September 17, 2014

10 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Content Robot

blogging tipsWhen you first start blogging for your company, your posts are probably more thought-provoking, insightful and well-written. But if you’re like me, the more you write, the more automated it becomes. I can write about social media, small business and marketing in my sleep, so sometimes I’m guilty of writing on autopilot.

Can you relate?

This year, I resolved to put more passion into my writing. Give readers a reason to read. Put more energy into my posts. To that end, I’ve created these tips for myself (and for you, if you like) to keep from being a content robot this year:

1. Set Aside Enough Time to Write

When you get paid a set amount for a blog post, it behooves you (me, actually) to write faster and write more. But sometimes going too fast means your post lacks soul. That means it won’t be as popular as it would if you’d taken more time to reflect on what you write before you put fingers to keyboard.

I block off time on my calendar to write. I could stand to block off bigger chunks of time, but like so many of us, I suffer from Facebook/email A.D.D., meaning I can’t write 400 words without checking one.

2. Avoid Clichés

I like being on the same page with my readers, breaking the ice and taking the bull by the horns as much as the next blogger. But for my readers, well, it’s all old hat. So I’m going to strive to avoid clichés in my writing. They’re nothing but a cop out anyway. Let’s find our own unique words to say the same thing, m’kay?

3. Find New Words

There are only so many ways to say the word “business.” Believe me. I’ve used them all. Company. Organization. Entity. Brand. I use Thesaurus.com heavily, because I keep using the same words in a single post. At one time, I prided myself on my poetic prose, which was anything but ubiquitous. But as I’ve honed my craft, I strive to use words everyone understands.

Still, a curveball like “Apollonian” now and then makes my writing better.

4. Mix Up Your Style

If you always write how-to posts, get out of your comfort zone (there’s that darn cliché again) and try a different style of post. Maybe you can interview someone at your company or in your industry. Write a book review. Share your insight on industry news.

Writing the same type of content is boring for both you and your reader, so branch out.

5. Don’t Mask  Your Passion

Within five minutes of meeting me, I will have laid out an entire marketing plan for your business. That may not always shine through in my writing, though it should. I am passionate about writing. You’re passionate about something. People like passion. So don’t be afraid to let it shine brightly in your content.

The posts that get shared the most were written by people who were happy to put the spotlight on their passions.

6. Take a Break

Aside from those Facebook breaks, taking a respite from what you’re writing can be helpful in that you step away, give your brain a break, then come back with a fresh outlook. You’ll often see that what seemed magical when you first typed it is now kind of junk. You may also spot your errors quickly.

Take a few hours or a day to get some space from your writing, then come back and read it again.

7. Read it Out Loud

When I work with new writers, and when I teach writing, I insist that they read their content out loud. This helps them see that a run-on sentence needs to be changed, or that a particular phrase is awkwardly structured and needs revision.

And sometimes Spellcheck doesn’t work, so reading it out loud can help you catch a missing “s” at the end of a word.

8. Have Someone Else Read It

If you’re like me, every single thing you write is prizewinning. In your head, anyway. Sometimes you need another person to read it and give you honest feedback. Better for them to catch your errors or point out a confusing part than for a client or the blogosphere to see it and criticize.

Be open to feedback and use it to become a better writer.

9. Try Writing About Something Else

I have moments when I’m burned out on writing about business. I recently picked up travel writing, which uses a completely different part of my brain. Surprisingly, it makes business writing fun again.

Try writing a different style, or on a different topic so that you don’t get jaded on what you write about regularly.

10. Constantly Improve

The difficult thing about blogging is that there are no intermediate or advanced blogging courses. Everything’s about getting you started. So while continuing education in the traditional sense is difficult, you can learn by reading.

Read other blogs and notice what you like about the writing. Find ways to incorporate it into your own style. It’s a great way to make sure you’re staying sharp as a writer.

Robot and Pencil Photo via Shutterstock

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Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

24 Reactions

  1. These are some great suggestions. I particularly struggle with setting aside enough time to write and giving myself time away from what I’ve written before publishing (two very connected mistakes). My organizational goals for 2013 include rectifying this!

    Do you find that choosing new words can ever alienate readers by sounding too academic?

    • Ann Marie–
      Those are two I struggle with too (especially getting time away from the writing). Yes, sometimes you can alienate your readers with word choice. I aim for interesting over “high-falluting.” It doesn’t have to be a word only 1% of the population knows; it just should be one that they don’t hear in every blog post.

      Susan

  2. I like these tips, thank you!

  3. Great advice for today’s bloggers. Robots are not cool. Being human, personable and real is.

    On a related note, I wrote up some helpful advice on how to create compelling content and this absolutely complements it: http://blog.joemanna.com/content-creation-tips-blogging/

    Joe

  4. Great list of tips, Susan. I especially agree with the “take a break” tip. This is something that is necessary weather you want to or not.

    I’ve learned that if I don’t give myself a chance to take regular breaks I’ll get the in this rut where I just don’t feel like writing at all and I’ll take what seems to be involuntary breaks that last much longer needed.

    Make sure that you’re balancing out your blogging with your personal life. This will help you stay fresh and continue to produce new content and be excited about it.

    Thanks for sharing your insights on this topic.

    Ti

  5. Exactly Susan! as you said your posts are as usual very sound and energetic.

  6. Amazing collection of tips right there. I also want to second Ti Roberts that most writers do not see the need to take a break from writing yet this is very important. The mind uses a lot energy hence the constant refilling. I have tried this myself and each time i do that i always come up with reloaded content that appeals to my audience. Being an essay writing expert, i encourage all professional content writers out there to ” take a break”

    Excellent work Susan and keep it up

  7. As more authority is given to authors and more businesses hope on the content marketing train, posts like this are becoming so important. Having spent so much of my marketing career pushing out content, both as an agency owner and freelancer, it’s definitely something I’ve wrestled with. Ultimately, it’s about finding the balance that works for you.

    I stumbled upon this article from Jason Smith about why most bloggers quit:

    http://www.imz6.com/2013/01/27/why-most-of-the-bloggers-quit/

    Similar idea, but some other suggestions. Burn out is tough!

  8. The idea is to to strike a balance that works well for you. People are different and what strategy works for me might not work the same for you. However, i believe taking a writing break is critical for anyone who wants to come up with new and refreshed ideas. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Amanda

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