If you're having trouble drumming up content for your blog, you’re not alone. Writer's block affects everyone. Even Ernest Hemingway who ominously called the blank page in his typewriter the "great white whale." And he was Ernest Hemingway!
The challenge is this: how, exactly, to conquer writer's block? If you're Hemingway, you sit down and just write whatever comes into your mind until at long last, real inspiration strikes. In fact, it's not uncommon for writers to spend eight hours writing and only use a few pages of material. Needless to say, most marketing directors don't have that kind of time on their hands.
That’s why we'd like to provide you with a nifty questionnaire to make the words flow. (Bear in mind, we won't be talking about ways to brainstorm content — we thoroughly addressed that topic in a previous post—our goal here is to provide a repeatable process to transform source material into your own, unique blog post.)
We'd like to use an example of a fictitious northern California solar panel company ("Stockton Solar") and walk you through how they'd create a post. In this case, our example will involve an article found on Google News. It's an easy trick that every small business should embrace: type in keywords, and viola, limitless source content at your fingertips. (Helpful Tip: set up Google Alerts so these articles are automatically delivered to your inbox.)
We went to Google News and typed in "residential solar panels." The fourth hit was from the SF Gate, entitled, "Solar Panels Seen as Boost to Homes' Resale Value." Now things are getting exciting.
Here are the six questions Stockton Solar should ask to help surface unique content:
- What makes this newsworthy? According to a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, houses with rooftop solar panels sell for higher prices than comparable non-solar homes. It's yet another incentive for homeowners to go solar.
- Will this news resonate with customers? Just because something is "newsworthy" (e.g. "Sean Penn Steps Out After Hawaii Trip with Charlize Theron!") doesn't mean your customers will care. In this case, we're talking cold, hard cash. It's safe to say they'll care.
- What's the catch? A closer reading of the study finds three important caveats that your customers should know about. One, the findings apply to California homeowners only. Two, buyers (not surprisingly) prefer newer solar systems to older arrays. And three, among the houses studied, home value increased about $5,900 for each kilowatt that an array can generate, meaning the more kilowatts, the more the value.
- What additional details can help strengthen the story? Brainstorm the other details that help "sweeten the deal." For example, cash-strapped homeowners may still be reluctant to go solar due to financial considerations. Yet the story notes that the price to install a home solar system in California has been cut nearly in half since 2009. That's good stuff.
- What's our take? Here is where your expertise comes into play. Think of it this way: let's say you're out to lunch with a colleague and he says, "Did you hear that homes with solar panels sell at a higher rate than those without them? What do you think about that?" Simply write down what your response would be in an informal conversational tone.
- Create your own news. Test the theory posted in the article and in the process, create your own news. For example, survey your current customers and find out the top five reasons why they went solar. Did resale value play a role? Or call local real estate agents — did they see a similar trend when selling homes with solar panels? Would they consider being quoted and attributed for the post? (After all, it's a good promotional vehicle for them.) Better yet, would they consider a guest blog or an ongoing relationship as the resident real estate expert?
When you're done, suddenly you'll see these blog content creation tips have generated a wealth of material to work with: an interesting news story that will interest your customers, useful contextual details, applicable caveats, your own professional opinion and, if you embark on Step 6, supplemental material from a respected outside source.
Now that you have this content in hand, keep the following rules of thumb in mind:
- Break up the content across multiple posts ranging from 250-500 words. Make the most out of your hard work. Think of a three-part installment "Solar Panels Can Boost Your Home's Resale Value: Stockton Solar's Take."
- Be upfront about the caveats. There's nothing worse than a blog post disguised as a slick sales pitch. In this case, be transparent regarding the caveats in Step 3. Readers will respect your honesty.
- Turn the content into a conversation. Now that you have material to spur dialogue on social media, be explicit in how you approach followers. Post the blog on Facebook and ask, "Would the fact that solar panels can boost your home's resale value make you more inclined to install them?" "Did it play a role in your decision to install them?"
Creating compelling content is an art, not a science. The aforementioned content questionnaire can hopefully act as a repeatable process by which you and your staff can (relatively) easily drum up cool content that will resonate with readers.
Need more blog content creation tips? Download our Business Blogging ebook: