4 Ways to Get Your Story Out of the Content Tar Pit

This post was written by John White on Fri, 01 Jan 2010 13:53:24 +0000
Posted Under: ideal reader,tell your story,value in content

Rescue your marketing communications content from the tar pit. Your readers can find it more easily and it will tell your story better.

Around 1900, a few men standing near the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California, realized that there were animal bones in the tar.

“What a find!” exclaimed the first. “We could do research for decades on the fossils in this tar. It’s an archeological treasure.”

“Yes,” said the second, “but we need to figure out how to get that treasure out of the tar.”

Getting Your Content Treasure Out of the Tar

As a marketing manager, what do you do when you inherit a tar pit of content?

Maybe your company acquires another company and you need to bring its marketing content in line with your own. Maybe you’re hired into a company that has been desperately trying to tell its story, but whose efforts have never yet amounted to anything interesting. Maybe you’ve been breathing your own exhaust for a long time, and you wake up one day and decide to change what you’ve done.

Here are four ways to get your story out of the content tar pit:

  1. Break up walls of text. Can you even bear to read your own stuff anymore? Is it just a forbidding collection of long sentences and paragraphs? Can you break it into smaller pieces of value that tell the story without snowing the reader under?
  2. Rewrite your text in terms of customer needs. Visitors don’t want to know how many transistors you can pack onto a single chip; they want to know how all those transistors can help them get their work done better, cheaper and faster. It’s easy for your content to fall into this tar pit, but you can rescue it by changing “chicken pieces fried and battered at 145 degrees” to “finger lickin’ good.”
  3. Bucket the text better. Are you sure that your ideal readers can find your content? If your entire Website is a tar pit, and the white papers, webinars, case studies and product data are all mixed together, it becomes difficult to locate your story, let alone tell it. Rearrange the text into buckets according to what visitors want to see, instead of what the writers wanted to describe.
  4. Give examples and make them interesting to read. Examples make the best stories. Start out with “You know how…” or “In the same way that…” and start telling your story orally. Once you have it sketched out, fill it in with your products and services and how your customers use them.

The treasures are in the tar pit. You just need to find them. Eventually, you can create content that never gets trapped there in the first place.

John White of venTAJA Marketing posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

photo credit: David Berkowitz

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