Nine Ways To Write DIY Guides. I promised that I would give directions on all 13 of the suggestions for creating content in my post from March 10, 2015 and I am a man of my word. First a little background on why this matters.
The reason that public relations people and content marketers in general should collaborate is that the subject matter each develops should compliment what the other needs/wants to accomplish. The content marketer needs material for the web site that will continually attract prospective customers. The public relations person needs something “newsworthy” to write about that will attract the attention of reporters and editors. Coordinated output by each of these compliments the other, saves time, effort and money. It’s a beautiful thing.
Writing guides acknowledges that you are an expert. In the daily race to attain and keep share of mind, expert is the handle you want associated with you and your business. That said, writing is hard work. It took you a lifetime to learn everything you know about your topic, so it will also take a good bit of time to distill some of it into a guide.
There are all types of how to guides. Some are for home repair, install a new sink, re-patch your roof, or auto repair. There are guides for how to on any topic you can think of, including how to write a how to guide. Do not be discouraged that you are not the first person to decide on writing a how to guide for your area of commerce. Yours is a unique point of view based on experiences that only you had. Your guide will make known new information from within your area of expertise to people who did not know it before. That is unique and awesome.
- Pick a title. This is the first thing anyone will see. Your audience will self select their need for this information based in large part on what you call your guide. So pick one that is easy to discern. For example, “guide to collecting fishing lures” or “a how to guide for home buyers” are instances of titles that will narrow the audience right away. If you do not have any interest in collecting fishing lures or shopping for a home, then these respective guides are not for you. Of course on the other hand if these are what you want to know more about, bingo! The whole world is not your target audience. You do not have time or energy to sift through hundreds of leads that are not right for your business, and you do not have to. The title of your guide allows the prospect to nominate him/herself as a prospective customer.
- Tell what’s most important to know right away. For the sake of continuity we’ll stick with the fishing lure/home buyer examples. If you collect lures or want to start there are things to know. Is the lure rare? Do others consider it to be collectible? Why is it valued as a collectible above other, similar lures? If you are buying a home, same type of thing. How much can you afford? How big or small is your down payment? Do you want multi-story or a single story? Tell your readers in the first paragraph those things that are essential to success. Get right to the point. And resist the urge to be creative or clever. Save that for your novel. A how to guide is not a good place for examples of self-expression.
- Expand on the details. If the reader has stayed with you this far then good. They are ready for more. In the house-buying guide, more details are selections of home style like brick or siding, attached or detached garage, gas stove or electric. For our fishing lure collector there are different styles of lure as there are different types of water, fish and fishermen. Salt water or fresh? Lures that look like fish food or those that spin and create motion, reflect light, are certain colors for the time of day, etc. This is where you as the expert can let the reader know about “what’s what” in your respective field. If you are as enthusiastic about the topic as you should be, then this will be a piece of the how to guide that is really fun to write.
- Give the reader the pros and cons of each. No “how to guide” is complete without a table and/or list of pros and cons. There are few perfect or obvious choices for anything whether collecting lures or home purchase or whatever it is that you are writing about. So educate the reader about the upside of their choice and the potential for down side. Once, Marla (my wife ) and I saw a photo of a house we wanted to look at. It was gorgeous with an in-ground pool, and lots of space inside and out. It was priced right. But what we were not shown was that it was located on the banks of a river that flooded often and directly across the street from a cemetery. I am not making this up. Here is how the pros and cons list for that place looked.
House located across from a cemetery.
Pros: quiet, no bothersome neighbors, limited auto traffic.
Cons: Creepy and sad. It’s a cemetery for goodness sakes. Floods lead to floating caskets. We opted for a different house. It’s an extreme example but one that certainly makes the point.
- Use photos. Good photography is worth its weight in gold when it helps to tell the story and advance the narrative. For fishing lure collectors, this is a slam-dunk. What could be better than showing examples of extremely rare and collectible fishing lures? Show what “Mint Condition” means via a photograph example. Side by side examples will get read way more than other types of photos. I’m not sure why people like these “before and after” types of shots, but they do. Use this knowledge to your advantage.
- Be descriptive. Avoid vague words like “thing,” “part,” “stuff,” or “thingamajig.” Details matter. Without good descriptions, your guide and photos will suffer as will your credibility.
- Think like a chef. The best “how to” guides are the ones that give good directions. Recipes are an excellent example of good “how to” writing. Recipes are exact and give step-by-step instruction. If your guide includes those then do the reader a favor and relate instruction thusly.
- Post and promote your guide on line and hope for positive feedback. You may find that something you wrote was wrong or incomplete. Thank the contributor, check out the facts and make the corrections. Feedback will probably give you more ideas about what to write about next.
- Ignore the trolls. They will always be with us. Sadly. And there are even trolls on Linked In. There is no advantage to engaging them. Everyone else sees what they are, so don’t sweat them.
Now you know how to write a how guide. Cool! Get started and be ready for lots of engagement from new, prospective customers!