Author: Demian Farnworth

Unique Selling Proposition (USP) Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what are unique selling propositions?

Like David Ogilvy, mid-20th-century ad man Rosser Reeves promoted a hard-sell approach and thought advertising should do one thing: sell.

And sell he did.

Campaigns for Viceroy cigarettes, Carter’s Little Liver Pills, Listerine mouthwash, and Colgate toothpaste boosted sales and put these brands on the map.

His goal was to get customers to recognize a specific brand proposition — what has become known as a unique selling proposition (USP).

But what exactly is a unique selling proposition? And why is it so important?

Watch our 60-second video about unique selling propositions

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into short, fun whiteboard animated videos.

Check out our video for the definition of USP:

Animation by The Draw Shop

And for those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

In essence, a unique selling proposition (USP) is something that you offer customers or clients that your competitors do not offer.

It’s also known as a “remarkable benefit.”

In the late 1970s, FedEx effectively branded itself as the fastest, most reliable shipping service with its tagline: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

That was the remarkable benefit no other company could claim.

And once you identify that unique element for your business, you’ll know exactly what the theme of your content marketing should be, which will eventually become the big story of your business.

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Click here to check out this definition on YouTube and share it with your audience. You’ll also find 11 additional Content Marketing Glossary videos.

Additional USP resources

For more information about unique selling propositions, visit these three resources:

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

Ready to master content marketing essentials? Watch all of our animated whiteboard videos right now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

By the way, let us know if there are any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

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SEO Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what is SEO?

How do people find what they’re looking for on the web?

Search engines.

And in order for business owners to ensure that their content appears as the most relevant resource for prospective customers, they must optimize web pages to show up in search engine results for specific keywords.

But let’s say you’re a beginner when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).

What exactly is SEO?

Watch our short, fun video about SEO

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into short, fun whiteboard animated videos.

Check out our video for the definition of SEO:

Animation by The Draw Shop

And for those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s a process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” or “natural” search results generated by search engines.

Google and Bing are the biggest search engines, and they use algorithms to examine the content on a given page in order to decide what that page is about. Then, based upon more than 200 factors, they decide how relevant that page is to certain keywords.

The job of a search engine, like Google, is to find content that matches your query — or, the basic question you’re asking, like:

  • How far is the earth from the sun?
  • Who is the lead singer of Led Zeppelin?
  • What is a freemason?

Those questions contain keywords. The more your content matches those questions, the better the experience for the user. When you make people happy, you make Google happy.

Share this video

Click here to check out this definition on YouTube and share it with your audience. You’ll also find 11 additional Content Marketing Glossary videos.

SEO resources

If you’d like additional information about SEO, visit these three resources:

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

Ready to master content marketing essentials? Watch all of our animated whiteboard videos right now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

By the way, let us know if there are any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

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Podcasting Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what is podcasting?

Perhaps you’ve reached a stage in your business where you are ready to do something new.

You have a story to tell or education to share, but you’d like to do more than just writing. Or, you may feel that your audience isn’t growing as quickly anymore.

If you relate to any of those scenarios, then you might want to consider launching a podcast.

But what exactly is podcasting?

Watch our short, fun video about podcasting

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into short, fun whiteboard animated videos.

Check out our video for the definition of podcasting:

Animation by The Draw Shop

And for those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

A podcast is audio content you can subscribe to and listen to on demand. This American Life is a podcast. The incredibly popular crime-investigation show Serial is a podcast.

In fact, you can think of a podcast as portable radio. Once you’ve downloaded the episode, or subscribed to the show, you can listen to your favorites anytime, anywhere — as long as you have a smart device like a phone or tablet.

Some podcasts follow an interview format, like Marc Maron’s WTF. The podcast Stuff You Should Know uses a rotating panel of experts to discuss different topics. Some are sheer entertainment, like The Truth, which is essentially a movie for your ears. And then there are long-form monologues like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.

Rainmaker Digital has an entire network of podcasts around the themes of digital business and marketing. You can find all our shows on Rainmaker FM.

Unlike reading a blog post or watching a video, podcasts are the only truly mobile medium. You can listen to them while walking, driving, or lying down with your eyes closed.

Share this video

Click here to check out this definition on YouTube and share it with your audience. You’ll also find 11 additional Content Marketing Glossary videos.

Podcasting resources

If you would like to learn more about podcasting, visit these three resources:

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

We’ll feature the rest of the videos soon, but if you don’t want to wait, you can watch all the videos now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

By the way, let us know if there are any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

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Membership Sites Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what are membership sites?

Let’s imagine you’ve published more than 100 articles on your website and you have 500 subscribers.

Many of those articles drive substantial traffic to your site, and you’ve published 12 guest blog posts on other websites. Those guest posts also drive traffic and help you gain subscribers.

About once a month, you get an invitation to be interviewed or sit on a panel. Due to the authority you’ve established, people in your industry look to you for advice, direction, and education.

Launching a membership site might be an ideal way to monetize your authority.

But what exactly is a membership site?

Watch our short, fun video about membership sites

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into short, fun whiteboard animated videos.

Here’s our video for the definition of a membership site:

Animation by The Draw Shop

For those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

A membership site is a private, password-protected website that offers exclusive content and training and (often) the ability for members to interact with one another.

These members pay you either a one-time or a recurring monthly fee for access to the site. You can also build a free membership site, giving access to exclusive content or products in exchange for a prospect’s free registration.

Or, you can offer a combination of free and paid levels within the same site, allowing your customers to upgrade their subscriptions according to their needs.

You’ve probably come across sites like these before — just like Authority, Copyblogger’s content marketing training and networking community.

So, if you’re an expert in something, and want to go beyond just blogging, creating a membership site can leverage your time significantly — and, if done right, can become a very sustainable digital business.

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Grow and serve your audience

If you’d like additional information about membership sites, visit these three resources:

And with the Rainmaker Platform, you can build powerful membership sites without all the hassles of technical development and management.

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

We’ll feature the rest of the videos soon, but if you’d prefer not to wait, you can watch all the videos now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

By the way, let us know if there are any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

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Marketing Automation Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what is marketing automation?

Ever find yourself in a conversation with your boss or a client and she mentions implementing marketing automation?

Did you understand her request, or did the conversation grind to a halt because you’re not familiar with the term?

If you fall into the second category, you’re not alone.

Marketing automation is a hot topic these days, and its popularity has grown rapidly since 2013, but it can be tricky to define.

What exactly is marketing automation?

Watch our 60-second video about marketing automation

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into short, fun whiteboard animated videos.

Here’s our video for the definition of marketing automation:

Animation by The Draw Shop

And for those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

Marketing automation refers to software used by people and companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing workflows by automating repetitive marketing tasks.

In other words, it performs certain manual marketing tasks for you. Night and day. Rain or shine.

Here’s an example of how it works:

Imagine someone downloads one of your ebooks. Marketing automation software will capture the contact information from the form, segment that lead based upon the information it gathered, and then send them an appropriate series of emails over a prescribed time.

Share this video

Click here to check out this definition on YouTube and share it with your audience. You’ll also find 11 additional Content Marketing Glossary videos.

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

We’ll feature the rest of the videos soon, but if you’d prefer not to wait, you can watch all the videos now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

If you would like to learn more about marketing automation, visit these three resources:

By the way, let us know if there are any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

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Landing Pages Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what are landing pages?

You’ve probably heard us talk about landing pages a lot around here.

There is a good reason for that.

When executed correctly, a landing page is a powerful tool that helps you gain new subscribers, sell your products, and more.

But what exactly is a landing page?

Watch our short, fun video about landing pages

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into short, fun whiteboard animated videos.

Here’s our video for the definition of a landing page:

Animation by The Draw Shop

And for those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

A landing page is any page on a website where traffic is sent specifically to prompt a certain action or result. Think of a golf course … a landing page is the putting green that you drive the ball, or prospect, to.

Once on the green, the goal is to put the little white ball in the hole in the grass. Likewise, the goal of the copy and design of a landing page is to get the prospect to take your desired action.

The goal could be to sell a product. It could be to get email newsletter sign-ups. It could be to download an ebook. Watch a video. Sign a petition.

The variety of landing page goals is endless, but the important thing to remember is to have one goal per landing page.

One page, one goal. Nothing more.

Share this video

Click here to check out this definition on YouTube and share it with your audience. You’ll also find 11 additional Content Marketing Glossary videos.

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

We’ll feature the rest of the videos soon, but if you’d prefer not to wait, you can watch all the videos now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

If you would like to learn more about landing pages, visit these three resources:

By the way, let us know if you have any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

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Infographics Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what are infographics?

Way back in 2011, Steven Bristol and Allan Branch, a couple of strapping entrepreneurs with in-vogue facial hair, decided to poke fun at infographics — with an infographic.

The title said it all: “Infographs are Ruining the Internet.” (“Infograph” is their terminology used for the purpose of their content.)

Now, the Bristol and Branch infographic simply amounts to amusing facts about infographics — none of which are true.

Here are some fake-fact highlights:

  • 23 percent of infographs cause puppies to cry
  • 67 percent of people who read infographs love them
  • 356 calories are burned in the creation of an infograph

One “fact,” which was really a prediction, said that “By 2012 all blog posts will contain infographs.” Joking aside, the infographic has certainly grown to be the darling of the content marketing world.

But what exactly is an infographic?

Watch our short, fun video about infographics

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into short, fun whiteboard animated videos.

Here’s our video for the definition of an infographic:

Animation by The Draw Shop

And for those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

Infographics are digital posters full of facts, catchy images, and sexy fonts that catch the eyes of just about everyone. And they come in hundreds of varieties.

Infographics combine text and images to communicate interesting facts on a specific topic.

An infographic can be about the 10 commandments of typography … it can be a periodic chart of SEO terms … it can be about Marvel comic book superheroes … or it can be a complicated diagram of different types of beers.

And the infographic is the darling of the content marketing world. For good reason.

Research suggests that publishers who use infographics grow in traffic 12 percent more than those who don’t. This is because an infographic, unless it’s completely awful (and they exist), will get a lot more attention than a typical text blog post.

But a good infographic takes time to create. So don’t skimp. Make it beautiful. Your audience will love you for it.

Share this video

Click here to check out this definition on YouTube and share it with your audience. You’ll also find 11 additional Content Marketing Glossary videos.

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

We’ll feature the other videos soon, but if you’d prefer not to wait, you can watch all the videos now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

By the way, let us know if you have any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

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10 Classic Copywriting Books for Results-Driven Content Marketers

how to read your way to the top

There are two main ways for content marketers to absorb vital copywriting mechanics: learning and practicing.

I’m not going to help you with the practicing part today. You simply need to write … and keep on writing.

But I will assist with the education part by recommending 10 classic copywriting books that will help you obey the unbreakable law of the web.

Book #1: Scientific Advertising

Claude Hopkins expresses powerful tested truths about “salesmanship in print” that have remained relevant through the decades and across all media — including today’s online marketing.

David Ogilvy once said, “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

Read Scientific Advertising before you read any other book on advertising or marketing. It may change your life too.

Get the book here: Scientific Advertising

Book #2: The Robert Collier Letter Book

This is a fabulous book because it contains countless examples of winning ads.

Robert Collier’s sales copy sold thousands of The Harvard Classics. His circulars for the O. Henry stories brought in orders for more than $2 million, and his ads also generated orders for more than 70,000 books on The History of the World War.

Get the book here: The Robert Collier Letter Book

Book #3: Tested Advertising Methods

My copy of TAM is dog-eared, with pages covered in yellow highlighter and pencil marks. The spine is broken. It’s a book I try to skim at least once a year, and I usually end up reading large chunks of it.

John Caples was a former engineer who wrote one of the most famous headlines in history during his first year as a copywriter: “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano — But When I Started to Play!

Get the book here: Tested Advertising Methods

Book #4: Breakthrough Advertising

You won’t be able to get your hands on this book by Eugene Schwartz without paying a hefty price for it. So, if you know someone who has a copy, ask to borrow it. (I doubt he’ll let you though.)

My favorite part of this book discusses the five stages of buyer preparedness. You’ll look at your audience differently after reading it.

Get the book here: Breakthrough Advertising

Book #5: How to Write a Good Advertisement

The 100 headlines Victor O. Schwab shares in the first chapter alone are worth the price of the book.

But you’ll also learn:

  • How to hook readers with emotional triggers
  • How to close the sale with social proof
  • How to justify with facts

Not to mention, the phenomenal examples throughout the entire book will pay dividends.

Get the book here: How to Write a Good Advertisement

Book #6: Ogilvy on Advertising

Crawl inside the mind of one of the 20th century’s brightest and wealthiest (he had a castle in France) ad writers. Time magazine called David Ogilvy “the most sought-after wizard in the business.”

He was renowned for sipping Scotch and water before he wrote and for the enormous energy he poured into each ad. This 1983 treatise on advertising is like having an intimate conversation with Ogilvy.

Get the book here: Ogilvy on Advertising

Book #7: Advertising Secrets of the Written Word

If you remember BluBlocker sunglasses or the JS&A Group, then you’re probably familiar with Joe Sugarman (it helps if you were born in the early 1970s). Joe’s ability to sell a product lies in his ability to tell a story about any product.

The central message of this book is: The purpose of the headline is to get you to read the first sentence. The purpose of the first sentence is to get you to read the second. And so on. Think of it as a slide.

Get the book here: Advertising Secrets of the Written Word

Book #8: Reality in Advertising

Not familiar with Rosser Reeves?

Perhaps this will help: Reeves was the model for the character Don Draper on Mad Men. Reeves is the hard-headed, hard-hitting ad man known for the Dristan and Anacin ads and other hard-sell classics.

The text is a comprehensive lesson about selling a product through advertising, based on 30 years of intensive research.

Ogilvy once commented about this book, “I shall order 400 copies — one for every officer and employee and one for each of our clients.”

Get the book here: Reality in Advertising

Book #9: Influence

Even though this book is not about the craft of direct-response copywriting, it converted me from a literary snob into a passionate direct-response copywriter.

It made me realize I could love marketing. I could love the ability to use words to persuade people … to influence people.

And I realized that the six techniques Robert Cialdini teaches could be applied to all types of writing — not just copywriting.

Get the book here: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Book #10: Confessions of an Advertising Man

Let me close with another classic from the father of modern advertising, David Ogilvy. Confessions of an Advertising Man was written in 1963 before Ogilvy in Advertising — and, for me, this is the better one of the two books.

Here’s a sample of the sections you’ll find in the book:

  • How to manage an advertising agency
  • How to get clients
  • How to keep clients
  • How to build great campaigns
  • How to write potent copy
  • How to illustrate advertisements and posters
  • How to make good television commercials

By 2008, more than one million copies of this book had been printed and it’s required reading in college courses on advertising. It’s also a great book for anyone who wants to manage talent as well.

Get the book here: Confessions of an Advertising Man

Your turn

Which classics would you add to this list? How many of these copywriting books have you read?

By the way, some of the books are rare and have high price tags. You might want to check your local library before you place an order.

If that doesn’t work, ask around. Or ask your company to invest in some of these classics for their library. That’s how I got a hold of several of these books early in my career.

Good luck, and I look forward to hearing from you!

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Email Marketing Defined in 60 Seconds [Animated Video]

content marketing glossary - what is email marketing?

Millennials … you’ve got to love them. Particularly when it comes to their devotion to checking their email.

According to an August 2015 survey on email by Adobe, Millennials are the age group most likely to check their email:

  • From bed (70 percent)
  • From the bathroom (57 percent)
  • While driving (27 percent)

That’s a lot of looking at your email inbox. But the rest of us aren’t far behind.

Kristin Naragon, Director of Email Solutions at Adobe, writes:

“On average, survey respondents report using email six hours a day, or 30+ hours a week.”

So much for social media killing the email star. In other words, if you want to reach Millennials — the largest generation in the U.S. population with $200 billion in annual buying power by 2017 — use email marketing.

But what exactly is email marketing? How would you define it?

Watch our 60-second video for email marketing

With help from our friends at The Draw Shop, we whipped up 12 definitions from our new Content Marketing Glossary into 60-second whiteboard animated videos.

Here’s the video for our definition of email marketing:

Animation by The Draw Shop

And for those of you who would prefer to read, here’s the transcript:

Email marketing strikes many as old-fashioned … sort of like the horse-and-buggy of digital commerce. But that’s simply not the case.

See, effective email marketing begins with you asking your prospect for permission to send relevant and interesting email messages to her inbox. This is important, because everyone checks their inboxes, whereas only a small percentage of people see all of their messages on social media.

Email marketing deepens your relationship with your audience. Each email you send — whether daily or monthly, one-off or through an autoresponder series — carries your distinctive voice, while delivering quality, niche-specific content your prospects need.

Effective email marketing builds trust, and that trust helps build your business.

Share this video

Click here to check out this definition on YouTube and share it with your audience. You’ll also find 11 additional Content Marketing Glossary videos.

Learn more from the Content Marketing Glossary

We’ll feature the other videos soon, but if you’d prefer not to wait, you can watch all the videos now by going directly to the Content Marketing Glossary.

By the way, let us know if you have any definitions you’d like us to add to the glossary! Just drop your responses in the comments below.

P.S. Yes, I’m guilty of checking email from the bathroom. But I’m in good company. Henry Miller also read in the loo. He just read Ulysses. I read Next Draft. Go figure.

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Want to Be an Amazing Writer? Read Like One

how to read like a writer

When it comes to reading, there are two ditches modern-day web writers may fall into. Both are notorious, unrefined, and dangerous — especially if you want to be more than an ordinary writer.

On one side, you have the ditch of never-ending digital content where you spend all your time reading online.

Your day looks like this:

  • You begin with the latest Copyblogger article and a heavy dose of articles from news sites by the time you down your third cup of morning coffee.
  • During lunch, it’s a dash through some popular and arcane sports, fashion, cooking, or interior design blogs (but not any by that potty-mouthed she-devil who can’t stop talking about her cowhide throw blankets).
  • In the afternoon, you gobble up several articles on LinkedIn, 99u, Fast Company, and the fun ones you find on Facebook.
  • Late at night, you start reading your third brand-new James Patterson novel of the year (and it’s only May!) on your Kindle (not quite online, but still digital).

On the other side, you have the ditch of “made-for-loneliness” wonkism where all you do all day is read about one topic — and one topic only.

Your day looks like this:

  • During your breakfast of Fig Newtons and yesterday’s coffee, you read Copyblogger’s ebook on SEO copywriting and then watch as many Whiteboard Fridays as you can during your hour-long carpool ride into work.
  • At lunch, you finish memorizing Search Engine Land’s periodic table of SEO success factors — and then recite it for your three sleeping lunchmates.
  • Before you leave work, you print out three ebooks on local SEO and read those during the carpool ride home.
  • And in the dead of the night, you thumb through a musty copy of SEO 2015 and Beyond while you drink your fourth “I heart SEO” coffee mug full of Belgian-style quadrupel.

There is nothing wrong with these two approaches to reading if you have no ambition to be a great writer. However, if you aspire to be an exceptional writer, follow these sophisticated reading habits.

Read more old books

Many books published each year will end up in the remainder pile — forgotten, useless, and cheap. Really cheap.

And while reading new books is a great way to stay on top of the latest ideas (or be reminded of the old ones), I think it’s much better to make a habit of reading older books.

Old books have ideas and stories that have endured for 50, 100 — even thousands of years. Darwin. Schopenhauer. Hobbes. Nicholas of Cusa. Sappho.

When you read a book, letter, article, or essay that has endured through the ages, you can be confident that it’s quality writing. Not as much with new books.

Another advantage of reading classics is that there are fewer to choose from. You could read Random House’s list of the 100 best novels in a few years. You couldn’t do that with all the new fiction published in just one year.

Or maybe reading 100 books is just too daunting. Instead, wrestle through James Joyce’s Ulysses or Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica for half an hour every day. It might take you a year to get through one of those books.

Or two.

If you need encouragement from others, start a book club where you tackle ancient classics by Xenophon, Thucydides, or Herodotus.

If you are really brave, write out your favorite short story or article by hand. This practice will help you notice and absorb the qualities that make these works so great.

In the end, there are lots of ways to skin this cat, so just remember the goal is to read more old books.

Read wide (outside of your discipline)

I recently shared a list of books every content marketer should read. You might suppose all the books on that list focus on content marketing.

But they don’t.

I recommended a book on web usability, a book on design principles (by a cognitive scientist), a book on storytelling, and a book on mobile marketing. This is called “reading wide.”

However, another trap we can fall into is not going wide enough.

While all those books are different from one another, they aren’t that different. When you take a step back, you see that they are all business books.

I’m urging you to study completely different categories. Like astronomy, Latin American politics, or medieval architecture. It doesn’t matter if these books are old or new. Just read something outside of your discipline.

Why?

You’ll be surprised by the associations that emerge in your mind after you read a book like The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic. Or the metaphors that emerge after reading The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco or Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz.

Illustrating that point was my intent when I wrote 10 Surprising Books that Will Transform Your Writing.

Read long-form journalism

Not long ago, I received a question from a reader whose first language was Chinese. She asked what she could do to improve her writing in English, specifically conversational English.

I understood her situation because English isn’t my first language either. I’m a native speaker of Mumblish, with a heavy obscurantist accent.

Speaking clearly, concisely, and compellingly was foreign to me when I got started.

A college-level essay writing class helped. As did learning about direct-response copywriting. But it wasn’t until I took a serious interest in long-form journalism that my conversational writing skills took a healthy turn for the better.

Here are some of the things I did:

I’ve learned so much about conversational writing from reading smart long-form journalism.

I’ve learned how to take facts and build them into a story, how to use dialogue, and how to make people the central part of every piece I write.

Speaking of people …

Read books about becoming a better person

Ultimately, if you want to become a better writer, you have to become a better person. Let me explain how I came to this conclusion.

Denver, Colorado. April 14, 2016. Sonia Simone, Pamela Wilson, and I were spread out around a large table talking about our favorite books that we had read in the last year.

Here’s a sample:

At some point during our conversation, a light bulb went off in my mind.

Nobody mentioned a book on copywriting, content marketing, or even business. The closest was perhaps Sonia’s pick (The Upside of Stress).

Instead, these were all difficult books — difficult in the sense that they are not light affairs you can dabble in on a lazy Sunday afternoon. They were also very personal.

A commitment is required. A commitment to become a better person.

When you do that, a nifty thing happens: You begin to care more about people. You begin to care about their sorrows, pains, joys, and dreams.

You begin to listen more, soften toward their plights, and lighten up about their moments of good fortune (instead of getting jealous).

Great writers strive to become altruistic and empathetic.

And they put in the hard work by reading books on difficult topics that challenge, stretch, and expand them.

Your turn

So, how’s your reading going? Are you satisfied with a steady diet of digital content? Are you obsessed with one subject — and only one subject? Or, are you reading more old books, long-form journalism, and content far outside of your comfort zone?

More importantly, are you reading books that help you become a better person?

I have a hunch you are. Especially if you stayed with me all the way down to this final sentence. It shows me you have grit. A necessary trait of great writers.

In the comments section below, share your favorite books you read in the last year. I look forward to hearing from you.

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