If you’re feeling daunted creating your own content that reads well and is entertaining, the good news is there are ways to make the writing process easier. By Daniel Warren
Some vets have embraced the marketing possibilities of digital media. Some are making YouTube videos, others have started podcasts, and still others have dipped their toes into the world of blogging or social media. And many are discovering something they’ve forgotten since high school: writing is hard.
But according to James Hillier, chief content strategist for digital agency YourBlogPosts.com, there are ways you can make writing a lot easier. “Although playing with different media like video and social is fun, if you’re blogging for business, writing has to be central to what you do,” he explains. “It’s the written word that will improve your site’s search engine rankings. And the written word is cheaper and easier to produce than any other form of media. It’s also something you can do at any time.”
While best-practice content marketing will advise you to look into keywords and come up with strategies, you want as few hurdles as possible to getting started. “But we find veterinary clients are concerned about running out of ideas, or coming up with ideas that aren’t that interesting,” Hillier adds.
It’s hard to come up with unique story ideas. Writers have been struggling to do that for years. But it’s not impossible, as Hillier explains.
Start with your readers
“Any content you create can be seen in one of two ways: who it’s by, and who it’s for,” he explains. “Inexperienced or nervous writers tend to get hung up on the whole ‘who it’s by’ thing—they worry about the way the writing will reflect on them.”
Thinking about who it’s for, however, can really set you apart from everyone else. “The way to do that is to picture a recent patient,” Hillier continues. “It could be any recent patient. It could be any condition—in fact, the more generic and common the condition, the better.
“Now, picture the people who brought the cat in. Was it a family? Were there kids? Was it a young woman? What did they seem to do for a job?”
Those people are the ones you are writing this post for.
You can keep that idea in the back of your mind while you take the next step. You need to settle on some topics to write about. If one of your goals is to get better Google results, you might want to do some research on keywords that people are using to search the web.
“You don’t need fancy tools to do that,” adds Hillier. “Just open up a Google page and type in a few words like ‘dog breeds’ or ‘cat problem’. The first thing you’ll notice is a whole list of predictions that Google thinks you might be searching for. They’re all based on what other people are searching for—so are all possible ideas for topics.
“Also, down the bottom of the page, you’ll see a list of related searches. These, similarly, are all topics that other people have searched for related to those words. So they’re all possible subjects for your writing.”
When you look over those related searches, certain cases you’ve had may come to mind. The lady who brought her cat in after it got hit by a car. The kids whose dog had suddenly collapsed. The goth with the pet raven that had stopped eating.
According to Hillier, each one of those cases is a possible story. For each one of them, think of a letter you could write to that owner. Start it off with, ‘Dear …’ and their name, as if you’re writing a letter.
It may seem like a silly idea, but it works well. The great American writer, Tom Wolfe, did this as a way of starting his famous article (and book) about custom car culture. That, in turn, kicked off a whole new writing movement in the US in the 1960s. It works.
But before you start writing, there’s one more step …
How to make it entertaining
As the writer of the post, you already have your unique take on the subject. You already know who the ideal reader is. You have a broad idea of the subject matter. “The last step is to ask a question: What can I say to that reader about this topic that will impact their health, or wealth, or knowledge, or make them laugh?” says Hillier.
In practice, that might mean writing a blog post on ‘what your cat is thinking when you give it a flea treatment’. Or ‘how smart is your goldfish, really?’ Or ‘what your dog loves about a tummy tickle’.
Then open a blank page, and start with ‘Dear…’ and that reader’s name. “Once you’ve finished typing, just delete that ‘Dear whoever’ from the top, and give it a headline,” says Hillier. “You have yourself your first article that is completely unlike any other vet blog post on the internet or anywhere else.”
In general, he explains, if you want to make your writing as appealing as possible, you have to address it to individuals. And the easiest way to achieve that is to have one person in your mind who represents that group. Even if you’re picturing a distinct individual, there will be many other people just like that individual. They will get value from reading what you have to say.
And by giving them advice that makes them, or their pets healthier, wealthier, wiser or wittier, they will not only love what you write, they’ll get something out of it. And that will make you their vet of choice when it comes to looking after their pets.