Creating Relevance in Your Content
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I remember vividly reading an essay that my sister wrote in school about the poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. She was fluently discussing his works and impact when she came to a full stop. The next sentence simply read: “He was gay.” And then she carried on. I was fortunate enough to read it after her teacher had marked it; the red pen annotation next to it said: “Is this relevant?” No, I thought, it’s not really is it? The essay wasn’t discussing anything about his sexuality.
And that’s how easy it is to drift off-subject. Combine that with the fact that we’re all spending less and less time actually reading, and I mean REALLY reading (skimming your Twitter feed doesn’t count) then content is walking very slowly up a steep hill.
We’ve seen the statistics about how short people’s attention spans are – according to a Microsoft study we’re now averaging just 8 seconds (and to put that into perspective, the goldfish holds out for a respectable 9 seconds). Just how are you going to create that content to get people reading it (and for longer than 8 seconds) or even sit down and concentrate to create it?!
Relevance. It’s all about relevance. Creating relevance in your content is all about revisiting that end goal time and time again. As a process, it’s often best to start at the end. Let’s begin (at the end…)!
Write down your end goal – NOT the title
This is really important. If you give your content a title before you’ve written anything down, you’ll end up in a mess. By its nature, writing changes as you go through the process. Giving yourself a title just kind of forces you into a really narrow thinking channel – and your title doesn’t always end up as your end goal. What I mean is this: I wrote an article once about a dog jumping over a fence on a trampoline (yup, it’s true). The end goal of the article was to show that the dog had actually jumped over the fence, the title was “Bouncing on the trampoline, Laura’s dog had an idea…” Your end goal and the title are not the same thing.
Keep questioning your points
Every point you’re trying to make in your content needs to match up with that end goal. Let’s say you’re writing some content because you’ve got a new soap that is great for Eczema and you want to show why. When you’re pulling all your selling points together it’s vital that you ask yourself: “How will this help the eczema sufferer?” Listing things like fragrance-free are missing the point – the point for an Eczema sufferer is that the lack of fragrance means their skin won’t get irritated. Really defining your points and their validity is a great way of keeping on-track and reader-focussed.
Avoid tenuous links
Tenuous links are a really easy trap to fall into, and here’s where you need to think like a journalist. You need to ask a lot of questions. Treat the topic like it’s totally unknown to you and ask the crap out of it. Hopefully out of this will come your angle, which means you’ll avoid any weak linking within your piece of content. Sometimes it can be hard to identify an angle for a piece of writing that fits with your end goal and if you’re really struggling then that might be your answer; sometimes it’s best to park your idea and move on. No content is better than content without a purpose.
The easiest way to keep a handle on your topic and your points to make sure they’re relevant is to brain map it. It’s a really simple way of showing you what you’re thinking of and if you’ve got your end goal in the middle, you’ll be staring at it the whole time which means it should keep you on the right road when it comes to analysing your points and examples. I used to use this at university when I wanted to stay focussed on my essay conclusion, and I’ve kept on using it as it works. Give it a try!