In his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie walks his readers through some ways to reach and influence people. One of my favorite points is that if you’re trying to gather honey, kicking over the beehive is not the best way to go about it. In other words, inspirational and positive words will win you more friends than criticism and negativity.
His book is as useful today as it was 60 years ago when it was first published, because understanding human nature is always on trend. It’s all about the way you say what you say. Influencing people is about communicating with a tone that inspires and encourages while speaking to what you know.
Here are some tips to help you influence people with content marketing.
Start out slowly
When you get started with content marketing, you need to write, anything. Don’t think about keywords. Don’t think about strategy.
The mere concept of writing will be overwhelming, and at this stage you’ll be wondering if anyone will want to hear what you have to say. (They will.) Trying to mold your writing to meet criteria at this stage is like trying to run a marathon when you haven’t trained a day. Just start writing and get into the habit.
Work up to it
Start training for that content marathon. It takes some time for habits to develop, and content marketing is no different. Commit to one article, then commit to the next one. Stay focused on just one article at a time. Sometimes what holds us back is looking too far ahead. At this stage while you’re training, you’re flexing your muscles and only need to worry about what you’re doing right now, not next month, and not six months down the road. Forget about the finish line and appreciate where you are right now.
Create an editorial calendar
Once you have 20 or so articles under your belt, create an editorial calendar. This can be a simple Excel file where you list content you’ll write either weekly, biweekly or monthly. I recommend starting with a three-month calendar.
Taking a bird’s eye view like this of what and when you’re writing will keep you focused on key topics, or buckets of topics, to write. Let’s say you map out six blog articles, one per week, all related to the same topic. By week six you can take those blog posts and turn them into an eBook on the same topic. You’ve just killed two birds with one stone. Map out your next topic on your calendar and repeat the same process. Before you know it you’ll have targeted content that take your audiences on journeys, and influences the way they interact with your brand.
Keep it conversational
Always imagine you’re speaking to a real person, or group of people. This will focus your writing on the things that are important to your audience. And it will help you say it in a way they will understand. Your content should be conversational, as if you’re in the same room.
Sometimes when we take pen to paper we forget who we’re speaking to, or we say more than we need to make a point. I find that I’m guilty of losing focus on my audience, and many times need to edit my content so that it doesn’t sound like I’m writing some highly technical document, medical journal or thesis statement. When I remind myself that I’m speaking to actual people like me and not my college professor, I start to loosen it up a bit. My tone immediately sounds more relaxed.
Know your subject matter
People trust experts, and follow writers who know what they’re talking about. You’ll gain more loyal followers if you illustrate a depth of knowledge with your subject matter. With everyone getting a little crazy about content marketing these days, you may be tempted to go for quantity over than quality. Don’t give into that temptation. You’ll win more friends and see better ROI if you take the time to write one well-researched article than if you try to bang out three articles of little substance.
Keep a realistic schedule
We all get over zealous at times. I always think I can tackle a month’s worth of work in one week. Your audiences will expect to see new content on a regular basis, so maintaining consistency at this stage is key. It’s better to post one blog each month, than to post three articles in one month and then nothing for the next two.
Make content marketing a priority in your marketing mix and use your editorial calendar to keep you on schedule. Block out the same time every week for writing. For me, Friday’s the day for me when I can find the mental space to research, write, form opinions, and share. For you it may be an hour a day that you grab in the mornings, before the day starts kicking in.
Whatever schedule works best for you, make a point to commit to it, the same way you would a workout routine. Results with anything come when you do what you need to do regularly. With content marketing, that means creating content on a consistent schedule.
Outline & Plan
Creating an outline for your article helps you focus on key points you want to cover, and keeps you from wandering off track. Flush it out a little bit before you dive in. When I’ve written articles without creating an outline, I feel like I’m writing with some random purpose, and start going off on unrelated tangents pretty easily.
With an outline, I can see where I’m at with the writing, how much more I need to go until I’m finished. I also stay on topic. I may edit the outline while I’m writing, if I see a more relevant topic to cover or maybe one or two points that are better left for another blog post. The fact that I have strong starting points makes these edits minor ones.
You probably have a viewpoint you want to share, or something you want to teach readers. Even on topics you know a lot about it helps to do a little research so you know what’s been covered on the topic. Google the title of your article and see what’s been written. Try to find a different angle than what’s out there. Look for articles that support your argument and wind it in to your article. This kind of research will put the meat on your article and give it real substance.
Create evergreen content
Content that you can use over and over again is called evergreen content. Just like evergreen trees, they’re good all year round and never out of style. Evergreen content is any content that will always be relevant and fresh to your readers. It focuses on a particular industry or topic rather than current trends, data that become outdated, or news. Try to make some portion of your content evergreen, so you can use it over and over again and know that it’s still relevant.
Writing is a big commitment that takes up a decent amount of time. This is where evergreen content will really save the day. Writing on topics that withstand the test of time will help you maximize the content you create. As you continue to write, you’ll have more and more content to share, and you won’t have to write it again. Eventually all your evergreen content will actually save you time and allow you to focus on other things. You’ll wind up with dozens of articles you can simply repost or repurpose into another format such as a video, eBook or webinar.