12 Ways to Write Better than Robots
Robot writers? Seriously? As crazy as that sounds, it’s happening now, according to Wired and others.
And the trend could threaten freelancers.
At least that’s the guess of a Forbes reporter, who recently listed his seven content marketing predictions for 2016. Prediction number two: Robotic “algorithms will threaten freelancers everywhere.”
“Everywhere,” I’m guessing, means geographically as well as in multiple business sectors. He added: While robotic algorithms have only, so far, written “articles about simple topics (like sports and weather) … soon, they’ll be capable of much more sophisticated tasks.”
And this should put freelancers on edge, apparently. “While freelancers and part-timers have been the cost-effective go-to for the production of day-to-day content, in 2016, they could start being replaced by automated algorithms.”
(“Cost-effective go-to”? Really? We’ll address that in a future post.)
The reporter’s gloomy prognostication ends with a sliver of light for some of us. “Complex topics will require a human hand — at least for a few more years — but expect to see algorithms make a splash by the end of next year.”
My Better Prediction for Freelancers
The secret to a brighter, robot-free future for freelancers lies in these seven words: “Complex topics will require a human hand.”
Whether the competitive threat is from robots or content mill writers, freelancer writers can no longer rely on the short bursts of bland content that many companies grind out in an effort to fill their blogs and sales funnel.
Because, frankly, no one is reading content “written” just to fill space.
If companies want humans to care about what they are saying, then they will need to produce content that is much more sophisticated than a computer can produce. This means employing advanced writing skills like — storytelling, creativity, digital sales, brand journalism, and more.
And that is going to take a human brain — and at least one dozen sophisticated skills sets.
12 Ways to Boost Your Writing Skills
The secret to your freelance security in a world clogging up with bad content lies in making sure that your skills are far more multifaceted, creative, and nuanced.
Develop these 12 skills to be a better writer now — and long into the future:
1. Understand Content Marketing Deeply.
“You have two choices. You can continue to lock yourself behind facile corporate words and happy-talk brochures, or you can join the conversation,” The Cluetrain Manifesto famously stated back in 2000. This was a time before the term “content marketing” had even been coined. And yet it speaks directly to the power of this evolving disciple — and its bevy of advanced writing processes.
2. Tell Great Stories.
Cultures have long used storytelling to pass on knowledge and content. In some cultures, storytelling is critical to their identities. Today they’re integral to the most successful companies. Stories also create interactivity — people put themselves into stories and relate to the scenarios. Companies and publications want writers who can wield the multiple elements of storytelling to help them stand out, attract readers, and retain customers.
3. Speak to Human Psychology.
Social proof. Scarcity. Frequency illusion. Reciprocity. These are just four of a whole arsenal of psychological theories that marketers employ to write content that is for targeted, focused, and impactful. Understanding how our human brains work is fundamental for reaching the higher echelons of content writing. You don’t need a psychology degree, but you do need keen insight on humans’ wants, needs, and actions.
4. Apply the Art and Science of Creativity.
With the massive popularity of content marketing, experts agree that we’re already in content overload. One way to overcome the mundanity of most of this content is with creativity. Clever ideas will help keep your content from becoming stale, unappealing, and ignored by readers. Creative ideas married to solid, interesting information is the Holy Grail for writers.
5. Brandish Branding Principles.
Branding is the heart and soul of a company. It begins with a company making specific commitments to its customers, and then delivering. The writer’s job is to create content that connects and responds to the audiences who are attracted to the brand. Branding shows who a company is. It can’t be faked or photocopied from another company (or written by a robot!).
6. Abound in Inbound Marketing Skills.
Companies are pouring six-to-seven figure marketing budgets into inbound marketing. Everyday they are launching new blog posts, producing extensive guides, creating videos, promoting infographics, and more. All with one goal — to attract consumers and drive them down the sales funnel (from outside-in = inbound). Writers need the whole palette of inbound skills to produce this high-yielding content.
7. Think Like a Journalist.
Journalists know how to tell stories. Journalists are trained in how to set an article’s tone, present information in a clear and compelling manner, and develop comprehensive arguments and calls-to-action that attract and inspire. Writers with reporting skills, like investigative chops, source checking, and pulling compelling sound-bite quotes, are in demand.
8. Evoke People’s Emotions.
Everyone knows that humans are driven by our emotional needs. We want to belong, have our egos stroked, feel wanted, and emerged satisfied from every experience. It’s your job as a writer to embrace readers’ emotional lives, dig deep to uncover the raw ingredients that make them tick, and tap dance into their hearts with content that lights them up in all the right ways.
9. Tap into Public Relations.
Some may think PR has no role in content marketing. But, in fact, it should. There are many aspects of PR that can help boost and improve content marketing — like newsjacking, influencer marketing, and social media. Understanding the differences and the connections can help writers help their clients boost their success.
10. Use Big Data Insights.
Data and facts bring content to life. They can help readers make sense and order out of confusing and chaotic information. Told well and dispersed like salt and pepper throughout your content, compelling data can make it easier for readers to grasp key points and retain memorable facts. (I’d like to see a robot do that without looking awkward!)
11. Engage with Email.
Email is today’s leading interactive marketing tool. Period. But there’s more to email that just quickly tapping out a few sentences and hitting send. Much more. There’s a growing body of research on everything from subject lines to the email’s purpose. If you don’t understand the ins and outs of good email writing, you should probably bow out now to avoid turning off email recipients. (Note: As a bonus, building your email skills will also boost your own business-building success!)
12. Launch Digital Sales Skills.
Writing content to share information is very different from writing content to sell. But being able to sell online is essential for success in our evolving digital world. Getting people to traverse the divide from prospect to customer takes the finesse of a high-wire walker — and the writing skills of an artistic scientist. Master these skills and you will be one of the most coveted freelance writers.
To dive deeper into each of these 12 skill sets — and stay well ahead of robots — add your name to the list for the start of the Writer Skill Builder Course. Learn more here.
Image credit: © kirill_makarov – Fotolia.com