Fail to plan, plan to fail – 5 tips for drafting the perfect piece

You’ve had your content idea. You’ve even had your briefing call. Now it’s time to sit down and write. But have you planned it all out first?

Every idea needs a plan. You wouldn’t walk into the car showroom without first thinking of what vehicle you want to buy. So why would you write without first outlining your aims and ideas? Here are six very simple tips that will help turn your articles, blogs and other forms of content from shelf-fillers to award-winners.

1. Set yourself time for research: Whether you’re writing about quantum computing or seven things you’ve learnt from 7 months in PR, understanding what you’re going to be talking about is the first step in getting a good plan together. Writing isn’t always easy, so take the time beforehand to explore the ins and outs of the subject matter and get a grip on what it is you want the reader to take away with them.

2. Stream of consciousness or crafted to be read? You’re not writing an Agatha Christie whodunnit or a J.K. Rowling novel. Set out your structure: Tell the reader what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you’ve just said. It’s such a simple formula but it is so effective.

3. Make those subheads work: If it’s a technical piece or is slightly on the longer side, like a case study or whitepaper, split it up with subheads to carry the reader through. Remember, reading is democratic – readers vote with their eyes – they don’t have to read your piece if they don’t want to.

4. Quality, not quantity: Our subs motto? “When in doubt, cut it out”. As many of my English teachers once told me, there’s no point waffling on if you’re not getting to the point. A lot of articles could quite easily be cut in half and still have the same effect. Make sure the copy is clear and concise and doesn’t confuse the reader with complex and elongated words – you want them to read it, not sleep on it.

5. Read and re-read, even sleep on it: Even when you think you’ve got a bulletproof plan, you might surprise yourself with some amateur mistakes when you read it through. The most common are repetition of the same point because you liked the way you said it – just because you like it doesn’t mean the reader will. And even then, a quick proof-read job might still leave some mistakes uncovered. Send it around to a colleague to give it a once over just to make sure, or even get a night’s sleep and give it a fresh look the next morning.

6. Don’t expect perfection: Be ready to take some punches, because that’s exactly what a plan is for. By getting rid of all of the mistakes now, you’ll be on to a winner when you come to writing up the final draft.

Whether you’re writing an article, a blog or even a Tweet, a plan is an effective way to produce exceptional content and will put you in a good position for when the time comes to write the final piece.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Jon Brown is one of IBA‘s leading figures in the Pitch&Place division.

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