Many Christian writers have a lot of truth to share, but they fail to generate interest because they fail to make their writing compelling. Their content comes off as true like the phone book, not true like a love letter or an invitation to go on a life-changing adventure. Here’s how to get your message out further.
I’ve taken on editorial duties at Resurgence, at least for a season. This means I’m reviewing nearly every blog article before we post it and giving content feedback in an effort to help our writers get their message out even further.
I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest writer. But I did start writing professionally as a journalist in high school, paid my way through high school and college writing articles and editing my college newspaper, got a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the top-notch Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, and have written blogs and articles for everyone from CNN to the Washington Post to Fox News.
Getting your message out
Anyone who has a message they care about—especially the gospel, which is the most important message in the history of the world—wants to get it out as widely as possible. And in the age God has chosen us to be born in, we have a bigger opportunity than ever to do just that.
When reading a blog or article, most people make a decision in the first 1–2 sentences whether they will continue to read or not.
Writing a blog or an article is different from writing a book. Many Christian writers have a lot of truth to share, but they fail to generate interest because they fail to make their writing compelling. Their content comes off as true like the phone book, not true like a love letter or an invitation to go on a life-changing adventure. Here’s how to get your message out further:
1. Write a compelling title
Most people read articles on something like an RSS feed, and they don’t see anything but the title at first. Using words that are unusual and catchy grab attention. We call it “Google juice.” Certain words perk up search engines. As a general rule, negative titles fare poorly in book titles, but they are more hit-and-miss in blogs and articles. Trolls quickly learned that negativity goes far and fast online—especially if you include the name of someone well-known, because you are stealing their Google juice. Questions only sometimes do well.
Around the holidays, words like Christmas or Easter tend to buzz. But to garner attention you have to use other words that are noteworthy in the title. “Zombies, Easter, and Jesus” is not a title I’d recommend, but I promise it will get more Google juice than something like, “Our Savior’s Walk Away From an Empty Tomb.”
A title is basically a headline. It’s a jab you throw in an effort to catch the reader off guard and compel them to engage. The world is filled with noise, and the title has to cut through it to get any interest from overwhelmed readers.
2. Chop your article into bites
Most of the time, to retain attention you have to break your blog or article up into bites. You need to have sections that break the ideas into bite-sized chunks. If people see a lot of text without any sections, points, pull quotes, or other visual aids to break up the lengthy text, they tend to check out and move on. We feed people content the way they feed themselves—one bite at a time.
3. Grab attention with your lead
When reading a blog or article, most people make a decision in the first 1–2 sentences whether they will continue to read or not. Those familiar with the writer will hang in there longer, and new people bail faster. This is why in journalism the key is always the “lead” (also spelled “lede”). The lead is the hook up front in the first 1–2 sentences that comprise the first paragraph. You need to grab someone with a compelling statement or story to drag them into your message. This is what Jesus does with parables and what Proverbs does with pithy statements.
The world is filled with noise, and the title has to cut through it to get any interest from overwhelmed readers.
4. Remember social media
Everything must be written with social media in mind. It’s helpful to include pull quotes that can be sent out through various social media channels as stand-alone pieces of content. The big quote or the title from your piece can be used on social media to call attention and link back to the entire content.
5. Call readers to action
You always have to have a call to action. The goal is not to just make a point, but to make a difference. Every blog or article needs to have points that it makes, but without a call to action it cannot make a difference. A point loads the gun—a call to action fires it.
6. Show and tell
Photos and images are key. Anytime you can add a photo, you increase readership. For example, on Facebook the photos are clicked on 10 times more than the statements, according to some reports. This is why older people are on Facebook and younger people are on Instagram. You cannot just tell; you have to show whenever you can.