your business and your readers.
You will never be able to tell the whole story or get everything you want to say across in a single article. Come to terms with that now. You must focus on the words that will attract readers, the facts they want to hear and the advice they will find most useful, not what you want to say.
Short, common words have more impact than long or obscure words. (Be punchy, not pugilistic.) Short sentences are powerful. Short paragraphs appear less burdensome to read. Many digital publications and tabloids now only present one sentence per paragraph. In general, don’t have more than three sentences per paragraph.
Using long words and convoluted sentences won’t convince people you’re intelligent. People will just stop reading your article. Long sentences can lose readers unless they’re written in a very particular fashion – a skill which is too detailed to elaborate upon here.
Write your article in the simplest language possible so that every reader can understand it and take the action you want them to take. If any sentence is over 28 words, edit it down. Delete pointless words. For example, instead of writing “In order to”, simply write “To”.
Even if you find the subject boring, the writing can make your article interesting.
Short words, sentences and paragraphs will help.
Writing in the active voice and either the present or future tense will convey more activity and immediacy in your article. People are more interested in what’s happening now, than what’s happened in the past. They can take decisions and have some influence on present and future events. They can’t do much about the past.
If there’s something new, use the word “new”.
Experienced writers may use repetition intentionally as a stylistic device. However, unintentional repetition of words or phrases is obvious, careless and boring to readers. Review your article for unintentional repetition and use a thesaurus to find alternative words.
Avoid clichés. People don’t want to read what they’ve read before. The point of writing a promotional article is for your messages to stand out, to be unique, to be appealing. Don’t be predictable.
Most people are taught to write essays in school. Typically they write an evaluation of various facts and evidence which builds up to a powerful conclusion. Or they remember that a story has a beginning, a middle and an end.
Don’t do that.
Start with the most important point of immediate relevance to your readers – that’s what’s interesting to them. Grab their attention. Then reinforce that main point with evidence. Every sentence that follows the first should reinforce the previous point, compelling the readers and encouraging them to take action.
Starting an article with a question is a waste of words. People read articles for answers, not questions.
Using questions as an introduction to an article is so hackneyed and unimaginative, it exposes editorial inexperience or laziness.
Whilst asking yourself questions is a useful tactic for identifying what to write in an article, the article itself should only include answers, not questions.
Don’t ever underline, embolden or italicise anything in your article. Only use capital letters for proper nouns and initialisms.
Ensure you use punctuation accurately. The exclamation mark is abused very frequently at present. Only use exclamation marks when they are deserved, such as “Bang!”, “Ouch!”, “Aaaaargh!”
Exclamation marks don’t make the sentence you’ve written exciting or funny. Nor will they excuse offence to anyone who doesn’t realise what you’ve written is supposed to be a joke.
If a reader gets to the end of your article, they’re interested. Help them to maintain their interest by giving them a next action. Tell them to visit your shops, enter a competition, or get more information from your website. Be explicit. Inferences don’t turn into action.
Once your article conveys the information your readers should want to know, stop writing.
Help your sub-editors know that it is the end of your article by placing “- ends -” at the bottom centre of the document.
Even the best writers get edited by others – because their words need to work for each publication’s audience. Don’t be precious. Consider sub-editing a useful objective review of your article.
If you’re new to writing for the media, be prepared for sub-editors to insist on rewriting your entire article, or at very least making substantial amendments. Trust them. Not only do they know what they’re doing, but it’s in their interest for the article to work for their readers. That will work for you too.