You probably have noticed a trend in the articles I’ve written lately. Simply, I’ve been bitten by the “mastery” bug. My premise is simple, mastery trumps tools, ninja tactics, and formulas. If you want to succeed, you need to master the ingredients of success.
In the case of blogging and selling via content, you have to master the art of communicating your expertise. A true master offers information in a way that is simple, clear, and utterly compelling. I’m sure you know someone like that. Your goal is to get that good.
The million dollar question (literally in some cases) is how do you master compelling content creation? I will tackle this with a few thoughts. Understand that this topic easily consumes thousands of words and dozens of blog posts. So, I will admit that my essay today is a gross simplification.
But we have to start somewhere.
Content Creation Mastery for Mere Mortals
Find Great Role Models
Select someone who is absolutely brilliant at creating content. You want the absolute best. For me that would be Malcolm Gladwell, Clay Newport, Tim Ferriss, and Daniel Pink. I particularly like how they use stories to teach complicated ideas.
Notice that I didn’t pick people from my primary area of interest. I purposely did this so I would could learn a critical ingredient for content marketing success –
I wanted my posts to have a radically different tone and voice. Picking content creators outside of the social space prevented “voice contamination”. Take a look at your last few blog posts. Do they sound like everyone elses? If so you might need to leave the island and find better role models.
Learn the Right Habits
Years ago, I wrote sales copy professionally for some pretty demanding clients. I had to take many deals on a revenue basis meaning I got paid if my words rang the cash register. I couldn’t hide – write good stuff or starve. During that time, a popular copywriter advised new writers to find a successful sales letter and copy it out by hand. No computers, just pen and paper. I was desperate enough to follow his advice. I got good real fast.
This trick worked because I was able to learn the rhythm and temp and tempo of exceptional writing. After a dozen or so rewrites, I could anticipate how the author would attack a subject or accent a key idea. This “trick” did its magic and put food on the table.
I insist you do the same. Select 10 articles written by your role models. Print them, select one, and write the entire article. If you are modeling a podcaster, transcribe their broadcast, and give your own show using their words. Remember this is just for training , the goal isn’t to copy them. Instead, we are training ourselves to recognize the mechanics of a great content.
Here’s another example –
Like most social media marketers, I wanted to be a guest blogger on Copyblogger. I used the modeling technique to write my guest post submission. I printed out 10 of copyblogger’s top posts by comments and retweets. I wrote each article out by hand.
After 5 writing sessions, I was ready. I had an innate sense of the Copyblogger feel and quickly wrote my post – “The Feakonomics Guide to Making Boring Content Sexy”. It was accepted and published. I was and still am a happy camper.
Use the Zulu Principle
Jim Slater was having dinner with his wife and discussing their next overseas trip. His wife, suggested that they visit South Africa. While South Africa is known for its amazing beaches and unmatched safari adventures, his wife wanted to go for another reason – to learn more about the Zulu Tribe.
The Zulu Tribe became famous after their defeat of a British army contingent whose modern firepower was overwhelmed by the psychological tactics and close coordination of Zulu tribesman. Mary, had read about the Zulu tribe in Reader’s Digest and had absorbed an incredible amount of information about the tribe.
It dawned on Slater that his wife’s targeted research had made her a “relative” expert on the history of the Zulu tribe. Although she couldn’t compete with a Harvard anthropologist, she could easily teach Zulu culture to 9 out of 10 people she met.
He called this rapid expertise acquisition the Zulu Principle. Its premise is simple. You can become a relative expert by narrowly researching a specific topic. After a month of focused effort, you could offer enough new information to deliver value to someone who is new to the topic.
While true mastery takes years of works, good (even great) content can be crafted by someone using the Zulu Principle. In fact, I believe that you can gain relative expert status through disciplined, deep research of a narrow subject.
Many people get bogged down trying to learn “everything” about their subject when all they need is deep expertise of a single area. From there the same techniques can be used to tackle different aspects. I did this with Blogging, specifically, blog writing and branched out from there.
My Favorite Proverb
“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” You might now be an expert today. Yes, you have work to do but you can get good quick. Find role models, learn the right habits, and use the Zulu principle to gain rapid expertise. The best time to start is now.