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The Reddish Blue Pill Truth about Outlines
What’s the Point of the Outline?
It really is a shame that outlines don’t get the recognition they deserve when it comes to writing. When we hear about the writing process we hear about that grand “blank page” that we fill with our thoughts and ideas to create content. We talk about that first sentence, the conclusion, the sources we use, we talk about everything except for what really starts it all. No, it’s not the rough draft. It’s the outline.
Sometimes I think the word rough draft leads to some misconceptions. Since it’s recognized as the starting point of writing, it makes people think that you’re just writing nonstop without any sort of planning behind it. The truth is there’s a lot of planning that goes into that rough draft. “While creativity in your writing should be free flowing, it all starts with planning,” says Jessica Lee via Bizbuzz Content. “Think about it: No major construction ever begins without first referencing the architectural plans that map out the end results.”
Why Is the Outline so Important?
Now that I’ve had you take the red pill about rough drafts to reveal the truth of outlines, let’s look at what you can do with your outline and why it’s so important. Or is it the blue pill? I have trouble remembering. See, this is why outlines are important.
1. They help you map out your ideas and details
Jody Calkins of “The Writer Side of Business” is rather fond of outlines. She touches on how outlines help you get all of those little details together. “When we have a message to share, we often don’t have a firm grasp on the details or how to organize the information. This is where an outline comes in. When we set out to write an outline, we put our brains to work. They force us to get some talking points on paper. We can say, ‘Okay, what are the specific points I want to make in this article?’”
2. They help you discover new things in your writing and create new ideas
When I get an idea for a new book I immediately write an outline. I write up the ideas in my head so I can look over them and figure out what my next move will be. The best part is that along the way I end up coming with new ideas. In the case of my fiction writing, for instance, I have a list of characters. However, as I look over each of them, my mind comes up with ways that they can interact with each other, who they are, and what they look like. “By taking this time-out to outline, not only do you have the freedom to be more creative — you’re giving yourself the chance to capture new ideas and putting them somewhere,” says Loc Van via Ezine Articles, “They can be added to a section or just filed somewhere to find a home later.”
3. They help you stay focused (even if you deviate from your original idea)
The most important thing that an outline does is that it helps you stay focused on what you want to write about. It’s a document that has all of your ideas in one place, which helps you stay on target when it comes to creating content. “Having a predefined roadmap keeps you focused on the current sentence or paragraph,” says Van. “No need for pauses to figure out what’s next — just refer to the outline.” However, as you get new ideas, you can always add to the outline. There’s no set formula on how to compose your outline, you write it in a way that fits with you. For example, when I write up an outline, when I get a new idea I write it in red. This way, I don’t lose focus on the original idea and I can decide which would be better: the new thoughts I have or the original one.
The rough draft to your writing will always be important, but it’s important to remember that the outline has a key role in your content. I’m glad that you’ve taken the red pill about this… or the blue pill? Purple, let’s go with purple and just combine the two.
The ultimate goal of content marketing is offering your target audience information and materials that will engage them and motivate them to choose your business.
Seems easy, right?
Often, companies will simply share general content to please everyone. But let’s be honest: you can’t win them all. And that’s okay!
Rather than throwing a line and hoping the fish will bite, create Thought Leadership content strategically catered to your target market. Consider the people who would genuinely need or care about what your business offers, rather than wasting time, effort, and resources on creating general, unfocused content. Successful content marketing involves promoting your products and services to the people interested in the subject matter, who will read the content, click on your company website, and take action.
As an executive of an organization, you are a valuable piece of the brand. Consumers want to know about the human presence leading companies, in order to understand more about the company’s values and goals.
Take advantage of your position as an industry expert and share extra content to attract more attention to yourself as an industry leader and your company. Your quality content will build your reputation as a reliable voice to earn your consumer’s trust. However, if it’s not focused on your target audience, you won’t earn many conversions from your content.
Consider these techniques to guide your Thought Leadership content so it can expand and strengthen your loyal consumer following:
- Identify your target audience by reviewing your current consumer data and identifying who is investing in your business or reacting to your thought leadership materials so far. Look for trends to find why these people are interested and if others like them haven’t been reached yet.
- Conduct customer research to learn how they will respond to your thought leadership content. Request participation in surveys, polls, social media comments, and more to learn about your existing impression on your audience and how you can improve your platform.
- Create target audience character profiles. Identify their interests, demographics, pain points, needs, and desires, and write to them.
- Find where your current and potential audience is active online. Catch their attention by being active and sharing your content marketing materials on these platforms.
- Pull inspiration from other Thought Leader examples. Research other executives within your field who implement successful content marketing through their personal platforms. Learn what qualities make their content attractive and why readers respond to it positively. These examples can offer a base for you to visualize what you want to achieve.
- Recognize your strengths as a Thought Leader. Often, leaders aren’t necessarily aware of the unique talents that give them an advantage in their industry until asked. Reflect on what topics you know best and how to input your insights to humanize your materials, make them original and more engaging for your audience.
Case Study: How Strategic Content Marketing Can Broaden Your Audience
In our client strategy calls, our team will interview our expert clients to learn about their industry expertise and find out what’s meaningful to them, their business, and then identify who we believe to be their target audience. We use these insights to inspire our content subject matter and tone to create impactful content for their current and potential consumers.
For example, our client, Dr. Nitin Desai, approached our strategy team to create content to promote his COVID Pre-Check app. His innovative software is intended to help employers ensure their employees who enter the office are COVID-free, providing a safe environment by eliminating the chance of spread.
Our team of strategists recognized that with Dr. Desai’s thorough professional knowledge around the COVID-19 virus, he had the potential to become a reliable voice in a culture of people seeking answers. We created content for Dr. Desai that focused on sharing COVID-related insights to reach a wider audience, which has been a successful mission. Our thoroughly planned content reflected his industry expertise, which brought him attention from various media outlets and publications, including Forbes.
By reaching out to our professional content marketing team, Dr. Desai achieved his goal of promoting his groundbreaking app, while also positioning himself as an authoritative voice in his field. Our team learned about his voice, discovered what was meaningful to him and his target audience, and optimized this to create focused, engaging content that broadened his consumer scope.
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