Everyone wants to write better content. We want to select better topics, write in more detail, research more thoroughly, and string our sentences together in more tactful, eloquent, aesthetically pleasing ways. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come naturally and it certainly doesn’t come quickly. With some skills, you can get better through practice and sheer force of will alone—for example, if you spend enough time playing guitar (or any musical instrument), eventually your muscle memory and familiarity will allow you to play more complicated songs more accurately and beautifully. All it takes is hours of work.
If you attempt this blunt approach to writing, you might never end up with better content. That’s because even if you spend hundreds of hours practicing your writing, you’ll still be trapped in a bubble of your own perceptions and your own “comfort zone.” You need exposure to other people, other writing styles, and other pieces if you ever truly want to grow as a writer.
These five types of people will almost always help you progress your abilities:
Coworkers are great because they can give you new perspectives on your own industry. For example, imagine you work for a solar panel production company. You work in the marketing department and you understand what features of your panels are most important to the majority of your clients. But someone in engineering is going to have a much more detailed, precise understanding about the mechanics that allow those features to exist. The engineer might be able to provide you with a few ideas about future blog topics, or at least be able to explain some things you didn’t know you didn’t know about your industry.
Of course, the engineer is only one example. Chances are, people in most departments (other than yours) will be able to shed at least some new light on your industry. Step out of your comfort zone and talk to some people in your company you’ve never spoken to before. Go out for coffee, or hold a group brainstorming session to get some new perspectives on the table. The more perspective you have, the more diverse and thorough your writing is going to be.
Social influencers got to where they are for a reason. People love the content they write (or otherwise produce), and as a result, they’re seen as leading authorities with tens of thousands (or more) of followers. You should be taking the time to read these influencers’ posts, even if they aren’t directly related to your industry. In fact, sometimes influencers outside your industry can teach you more about writing than those on the inside.
The key here is to expose yourself to different writers who have different approaches to writing. What kind of formatting do they use? What kind of tone? What kind of word choices? Looking at these factors will help you diversify and liven up your own writing, which is invaluable especially if you’re writing for multiple different audiences.
You should also be reading the news every day, keeping tabs on at least a few of your favorite journalists. Journalists and content marketers are sometimes at opposite ends of the spectrum, with content marketers producing material that people want to read and journalists producing material that people need to read (at least in the journalist’s opinion). As a result, you’ll see a very different approach to writing—one centered on research, solid claims, and the “full scope” of the story.
You’ll have to be choosy here, since not all journalists adhere to the same degree of professionalism. But if you can find a great journalist to follow, he/she will be able to help you think more critically and more thoroughly about your subject matter.
Competitors are great for content marketers. Keep an active list of your closest and most active competitors, and look at the writing they publish and promote. What kinds of topics seem to be the most popular with their readers? What directions do their writers go in? What claims do they make? And perhaps most importantly, what kinds of weaknesses do they have? Learning these factors will help you understand the context of your own writing more, and can help you come up with better, more targeted topics to use in your own campaign.
Last, and most important, your readers will help you become a better writer—all you have to do is listen to them! As long as you’re keeping your readers involved with comments, discussions, and active monitoring of their click behaviors, you should have a clear read on how they respond to your various topics and approaches. Use this data to objectively figure out which types of content are working and which ones aren’t, and compare that to articles you see elsewhere on the web. Even amateur writers should be able to identify at least a handful of key elements that should be added, removed, or revised to improve the content overall.
In my introduction, I dismissed the idea that raw practice alone can help you become a better writer—but that doesn’t mean the practice element isn’t important. In addition to getting to know these five types of people (and using them to better understand your content), you’ll need to put your nose to the grindstone to iteratively increase your skills. Still, with enough dedication and enough diverse exposure, you should see measurable growth in the quality of your articles in relatively short order.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.