Nicolas Cole Instagram
In the past 5 years, I have written over 3,000 articles on the Internet.
That’s not an exaggerated number.
As a result, I’ve learned a tremendous amount regarding what resonates with readers and what doesn’t. Originally motivated by my own desire to “make it” as a writer, throughout my journey I’ve acquired a skill set that, turns out, is fairly universal.
- Industry experts want to know how to get people to listen to them.
- Companies want to know how to get consumers to pay attention to them.
- Speakers, authors, consultants, investors, advisors, and more, all want to know how to share their ideas with the world, so that people and projects choose them.
A year ago, I took all of my learnings and decided to launch a service company specifically designed for helping people write high-performing content online, called Digital Press.
Our message and value offering resonated. And in our first year, we’ve grown to 15 full-time employees and over 100 clients based around the world.
Turns out, a lot of people struggle to share their message in a compelling way.
The best marketing isn’t marketing.
If you’ve ever heard me speak, at a conference or on a podcast, then you know I don’t call myself a marketer.
I’m a writer.
I’m a writer.
I’m a writer.
Because I don’t approach the craft as a marketer, I am able to put the reader first. My entire philosophy behind attracting attention online is based on respecting the reader’s time—something most companies and industry professionals either don’t consider, or aren’t sure how to effectively execute.
If you want people to hear what it is you’re saying, here are 17 small but powerful shifts every company should make in their messaging:
- Put yourself last. Before you even begin thinking about what sort of “message” you want to share, ask yourself if the information is actually valuable to a reader. Saying “We just launched a new product” is only valuable if you’re Facebook. You’re not Facebook.
- Ditch the “disruptive” talk. If you describe your company by saying, “We are a disruptive, game-changing solution,” then delete, delete, delete, and try again. Every company says they’re disruptive now. And the truth is, most aren’t disrupting anything. (And again, the reader doesn’t care.)
- Just say what you do. 9 out of every 10 company websites I visit choose such confusing language to describe what they do. There’s absolutely no reason to say, “We are a business syndication data syndicate focused on driving real results for our clients.” That sentence does absolutely nothing for a reader. Just say, “You give us your company data, and we create advertising profiles for you.” Boom. Done.
- Stop trying to strategize. Anyone who spends time forming a big, extravagant messaging strategy before they’ve written a single article or social post online is inexperienced. Strategy doesn’t come before action—it comes during. You can’t know what’s going to resonate without putting something out into the world. As my mentor used to always say, “You can’t steer a stationary ship.”
- Write, publish, reflect, repeat. Companies and industry professionals would be exponentially more successful if they followed this recipe. Write something. Publish it somewhere. See who pays attention to it. Repeat. What you learn throughout this process will end up informing every aspect of your company’s message—because you’ll know what people actually care enough to read about.
- Put your company second and your founder first. Our entire approach at Digital Press is based around having a company’s message come from a PERSON (the founder, the CMO, the executive team, etc.) instead of an entity. Nobody wants to read a mission statement published by Tesla. But everybody would want to read an article by Elon Musk.
- Consider your blog gravy on top. If your primary publishing strategy is to put content on your website blog, then you’re missing out on some of the biggest content marketing opportunities on the Internet. A blog should be somewhere you re-publish material. But you should also be making use of sites like Quora, Medium, LinkedIn, and others, with millions upon millions of people looking for things to read.
- Decide whether you’re a creator or a curator. Not everyone is made to be a content creator. I’ve been writing every single day since I was a teenager, so creating something original every day is fairly easy for me. But that doesn’t mean a company should strive to be a content creator as well. Some companies and industry experts are much better suited to be curators (think: Tim Ferris), pulling info from other creative sources and being the destination that serves readers “the best of the best.”
- Show more emotion. The business world loves to live in a state of contradiction. On the one hand, everyone wants to stand out. On the other, everyone shows up to the party wearing the same blue blazer. If you want to stand out and have people remember you, then you have to show some sort of emotion. You can’t publish blanket “this appeals to all” statements and expect people to see you as some sort of prolific industry thought leader.
- Form strong opinions. If you’re going to stand for something, then stand for it. Say what you believe, and say what you don’t believe. Say what matters, and also say what doesn’t matter. The fastest way to a reader’s heart is to tell them, right at the beginning, “This is what I think—take it however you want.” Readers love when you don’t waste their time pitter-pattering around the bush.
- Care. I can’t stress enough the difference between great writing and “blog” writing. Great writing gets to the point—and it’s a point worth getting to. Blog writing doesn’t. Blog writing says the same thing, over and over again. And then it says it again. And sometimes, it says it lots more. Because it’s trying to get to 800 words. Because then it’ll be considered a blog post. And yay.
- Personal Story x Teach. I’m going to give you a huge piece of my “secret recipe” here. Every reader wants to know how the information you’re sharing is going to help them (solve a specific problem), and second, how you as an individual acquired the information you’re sharing with them. For example: at the start of this article, I told you that I’ve learned a lot writing 4,000 articles on the Internet, before I explained to you 17 small but powerful shifts every company should make in their messaging.
- Don’t expect people to pay attention overnight. The name of the game is not to write 1 thing on the Internet, and have it go viral—and then stay viral for the entirety of your business career. (Unfortunately, many people seem to believe this is how it works.) What’s far more important is building a library of content with your name on it, that continues to stand as a resource for people who want to know about you, the work you do, what you believe, and how you see the world.
- Consistency is key. In everything in life, consistency is everyone’s #1 challenge. It’s also the differentiator between those who succeed and those who fail. Clients of ours that gave things a shot for 2 months, failed. Clients that trusted the process for a year, accumulated hundreds of thousands of views on their work.
- Study your competitors—and then say it better, louder, and more often. Whenever I enter a new niche, the first thing I do is find the most popular people and companies within that niche. I pay attention to what they talk about, how they communicate their message, where, and how often. And then once I’ve surveyed the landscape, I ask myself how I could create the exact same thing, better. For example, if someone wrote a viral article about 10 Thing Every Entrepreneur Should Look Before Launching A Company, I would write something similar, except I would provide clearer examples, tell more memorable stories, and give more actionable insight. Messaging is a game, and in order to win, you have to say what everyone else is saying, better.
- Aim to be both timely and timeless. This is a phrase my mentor used to say to me all the time, and it took me a while to understand the true meaning. A lot of companies love PR because they can shout, “Hey, look at us! We got featured in Forbes!” And although that might be great for the moment, it’s far from timeless. Nobody is going to read a promotional Forbes article about your company 2 years from now. Your efforts should aim to be both timely and timeless, in the sense that what resonates today should still be able to resonate with people further down the road. This is how you can start seeing dividends on your efforts.
- Start a movement by giving people WHO YOU ARE. People don’t care about what you do. They care about how you do it. They care about how you became the person you are, how you learned what you’ve learned, and how your experiences have shaped you and the beliefs you hold today.
You can either be an all-organic snack company that blasts consumers with the message, “We are an all-organic snack company,” or you can be a founder who shares personal stories about what it means to have a healthy relationship with food.
You can either be an investment firm that says, “We invest in talented entrepreneurs,” or you can be a personable investor who mentors-at-scale by sharing valuable lessons to entrepreneurs all over the world from lessons you’ve learned in the trenches.
You can either be a content marketing agency, or you can be a founder who spent his entire childhood becoming one of the highest ranked World of Warcraft players in North America, and then applied that gaming mentality to writing, became a 4x Top Writer on Quora, a Top 30 columnist for Inc Magazine, and a 10x Top Writer on Medium with over 50M views—actively sharing the secrets of high-performing content marketing to everyone online.
The latter is more memorable, don’t you think?