On Content Development
When I first started writing for online magazines I thought I was an ok writer that got some lucky breaks because a few connected people, that happened to like me, helped me out. It turns out I was right—I wasn’t that good. Luckily, I realized it and went on a search to get better. One of the first books that an editor recommended to me was On Writing Well by the late William Zinsser. Since it was the first book that impacted me as a writer, and this is the first Strength Faction lesson we’re doing on writing, the title is in homage to that formative text.
Content development, like writing well, seems like a daunting task. In reality it isn’t. Setting a little structure, and answering a few upfront questions, gets the party started and builds momentum toward consistently sharing good info. Here’s a solid structure to start you on your way, or to help you improve, your content development.
Who Are You Writing For?
This is the crux of all questions that must be answered when writing—no matter if you’re writing for your blog or The New Yorker. Knowing your audience means that you can best present the information in a way that they’ll connect with it, ingest it, and understand it. That’s not to say that your style should change wholesale every time you write for a different medium or for a different group, but awareness goes a long way toward making your writing effective. For instance, I’ll make super funny dick jokes when writing privately for the Faction that I likely won’t make in a piece for a print magazine. Likely meaning I’d never do that. But I’ll still use modest amounts of humor so my readers have a good time.
But in our context we’re mostly writing for our own blogs to attract new clients and inform our current ones. So let’s focus in on defining how to construct our voice so it meshes with them. It begins with an exercise from the marketing world. We’ll define an avatar. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. It just takes a little research that you’re already doing by spending the time to get to know your clients.
Here’s how it goes: learn a bunch of details about all of your clients and then make up a person and describe them using the averages of all those details.
Your avatar includes: income level, interests, motivations, fears, concerns, lifestyle, family size, where they live, what problems they’re trying to solve, what TV shows they watch, education level, what kind of college they went to, etc.
You get the gist. The goal is to get snapshot, a vision in your head, of the person you’re trying to best serve. This allows you to talk to them in the way that they’ll best receive, and understand, your message.
Start by staying aware during your conversations with your clients and during your consultations. What’s the common motivational theme that’s bringing them through your doors? In marketing speak—what’s their pain point? After a while you’ll notice a clear need/want-based theme, or themes, that brings people to you. Note it and write it down.
Look at your billing, what’s the average amount of money folks are spending with you? A quick Google search gives you info on the median income in your immediate area. Now, start paying closer attention to what your folks are saying to you during your conversations. What shows are they watching? What are their goals? How big are their families? What took them to the point their at in their lives? Write all of this shit down.
You’ll have a list of variables, a pallet of fine oil paints to paint a clear image with.
Now that you have all of your background info, find the middle ground and tell a story about a person that meets all of those criteria. Make that fucker as detailed as possible—make it poignant enough that it sticks in your memory. Paint that goddamn picture. You’ll have it to consult with as needed. Often times, however, doing this upfront work, and writing one detailed story, is enough to give you a clear picture of who you’re writing for without having to re-read your avatar story over and over.
Now, if you have more than one group that you’re working to educate, you’ll have to do an avatar for each subgroup.
It sounds like a lot of work, and little bit of a pain in the ass, and it kind of is. But it’s also fun and one hundred percent worth the effort.
As coaches and therapists, we’re constantly fielding questions on anything and everything training and lifestyle related. Since we’re not absolute douche canoes, we answer the ones that we have the answers to—at least to the best of our abilities. Well, guess what? Those questions you’re asked by clients during sessions, and your subsequent answers, make good blog posts. If one client wants an answer to a question, you’re darn tootin’ that someone else is also pondering it. And that same answer is then broadly shared with your entire client base and potential client base.
It’s as simple as paying attention, and jotting some notes about the questions you’ve been asked, and answered, during the week.
If you have a staff, take some time during a meeting a collect a list of questions that each person’s been asked throughout their tenure at your gym. You’ll compile a huge list right-quick and in a hurry.
Then, answer those questions with your writing.
Just the Tip is a sexual demonstration of education. We’re just disseminating little pieces of what we do to the masses one sexual innuendo at a time.
We do the same thing for our collective gym blogs. We take exercises that we require a lot of coaching and write about them. It makes our job easier while also solving a problem for our clients and potential clients.
Current Events Commentary
There’s a lot of stupid fitness industry shit that makes the news. Fad diets and workouts abound. As upstanding coaches and beacons of training truth, we’re knighted with the honor to help our readers wade through the bullshit. Pay attention to the shit you’re seeing on the news, or in magazines, or the absolute garbage that Dr. Oz spews regularly.
When you see this shit, give your opinion. You have a lens that your clients and potential clients don’t—they need your help to process the info and widen the barrier between solid info and poppycock.
Solve a Problem
The name of the game is to solve problems. Each post you make should solve a problem for your clients or potential clients. You know what those problems are by developing your avatar and learning what really matters to the people you serve. Then you pay attention to their questions and answer them. All the while you educate and give them a more focused lens to view the fitness world.