If you have nothing to say, then shut up.
The internet is full of crap. Newspapers, magazines and other paper-based publications were also full of crap, previously, but nowadays it’s far more available and far more prevalent. These five steps prevent you from adding to the white noise.
The principles apply to all kinds of content – including social media messaging, photography and videos – not just written articles.
1. Identify a question
Every piece of content is an answer. To avoid splurging words like a penned-in politician, write the question first. If you don’t have a question, an answer isn’t necessary – and if an answer is necessary, you’ll know whether you’ve answered the question.
Example: How do I write content that isn’t shit?
2. Describe the audience
Who’s asking the question? The answer will change dependent on the niche you’re speaking to. No answer has more than one audience, although it may be useful or interesting for a group that you didn’t intend.
Example: Audience is content producers looking to improve.
3. Set a goal
A realistic outcome from your piece – and not something generic, but an attainable achievement given the question and the audience you’ve already picked. Other, secondary outcomes might come to fruition, but the only one you’re interested in is the goal you’re highlighting right now.
Example: Explain the concept of user stories.
4. Write a user story
Put the above three three items into one sentence, using the following formula: As an (audience) I should know about (goal) so that (question).
Example: As a content producer I should know about user stories so I produce less shit content
5. Use it
Write your user story at the top of the page, on a post-it on your desk or on the back of your hand, and no matter what twists and turns your piece of content – be it written, video or anything else – takes, you’ll be creating something to answer a specific question, for a specific audience and with a specific outcome in mind.