5 steps you should take before you publish anything

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Apparently, it can take up to 30% longer to read something online than it does when you read it in a printed format.Whether or not it’s true, stats like this can sometimes make you feel like you have to be a leading expert in human behaviour before you attempt to write anything that you want people to engage with – either online or in print.

But ensuring your writing sparks the attention of your target audience need not be as challenging as you might think.

Here is our five-step checklist to help you ensure your next blog, article or white paper hits the mark – whatever format it takes.

1. Does it have a great start?

Which of these two article openers resonates best with you?

Intro 1: “Teachers are increasingly concerned about the blurred lines between teaching and social work…”

Intro 2: “It’s Monday morning and 13-year-old Kaitlyn’s form tutor notices bruising on her arm, again…”

Which would make you stop scrolling and start concentrating? I’m going to go with the second one, right?

You want the headline and opening paragraph of your article or blog to grab your readers’ attention and leave them wanting more.

Once you’ve finished writing, go back and read your piece again and ask yourself if it has a strong enough start. Will the headline pull your readers in? Does the first sentence set the scene for the piece? If not, re-edit until it does.

2. Does it carry readers to the end?

Check that the content of your piece delivers on the expectations you have set at the start.

If you’ve asked a question as an opener, make sure your article answers that question. If you have set the scene for a topical debate in your first couple of paragraphs, check that your content examines both sides of the argument in a logical way and offers an interesting conclusion.

If you have included additional information – a piece of research or the results of a survey, for example – make sure that it relates to the theme or can be tied in to the topic being discussed in the blog.

It may seem obvious to you why that stat is in there but you need to make all those links for your audience too. If not, their attention will soon be drawn to another article before they get to the end of yours.

3. Is it a good fit for the publication or readership?

Every publication has its own style so whether you are writing for a local government trade magazine, a teachers’ blog, a student forum or your own LinkedIn page, make sure that your content matches the outlet’s preferred format and has been adjusted to the audience’s interests.

A student blog does not necessarily want to hear about increasing teacher workload, unless it is from the perspective of how it will have a direct impact on them.

Likewise, check the word count of similar articles that have already been published. Do they include a standfirst? Is there typically an author biography or call to action at the end? Outlets also have differing guidelines on including links and product names so you will need to be aware of these.

Checking the house style of the outlet you are writing for before you submit your piece can save you a lot of extra work making revisions and will reduce the risk of you missing the editor’s deadline.

4. Will people enjoy it or learn something new?

Ask yourself whether your finished piece is entertaining or is written in a way that will be enjoyable and easy for people to read.

Does it offer readers a fresh perspective on an issue that will resonate with them or provide information or expertise that will be of value to them?

Readers are more likely to engage with your content if they have enjoyed reading it or got something meaningful from it once they finished.

5. Do readers know what you want them to do?

Before you publish, think about what action you want to encourage your target audience to take as a result of reading your article.

If you would like people to contact you, visit your website for more information or share their views on the topics you’ve raised in the piece, provide them with the option to comment online or include the relevant URL and contact details at the end of the piece so they can get in touch. That way, you are likely to get exactly the result you want from your writing.

And if you’d like our help creating engaging content that resonates with your target audience, contact me at catherine@catherinelane.com or call 020 7117 6015.

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  • About the Author

    It’s my job to look strategically at our clients’ goals for their brand and then apply my knowledge of PR, the media and online communities to make sure that we deliver. The part of my job that I enjoy most is being able to provide a fresh perspective for our clients – and uncovering the best way to raise the profile of their brand. I also love keeping up to date with the ever changing nature of PR.

    Before setting up the business, I worked both in-house and agency-side doing PR in the education and telecoms sectors. I split my time between France and the UK and so I can often be found at airports smuggling cheddar cheese into the land of camembert.

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