One of the guiding principles for content success is clarity. Without a clear approach, a clear understanding, and a clear delivery your efforts will be lost along the way.
In this article, we are going to concentrate on four key areas where clarity is the watchword.
1. Clarity of strategy
Once you’ve gone through the process of defining your company’s marketing strategy you should ensure that everyone on the team, or at least those involved in the delivery of the strategy, understand it and all that it is designed to achieve. That also includes senior managers and directors of the company – everyone should be on the same page.
From the marketing strategy should follow the content strategy, so everyone involved in creating content should understand both the content AND the marketing strategy implicitly and have it at the back of their minds when creating content.
Part of that strategy should be a clear understanding of your audience through buyer personas, and a clear understanding of what drives them and the issues they face.
If the strategy is clear to all involved in creating content, then it has a good chance of being delivered. Companies that miss out the fundamental step of ensuring everyone is thoroughly steeped in the strategy will struggle to deliver on their content and marketing goals.
2. Clarity of writing
One of the most important elements of your content is the words – they carry the major burden of any content with the exception of video (even podcasts have a script).
Your writing should be clear, ordered and totally focussed on meeting the aims of the content or campaign brief.
Start with the title – it should be clear what the content is about, with no ambiguity. Remember that people will be searching for content and clever or cryptic headlines won’t deliver. Keep it as simple and straightforward as you can. Keyword research will help here – it will guide you as to the most likely words your audience are searching for.
With a few lines it should be clear what the content is about and the benefits spending time on it will bring. Most people scan content, so if they don’t see a reason to keep reading, they will move on and save that time for something more useful.
Make sure that subheads are meaningful too, as they are picked up by the reader when scanning content.
Make sure every sentence makes sense and is clear. Each sentence should make a point and lead into the next. Likewise, each paragraph should tell a mini-story, get someone else to read the copy and ensure they can make sense of it – especially with technical copy or when explaining concepts.
The whole piece should tell a coherent story and be presented in a logical order, with a start a middle and an end.
Don’t fall at the last hurdle – make sure your spelling, your grammar and your punctuation are all correct.
3. Clarity of layout
The visual elements – such as typography, layout and images are also important. The arrangement of all the elements should be pleasing to the eye and laid out in both a logical order and a logical hierarchy.
Are the most important elements obvious? Are the subheads significantly less noticeable than the main heading and significantly more noticeable than the main text? I’ve used the word noticeable deliberately as there are many ways to emphasise headings and subheadings apart from type size – you could use weight of type, i.e. bold, or you could use colour, blue subheadings with black body copy for example.
Make sure your typefaces are clear and easy to read. Use standard typefaces that are commonly used for text and headlines. Using an unusual or quirky typeface will stop the reader in their tracks and take attention away from the message of the content.
A good test is to squint at the content – which stops you form reading the copy – can you make sense of the layout? Is it obvious which is a heading, a subheading and so on, or does it just all blur into one? Is there a logical sequence to the elements? Can your eye follow the layout easily around the page?
Alternatively, if you don’t want to squint, you can just look at it from a distance and ask those same questions.
Images should be clear – simple and dramatic works best. Over complicated images with a lot of elements or too many things going on, tend to confuse and distract.
Make sure images are appropriate and complement the content. Avoid a mis-matched stock image that jars with the content that surrounds it.
If you have multiple images there should be a clear hierarchy to them – the most important should be the biggest in the most prominent place, followed by the second most important and so on. The only time you should have two images the same size is when comparing, and multiple same size images are generally only used to show a sequence.
Finally, don’t be afraid of white space. White space can be one of the most useful tools to create order and clarity within content. Use white space to separate different elements and to emphasise elements by surrounding them with white space.
4. Clarity of offer
The majority of content will be published with a purpose – to engage with the intended audience and encourage a response. You need to make sure that your proposition is clear, that the benefits of the offer are clearly explained. Explain what they get and explain what they have to do to get it. Don’t be afraid to sell the proposition but be truthful and make sure the responder is aware of the implications.
Naturally you also need to be sure that what you are asking for is in line with your strategy and is part of an on-going nurturing process.
The process should be easy and simple, and the offer should be delivered quickly and painlessly.
Just to be clear
Nobody won business or made their life easier by over complicating things, so keeping clarity at the heart of your content strategy, creation and delivery should be a given. The clearer you content is, the more successful you will be.