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What’s a Hook and How to Find It

Posted by on Apr 5, 2013 | 0 comments

I write so much better and faster when I can identify the hook of the article or story early. When I mentioned this on a webinar recently, someone asked, “But what is a hook and how do you know it when you see it?

Good question!

Think of the hook as, well, the thing you hook your thinking on as you write the article. Or the thing that will hook your reader into going past the first sentence or two. It’s like the organizing principle that you write around. Or the most important point. Or the one-liner that you think everyone will want to tweet. It’s what snags both you and the readers into the piece.

You may know that you have to write about a certain topic, but until you find your hook, you’ll just be rambling.

Here are some common hooks . . .

A good question. Questions that many people have are great hooks. It’s the hook I used to draft this blog post!

A dramatic situation. If you are telling a story that grabs your reader, they’ll want to hang on to see how it is resolved.

An interesting character. If a person in the story is interesting, because the reader can relate to him or her or because the person is very different from the reader, that can work as a hook.

A quote that says it all. Sometimes a direct quote from someone you interviewed really gets to the crux or heart of the matter and you can use that as your hook.

The format itself. People love Top Ten Lists, how-to articles, and Q & A interviews. These formats themselves are good hooks because of their popularity.

A surprising stat. A startling statistic can work as a hook too.

A funny situation. Humor is a great hook, especially if people can relate to it in their own lives.

What hooks do you use in your writing?

 This post first appeared on my Nonprofit Communications Blog.

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How I Write Awesome Content

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 | 0 comments

Let me start by saying that I am fully aware that not ALL of my content is awesome. Far, far from it.

But, I do know that I do write awesome stuff on a regular basis, because you tell me I do (and you are the judge).  I often get emails or tweets that say things like, “I was struggling with this exact problem today! How did you know that?” or “I agree with you 100% but could never say that in my office. Now we can talk about it, because you wrote about it.”

So I am doing something right, at least part of the time, for some of the people. And honestly, that’s the best you can hope for, since awesome is always in the eye of the awesome-gauge holder. What you think is great flew right by a whole bunch of other people who couldn’t care less. Maybe next time you’ll impress them.

Here are my not-so-secret tips on creating awesome content.

1. Listen.

I am a sponge for needs, concerns, wants, angst, and excitement of nonprofit marketers. I am constantly listening (which is often actually reading) all the time to pick up what’s going on in our professional world. I do it by paying attention to questions and reactions on webinars and in workshops, by reading comments on my blogs and others’ blogs, by following nonprofits in social media, and more. Creating awesome content is much easier when you know what your readers are thinking about.

2. Find Your Way to Add Value.

But listening is really just the first step. To create awesome content, you have to go beyond just aggregating a bunch of ideas or topics, and to figure out a way to add value. I’m pretty good at seeing patterns, connecting dots, and boiling a whole bunch of stuff down to its essence. That’s how I can add value. You need to figure out what your brain is good at, and then apply that to what you are hearing to create value of your own, which you then share in your own awesome content.

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How To Curate Content from Others

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 | 0 comments

We do a fair amount of content curation at Nonprofit Marketing Guide, so I thought I’d give you a back-stage glimpse at how we curate content. It’s not all that glamorous or sophisticated, but it works for us. The core of the strategy consists of three parts: following, tagging, and intent.

Following

At the core of my strategy is following smart people, and letting them do the first cut. Curating is all about sifting or filtering, and there’s no reason you can’t use other smart people to help you do it! I follow people with a variety of different specialties that all circle back around to nonprofit marketing somehow. They sift through all the stuff they see on their issues, and share the best via their own blogs, social media, e-newsletters, etc. Then I watch what they say, do my own cut on that information, and decide what to share out through my own communications channels.

I follow those smart people in a few key ways:

I use a personal Alltop page to follow bloggers. You’ll find people who specialize in nonprofit communications, fundraising, technology, social media, corporate marketing, creativity, and a few more random topics on my custom page. It’s public, so you can use mine, or better yet, create your own. I love how Alltop gives me the five most recent blog titles from all of these sources, all on one page. It’s easy to see not only what particular individuals are writing about, but also the at-a-glance trends in what this broader community that I follow is writing about. I also love that I can mouse over a headline and get the first paragraph or so of the post, so I can see if it’s worth clicking to read the whole thing. I do wish there was a way to import other RSS feeds into Alltop as there are some bloggers who I want to follow who aren’t in the Alltop database. So I make sure I follow them in other ways, like on Twitter.

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How to Create Content Fast

Posted by on Dec 30, 2012 | 0 comments

I’m often asked how I can create so much content for my blog, my e-newsletterwebinarspresentations, etc.

I rely heavily on three strategies:

Repurpose!

If you are a content creator, and you aren’t repurposing content, you are doing it wrong. :)

I suggest a 50/50 mix to start: Half of what you publish is original, and the other half is repurposed in some way. You make a short thing longer. You cut a longer thing into shorter articles. You change the format, or style, or voice. But the main message and the key points are essentially the same.

In this particular article, the way I am grouping the content (Repurpose, Respond, Round Up) is original content for me, but I’ve included some of the points and examples I am sharing here in other places. I will also expand on this article later to repurpose it for the book I am working on.

Respond!

Look at what else is going on in the world around you, from media headlines, to your trade press and favorite bloggers, to what your friends are talking about on Facebook and Twitter. Look at what’s coming up on your schedule.  What can you write in response to what you see? Sometimes it can literally be a response (Jack said this on his blog, but here’s what we think . . .). Other times, your response is simply inspired by something you’ve seen, even if it doesn’t relate directly.

In one newsletter article about not letting your fears dictate your marketing strategy, I was responding directly to an article in the New York Times.  The same week I also wrote a blog post called “How to Blog Daily” and that was inspired by a small snippet in a blog post by Katya Andresen.

Round Up!

Another quick way to create content is to round up a bunch of (often unrelated) ideas. You can do these in traditional round-up posts where you include several news blurbs, or anecdotes, or links you recommend. I think they work best when you can add a little perspective or value, such as how the individual items are related, or why you are sharing them. That approach is often called “curating content” in today’s marketing lingo. We do that with Mixed Links on the blog.

You can also think of lists as a type of round up too — in this article I’m rounding up three ways to create content fast into one post. Rounding up little bits of “leftover” content from other projects and sharing them is also a great way to repurpose content.

This article originally appeared in the May 16, 2012 edition of our weekly Nonprofit Marketing Tips e-newsletter.

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