I’ll be honest, I’m sometimes cynical about online engagement how tos because I feel like, in many ways, most of us are still feeling around in the dark. But I learned three really useful things this week. Three! And I want to tell you all about them.
(1) Begin with the end in mind.
(2) Write for how your readers read.
(3) How tos get linked everywhere.
Okay, so number one. I have a grasp of how to begin with the end in mind in terms of knowing where I want a piece to go as a writer – the points I want to cover and where I want to end up by the time I get to the closing paragraph. But I learned this week that I need to turn that idea on its head.
Otherwise, my engagement plan might as well look like this:
It was a real aha moment for me to think about what I want my reader to do before I even start writing. What’s the eventual action I want them to take? Not just as a bonus to whatever I want them to learn or experience through my writing, but really asking myself if every word and image and the overall trajectory of the piece makes them want to take the action I’m asking them to take. It really got me thinking.
Now, number two. If the first point piqued my interest, the second point was mind-blowing. I haven’t read How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler, so Brian Clark’s post How to Read was a great primer for me. I had never thought about how readers read, digest or apply content to their broader learning or expertise – usually, I focus on what I think they need to know or might want to read. But this is a much more interesting frame. I’ll be chewing on that for a while.
Finally, my long-standing bias against how tos was challenged this week when I read #14 in Chris Brogan’s listicle 23 essential elements of sharable blog posts: “Writing how-to information goes everywhere, gets linked everywhere, is one of the best types of posts, depending on your audience.”
Well, colour me humbled.