What’s Your Message?
The perhaps most important question when you publish is "what's your message?" or in layman's terms: what do you want to say?
The problem with the new "content is king" and "content marketing" craze is that it focuses on the form instead on the message.
In design the main paradigm still is "form follows function". In online publishing it seems to be rather form follows finance. The more money it makes the better. So in case long articles work to get more social shares, eyeballs and ultimately ad dollars, who then cares about the message? Which message btw. ?
On many blogs and internet publications you will struggle to find an underlying message.
In old media publishing houses there is always a political agenda and every article reflects it more or less, even the choice of topics or which event to cover. On most blogs you will wonder "what does the author want to tell me" though. S/he doesn't have a message at all probably. Especially business and corporate blogs fail to conceive and transport a message. Or they're main message is simply
- "we're great"
- "look at us"
- "buy our products"
A real message shouldn't be solely self-centered or downright selfish.
Something more inclusive like "we enable you to do this or that" is significantly better. People may read your actual headlines but they intuitively grasp the underlying message you are sending. Let me give you an example:
My "50 Ways to Make the Web a Better Place" post's underlying message is clearly "altruism is the best egoism", one of my favorite long standing mottos.
Yes, you need to devise a message both for your blog as a whole and for each post.
My underlying message changed over the years gradually. It started somewhere along the lines of "you too can make it happen on the Web, you don't even need old school SEO, just look how it works" to end up at something like "SEO, social media optimization and blogging is difficult, don't try it yourself or you might fail, do small steps, not more". I got burned by my own success and frustrated because of it.
My frustration got translated into more pessimistic posts. I've been writing for old school SEO blogs for peanuts receiving not only poor money but also no respect for what I did. I limited myself more and more so that at the end of the day I was doing Google oriented old school SEO and blogging about it.
Long story short I had to rethink my message again. I had to look within myself what I stand for as a blogger. I was never about praying to Google to get rankings back after a penalty or something.
This blog's message is about social empowerment online (in short SEO).
It shows you how "with a little help of your friends" you can succeed on the Web despite Google, Amazon, Facebook and all the other giants standing in your way.
One of the reasons Anthony "Content Muse" can quote like no other is that he spots the underlying message of a post in a minute and shares it. My underlying message is "you can make it happen, again and again, success on the Web is possible, without having to own a company and exploiting dozens of people".
We're not designers. We don't have to focus on the form at all. The message is what we as writers, bloggers or content creators have to care for.
The form is only how we me make it appear. Don't get fooled by the "form follow finance" trend. Selling out makes you lose your readers because your underlying message changes as well from "how can I help you" to "give me all your money or attention". The form is only the packaging. The content is what's inside. the message is how it smells.
A well designed bottle with milk is not a great product when the milk already stinks. Do you think it gets better with a bigger bottle?
Recently while walking along the beach I've found a bottle someone discarded. I was in such a good mood that I didn't think about it as garbage though. I considered it a message in a bottle where the message has been taken out already by someone else. Is your blog post an empty bottle without a message someone has thrown away? The bottle was empty so I didn't pick it up. I should have done that and carry it to the next waste basket though.
Don't obsess about the size of the bottle. Make sure to put a message inside.
What's your current message? What do you really want to say? Tell me about it below in the comment section.
* Creative Common image "Message in a bottle" by Kraftwerck.