writing

Break Through Writer’s Block by Pre-Writing Your Content

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Having a great idea for a post is a huge first step, but then you actually have to write it. Imagine that.

So what happens when you sit down with your great idea, your blog title or ebook subject and you proceed to stare at a flashing cursor for the next several hours with nothing to show for it?

It’s ok. Writer’s block happens to all of us. And it can stem from a number of things like distractions, being tired, being hungry and so on. But so many times writer’s block simply means you’re not ready to write yet. Now, this doesn’t mean you sit and let the idea age like a good bourbon, no.

You can break through writer’s block by pre-writing your content. You address it. You walk up slowly, remove your glove one finger at a time and slap writer’s block across the face and say, “I accept the challenge.”

Here’s how to pre-write your content in order to break through writer’s block:

Talk it out

Tell somebody about your great article. Tell them what it’s all about. No one around? Tell your dog. Tell your cat. Tell yourself in the mirror. The goal here is to make communicating your big idea more casual. To take the pressure off yourself. Plus, sometimes you just need to hear the information out loud.

Write Down the Key Points

After you talk it out you still need to get it down on paper so you don’t forget it. Almost like an outline, quickly jot down the key points of your article. This is the basis for its existence – the what and why. The foundational ideas. For this article as an example I wrote down:

  • The idea that walking away from writer’s block doesn’t have to be the answer
  • A revival of preparation, the old fashion article outline
  • Take the pressure off of the content writing
  • Organizing all those swirling thoughts and giving them purpose

Now, what’s the benefit of the content?

Great, so you have those big ideas down. Consider those the veins for your paragraphs but now they need some life’s blood and some purpose.  This is the big value statement for what you want this piece of content to be to your readers. For me for this post it was:

“To act as a framework and plan of action for not only overcoming writer’s block but creating better content because of it.”

Give It a Voice

We talk about voice a lot here at Shout Out, more in the context of overall brand voice, but individual pieces of content can have variances in voice as well. Almost like accents or dialects. Consider this the best way to deliver your great idea when considering audience and context. For the article, as with almost all of our posts, I’m aiming for: Friendly guide. Semi-professional. Conversational.

So there you have it; pre-writing. Informal, low pressure, yet still making progress. Let us know how it works for you or other steps you might add to the content pre-writing process.

photo credit: Drew Coffman

How To Be A Better Business Blogger

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In previous posts, we’ve broken down the anatomy of an effective blog post and established why blogging matters for business, but how can YOU be a better business blogger? Here are a few best practices you might try:

Collaborate With The Team

There’s no “I” in team right? Well, there’s no “I” in blog either. The most refreshing blogs online these days are the ones that have different viewpoints – why? Because it’s different! Working together as a team allows different to be created with little to no effort. How does that happen? In 3 ways:

  • When you collaborate with a team you feed off of each other’s ideas. If I’m stuck and my creative juices aren’t flowing I can look to my team to support me through that. They offer ideas or things they would want to hear about.
  • Your team isn’t afraid to say no. Or yes really. Often as individuals, we sit around and question our ideas, yet when we present them to the team we more often than not get a positive response or ways to make our posts even better.
  • Think in broader terms of a team. Everyone has a perspective and sometimes it’s those with the softest voice that end up having a ton to contribute, it just takes asking and they’re excited to be involved.

Understand Your Audience:

You know how everyone and their brother tells you that in order to be a successful company you have to understand your audience? Well, they’re right. It’s Business 101. You have to be able to understand your audience’s wants and needs – and more importantly, provide for those wants and needs. The same goes for your blog. We could sit around all day blogging about why cupcakes are so delicious, but that’s not what our audience wants to hear because that’s not the information or the business we provide to benefit them.

Sometimes it’s as simple as just going straight to the source and asking what they want to hear more (and less) about. Survey your readers directly on the blog or poll your audience via social media. You don’t know if you don’t ask.

Network With Your Peers:

Don’t blog with blinders. Get out of your office and go talk to the world. It’s easy to get into a rhythm of developing content, but an outsider who’s not on the front lines with you all day long can help provide a fresh perspective. Sometimes ideas are spurred by just having conversations with your peers. Ask them about issues they’re challenged with, and turn it into an opportunity to use your expertise to help educate others who might be dealing with a similar issue. Don’t just focus on challenges though, we all love to hear a good success story and share ways we can be more efficient and effective in business. Consider even doing a monthly roundtable with other business leaders to discuss hot topics for blog fodder.

Another way to utilize both your expertise and your peers is to swap your knowledge. Be a guest blogger and pay it forward. Provide insight on a subject matter that might be relevant to their audience, and in return give them a platform to share their knowledge with your audience. Sometimes it a nice little break on both ends.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Hands typing

How to Deliver a More Concise Online Message

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Let’s get to the point.

Editing in writing and design is often the most critical step. In this age of instant information, instant access, instant gratification, here today gone yesterday attention span, it’s important to be concise with your communication.

Helping companies, and ourselves, get a message across we often find the need to streamline large blocks of copy. Even when there’s consensus that it should be done it can still become a laborious task where pride and feelings can become the defendant of sentences.

It’s easy for all of us, in the middle of a writer’s high, to fail to think about how we ourselves engage and buy online. Our time is precious. Our attention spans short. Our desire for the right information, right now, is great. Yet when it’s our turn to hit the keys, one more paragraph is no problem.

What if we could approach the online communication process better right from the beginning? What if thinking inside the box, a box, helped us to develop better content?

Here are some thinking and doing tips for delivering a more concise online message: read more

Finding Your Company Voice

Finding Your Company Voice

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Is It Hanks?

If you had to choose a public figure or celebrity who most represented the company you work for, who would it be? The team at Shout Out Studio once asked themselves this very same question.

As a new member of the team, I am still getting a feel for who we are and how we talk about ourselves as a company. During my first internal marketing meeting, I asked if there was a simple statement or question we could ask to make sure we’re staying true to our brand and consistent in our tone-of-voice. Someone suggested, “Who is our brand?” Immediately I heard them respond, “Tom Hanks.”

At first, I thought of it as foolish being of the same vein as middle school games such as M.A.S.H. and that fortune telling the game that uses a folded up piece of paper with numbers on the outside. However, the more they explained why Tom Hanks represented our brand, I found my perception of the exercise swaying towards relevancy.

Now, I wasn’t there for the original conversation, which I can only imagine consisted of intense debate about how Tom’s performance was better in Big than in A League of Their Own, or how the best movie of his career was hands down Saving Private Ryan rather than Forest Gump, but I know that they discerned two important characteristics of Mr. Hanks and the characters he plays; he is genuine and helpful.

For one reading this, these specific characteristics shouldn’t matter; rather it is the simplicity of the statement that is most important. The group narrowed it down to two specific characteristics, and like any good design, there is beauty in simplicity. Don’t get caught up in how silly the exercise feels or the subject matter. Focus on the simple direction and the insight it gives to the company’s brand identity.

Tom Hanks represents Shout Out Studio’s most valued characteristics of our brand voice, thus giving us one simple question to ask before we send a tweet, write a blog post or give advice to a client. Is it Hanks?

So, if you find yourself asking, how do we go about finding your company voice? You just might find this exercise will provide clarity and consistency to your brand and communications.

Photo credit: Howard Lake

Anatomy of An Effective Blog Post

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The why and how of an effective blog post – for beginners

It’s no secret that a great blog keeps your site fresh and can provide a nice search engine bump. Not only that, it can also act as a strong voice for your brand and a means by which you establish a thought leadership position in your industry. More and more companies are taking on the task of writing content and maintaining a blog. We see excited and reluctant writers jump into the blogging pool every day.

For those of you out there new to blogging game here are some tips for making sure your blog posts are effective and the time spent is good for you and your readers.

Be clear about why you’re blogging

First things first; if you’re starting a blog so you can talk about how awesome you are don’t waste your time because readers won’t waste their time reading your content. That is unless you’re a celebrity and strangers are just dying to know how cool your life is.

A business blog is an opportunity to share insights, knowledge, a peek behind the curtain and overall be a productive member of internet society. read more

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How to Find Your Blog Writing Confidence

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Maintaining a blog on your business website can have some super cool benefits but getting started can be scary for some people. When you blog you are vulnerable, you are putting your thoughts out there for the WWW to see. Of course, you are going to get stuck in the middle of a great thought, critique it and lose confidence. It happens. Here are some thoughts to help you build your blog writing swagger. read more

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