Technology content marketing blog

10 templates to keep blog content fresh

In Content production by Rob Johnson1 Comment

All blog posts look the same.

That’s because we all read the same how-to stories that tell us to just write a great headline (yeah, like that’s so easy), then keep it short and really, really simple. But here’s the problem … our brains are hard-wired to look for novelty.

If all of the posts on your site look the same, even if you have wonderful, new things to say in every post, your readers will zone out and move elsewhere. It may not be boring, but it looks boring. But you can freshen your site up without calling in the code monkeys to redesign the whole thing.

The easiest way to keep your content fresh is by approaching it with story types or templates in mind. Magazine writers and editors have used these templates for years as a way to break up the big slab of black or grey text you’re faced with when reading a long narrative piece of writing.

These story templates are the missing piece of the current content marketing puzzle. You can find lots of articles on how to build a content strategy, or how to use tools like Google Trends to find story ideas. But you still have to execute your strategy. Using a story template lets you then channel your hundreds of great content ideas into workable pieces of writing.

The other advantage of using story templates is it keeps you engaged in your own writing, because you’re not just doing the same thing on autopilot.

Finally, templates force you to separate your research from your writing. You can then repurpose that research in a different format. Using these 10 templates can potentially give you 20 or more pieces of unique, high-quality content. And in the end, that’s what we’re all striving for, isn’t it? Quantity and quality!

Agribusiness content marketing blog

A Q&A interview with a local agribusiness leader.

1. Q&A interview

What is it?

You know the look of it—questions are in bold or italic text, answers in plain (or Roman) text. The different kinds of typography break up the page visually. It also gives the impression to a reader that they’re reading the pure, unedited thoughts of the subject, which lends you all of their credibility of the interview subject.

How do I write a Q&A interview?

Interview a thought leader, or expert, in your company. That might be the CEO, or maybe someone in a research & development role in the business. Then send it off for transcribing at a service like Scribie or Rev.com. Depending on what you’re prepared to pay, you’ll have a neat transcript the next day.

Give me an example!

It doesn’t have to be a star. If you were in an agribusiness, for example, you could interview a community leader or a local high-profile business person about issues that impact your customers.

How do I do it well?

You would think it would be easiest to email someone a list of questions that they can answer, but actually, the best interviews—for both the interviewer and the interview subject—are the result of a face-to-face conversation. Take your interview subject out for a cup of coffee, so they’re away from the normal distractions of their job, and engage with them and their ideas. Listen and respond, rather than sticking to a pre-determined set of questions. Afterwards, when you’ve transcribed the interview, you can rewrite your questions and restructure the interview so it flows better (or so you sound smarter).

How can I repurpose it?

Add a bit of info about their background and achievements and you can rewrite it as a profile of the same person.

finance content marketing blog

The finance industry produces more books than you can ever review.

2. A review

What is it?

This is one of the easiest ways you can get thought leadership content. Becoming a thought leader is hard work, but a review of books by thought leaders in your industry helps you position yourself alongside them. Even better, a few reviews of these books is like a literature review, which is a legitimate piece of thought leadership in and of itself.

How do I write a review?

The great advantage that content marketers have over a newspaper or magazine site is there is no real expectation that your book reviews have to be new releases. Just go buy your favourite book in your industry and get reviewing! Another advantage—depending on where you live, the purchase of the book is tax-deductible as it’s for your professional library.

Give me an example!

If you’re in the finance industry, you know there’s a lot of literature to get your head around, and it’s not uncommon for friends and colleagues to self-publish books. Why not review one for them?

How do I do it well?

The trick to book reviewing is expect to go over it at least twice. The first time, just read it and enjoy it. The second time, flick through with a book of Post-it notes or sticky notes and a pen in your other hand. Each time you come to a relevant or interesting point, write it on a sticky note—then stick that note to a clean space on your desk. At the end of the second read, you’ll start to have an idea of the structure of your review just from those notes.

How can I repurpose it?

Once you’ve reviewed a few books around a similar theme, you can paste them together as a white paper or literature review.

real estate content marketing blog

Which house?

3. Comparison

What is it?

Just what it sounds like—a piece comparing key similarities or differences between a couple of similar things. Ideal for product reviews, this form can also be used to compare political parties, holiday destinations, the weight of Elvis Presley on different planets … anything, really.

How do I write a comparison piece?

More than any other form of writing, these are group efforts, and are fun to write in groups. They require no particular authorial voice—just opinions and data.

Give me an example!

If you were in real estate, you could compare areas, or streets, or styles of architecture…

How do I do it well?

Keep it short.

How can I repurpose it?

The highly structured nature of this type of piece can lend itself to being repurposed as an infographic.

Law content marketing blog

Legal essays have long been helpful content for clients.

4. Essay

What is it?

It’s not the type of essay that scared you in school. An essay, at its simplest, is a piece of writing that argues your educated opinion about something.

How do I write an essay?

Well, first, have an opinion. Second, make sure it’s an informed opinion (because as soon as you express an opinion, someone else will disagree with you). If you don’t have an opinion, see if someone in your company wants to express theirs.

Give me an example!

Legal firms have been writing essays and reports for clients and potential clients for years. It’s a great way of sharing expert general knowledge.

How do I do it well?

The most entertaining essays to read are NOT your standard academic pieces, which are frequently dull to read. Keep it chatty, but start with a point you want to make and argue that point. Think of it more like the kind of opinion piece you might read in the newspaper, and you should hit an appropriate tone and level of entertainment.

How can I repurpose it?

A group of essays around similar themes are the world’s easiest e-book. And by pasting them together, you’ve got another piece of content to promote.

Hospitality content marketing blog

A recipe on your site, or better still, a whole book, is a classic piece of hospitality content marketing.

5. ‘Service’ writing

What is it?

These are your classic how-to articles—educational pieces which will help your readers solve a problem they have.

How do I write a how-to article?

If you don’t have the expertise, someone in your organisation will. Talk to them. And record the conversation.

Give me an example!

A recipe on a restaurant website is a perfect example. Or better still, a whole cookbook by a restaurant or chef.

How do I do it well?

How-to articles are very common on the web, and sometimes hide a sales agenda which can be really annoying for readers. We’ve all been there—clicking on a link that promises a solution to some problem we’re having which just turns out to be a plug for a particular product. It’s hard to be objective about this if you have a wonderful product to offer people. But please, save the spruiking for a call-to-action box at the end. Make the article about the problem, and the steps to solve it, and your readers will be much more grateful.

How can I repurpose it?

If you have a step-by-step solution, why not give it a new headline and publish it as a listicle? A few funny photos with a bit less text, and you have something that is easy to read and easy to distribute.

medicine content marketing blog

A case study makes medicine more interesting for the average reader.

6. Case study

What is it?

This is the one all your customers will read if you get it right. A case study tells the story of a company or individual whose problem has been solved by use of a particular product, service, or strategy. People love it because, while your customers may not be interested in you, they are very interested in people just like them.

How do I write a case study?

You’ve got customers, right? Every happy customer is a potential case study.

Give me an example!

The case study is a great way of showing people how complex medical or dental procedures may work, when explaining the procedure may not be as effective.

How do I do it well?

Keep in mind that the case study is about your customer, NOT about you. So when you interview them or research the piece, make sure that they talk about themselves. The prime focus of the story is who the customer is, what their problem was that needed solving, and how they solved it. If they don’t want to mention you, your products, or your services, that doesn’t matter. The very fact that they are telling their story through your medium means it will have the right effect.

How can I repurpose it?

If you draw out a common theme between a few case studies, you have a ready-made essay. But instead of leading with the customers’ stories, you lead each point you make with the theme or point of the story—then illustrate your point with the case studies as examples.

construction content marketing blog

The construction industry has a lot of materials that can be made into lists.

7. Listicle

What is it?

Thank you BuzzFeed, for giving us a content template whose name (it has often been noted) suggests a union between a list and a testicle. But before you sneer in superiority at lists, remember they are a well-established literary form— stretching as far back as the second book of Homer’s Iliad.

How do I write a listicle?

Because there have been many, many lists published on the web, and because some of them have been strikingly dumb, it’s easy to be dismissive of the form. But when it’s done well, a listicle can be hilarious, enlightening, and memorable. If you’re not a natural categoriser (and who is?), it’s often a good idea to start with the images, then try and figure out a theme that will fit them.

Give me an example!

Ever seen those images of people working in unsafe ways on construction sites in developing countries? People in construction find them compelling, because they know how many safety rules those folks are breaking.

How do I do it well?

Although the final result of any list appears to be heavily themed, the most memorable ones and most shareable ones will be driven by the images. One of my personal favourites is this one (I’ve read it a thousand times and it still cracks me up), which is a great example of something hugely entertaining, driven entirely by the images.

Also, don’t make the list about products, but about people. Think of the way people behave, or things they do, which may be appropriate to whatever your company does. Every picture in the list tells a story, and stories are about people.

How can I repurpose it?

While listicles are often funny because they show people doing dopey things, the themes that emerge from them can be repurposed into a service story—for example, “how to not do this one thing …”

Travel industry content marketing blog

A day-in-the-life of your average travelling’ blogger.

8. Journal/Experience piece

What is it?

This is a personal, anecdotal piece recounting an experience someone has had. It works best when written in the first person voice. It’s a staple of travel magazines everywhere, but can be used in virtually any context. Think of it “a day in the life of …” and you start to see the appeal.

How do I write a journal article?

A day in the life of important people in your company, from the CEO to the mailroom, can be surprisingly entertaining. Showcasing your co-workers to your readers and/or potential customers is also a really nice way to make a fuss of them, and show them how they are appreciated by the company.

Give me an example!

Travel writing is the clearest example of this. But if you’re not in the tourism industry, you can still do it well if your subject has a story to tell.

How do I do it well?

If your goal is to create content that builds an emotional connection to your business for a reader, then don’t talk about the business in the story. I know that sounds counter-productive, but if your customers feel that your brand has a human face, they’re more likely to feel connected with it.

How can I repurpose it?

It won’t take much to encourage someone featured on your site or in a company magazine to spread the word on social media. Make it easy for them to add the profile to their Facebook or LinkedIn page, or to tweet about it.

Education content marketing blog

An inspirational educational moment.

9. Profile

What is it?

A profile tells the story of one person that either illustrates or illuminates a particular set of values—like, “success is the reward for hard work”, or “truth is worth fighting for”. It’s different from a Q&A, in that it’s telling the story of a person, rather than just quoting them (or sharing their wisdom).

How do I write one?

It’s possible one of your company founders—or perhaps one of your clients—has an inspirational story to tell. By telling that story you’re aligning your brand with those values.

Give me an example!

The whole idea is to inspire readers, right? So if you were in the education industry, you might profile an inspirational teacher, or student.

How do I do it well?

A good profile goes pretty deep. Unlike a case study, which is all about an individual solving one problem, in a good profile you’re dealing with a fundamental change in the way someone thinks, or feels, or sees the world. Really good profiles involve interviewing more than just the subject. In fact, writer Malcolm Gladwell once told a university audience that a good profile could be written without any input from the subject at all. Business partners, colleagues and contemporaries will probably all have something good to add to a profile.

How can I repurpose it?

You can take elements from your research for this story and use them in your “how-to” articles and possibly customer case studies—not on their own, but as anecdotes to illustrate best practice.

Technology content marketing blog

Dealing with complex technology news.

10. News report

What is it?

This is your classic report as you read in the newspaper. It has an ‘inverted pyramid structure’, where you have something brand new to tell the world, and no-one else knows about it.

How do I write a news report?

You probably already put out press releases on new products. But do you also put one out on new white papers? New e-books? Any new speeches or talks being given by the boss? New company announcements?

Give me an example!

If you’re in an industry like engineering or technology, new products and processes are popping up every day. The key to getting a news report right is by expressing what’s new, and by doing it first.

How do I do it well?

You’re probably already doing it quite well. If you never went to journalism school or did a writing course, an easy starting point is just to write out a list comprising the words: who, what, when, where, why, how. Then write the answers beside each of those words. There’s your first sentence. Then take it from there.

How can I repurpose it?

Sometimes it’s tricky getting access to your bosses to do Q&A interviews or profiles of them—but they are frequently in the mindset, and mood, to do an interview when they have a new product coming, or when they have something to sell. Take advantage of that to get an interview done for a Q&A and/or profile.

 

Conclusion

There are any number of ways you can approach your content writing, but if you want to maintain some momentum and purpose, you need to start with a strategy and a goal, determine your subjects, then map out which templates you can use to best present these stories.

As soon as you’ve done that, you’ll see where that individual story can be repurposed—and you can start working out a schedule that will meet your content goals.

 

What to do next

Now you’re ready to start writing, you might want to check out our advice on how to make your writing more emotive. And if you like what you read, sign up to our newsletter. It’s a monthly email with three original articles on either content marketing, content strategy or content production. Feel free to use them to make your content, and your content marketing, better and more effective than ever before!

the cost of content marketing

The following two tabs change content below.
Rob is a director of Engage Content. When not writing about content marketing, he leads a crack team of writers and editors all living a Gen-X fantasy existence in a top secret headquarters in Pyrmont, on Sydney's fashionable western side.

Comments

  1. Pingback: Engage Content | What does an editor actually do? | Content marketing agency, Sydney

Leave a Comment