Jul 262013
 
Creating Compelling Content

Photo Credit: Wine Predator

One of the major goals of this blog is to create articles that we think people will want to read. In other words, we try to create compelling content. When I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Okanagan last month, I had the privilege of participating on a panel with Jeannette Montgomery from The Third Glass and Okanagan Writing and Marcy Gordon from Come for the Wine. Together, we attempted to share some wisdom based on our backgrounds in writing. I’ve been writing for 20 years and have learned many lessons (some hard) along the way.

So, what is compelling content?

Simply put, it’s something that is convincing or demands attention. In other words, compelling content is something that grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. We want to make sure that the reader actually reads the whole article, and hopefully comes back to read more at a later date.

Why write it?

Because we want people to read our blog. The more compelling the content, the more interested the reader.

What’s the benefit?

Increased traffic, increased engagement, and possible increased revenue.

So, where do we start?

Some writers have great success sitting at a keyboard and just starting to spew forth the most interesting drivel. The rest of us, however, may need to prime the pump a bit.

Know the audience.

Who are we writing for? Who is reading our blog? Other bloggers? Trade? Consumers? What kind of consumer? The connoisseur, the novice, or somewhere in between? How do we figure this out? We make a model of who our ideal reader is. We include examples of what we think they might want to read.

Here’s the rub: WE ARE NOT OUR AUDIENCE. If our audience was like us, they’d be writing their own blogs (some may). We try never lose site of that.

Until we know who we are writing for, we can’t make our content compelling.

Pick the subject.

What kind of article will we write? Will it be an editorial piece (opinion), news piece (fair-and-balanced), review piece (expertise), or something else? Once we determine that, we set the tone of the article.

Do homework.

To most, this will be the most important step in the writing process. Chances are that we don’t know everything or anything about the subject on which we intend to write. Which means, we need to do our homework.

Where are we going to look?

  • The Internet – Because everything is true on the internet, right?
  • Wikipedia – Um, yea. Relies on their community of “experts.”
  • Technical notes – Because everyone wants to know about TA and Malo-Lactic fermentation, right?

No! We talk to people and try to be original.

We contact a PR Manager or agency.
We contact a regional associations (Napa Valley Vintners, Wine Walla Walla, etc.)
We contact a winemaker.
We visit the wineries or regions.

We have questions prepared. Better yet, we have INTERESTING questions to ask. Again, we think of our audience, and what THEY would want to read.

We try not to get too wrapped up in the experience that we lose our objectivity.

Build a narrative, tell a story.

Wine writing today tends to be like a scientific journal. It’s all about breaking down the wine into its component parts (aromas, mouthfeel, tannin, technical, etc.). On top of that, the various rating scales have broken it down further. Does it tell you ANYTHING about the wine or the winery?

NO.

Wine is an aspirational product. Wine drinkers imbibe to feel better about themselves and impress their friends. If they didn’t care about that, they’d just drink beer or whisky. What they want, is to drink a glass of wine and be transported somewhere else. That somewhere else is rarely going to involve malolactic fermentation. It does involve the place the wine is made, the people who made it, and the blogger who experienced it. they want to know what the story is behind the wine and to live vicariously through us.

Three take aways.

In the end, the three main things that separate the great bloggers from the rest is:

1. They know their audience
2. They do their homework
3. They tell a story

Creating compelling content is really just that simple.

May 232013
 

WBC13The 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference will take place June 6-8 in Penticton, British Columbia. In it’s 6th year, the conference has become a gathering of veterans and newbies alike, who seek the company of like-minded writers and to discover new regions to explore.

This will be the fifth of these conferences I will attend and I am looking forward to it. It’s the first year that it will take place outside of the United States, so registrations are understandably down. The conference organizers promise, however, that it will be equal if not better than previous iterations. I’m going to hold them to that.

The conference has changed quite a bit since it’s inception. It started out small, with only 100 or so of us discovering this new realm of wine blogging. It was the first time that many of us took Twitter seriously, and Facebook wasn’t even on the radar as a legitimate social site (some may argue it still isn’t). Since then, the blush is off the rose for some, but others have thrived and made a name for themselves.

The question must be asked: is blogging still relevant? There are some who claim that blogging is dead. And to a certain extent, I won’t disagree with some of their arguments. But, I prefer to think of blogging as having evolved, rather than died. People are still blogging and creating great content. The evolution has come in the form of how these writers now interact with their readers. Once upon a time, a blog’s success could be measured by how many and the quality of the comments they incurred on certain posts. Some blogs still receive comments, but most don’t garner as much as they once did. Instead, readers are now interacting more on social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. So, in a way, blogging has grown beyond the blog itself, in essence decentralizing the conversation.

I think that this is shown most markedly in the change in the types of breakout sessions we see at blogging conferences now. It’s no longer about HOW to blog, but rather how to blog well. Creating compelling content, differentiating your blog from others, and using tools like Google+ to engage readers are all sessions we can expect at this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference. I myself will be participating on a panel about creating compelling content.

So, is blogging dead? Over 200 attendees to WBC 2013 would say: no. As do I. Blogs are still relevant. We just need to make sure that people actually want to read them.

Oh yea, and we’ll be drinking a whole lot of great wine too…