Good writing begins with reading great source material
I recently binge-watched season six of Game of Thrones. (Never seen the show? Please rectify this situation immediately.)
One of my favorite characters is Sam Tarly, a bookish young man who suffers hardship – including being ridiculed, threatened, and disinherited by his own father – as a result of his preference for reading and learning over more “manly” pursuits.
In the season six finale, Sam arrives at The Citadel, his world’s equivalent of a university. There, he is escorted into the library where he stares in wonder at thousands upon thousands of books – the physical manifestation of the knowledge he so craves.
It’s a moving scene (especially for a book lover, like me). But watching it, I was struck by one fact: as impressive as that room is, I have a vastly greater repository of human knowledge at my fingertips. All I have to do is type G-o-o-g-l-e into any web browser.
All the world’s knowledge
Did you know that if Wikipedia were printed and bound like an old-school encyclopedia, it would comprise more than 2,300 volumes? 20,000 new entries are added each month ranging from the inane to the profound. And that’s just one tiny corner of the World Wide Web.
Google Books makes great literary works – from Homer’s Iliad to George Orwell’s 1984 – available online, in their entirety, for free. NASA publishes on their website images, articles, videos, and ebooks about astronomy and physics that would make Galileo’s head spin. And the U.S. National Library of Medicine provides so much free health and medical information you can practically diagnose yourself (but don’t, please).
Freely available, hidden from view
I take for granted that if I have a question (Who are Jon Snow’s real parents? Should I capitalize the verb “to google”? What kind of bird is singing outside my window at two o’clock in the damn morning?) I can get an instant answer.
Still, finding information via Google isn’t nearly as awe-inspiring as walking into the Citadel library. The Internet has no bookshelves, no books, nothing to show how vast the ocean of information is. It’s only by asking questions that I begin to probe its depths.
A free market of knowledge
Thanks to the Internet, people have more access to more information than ever before.
One of the driving forces behind all this information sharing is economic self-interest. Businesses and individuals freely publish their know-how in a bid to attract and influence customers. It’s called content marketing and is in many ways a win-win proposition.
Not all content is created equal, of course. We’ve all read articles online that were overly self-promotional, lacked any original thought, and/or were total crap.
But most content marketers are well-meaning professionals openly sharing their expertise with the world. I gotta say, though, if all you ever do is share what you already know through the lens of opinions you’ve already formed, where’s the fun in that?
A great excuse to learn
As an independent writer and marketing consultant, I create my fair share of marketing content. Sometimes I write about things I know. Other times I get to explore subjects I’m unfamiliar with – and these are my favorite.
I love taking on content marketing projects that give me the opportunity to l-e-a-r-n. Projects for which I have to ask questions and seek out pools of knowledge I otherwise would never have explored. (This is also why I’m expanding into international copywriting, so I can learn cool new stuff from around the world.)
One advantage of investigating a subject for the first time is that I go into it without any (or at least very few) preconceived notions. My (relatively) unbiased perspective leads me to ask questions an “expert” might overlook; on a good day, I may even find an angle no one has yet bothered to explore.
The elements of good marketing content
Every good marketer wants to publish interesting content. After all, when was the last time someone bored you into buying something? When writing, I make it my personal goal to add something of value (or at least interest) to the global library of knowledge we call the Internet.
In my humble opinion, there are three elements needed to create good marketing content:
- Understanding – You have to understand not only of the business behind the content but also the audience for whom it is being written and the subject matter being covered.
- Passion – If you’re not interested in your topic, how can you possibly convey excitement to the reader?
- Skill – Some people are just better writers than others. The more talented your writer, the better your content. Period.
A special request
When I don’t have a project to work on, I find myself floating in the shallow end of the Internet, treading water among inspirational misquotes, political vitriol, and questionable advice.
So I beg you, if you need a blog post on astronomy, an op-ed on the state of health care, or a press release for the latest tech gadget, please hire me to write it. It’ll give me a reason to go scuba-diving in the deeper parts of human intellect. In return, you’ll get marketing content that is fact-checked, well-written, original, targeted to your desired audience, and (I hope) interesting.
You can learn more about Alexa Steele at TheWebsiteWordsmith.com and MystiqueMarketing.net. If you enjoyed this post please give it a buzz. And, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, leave a comment explaining who your favorite character is and why.