Composing articles isn’t just about the words. It’s about images. Generally you will need to write first, then select images later. However, photographs shouldn’t be an afterthought. They are as important to contemporary articles as the words – if not more so. Much of the advice below applies to the pictures you choose for your article, not just the words.
Often there will be images that you’ve used or words that you have written previously that you like and can use again. They may be on your website, in emails, in presentation documents or product sheets. Start by collating relevant content that you’ve already approved for use. You shouldn’t need to start from scratch.
If you don’t know what to write, put yourself in the position of a journalist. Write down a variety of questions you think a journalist might ask of you about the subject of your article. Try to be exhaustive. Then write the answers to the questions. Your answers will give you words from which you can build a good article
A good starting point is the six Ws: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? There may be more than one answer to each of those Ws. Once you have those answers, you can prioritise them. Start with what will interest your readers most.
Good media articles must be focused on the issues that are relevant to the readers. They can talk about your brand, product or service, but only in a way that addresses your readers’ interests.
You must prioritise your audience, their needs, concerns and motivators as soon as you start your article. Your article will be competing with the readers’ boredom threshold, time constraints and numerous distractions.
People are psychologically attracted to words that are relevant to their interests. Prioritising those words in your article and sentence structure will help to capture their attention.
Readers are most interested in themselves. After that, they’re interested in people they empathise with. (They’re interested in people they dislike too, but associating your brand with people your readers dislike can make it difficult to sell your products and services.)
If your article can’t be directly relevant to your readers, include people like them or people they like. Always get permission from anyone you want to feature, unless what you’d like to write about them has already been widely reported.
You can ask customers to give you quotations, content or photographs to use in your article, to show how they have benefited from your brand. You could also reference celebrities that might have suffered the problem you solve, or even ask them to endorse your brand.
If relevant, children and animals will attract attention. You must get permission from parents before using any content that features children.
Including quotations from people – even a company employee – will add human interest to your article. Make sure quotations say something useful and preferably original. Never include a quotation that starts with, “We’re really proud/pleased/happy/delighted…” It is a waste of words, unsurprising and adds zero benefit to the article or to your readers.
If it’s written like an advertisement, it’ll be read like an advertisement. People don’t want to feel sold to. They want to feel informed, entertained and educated. Give them facts, not fluff.
Delete the words “fantastic” and “amazing”. The adjectives and superlatives you inject into your article to arouse excitement will often sound hollow or disingenuous in readers’ heads. Rarely are audiences reading articles with the same enthusiasm as the author.
Ensure you include actions for the readers to take in the article. Don’t infer. Be explicit. Tell them to visit your shops, enter a competition, get more information from your website or give you a call.
It’s your responsibility to ensure the accuracy of information in your article. Check and triple check the contact information you’re including.
You must check contact details after every single revision.
Ensure your article is focused on what readers should want to know, not what you want to say.
Select just one, two or a maximum of three key messages of interest to your readers to be included in your article. The average reader finds it hard to retain or react to any more messages than that in one article. Support your chosen messages with evidence.
Background information about your company – such as its “world’s leading” status or “family-owned” heritage – might be nice to know, but they aren’t deal clinchers. Background information should stay in the background until it’s needed.
Get to the point, and stay on the point.
Identifying jargon can be difficult. Words or phrases you use as everyday language in your work are completely meaningless to other people. A good test is to ask yourself, “Would my grandmother understand what this word, term, or phrase means?”
Initialisms are frequently jargon. Unless they’re used by the general public (eg “BBC” or “NASA”) the full noun should be used.
Reducing multiple-word nouns down to uncommon initialisms can reduce word counts, but should only be done if they feature in your article more than twice.
Delete any jargon, and write it in plain English.
Even if all the content you’ve selected for inclusion in your article is compelling, it will need to be edited. Be prepared to remove content from your article if it doesn’t work for your audience, your business or the media title intending to publish it.