A writing formula that works without fail
By Tracey Wallace
At Klaviyo, my content marketers manage a piece of content’s vision and go-to-market. One of the very first things they have to do for any assigned piece is research it, and write out a brief.
Our briefs are pretty in depth. They include:
- Keyword research
- Subhead suggestions
- Links to competitor content
- Word count suggestions
- Folks to interview
- Interlinks to related content we’ve already published on the topic
- And a point-of-view that our writers should position the argument within.
This last one is new for the team. We started using it in Q4 2022 and it immediately began getting us better, more interesting, more powerful articles.
But, I noticed in early January 2023 that my content marketers were repurposing a lot of the same themes in their POV statements, and that the statements themselves were still rather sales-y in nature.
Now on purpose, of course. But the goal is to tie the POV back to what Klaviyo does—and often, a great way to do that is to tie something back to email marketing, SMS marketing, etc.
And that’s good and great––but in my opinion, our writers already know how to do this. They know they have to do this. That’s not what our POV section is for.
The POV section should inspire the writer, who then should inspire the reader. The POV section should answer:
- Why this topic, why right now?
- Why should I care?
- What dots does this connect or questions does this answer that I wouldn’t have previously thought it would?
- How does this relate to something larger than the immediate industry (in our case, marketing automation), and why does that matter?
I think about this a lot like I think about writing essays in general. In school, I always followed a pretty basic outline for essays:
It went something like this:
- Introduction: Start with a big concept to capture attention and inspire, and then narrow that concept down to the topic at hand. Include a hypothesis / thesis.
- Supporting paragraphs: At least 3 supporting paragraphs/sections that help to bolster the hypothesis / thesis.
- Counter paragraph: At least one counter-argument paragraph / section addressing the most obvious counter argument, and providing evidence of support for why it does not apply.
- Conclusion: Tie it all together and restate the hypothesis in a more definitive tone. Bring it back to the larger vision introduced in the introduction. Think of this as zooming in at the intro and then zooming back out to where you started by the end of the conclusion.
I was an op-ed writer in college, and this was exactly how I set up all of my arguments. I was also an English major, and this was how nearly every single one of my papers was structured. When it came to writing, I always aced the class. It was in memorization or multiple-choice testing that I didn’t do as well.
Once, I taught this model to my brother, who was struggling in his first year of college to keep up and balance schoolwork with baseball practice. Writing wasn’t ever a strength of his.
Once I gave him this formula though, he, too, aced every essay he ever needed to write. He ended up majoring in history because he could overlap his love for learning about history with his newfound template for writing essays that passed.
Writing blog articles in a content marketing role is different, yes. But not terribly much so. The introduction and the conclusion should still do about the same thing. And you should still include supporting and counter sections.
But here’s the thing––so many people struggle with the hypothesis / thesis part of a piece. And it’s crucial that you have that piece in place before you write.
Writing is one of our best mediums for persuasion––and has been for centuries. And content marketing is a form of persuasion. If you are going to build your company’s status as a thought leader, your ability to persuade, consistently and convincingly, will be crucial.
Next week, we’ll talk through how to gain this hypothesis-concocting capability––both for your work, but also for your own curiosity!