How to Make Sure Your Content
Never Goes Naked

ZZ Top Eliminator

Every girl is crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man.

That’s what ZZ Top, the famous bearded band from Texas sings. And if that’s the case, what’s your content wearing these days?

Let’s consider your content as a naked friend. He’s had an invitation. He’s going out, and needs your help to pick an outfit. You can’t send your content out in the buff. Come on; the poor guy is nude and freezing.

You’re in charge of making sure your naked, shivering content makes a perfect appearance. It’s depending on you to dress it up properly for the performance.

Time to hit the clothes closet, my friend.

Where’s Your Content Going?

Take a look at the invitation. What’s the event? Who’ll be at the party? Is your content about to head over to a client’s office to land a job contract? Is your content a guest speaker at a posh seminar? What about a casual appearance on your blog?

You wouldn’t dress the same way for a family reunion with Great-Aunt Martha’s 50th wedding anniversary as you would for a rave party with the local biker club, would you?

Neither would your content.

Dress your content accordingly. Know your target audience. It’s basic information, but so many people get this part wrong – even seasoned pros – so it’s worth repeating. Don’t just ask about demographics before you write. Ask about the personality profile of your content’s audience.

Don’t Forget Pants

Anyone who looks good and knows it oozes confidence. Hand your content some underwear – good sentence structure, short paragraphs, and proper punctuation – you risk it looking awkward while it tries to compensate for lack of comfort.

The underwear drawer of your content’s wardrobe also contains crucial garments like structure, outline, and flow. Before even considering what your content’s final look will be, you need to know what your content is all about.

For many of you reading this, you’re rolling your eyes – and you’re probably the ones that need to understand this point the most. Think we’re all above a reminder to structure content well?

Think again. New writers are probably the ones who get structure the most – because they’re paying so much attention to it. More experienced writers forget. They slam out their content, shove on a jacket, and send it on out the door.

Without pants.

Write down the concept or message you want to discuss. That’s the content’s suit, its core message. Now add sub-points to help support your main message. Think of these as the pants, shirt and jacket that make up the suit. Are they complementary? Are they related? How?

Not sure? Try this trick: Switch the order of your sub-points. Would the content still make sense if you wrote them in that order? Yes? Great. No? The order doesn’t make sense? You can’t make those pants fit with that shirt? Or with the jacket either? Then you, my friend, are in fashion trouble.

Replace a sub-point with another, more complementary one. Do the pants match the shirt now? Does the shirt match the jacket? Then you’re ready to work on.

The Finishing Touches

A suit looks nice, but finishing touches make a world of difference between nice and polished. Hem pants for length, add cufflinks for flair, and make proper adjustments for a perfect fit.

Give your content that attention-grabbing headline, a great introduction, and a solid wrap-up that drives home your point. Sprinkle in some links. Your content needs to look nice from across the room, too, so make sure it’s wearing some bullet points or headers.

Each element creates a better-dressed piece of work. You’re finally getting your content looking sharp. And depending on which finishing touches you select, you can achieve different goals and reach different types of people.

That is, if it’s got a good sense of style.

Flair of Personality

Underwear, a nice suit, hemmed pants, cufflinks… Ah, but if your slick-looking content heads out to hang its head or mumble, it won’t have much of an impact on its audience. A stiff monologue only attracts a yawn.

So give your content some personality. Dust its style shoulders off. Boost it up with good tone so that it reads well and conveys its message effectively. It’s surprising how many great pieces of content are spoiled by a monotone style. It’s okay to entertain while being informative.

Check that invitation again. A networking event? Use a confident, expert style that conveys your knowledge. A personal blog? Try a friendly, laid-back tone that makes guests feel comfortable and relaxed. An important message? Pick a strong, emotionally-compelling tone for a lasting impression.

Show the audience that your content is spiffy-looking, knowledgeable, and entertaining, too. Stuffy and bland doesn’t work. Only style and flair gets your content noticed.

Make a content statement .Be the highlight of the show.

It’s all about getting people to say, “Wow. Did you see him?”

Tailoring your content properly makes a big difference in results. Jeans and sneakers don’t make the right impact at a guest performance. Tails and a top hat don’t go off well at a casual posting.

Know what the invitation is for, know who’ll be at the event and why, and know what everyone expects. Understand the theme of the moment. Make your content look good to achieve the effect you want.

Who knows? Your content may end up being the life of the party.

About the Author: If you want to read more on improving your writing, blogging and web business, head on over to James’ blog, Men with Pens. Better yet, subscribe here.

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Reader Comments (37)

  1. says

    As always, excellent post! This is the best analogy I’ve seen on writing well. My content thanks you as I will strive to have it well dressed for every occasion. Thanks for the great advice and the laugh!

  2. says

    Love, love the analogy! Bespoke content, suitable for the occasion. Clever checklist is going straight into my content creation file. It will be so much more fun. Merci, Quebecois.
    All best, Jan

  3. says

    First impressions to do count and we all need to remember that. Formatting, images, breaking up the text etc is all vital to making easily readable content.

  4. says

    An excellent analogy & tutorial James. There is a whole industry for tangible products (packaging) based on this very concept.

    The best content poorly presented will turn off many readers, especially so many of us who are time challenged these days.

  5. says

    Thanks for this spicy insight!

    I’ve found that not enough people give their content the flair and pizzaz needed to make their words jump off the screen.

    My fave: “Give your content a flair of personality”

    I crave content with personality.

    I find myself searching high and low for those blogs and sites that know who to give me content with panache.

    Thanks for sharing your insight! I enjoyed every finger lickin’ minute of it!

  6. says

    Wonderful insight- I love the part about switching the content around- and if it doesn’t make sense in that new format, it’s time to keep trying on new shirts until one fits just right.


  7. says

    @ Kirsten – Thank you!

    @ Tom – I’m constantly surprised by how many people forget the basics.

    @ Marty – Tell me about it. I’m a sucker for great packaging.

    @ Latarsha – Same here; I love that flair of personality that just helps drive content home. Brian himself is a master at this, and he makes just about anything look great, from complex down to basics. Hopefully, my blog hits a little bit of that personality you crave 😉

  8. says

    @ Lawton – Yeah, that’s a good little trick that work well. Rather than ditch a piece you’ve worked on when you’re struggling, sometimes switching the shirt with the pants does wonders. I mean, it’s hard to walk that way, y’know?

  9. says

    What a great way of putting an image and meaning into what you’re trying to get across. Your post is well dressed in an expensive Armani Suit.

    I wonder what the post would have been like if you reversed everything? Start well dressed and then end naked? Sounds like that’s what some bloggers may do even when their experienced but get lazy or overload themselves with work.

    It’s funny how we can relate developing web content with just about anything.

    Good post James.

    The thing I love about your blog is you not only teach people how to write, but you also teach them how to think as well.

  10. says

    So does this mean I have to wear pants while writing in order to produce writing that has pants? Because that would be too bad.

    There’s just something about the word “pants.”

  11. says

    Great article. You obviously read your own article before writing it. Wait… chicken or egg..?

    Wonderful choice of metaphor. Fits the topic like a glove.

  12. says

    Good way of putting the point you’re making into practice… Though I notice your content didn’t have the ‘cufflinks’ or ‘hemmed pants’ of bullet points.. came across as polished nonetheless

  13. says

    @ Simon – I’m Canadian. Our underwear are your pants, and our pants are your trousers.

    @ Shane – Nah, no cufflinks for Brian. I’m not so sure about John’s Armani suit, either. I was aiming for casual slacks and a clean T-shirt :)

    @ Elijah – Thanks for your support.

    @ Sonia – A bathing suit, perhaps?

    @ John –

    The thing I love about your blog is you not only teach people how to write, but you also teach them how to think as well.

    That’s high praise indeed. Thank you.

  14. says

    My blog is having a hot-pants-with-fur-coat kind of day. Or maybe silver raincoat with sequinned bellbottoms. Or possibly nothing but wellies and a smile.

    Silliness attack, sorry.

  15. says

    @ Maria – That’s my hope!

    @ Jacquelyn – Ha, I never thought of that, but that’s a good place to use it. I personally love when they answer the question “Who’s your target market?” with “ME!” (NO, dude, NO!)

    @ Sonia – Work it, baby, work it 😉

  16. says

    Well, James, sorry to be late for the party on this one (catching up on starred feeds in my reader–good intentions and all that), but this is some of the most entertaining and practical writing I’ve seen on this. Wonderful analogy, carried through all the way. And congrats on landing a guest spot here. I’m totally not surprised.

  17. says

    I just found your site a few weeks ago and wish I would have found it earlier. From now on, I’m going to incorporate more of your techniques in our own site.

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