In my last post, I shared an extraordinary business blog writing aha moment gleaned from a recent interview with Henneke of Enchanting Marketing, but I’m not finished with this biz blog topic yet.
We must have been at the same interview because here’s what she wrote the same week.
The main secret Henneke reveals to achieve blog writing success is this:
“The trick is finding creativity within structure.”
I absolutely love that advice and it certainly resonates with me in my freelance writing endeavors.
Now, I want to give you Henneke’s step-by-step process for creating quality blog content!
Breaking things down and following her process gives clarity you can use in your work approach, even if you tailor it to fit you better.
Also, you’ll have a better understanding of what it means, and how important it is, to strive for quality, above all, in what you present on your biz blog.
To add to the discussion, two more of my favorite writers, Ann Handley and Sujan Patel, enter into my study. It just so happens, since Henneke’s interview, I caught an interview with Ann and one with Sujan and so I can add their take, too.
Although none of the interviews (I rigorously took notes from) were specifically about the same topic, they all zeroed in on the process, or processes, these well-known and respected writers and marketers use to create their most spectacular content.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to emulate and build on what they do and how, what they’ve learned along the way, and what they generously share in the interviews.
Okay, so I admit it. It excites me when I think I’m doing something right or when my methods are similar to my esteemed colleagues and mentors.
Even better, when I’m already up on or doing things they talk about for business or marketing and recommend. Yep, doing it right, I think to myself and it helps me to keep going, sometimes. It reinforces my thinking and strategies.
In other ways, I am so sure I am failing. I wonder what the heck is wrong with me and why am I unable to match what others say they do and seem to do with ease?
Then I hear Ann Handley say writing takes her f o r e v e r. What?? Am I not the only slow writer? Does that mean it’s okay to write slowly? Am I NOT a loser? Is there still hope for me?
Well, you get the picture.
Even after all the great things Henneke just talked about, I still wasn’t listening to the tiny niggling sound in the background, or “getting” the whole point.
Look, we are all human, uniquely so, and we are all wired from an original blueprint.
Every Writer is Different
Not all writers work best at a fast pace. Some folks, like Ann and I and I think Henneke too, are just too anal maybe, (sorry, ladies) wanting our work to hit perfect and nothing less, on every effort. (Impossible, I know, but does that stop us?)
So, everyone’s style (or process if you want to be science-like) is different; their voice, their perspective, their attitude, their educational level and experience, and on and on, all play a part. Who they are, how comfortable they are writing, and what they think and feel are all a part of how they write, what they produce, and the tone they put forth.
A psychological mess, I’m sure. But let’s get back to biz blog writing.
See, finding out Ann is a slow writer allows me to ease my own worries. (I fret I write way slow but maniacal editing probably adds to the timeframe, right?) And helps me accept that taking the extra time to get it right is okay.
Also, I think the thinking part of writing, then working on it on and off, like many writers do, adds value to the final product. Did I mention, I’m a chronic researcher and reader too, so adding and changing just, uh, keeps happening along the way as I sculpt my
And Staying the Same
At any rate, crafting content is a malleable exercise (I’m relieved) but, at the same time, benefits from some structure to it, as well.
Mary Jaksch, super blogger, writer, and Zen master from WritetoDone explains so very well in this post how to make sure you have a clear and specific direction in mind before you take off.
But Henneke’s theories on the structure of both her business and her content has me thinking.
Structure in your blog writing, similar to what Mary says about having a precise direction for content mapped out, basically provides a framework for your creativity—the story, the how-to, the point, the lesson, or action—to maintain a natural flow and quietly reign you in from wandering, or tangents.
On the other hand, structure in your business, while still a framework, is perhaps more about providing and building a consistent, reliable product. And about strengthening your core brand via predictable operations. It’s the set foundation establishing who you are as a business, and what your clients rely on from you.
Sure, businesses evolve, change and grow. Still, they have an understood basis that often remains unchanged like a tree trunk. Later, it branches, colors with leaves, grows taller, blossoms with flowers, fruits, even nuts, sprouts maple—whatever—but the trunk is constant, solid, strong.
Constant, solid and strong. Exactly what you want your business reputation to be. Hmmm. In that case, “creativity within structure” is, in fact, a winning strategy.I think the thinking part of #writing adds value to the final product.Click To Tweet
A Biz Blog Writing Blue Print
You can customize the step-by-step process for blog content creation that Henneke shares in her interview to fit your particulars needs and habits.
I’ll add tidbits from other sources in talking about each of the four parts in her typical business blog writing process, which are:
- First Draft
First, an outline.
Do you work from one? I find outlines are the difference between writing just something and writing an outstanding piece of content.
That’s not to say, (once in a while) since I’m a free stylist at heart, something doesn’t just pour out of me—from the first sentence to completion, just like that. It may even be pretty good, just like that. An editor’s dream with little to no edits necessary. Sometimes.
First, ideas are imperative, before an outline even begins, maybe a paragraph or two of free flow thoughts, brainstorming tidbits, or wording. Truthfully I have a paragraph or two here, there, any and everywhere. Guess what, so does Ann Handley. (See me smiling?)
These tidbits become little, hidden treasures when you come back to them later, or need an idea quick-like, or find one another time and it inspires.
On Henneke’s outline day, it seems she’s already picked something from her idea bank and has at least a concept in mind to build on. She says she may do additional research, if needed, to develop her outline further but, in general, and most definitely for me, research is completed before an outline ever begins.
One more thing I need to disclose and this is important. Henneke’s four-step process is scheduled over a four-day stretch. The in-between time is planned on purpose.
Henneke likes the extra time to let her thoughts and words percolate and to allow time for adding, adjusting and rethinking. Changing, sculpting, crafting.
Ann does the same, but in her case, on a more erratic schedule. World speaking and presentations duty often calls, keeping her from her tiny little house, where she loves to write.
I like to write in my head for a day or more sometimes, before putting anything down in pen or pixels.
What’s in Your Outline?
My observation is this: the most original and interesting content is not something that comes from other sources, but comes from within you.
Ann and Henneke, in my estimation and after reading their work over a long period of time, model a thought-provoking type of writing. It reflects their point of view and is peppered with relevant examples from the world at large. Visuals and resources, links, etc. are most likely collected during usual business and life.
But mostly, the quality of their writing comes from them, uniquely and intelligently.
They go well beyond a big college research type how-to post with a litany of sources, links, and experts as is prevalent in the blogosphere today. They don’t need to put together a list of 100 somethings. (Okay, so maybe we’re all a sucker for them anyway.)
The point—you don’t need more research than Einstein. But, only if you have something to offer, to say, to share, or if you have a fresh idea, an inspiring thought—how about a funny analogy? Something that hasn’t been said a million times already. Something shocking!!
Mark Schaefer always says, “Respect your readers’ time.” I swear I think of that each time I write. (Thank you for reading and I do respect you. Oh and thanks, Mark, for many lessons.)
I think the best way to do this, is to write something good. Something worth reading. And that’s what both Henneke and Ann do as a regular diet.
Organization is Key
Organize your outline in a meaningful way so you stay on track when you are speeding down the writing freeway. Remember the directions you want to set up for yourself, per Mary’s post? Don’t forget, going too far off the rails can cause you to crash and burn.
Henneke’s outline is the road map to her blog work.
Ann does it a bit differently and says she usually starts with a headline up top, or a sentence or two, even, describing the exact point she wants to make. Then, that premise becomes her acting outline. She starts from there and refers back to there as she goes, to keep herself on the right course.
However you get there, you need to have a framework in place to be sure you deliver the message you are trying to share, regardless of the medium or method you use to share it.Organize your outline in a meaningful way to stay on track when speeding down the #writing freeway.Click To Tweet
Enter Sujan Patel
I don’t know Sujan as well as I do Ann or Henneke, aside from reading a lot of his work, but his recent interview for “Content Promotion Summit” was an interesting look in at Sujan world and how he works.
Pretty amazing, I’d say. The guy has a lot going on. And I think he loves it. We both love writing about marketing, business and content marketing, that’s for sure.
His outline often starts in a completely surprising way than most any typical outline.
Sujan likes to record his thoughts, ideas, and even brainstorming sessions, for one thing. Sometimes he starts with a long bullet list or again, by recording, he talks through an article and then has an outline extracted from the recording to develop an article theme.
He uses team people to do some of the transcribing, fact building, organizing and especially editing as a standard part of his process and opens his ideas to others for added perspective and edits along the way.
Flow, he says, is very important for how he wants to present his published work. He’s looking to present an enticing tale with a logical order and smooth transitions to carry readers along.
He publishes a lot don’t you think? He’s working hard all the time and constantly trying to expose himself to new audiences, so he is thinking of audience first wherever he writes, he says.
It all begins with the frame building outline, folks. That much is the same for all of my superhero sources.
Second, Are You Ready for the Draft?
It’s ugly, wordy, grammatically incorrect, and verb tenses run amok. Ann calls it the “ugly first draft” and many writers say just spill no matter what comes out.
I can’t do it. I am a constant change, move, and edit-as-I-go writer, needing to say what I want, right, and so I constantly adjust as I go. Of course, that’s not the real editing part, but it is me.
Henneke schedules her first draft a day after the outline and tries to get it all down in a concentrated block of work time. Ann works on hers, sometimes all at once and, sometimes in sections or parts over time. And Sujan writes, writes, and writes, talks, talks, talks, and transcribes ideas and stories away the live long day to get that draft all done.
Now, at this point, I myself, often fall right off the boat while the pros like Sujan and Henneke throw it in “drive” and stay on a disciplined and honed path. They are sure to complete their work and maintain a consistent output, continuously building an ongoing relationship with readers and audiences.
Instead, I usually hit a pause at this spot, going back to percolate, simmer, steam, and stew mode. While I’m off the boat, I take a little swim, maybe.
Wonder if this is why I’m a slow writer. Hmmmm.
In my defense, I’m usually writing and working on several projects at a time. I like to add and make changes as I run into new sources or info as I go, or after taking the time to reread, proofread and edit check on each version.
For me, this feels like I’m still in the production process using the extra time to iron out any tiny details or problems or re-think anything. I’m going for perfection.
Slow or Joe
No need to laugh at my quest for the unobtainable, but I do strive to produce valuable content. A perfectly reasonable goal, right?
The first draft, ultimately, may be the most important. It’s the doing it part. The part where you begin weaving the threads to your beautiful tapestry of words sure to entice an audience with your sparkle. Yep.
Ann’s goal, my goal, Henneke’s goal, your goal, and Sujan’s goal is producing quality content and it all starts with the first draft.
Ann and I may take it slow, but only because we surely don’t want our work to be like every man, Joe.
It’s okay to spew it out like gushing waters over Niagara Falls but, just know, writing the first draft doesn’t mean you can hit the publish button. Not quite.
Ann laughs, remembering a time when writing something and throwing it up on a website, regularly, actually was enough to build google recognition and high rankings based on activity, mainly, and not with regard to quality and other intricate algorithms now in the mix.
Quality trumps all, even big old SE Ut O, as I like to refer to (SEO) Search Engine Optimization.
And what I’ve been told by many first-rate writers and editors, alike, is to write to your reader, first. Always. Understanding and awareness of SEO is important and helpful but is secondary to a quality message to an interested audience.
Google will come along for the read too because they like to follow quality and interactive content. It’s better to lure them to you with your sticky sweet honey than chase them around with a net or zapper.
Editing Etiquette or Blog Writing Process Step 3
I have a squinting modifier problem.
I know this because Grammarly, an editing software tool recommended by pro bloggers and freelance writers, points this failing out to me far too often.
I’m getting better as I go, nearly losing and often recognizing my grammar blips and writing “tics” as Sharon Hurley Hall calls them, helping me with writing tips before I discovered an “automated” editor.
But writing hinges on a human factor, so the last editor is always YOU. What I mean is breaking rules happens in writing, on purpose. For all kinds of reasonable reasons. Style. Inflection. Attitude. Bang.
Ann Handley spends an entire book (everybody knows her Everybody Writes, right?) discussing all aspects for how to write well, in fact, ridiculously so. But then, she challenges you to break any and every rule you deem necessary.
Guess that bigger, bolder, and braver attitude has been with Ann since well before 2016. The goal, though, is always the same—do your very best work. Quality rules. Standing out helps.
A business blog with spelling errors, grammar problems, and typos just won’t do.
It irritates people and makes you look unprofessional. It reflects poorly on your business and makes people think you don’t care. If you’re not detail-oriented enough to spell correctly, then how well do you handle the details of your business?
Upping the Edit
Henneke’s career hinges on “the edit” in a way and her posts, her snackable writing course, and so many lessons she shares in her work, makes this point, emphatically.
She brings subscribers and readers buckets of information, education, ideas and examples for how to polish your words and your message.
She urges you use words that:
- sing or skip,
- paint a picture,
- have rhythm, and
- explore sensory responses in people.
Henneke’s edits start on word one, includes every single word, how you string words together to convey your impact, and encompasses the flow and feel you create in your banging delivery.
But, in the editing phase of her process, as we are talking about here, the objective is to shine and polish for a gleaming final product.
Sujan Patel doesn’t self-edit for his final edit phase because he has someone else to do it which is great if you have the option. You also get a new or fresh set of eyes to look things over.
Overall, everyone I’ve mentioned in this post will tell you this: editing is about so much more than simply spelling and grammar.
However, in the final edit phase just prior to hitting the publish button, the goal is to guarantee a mistake-free, clean and clear, smooth user experience.
Final Formatting Finesse
Henneke talks about formatting her content as the final part of her process so, in this fourth step, she adds final touches. She says, for example, she inserts appropriate internal and external links, visuals, and tweetable moments.
She also double-checks readability and transitions and makes sure added visuals enhance the spacing, layout, and “look” of her work, as well as complimenting the material and ideas she is presenting.
This is the final stage for Henneke but, it may be one of the most important for producing the highest quality online work. The impact of visuals in your content helps by:
- increasing attraction and awareness
- adding flow and meaning to words and ideas
- enhancing concepts making them easier to remember
- making content more scannable and user-friendly
Overall, the best visuals in your content are well thought out and placed with purpose, adding to the user experience to create a meaningful journey through your message.
I’m back peddling a little bit here, or maybe this is more a way of looking at your work, full circle.
What I’m talking about, particularly, is Sujan Patel’s process and how, in a way, he considers format, first. He says he looks at content he produces as part of “the long game” and as a strategic component in his bigger content strategy.
For instance, he says he keeps sight of ROI as he goes and wants to have a set goal or purpose before he starts writing. Sujan says of online marketing, “it’s complicated” as he expresses a mixed bag of factors like:
- How do I build a name?
- How do I build a list, find an audience?
- What is the specific action I want to achieve with this content?
- How do I get traffic?
Mainly, Sujan Patel says he wants to create high quality, in-depth, how-to’s that help readers take action. Well, geez, that pretty well sums it up, doesn’t it?
He further expresses how important it is to ask yourself: “Who else is out there and how can I be different?” Differentiation is important to Sujan so he advises you ask yourself where can you excel.
I love that both he and Henneke write about what they’re doing and what they’re learning. Not only because it makes them “real” and relatable, or because I love what I learn from their experiences, but happily, it’s similar to what I’ve been doing, too:)
Sujan talks of how when he is writing about “the real me,” he is telling readers, “this is me living it.”
He suggests you use examples in your writing, both good and bad. And, he suggests you “take a stand,” saying he always tries to be authentic in his message.
Is it Over?
Ann, Henneke, and Sujan all demonstrate authenticity in their content creation mix. They’re relatable. And reliable. And likable.
They all work very hard at being their best, I believe, and I hope the things I’ve learned from them lately, help you in some way, too.
Only I want to leave you with two more thoughts from Sujan’s interview.
Why? Well, I think they round out this biz blog writing and seductive content question so you can pull everything together and excel in your own biz blog work.
Sujan’s last important reminders are well worth noting:
- asking people to “TAKE ACTION” does NOT always = CTA (remember his “long game?” so for example, sometimes it’s okay to just help out, or to ask for a social share, or to just be visible and nothing more, etc.) *Lesson: There’s value beyond sales.
- having a “promote content plan” in place before publishing your content, and often even before creating it, is a must to ignite and amplify your quality work (the surprise from Sujan is his suggestion a set promotion plan be in place prior to publishing and also, the idea of NOT producing content if it’s not socially promotable to amplify results) *Lesson: Plan beyond content for bigger promotions and better amplification.
Today’s biz blog carries a heavy responsibility in your marketing success, acting as a content hub. Often, it operates as the center of all content marketing and, is central to engaging with customers while attracting new business.
It’s important to try to get right.
Let me know what you think.