Despite the many dire warnings that the written word is dead, people are in fact reading more than ever before. As with so many changes in our 21st-century world, the main reason is the Internet. Though fewer people are consuming information via dead trees, many more are devouring blogs, news sites, e-books, and the like. And when it comes to determining which websites come up at the top of the page when a person looks something up online, search engines like Google still rely on good old-fashioned text.
As a result, being a compelling writer is no longer a nice-to-have. Prospects are simply not finding entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives who treat writing as an afterthought. Fortunately, there’s a habit you can build that will allow you to quickly generate the kind of material that will get your business noticed.
Always Be On the Lookout for What You Can Steal
If you want to develop the ability to pump out interesting and entertaining material every time you put your fingers to a keyboard, you must learn to be a thief.
Now what I’m talking about is different than plagiarism, which is taking someone else’s work and trying to pass it off as your own. This kind of stealing is based on recognizing that as human beings we’re more alike than we are different. As such, we’re wired to respond to the same kinds of communication and storytelling structures in the same ways. Many fantastic writers before you have developed and honed these structures to great effect. All you have to do is uncover them and use them in your own work.
For example, next time you’re standing in a supermarket checkout line, glance at the magazine rack. You’ll find headline after headline engineered to grab eyeballs and drive impulse purchases. Buy a few of these magazines and study how the headlines are constructed. You’ll be amazed by how easy they are to adapt to any subject in any niche or industry.
Take the time to read some commercial bestselling novels as well. Look at the end of each chapter. You’ll find that many use similarly built cliffhangers to keep you turning the pages. Even if you’re not aiming to be the next James Patterson, you will find ways to apply these techniques to produce writing that keeps your readers--or customers--hooked.
There’s great storytelling and great communication everywhere, so learn to notice how it’s engineered. If you get in the habit of relying on structures pioneered by masters of the craft, all you’ll have to do is fill in the details.
MICHAEL SCHEIN | Columnist | Founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications
Michael Schein is the founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications, a digital marketing company. He has created or facilitated the production of content for companies such as eBay, LinkedIn, Avectra, Tesla, SEER Interactive, Interneer, Arise Virtual Solutions, and Citrix. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors and got his start at Spin the Bottle, the production company behind VH1 hit show Pop Up Video.