The Authentically Authentic
Guide to Communicating
Marketing, Storytelling, Public Relations, Buzzwords, and Other Dark Arts
This article originally published on Inc.com
In 2014 I started publishing blog posts on LinkedIn Pulse. At the time I worked in an obscure industry, and had no national brand behind my name. I had never read anything about content marketing, and had no intention of turning my writing into a profession.
I began writing because I had things I wanted to say, and as a platform LinkedIn was the best place to say it.
After more than 200 posts, more than 2 million readers, recognition as a "Top Voice on Management and Corporate Culture", and a column for the past 6 months on Inc., I feel like I have gained an organic education in content marketing - or at least long-form blogging.
And in the course of two years I've spoken to countless people who've written their own blogs - many of them quite good - and the most common mistake I've seen is this:
Forgetting to remember that regardless of what we tell our children, people do judge a book by its cover.
In the world of blog writing, the "cover" comes in the form of a title. Yes, blogs include images, and those images are important, but titles require special attention.
I'll give examples to help illustrate my point.
In 2014 I published a post on LinkedIn titled, "If You Lose Your Job, Remember This". It was about the struggle my dad had with very long-term unemployment. That post received more than 450,000 views. It was also the post that led to my first paid engagement as a consultant. A reader who shared a similar experience with his father hired me to serve as a marketing and content consultant for his organization, and from there my company was born.
I could have used different titles that would have been just as descriptive of the article. That post could have been called "The Effects of Prolonged Unemployment on a Father and His Son", or "Why I Love My Dad".
One is way too descriptive, and the other is way too vague. Using those titles would have resulted in a far smaller audience.
I experienced this same phenomenon again two weeks ago. Growing up, my grandfather really, really hated Muhammad Ali. After Ali died I wrote a post titled "My Grandfather Hated Muhammad Ali". That post received more than 140,000 views, 11,000 likes, and 600 comments.
And, like the earlier example, I could have used other titles.
Like, "My Grandfather, the Bigot".
Or, "How to Be an Influencer Like Muhammad Ali".
These titles also would have been an accurate description of the article. And both would have been horrible choices.
When it comes to content, titles matter. There are some people I've spoken to who recoil at this idea, and try and tell me about all of the wonderful takeaways the audience would have if they just read it.
That last part is always emphasized with a desperate tone: "...if they just read it."
Here's the thing: you have fractions of a second to capture your audience's attention, and no one will ever glean that takeaway in the third paragraph if they never even open your blog.
When thinking of your title remember that you want to make sure your audience will know audience will know what the content is about and what their expected takeaway will be, while at the same time not giving away the whole story.
For example, this tells me everything I need to know without reading the actual blog: "Science Proves that Blog Writers Lie 78% of the Time".
But don't be too abstract: "Lies, More Lies, and Blogging".
Instead, strike a middle ground between too much and too little information: "Why You Should Be Skeptical When Listening to a Blog Writer".
When it comes to content, remember that the story starts with the title.