Did you know passionate writing is killing your content strategy? Let’s look at why:
In a commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs famously said, ”The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.”
For over a decade, entrepreneurs, writers, and content marketers have taken this advice to heart.
While it may seem like passion is the key to your readers engaging with your content, your passionate writing could be killing your content. What Cal Newport calls the “passion paradox” is the belief that passion is a key component for creating work that is engaging and personal enough to fulfill you and connect with your audience.
The truth is, following your passions when writing content means ignoring the hard evidence that should be guiding your content strategy and limiting your blog’s growth.
Passionate Writing Focuses On You, Not Your Audience
But Steve Jobs says to follow your passion. There must be something to it.
While Steve Jobs may have made himself the poster boy for following his passion, his own life doesn’t follow that path at all. In college, Jobs studied Western History and dance before dropping out after his first year. Apple Computer started because he saw an opportunity to make a quick profit on kit computers. From there, Jobs continued to respond to opportunities that guided his actions. He didn’t start out passionate about electronics or business but grew to become passionate about them as he saw more and more success serving his audience.
The lesson you should take away from his journey is to focus not on the subjects that interest you but on the problems your audience has. Become passionate about solving those problems.
Here are a few strategies you can use to determine what the pain points of your target audience are and how you can create content around them:
- Keyword Research: Which keywords is your audience searching for most often? Start with the basic keywords related to your business and look for long-tail keywords that you can compete with. Tools like Moz and Answer The Public are great for finding longer search queries from simple keywords.
- Successful Competitor Content: What other content is successful? Using tools like Buzzsumo, you can find the most popular content for specific topics. Then, use the Skyscraper Technique to create an even better piece of content around the same topic.
- Ask Your Audience: What does your existing audience want to know? Through social media or email, you can ask your audience outright what kind of content they would like to see. You can also search forums, groups, quora, or other platforms for people to ask questions.
- Passionate Writing Doesn’t Follow a Content Marketing Strategy
Passionate Writing Doesn’t Follow a Content Marketing Strategy
In 2015, Ben Horowitz delivered a very different commencement speech at Columbia University titled “Don’t Follow Your Passion.” During the speech, he argues, “what you’re passionate about at 21 is not necessarily what you’re going to be passionate about at 40.”
For content marketers, what you’re passionate about writing or creating today is not necessarily what you’re going to be passionate about a month or a year from now.
We have all probably experienced this either in marketing departments or in our own writing. You or your boss has an exciting idea, and suddenly your entire content marketing strategy needs to be changed to fit in this new strategy that is sure to move the needle. Then, a week or a month later, you read a new article or book that gives you ideas for a new direction to take your content.
You end up following your passion from project to project and blog to blog before anything has a chance to stick. Failure to lay out a cohesive content marketing plan for the year results in individual blogs full of passionate writing that aren’t helping you achieve your overall content marketing goals.
Passionate Writing Prevents Growth
As a content marketer, one of your goals should be to improve your writing and your company’s content presence. Sticking to the areas you are passionate about and comfortable with is not the best way to do this.
Most writers and artists know that to improve, you need to write a lot. But after a certain point, you’ll plateau if you aren’t pushing yourself as a writer to try new things and go beyond your limits. The same is true for your company’s content strategy.
Deliberate Practice and Testing
In order for your content marketing to progress, you need to be deliberate about how you grow. While passionate writing may allow you to fall back on the same formats and comfortable mediums, growth requires you to work outside your comfort zone.
Looking for new ways to deliver your content? Experiment with different blog formats. Post your content on different sites. Create new forms of content such as infographics, videos, or whitepapers. Set specific goals for these experiments and test how they perform to continuously improve.
In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson introduced the concept of the adjacent possible. Simply, the most ground-breaking ideas in your industry are found right beyond the current cutting-edge. This requires deep knowledge of your industry, which can only be achieved through consistent, serious study and practice. This approach may not be fun, but it will be rewarding. And it will help you and your content become the best.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with passion, it should never be the priority of your content marketing. Instead, focus on your audience and the quality of your content, and the passion will follow.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Tim Ludy, one of the top marketing/tech writers in the nDash community. To learn more about Tim — and to have him write for your company — be sure to create a free account on nDash.