It can happen to the best of us. Tell me if this sounds familiar - company decides it's time for a new website. In one of the 13 meetings your company has had about it, it was decided that you'd be the lucky one to write the content for the site. You've got a shiny new sitemap that everyone is excited about. Now it's time to fill those pages with content and... *gulp*. Writer's block doesn't hit you so much as writer's-unplungable-clog. The creativity just isn't coming. To make matters worse, that blinking cursor on the completely blank white digital page is just mocking you incessantly. So many pages, so little inspiration or direction.
I'm here to tell you that there is hope. You may not call yourself a professional writer, but there are tricks and habits you can start now so that your writing efforts will be easier, you will meet your deadline, and the content you write will be in complete sentences!
Here are just 5 simple things you can do to help organize your work and get you off and writing:
1 - Establish Key Audience Personas
Before you write a single word, figure out who you're writing for. This will help you understand the baseline needs people coming to your site have. If you understand who each page is for, and what information they need on the page you're writing, you're ahead of the game.
For example: If you're a photography and video company who wants to appeal to the wedding, graduation and private party audience, take some time to break out each group and attach a persona to it with specific needs. Like this...
Most Likely Wedding Audience:
Amy Mikkelson - 25 years old (and Amy's mom, Michelle 47). Amy is getting married to her high school sweetheart Brian, who's a year older than Amy. She needs to know that you feel this day is just as important as she does. She needs to know that you'll be on time, will spend all day with her and her wedding party getting every photo possible. She wants to know that you're a calming presence on what can-be a stressful day. She wants to know that you'll stay out of the way. She wants to know that you'll deliver her photos quickly and they'll be high quality.
See how simply marking down the needs this audience can help guide the content for your pages about weddings? You now know that you're probably writing for a female audience, who just wants things to go smoothly, peacefully and you'll make it a day to remember.
If you do this for all of your potential audiences, it will help outline the needs for the overall tone of your content on your website. It will also help you know what questions to ask when you...
2 - Get Someone Else to Do It
Okay not really, but if you can help it, you shouldn't be the only voice in telling your company's story. Interview key stakeholders to help you gather all of the information, resources and materials you need to get the job done correctly. Chances are that if you're a content producer in the marketing department, the Director of Marketing has a deeper knowledge of your company's marketing matters. Ask them for an hour of their time so you can pick their brain about the information they find vital to your audience personas you've marked out.
If you're the stakeholder and there's no one in your company to talk to, talk to current clients. Include them in your work by asking them what works for them, what does not, what messaging resonates, etc. Sometimes your customers add a valuable perspective to projects like these.
Bring in key stakeholders to help you frame your content with valuable information.
3 - Create a Map for Where You Want to Go
You should outline what needs to be done. You can do this through a traditional outline where you note what every single page needs. You'll mark down the word count for every piece of content. Note what the content should say, and how it should flow into other sections of your new site if applicable.
Back to our photography company example...take a look below to see what a sample content outline could look like.
If you're feeling like being a little more creative and visual with your outline, mind map it.
Mind Mapping is a fancy phrase for "organizing your thoughts during big projects." I learned about Mind Mapping from Content Marketing Institute. It's not a new idea, just a helpful one. You start with a big idea and branch it out into little ideas that feed into the big idea. You can use mind mapping to help you figure out what key information needs to be included in each page.
4 - We are Not Gladiators
Chances are, that if you're reading this post for help, you're not writing many books worth of content. Make your writing a bunch of sprints, not one marathon. I promise you that if you tell yourself on a rainy day that you'll lock-in, fire up the coffee pot and just go for it no matter how long it takes, you'll burn out. Break the content out into pieces. If you try to knock out all of your content in one or two days, you'll feel completely overwhelmed.
My advice is to write a page or two a day. Once you've written for about an hour, stop and leave that page alone for a few days. Don't try to perfect it on your first pass! If you do this, you'll spend endless hours on one page before you count it complete. Give yourself a set amount of time each day. Once that time is up, complete your thought on the page, stop and move on no matter how far you've gotten. Come back to it later to review it.
By breaking the content up into pieces, the big project becomes manageable.
5 - Give Your Eyes a Rest
This trick kind of plays off the last one. But leave your work alone and bring someone in to help you edit. Sometimes when musicians are creating a record in the studio for weeks at a time, and they're elbows deep in various takes and tracks and mixes, they get "too close" to the project and need a new perspective. They bring in a fresh set of ears to listen to what they've created to help guide the project. The same is true for writing. Sometimes writers are their worst editors! Take this blog post, for example. I wouldn't edit a word out of it because it's beautiful just the way it is. But I know that if I turn it over to someone I trust, they'll be able to cut this 1200-word monster into about 700 words easier than I would be able to. Get someone to help you edit and proof-read your work. Fresh eyes on the project are good from time-to-time.
You Are Ready! Right?
Now that you've got your personas, you know who your audience is, you've brought in key opinions from stakeholders to help tell your story, you've mapped out every page, and you're breaking the project into sprints, the project doesn't seem so massive, right? These are just a few tips to get your project running. Your pages should begin to fill up if you've prepared and planned them out. No more blinking cursor blues!
There are plenty of other habits that writers form to create successful projects. What are some that are missing from this list? What do you do to make your mammoth writing projects a piece of cake?