You’ve been online for a while, now.
So I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are tons of blog posts that look and sound exactly the same.
Eight ways to drive more traffic. Seven things you forgot to do this morning. Five missing ingredients from your blog. When you click through, you get the same tired advice, served up in exactly the same recycled way.
But every now and again, you’ll stumble across a post with an original voice and snappy content. It’s oh-so much better than most of the stuff you see flying by in your Twitter stream. (And yep – they get ten times as many comments and shares as you, too!)
Ever wondered what those bloggers know that you don’t? How they’re able to write the kind of posts that attract (and feed) a hungry crowd of blog readers?
Of course, you have. We all have. We didn’t come to the interwebz to be boring and average, right?
Today’s your lucky day. I can tell you how to make it happen… right after we talk about breakfast…
Sundays Are For Oatmeal
When you own your own business, you work when you need to work. Even if that’s on the weekend (you know who you are).
But weekends are still special. Maybe you sleep a little later than you normally would. Spend some quality time (an hour or two!) with your family. Or catch up on a few of those TV shows you’ve DVRed for the last year and a half.
Me? I like to make oatmeal for breakfast. The real, steel cut Irish kind. The kind that takes at least 30 minutes at a slow simmer. And then another five minutes to toast the walnuts or pecans (or whatever nut I have available in the pantry).
But I’m weird like that. Most folks don’t save their Sundays for oatmeal.
In fact, when was the last time you had a nice bowl of that mushy stuff for breakfast?
If you can remember, tell me: was it the most scrumptious thing you’ve ever eaten?
Did the flavors of the oats and the milk have a party on your tongue?
I’m guessing, probably not.
Even if you add a pinch of salt to the boiling water. Or a spoonful of brown sugar and handful of cranberries and some toasted walnuts, at best you’ll end up with something warm and creamy. Maybe a little bit sweet.
And that’s okay. That’s what oatmeal is supposed to be. Breakfast food. Um. Healthy breakfast food. (Note: I like oatmeal because of its weird connection to my childhood, not because I prefer it to bacon and eggs.)
Here’s the thing: oatmeal doesn’t turn most people on. It’s healthy, yes. But it lacks contrast and zing.
The dishes that knock our socks off are the ones that incorporate more than just a little salt and sugar. They use a harmony of the five flavors (as originally discovered by the Chinese) to wake up our palettes.
Your Writing Needs a Wake-up Call
Every great Chef – and for that matter every great Writer – learns early on that to create something remarkable, you’ve got play to all parts of the tongue…er, brain.
How? By stimulating the available kaleidoscope of receptors. On the tongue, you have five different categories of taste buds: sweet, bitter, salty, sour and spicy.
And in the brain? There’s a similar pattern (the tongue and the brain work together, yo!).
When we cook, having all five flavors present – either in a single dish, or through the various dishes of the meal – means a more complex and flavorful experience for the dinner guest.
And, just as crucial, any piece of writing or marketing that you put together should also play to those five flavors if it’s going to stand out in your blog reader’s mind (and be remembered later). That’s why you’ll remember a story much more easily than you will just a general list post.
But caution: Just checking them off a list won’t be enough. You can’t just use them all in equal measure as you write. As the Writer-Chef, you’ll need to play around with the mixture (experiment!) until you get it just right for your particular needs.
So, What Are the Five Flavors of Writing?
In cooking and in writing, strive to find a harmony of these:
- Sweet – Ultimate Goal/Vision of what’s possible (in the post you’re reading now, the sweet was mixed with the sour when I talked about you writing blog posts that get a crazy amount of comments and shares; this aspect also includes positive emotions like hope and pride)
- Salty – Personality/Branding/Voice (in this post, it comes through via my metaphors colloquialisms; it’s also in how I address you, as the reader)
- Sour – Reminder of Pain-Fear/or Longing, Big Desire (in this post, it was the reminder of your own fears about writing blog posts that kind of…well, suck.)
- Bitter – The “healthy,” educational elements (you’re smack dab in the middle of some)
- Spicy/Pungent – Attention getters (unique titles and images) (these work best when they include a very positive and/or very negative emotion)
Let’s take a look at how these work in a blog post or other marketing content:
1. Sweet – This is your ideal customer’s perfect-world vision. It should address what their life could be like after reading your post. It’s the promise that entices them to read further.
Use a few sentences or an entire paragraph to talk about what’s possible, as it relates to your blog reader and their particular pain or burning desire. Paint a specific picture for them using emotional words and phrases. Examples:
- Imagine that you wake up one morning and find your inbox full of messages from potential clients wanting to know when you’re available to take on their project.
- Picture yourself driving across country in the car of your dreams. The window’s down and it’s a beautiful sunny day. You’ve got nothing but the open road and freedom ahead of you.
- Wonder what it would be like to walk into the room, confident and beautiful in your new cocktail dress? How it would feel to have everyone tell you how great you look? Or to unexpectedly catch a good looking man watching you from across the room?
2. Sour – This is where you talk about the pain or burning desire (intense longing for something unfulfilled) of your ideal customer. It should vividly remind them of what’s missing or what needs to change. Examples:
- Yep, it’s hard to figure out which expert has something real and valuable for you that will help you succeed (and not be a sink hole for your hard-earned money).
- I get it. It makes your head spin to even think about adding one more social media channel to your marketing efforts. Where in the world will you find the time?
- I’ve been there. I know how nerve-wracking it can be to find just the right outfit that will convey just the right impression so you can get that just-right-for-you job.
3. Salty – This is where you incorporate your own voice and branding. There should be just enough “you” to help the reader feel like she’s having a conversation with a human being, but not so much that she can’t pay attention to the content itself. It helps to address the reader directly. Use “You” and “Your” when you’re writing. It makes the whole process way easier. Great examples of bloggers who do this well:
Read any of their blog posts and you feel right away that they’re there with you in the same room. Speaking to you.
4. Bitter – This is where you teach your blog reader something. Give them something solid they can hold on to with some actionable steps. This is also the part where you fulfill the promise you made to them via the title and opening paragraph. Examples:
- Training videos
- List posts
- Detailed case studies
5. Spicy/Aromatic – And, finally, this is where you use elements that will capture your reader’s attention. Specifically? Kick-butt titles and images that you write and select for human consumption first. For help with this, you’ll want to check out:
- Jon Morrow’s HeadlineHacks.com
- Copyblogger’s 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas
- Blog Tyrant’s guide to choosing the right images
Write Like a Chef
Yes, oatmeal is good for you. But most of us would prefer something with a little more za-za-za-zoom.
Remember, just like our tongues have a variety of taste receptors that react to different stimuli, our brains will also light up like the Fourth of July if the right neural cells are activated.
And the more our brains get involved with something we’re reading (and/or watching), the more likely we are to remember and act on what we’ve just read.
Stimulating your reader to action – whether that’s comments, tweets or perhaps even buying something from you – and having them enjoy and savor the process while they’re doing it, is your ultimate reward.
It just takes a little practice and a willingness to play with your words.