October 25, 2017 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
People love to say, “Oh, you write blog posts for a living? I could do that!” While writing is something most people do on a daily basis, even if it’s just texting, content writing is a specific set of skills that not everyone has. Before you hire any writer for your company’s blog post, you need to know why content writing is a specialized craft that takes study and practice.
Tone matching is not easy. It involves switching from a technical to a playful tone, or moving from a blog post for retirees to a post meant for teens. To become successful content writers with the ability to create for a variety of clients, writers have to inhabit and comfortably write in a tone that they did not develop and may not even like.
Lots of writers craft prose in a single voice, the ones they have developed over the course of practicing their crafts. Fiction writers are able to change tones when they switch between characters, but even in those cases the writer created the characters and the corresponding voices. That is very different from adopting a tone that a company has already developed. Plus, content writers often have to step into several different tones in the same day to fulfill deadlines.
Content writers are tone chameleons because these stylistic choices will either attract leads or push possible customers away. A content writer understands when to change the structure of a sentence, when to use shorter words, and when to inject playfulness into an article. Not everyone, not even every writer, can do this.
Now, here comes the most difficult part: a content writer still has to be original while adopting someone else’s tone. Content writers can’t steal phrases or ideas from your previous blog posts, nor are they going to copy the posts you admire from other websites. If you have three content writers working on your blog and each of them is talented at matching tone, it will sound like one person is running that blog and continuing to present original ideas.
Some people believe content writing is just about writing, but that’s not true at all. Content writers understand SEO practices, audience pain points, and the basics of search metrics. Give a content writer the longtail keywords you want to use, and she can create some great ideas for blog posts for you to choose from. Tell her about your audience’s pain points, and she’ll help develop audience personas that will hone your blog post topics.
Ultimately, content writing is just one aspect of content creation. Writing a solid blog post doesn’t mean much if that blog post doesn’t fit the website, doesn’t speak to the audience, and isn’t going to attract traffic to your blog.
When you’re beginning a content marketing strategy for a new business, you need to create a style guide specific to your business. That means everything from deciding whether you’ll use the Oxford comma to laying out words and phrases you want to appear in your brand content. Journalists and content writers are used to working with style guides, but other writers may not be.
Have a content writer help you develop your brand’s style guide. The writer can help you develop a vocabulary and tone for your blog posts and web content. She’ll also help you create a list of don’ts for your content, to keep tones consistent and to prevent your brand’s voice or content from verging into territory you don’t like.
Writers, especially creative writers, are vision-driven people. A writer gets an idea for a story and spends time devleoping that vision–and this is after spending hundreds of thousands of words honing a personal writing style. When writing creatively, which includes personal web essays and blogs, a writer’s vision shapes what ends up on the page.
Content writing is different. When you hire a content writer, you aren’t hiring that person for their tone or vision. You’re hiring them to match your tone and write for your vision. Content writers understand that, and will put aside their personal writing styles to create content that matches your company’s brand.
Not all content writers sound the same, and that’s a good thing, because you want your website to sound human and unique. But a content writer who is also adept at poetry isn’t going to fill your website with prose poems when you want product descriptions. When you hire a content writer over a general writer, you’re getting someone who knows to put their personal feelings and ego in the backseat to better serve you, the client.
Content writers are great at quickly learning about new topics to produce content for clients. However, research extends far beyond gaining information to write about a certain topic. The research content writers do involves reading other blog posts to understand how to fit into a new tone. It means looking at social media to figure out where your customers are, who they are, and how to reach them. It even means conducting interviews to add expert information to the pieces they write.
Unsure of your online niche? A content writer can help you research that, too. They’re great at finding new ways to spin old topics and discovering exactly what kind of content your blog ought to be posting to get the customers you want. A lot of people can use Google to learn about new subjects. You need so much more than that.
The next time someone says “Blog writing? I could do that,” you’ll know that’s not entirely true. That person can learn to become a content writer, but it takes practice and a little bit of talent, just like any profession does. Ultimately, content writing is not something people can pick up and automatically succeed at. Writing is a skill people develop, and content writing is a specialization that writers pursue. Not everyone can do it, so you want to hire someone who does it fabulously.
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