A lot of times here I’m talking about how to make a message or a piece of content. And sometimes that’s the challenge. It’s a message. A piece. Just one. So how can you make the most of multiple pieces of content? How can you tie them together?
Well, for that answer, let’s wander over and take a look at the “What’s Missing From This Message?” video Tara Heaton asked me to do with one of her recent blog posts. That one post has four potential message-delivery devices or mini content pieces:
- The blog post title,
- A story that sets up the content,
- A short video, and
- The part of the blog post where she explains everything (What should we call that? The “core” content? Yeah, that works.)
This is, I think, a fine place to note what can sometimes get in the way of making the most of your content pieces: while you may have one big message, the forms of that message can be nearly infinite. And that’s true both within a piece of content (like Tara’s post) and across them (say, in your marketing messages over time).
YOUR MESSAGE IS A MAP
See, your message is a map. It’s designed to show people the path from where they are to where they want to be, via whatever idea, product, or service you’re offering them.
So let’s use that mental image, shall we? Imagine you need something (pants, maybe?). Imagine you need to go somewhere you haven’t been before to get that thing, so you decide to use something like Google or Apple maps to figure out how to get there.
What’s the first thing you do? You type in your current location and where you want to go, right? Then what happens? You get an overview map of the route, sometimes with a couple of options. To help you decide between the routes, you can usually get a quick preview of the route details. Once you decide, you start the navigation, and then you get turn-by-turn directions, in the soothing, automated voice of your choice.
How does this relate to tying pieces of content together? Well, notice something here: the intent never changes. Each of those steps is related to you getting the thing you need and going somewhere new to get there. If we relate that back to a piece of content, using Tara’s post as an example…
- Like the overview map, the blog post title shows your reader where you’re going
- Like whatever specific event that made you decide to go get what you needed in the first place, the story that sets up your content gives the reader a specific example of the reason that destination is important
- Like the route previews, the short video both gives the reader a new “route option” and helps the reader decide whether or not to read further and get the “turn-by-turn” detail
- Like the turn-by-turn navigation, the core content gives the reader everything they need to get to the destination you promised in the title
When you think of a piece of content (or series of messages) this same way, you can start to see what each needs to be effective:
Your title needs to help people validate that (a) they’re starting where you think they are, (b) they want to go where you’re going (they need the answer you’re offering), or (c) both. Even if your title is the last thing you write (it often is, for me), before crafting any message or content make sure you know:
- Where your audience is now (the current audience question your content will answer)
- Where you want them to go (the specific change in thinking or behavior you’re recommending to answer that question)
Hint: Your Red Thread Throughline brainstorms are a goldmine for potential titles.
Using a story to set up your content isn’t necessary, of course, but it can make your message feel much more concrete to people. That said, if you use a story, the tie to the audience needs to be clear to the audience. You don’t necessarily need to say, “You’re this character in the story,” but you need to know which character you want them to identify with. Hint: Make sure there’s a character in your story that needs to learn the lesson of your content and make that need clear to your audience. Also, starting with the point you’re trying to make can help make finding stories easier.
If you’re structuring a post as Tara did, you can use your video as the teaser for deeper content. In that case, make sure there’s enough content there to give your audience a complete experience (Hint: your Red Thread Storyline is a great basic framework!), but not necessarily a complete duplication of your written content. If you’re using video this way, be careful not to introduce information you don’t end up writing about in your core content. People don’t like those kinds of “open loops”! If you raise a question, make sure you offer an answer.
You can also use your video as the deeper content (see below) and your written setup as the summary. In that case, reverse what I’m saying to do in this and the next section.
And yes, there’s a third option, which is to have the two formats be equally deep but approach the content from two different ways. That’s what I usually do: the videos are a case-specific articulation of the main Red Thread themes, and these posts are those lessons generalized for a broader audience.
BLOG POST (CORE CONTENT)
If your video is the teaser, then the post you write about or with that video is the movie. It should pick up on all the themes of your teaser video and go into greater depth where it makes sense to. That means the two—video and post—should correspond to each other, as an outline corresponds to a complete article or paper. Make sure your longer content picks up on the information you mention in your teaser and goes into greater depth. Your deeper or longer content will almost always include information you didn’t talk about in your teaser—that’s fine! Just make sure it all relates. (Hint: this starting structure that builds on your Storyline can help make sure the two tie together.)
A STITCH IN TIME…
At this point, you’ve probably realized what I believe to my core: the key to tying messages or content together lies in finding the Red Thread® that runs through and around them. Because I’m inherently lazy, I made sure that each piece of the Red Thread you find serves multiple functions. So, for instance, when you identify your Audience’s Goal, you’re also likely finding something that will serve well as the title to your content. When you find the Problem or the Change, you’ve found a concept you can illustrate with a story. When you find all five pieces of your Red Thread, you have what you need to build the Storyline that can serve as the framework for your teaser content and as the high-level outline for your core content. And once you’ve found one Red Thread? You can start to link them together to help move your audience along a much longer journey.
You work hard on your messages and content. Make sure they’re working just as hard for you.The key to tying messages or content together lies in finding the Red Thread that runs through and around them. Click To Tweet
Please note that many of the links are affiliate links, which means if you buy a thing I link to, I get a percentage of the cost, and then donate it to charity.
How can you make the most of both written and video content when you’re using those to make the most of your message? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today on this episode of What’s Missing From This Message. I’m your host Tamsen Webster of Tamsenwebster.com.
All right. Let’s take a look at Tara’s website. All right. First starting right with the title, a very curiosity-inducing title. Death By Boredom and The Guacamole Hangover. Now this is very intriguing as far as maybe a book title goes, particularly if it were fiction because those are the kinds of titles that you want. You’re like, “Huh? What is this? There must be an amazing story here.”
And frankly, Tara does tell an amazing story, but the real purpose of this particular blog post is to get people to respond to, engage in and hire her for some of the content that she’s eventually driving to. So one of the things I often say is that you never want to sacrifice clarity for cleverness, particularly when you’re using your messaging to move forward something about your business. You want to make sure that the thing that you can do for your audience is front and center in that particular title.
Now she could solve this super easily just by saying How To Avoid Causing Death By Boredom. Even when there’s a guacamole hangover. Now I know A, you’re going to do something for me that’s really useful. You’re going to help me avoid a death by boredom, presumably in my audience. And you’ve added that intrigue of well, what’s a guacamole hangover?
So adding that relevance right from the title is a really important thing. Whether you’re talking about a piece of content or your website or frankly the title of a talk or something like that. Start with relevance. You have to have relevance before you have curiosity. So make sure you always have that.
Okay, let’s go on through what she’s doing here. Now, the next thing she starts doing as I mentioned is she tells a really interesting story. She’s kind of putting the reader right in this situation where it’s almost 3:00 in the afternoon.
You need coffee. You had a big old guac laden burrito from Chipotle at lunch, and you are sleepy. And then though you’re in a meeting where Skip the Chief Project Officer has to roll out the new strategy. And then I love how she supports the kind of visual feeling here. Like, “You are tired and this is not going to go well.”
Okay. So again, I love the storytelling here. There’s a little bit of wondering where it’s going, particularly because there’s not that clue in the title right now. The clue is death by boredom. But again, I don’t know that there’s a payoff for me, the reader. So as good as her storytelling is, again, it’s so strong that the way to make this stronger is to make sure that we know upfront that there will be a payoff.
She doesn’t have to tell us what the answer is at the top, but she does have to tell us it’s some way that there’s going to be a payoff for this awesome story that she’s telling.
And then she is creating the situation. Now, setting up where she’s talking about at some point he finally says, “Okay, that’s about it. Thoughts?” Where there’s silence. Now I love this story because A, we’ve been in this situation. It’s 3:00 in the afternoon. You’re getting that kind of lull. You’re in a meeting where somebody seems super excited about what they’re presenting and you are not. That person asks for questions and then it’s crickets.
Okay. So the ability to put somebody right into that situation, and one way Tara is being super meta because she’s actually recommending that later in her posts, which I love. So yay for meta. But there’s two things here to think about. One is that she’s put us in the situation of the audience and not of Skip.
And I just wonder actually, what would have happened if she had actually put the audience, us, the reader in the role of Skip because the advice that she’s giving is actually for Skip. For the presenter who is excited about this and is just, asks this question, any questions, any ideas, and gets nothing in response.
That’s a situation we’ve all been in on both sides. And by starting with the audience, we kind of think of she’s leading us to think about what could we the audience do differently? Now to be [inaudible 00:04:53] this is my own opinion obviously, but by doing this, one of the things that she may have been doing was kind of neutralize it and say, “Hey, I’m sure you’ve never been in this situation, but what about Skip?”
If that’s the motivation here, again, I think it works. Just be conscious sometimes if you’re using storytelling that you need to help the audience map from the story to themselves so they can follow along. And they’re like, “Oh, I am supposed to identify with Skip not the person who’s got the guacamole hangover.” Okay. So I love how she uses the story, puts the audience right in there.
And then she uses that as a setup for this talk to the brain tip that she’s got. And what she’s doing with this post is that she’s surrounding a video where she’s giving the specific tip with a little bit more information. I recognize this, I do this with my own content as well, where I’m like, “Hey, here’s this video also, here’s some content which is related, but not exactly the same content that’s in the video.”
So it makes sense. It kind of allows people to go deeper or kind of just watch the video. Either way, they’re going to get value. So I think that’s really well done. So I like how she pays off what could skip have done differently with, “Hey, we’ve got this talk to the brain tip that’s going to help you and beating boredom, whether virtual in-person with any size audience and it’s easy to employ.
I love this payoff right here. This leads me though to this interesting use that she’s got of bold face. Now, I typically love bold face. Probably love it too much when I talk about online writing because I am a big fan of making it work for the scan. You want somebody to scan through, and even if they don’t read everything, you want them to catch their eye on enough stuff that your message comes across.
So if we go back and there is a point here and that is, I think there’s a way that she could use her bold face a little bit differently because if we go back and look at what she is highlighting here, she’s highlighting you’re in serious need of caffeine. You raise your eyebrows into a fresh Botox stare, which aside from the may or may not make her audience feel like she is talking to them because maybe not everybody identifies with that.
Just a note, bullets and lists, charts and graphs, a lot of data, new load of KPIs, silence. He waits. I guess I’m not the only one with a guacamole hangover. So if I were scanning this, I might’ve thought that Skip was the one with the guacamole hangover. And in fact, I did actually the first time that I read this and I was like, “Oh, oh, oh. It’s the person who’s telling the story is saying out loud, ‘I’m not the only one that guacamole hangover.'”
But you see the pattern here is that if instead she’d kind of highlighted that you’re in serious need of caffeine, but then I would also highlight, you have to be in a 3:00 meeting where Skip the Chief Project Officer will roll out the new strategy. So now we’ve got the context and now we’ve got a little bit of the problem.
You’re in need of caffeine, but you have to go to this meeting. Then I think you can kind of talk about Skip did not have the burrito bowl for lunch. That’s one to highlight and then you can highlight again, I think probably the bullets and lists charts and graphs and whatever. And then I think what’s missing potentially from the story is, oh my gosh, what is Skip’s reaction?
Because again, if we’re trying to empathize with Skip, and if we are really meant to avoid Skip’s issues, then we want to see how Skip feels about this comment that the storyteller just told. Okay. Then I would definitely highlight what Skip could have done differently because that’s the point of the post. So she’s got this information here, but make sure we see it.
That’s super important. And then I would highlight kind of this whole thing where it can aid in beating boredom, whether virtual or in person, any size audience, and it’s easy to employ. That’s the point that we the viewer needs to see in order to feel like, “Okay, this two minute video is going to be worth it.” So I would say sacrifice the bold face on the call to action here and make sure that you’ve actually used your bold face to create the case for taking that action.
Okay. I’m not going to play this video for you. I encourage you to go to Tara’s site and watch it for yourself. It’s actually a lovely video. I’m going to scroll forward so you can see that she’s got … I love her color. She’s got a great setup.
And she gives you a lot of really powerful information in two minutes. She gets straight to the point of what she’s going to give you. She gives you a little bit of science to support what she’s about to tell you. And then she gives you a very specific tip about question infusion and then gives you three qualities that those questions need to be in. I’m just looking at my notes here. She said they need to be individualized, thought-provoking, and relevant.
Okay. So I want to bring that up because that content of individual, thought-provoking, and relevant actually doesn’t show up in the blog post. And that’s really just a question for me. Because you’re always making a choice when you put a video into a blog post like this and having to kind of accept some element of human nature, which is that probably very few people will both read the post and watch the video.
So it’s a question for you about where you want to put the most important information. So this is really a question back to Tara. Is it more important that people understand the qualities of effective question infusion of having that individual individualized, thought-provoking and relevant, is that more important than what she puts in the article or are they both important? And therefore there’s this element of what’s in the video that should be repeated in the article.
My gut would tell me that the video is a really nice introduction. And if someone wanted to know a little bit more, then they would kind of go and dig deeper into the post. At that point, I think it’s important to make sure there’s a connection beyond just the topic of question infusion to those three elements of individualized, thought provoking and relevant.
Now that said, what she gives you in the article is really good. She’s talking about the tip is question infusion and she explains immediately what it is. Make it a habit to infuse your talks with questions and you will keep listeners listening. Then she goes on and says, “Okay, they’re designed to do a specific thing.” And because of that, that’s why we should be doing it.
So I think what we’ve got here is she’s got a nice little baby red thread where she’s saying, “Hey, you want to do this. You want to engage people. And you want to ask questions, but the kind of question is important.” Truth statement. The questions are artfully curated to encourage vulnerability, active engagement, and spark creative, new perspective, and then change. That’s why we should be asking questions.
If I were doing kind of a red thread analysis on this, there’s two things here that I would think would make it a little bit stronger. Make sure that she’s explained outside of the video, why the best questions are artfully curated to encourage vulnerability, active engagement, spark creative and new perspective. Because without that, it’s hard for me as a first-time reader of this to go, “Oh, absolutely. That’s true.”
Now in the video, she gives us some science behind it. And that’s the little piece that I would pull forward here to the post to make it even stronger. And then on the change here, we should still be asking questions. I think she could again, make it a little bit stronger and reinforce her great message here by giving us a little bit more specificity about the kind of questions. And this is where the individualized, thought-provoking and relevant piece could come back in.
And then she’s got a nice tight package that is related to the video, and then she’s going through and giving additional information. Now, one thing I would recommend that she do is break out these two types. So she goes deeper here in the post. So thumbs up for that by giving us two types of questions that achieve what she’s talking about in both the video and the article.
One’s the leading role question. And you see this other one here is this kind of say my name question, and explains how that works. I would again for scanability break those two out and maybe even set them up. So right after she’s done this piece where she’s introducing it, hey, these are the kinds of questions you should ask, there’s two types that you can start using right away. Bullet, leading role question. Bullet, say my name, and then take and then split and then use these explanatory pieces under that.
So we’re just really tracking with her, understanding the value, kind of seeing on a scan that there’s information. She’s giving us a very specific thing to do or two very specific things to do. And it just helps us kind of go through it even more. So when she’s talking about the individual types of questions, she does actually go back into some of the science she talks about in the video, but again of some of that, even briefly that science in the video makes its way into the post, this all hangs together even better than what she’s got right now.
So the last thing I want to point out, because I think she does it really, really well is that she does a beautiful transition here to a call to action, which is great. She’s got talk to the brain tip is to infuse your presentation with a carefully crafted questions, repeats the point, question infusion and then ties it to a thing that is something that she is ostensibly I think selling through here through En Pointe.
I would love if 10 plus 2 components of a winning presentation were linked to something so that I didn’t have to go digging through her site to go find it, but she does a great job kind of saying, “Hey, if you like this, this is the thing that I can tell you even more about in this particular thing that we’re doing.” And then I love this kind of humor at the end of just like let’s pile on the guac. So overall, this is a really strong message, strongly presented in both written and video form. So kudos to Tara for that.
What’s missing from it? I think just a connection between those pieces of the video content and the article content to encourage people to move from one to the other. Always there’s a theme of how can you help people with scanability of your website, but really I think the big lesson here is think about when you’ve got multiple forms of content within one post, make sure that those things tie to each other and that they add on each other. So no matter where somebody starts, they’re engaged, they’re curious, they’re connected and they want to keep watching, keep listening to the important message that you’ve got.
Thanks so much for watching. I’m Tamsen Webster of Tamsenwebster.com. If you want me to take a look at your message, send it to me as email@example.com and you might just see it here on a future episode. Thanks so much.
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