Why Content Tone Beats Topic Every Time

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by Chelsea Terris

The tone of an article is the voice in which you shape your words. If words are the clay, tone is the image in the mind of the sculptor that influences whether your masterpiece is comedic or droll, provocative or just the facts, ma’am.

When sourcing out content topics, its easy to get caught up in your own idea, your own tone, and your own plan of action. Submerging in your personal creative process is an excellent way to produce high-quality content that is fun and interesting to read because it was clearly fun and interesting to write.

However, what do you do when the opportunities that arise to market or publish your content require another tone than the one you used? What if the voice in which you sculpted your piece makes the article irrelevant to the publication’s audience?

You could enter the time-sucking, limbo zone that is re-toning. This, no surprise, can be a drag when you are submitting to multiple exciting link opportunities, each with their own tonal requirements. How many drafts of “How to Build Your Dog House Like a Gaudi Hotel” does one writer need?

Luckily, there is another way. The process of writing content prior to online marketing or publishing can only get you so far when landing articles on high-ranking sites is your endgame. To mix things up, consider another approach.

The Tone Investigator

Hunting down the perfect tone to convey your exceptional idea and land your article on the perfect, high-ranking site? Elementary, my dear writer!

A great idea is great, no bones about it. A well-written article on a great topic is even better. However, the best, most researched, impeccably-edited piece will be turned down if pitched to a site that is specific about its stated or unstated tone references. Thus, it is your #1 priority as a content writer to sniff out the desired tone of a publication. To save yourself the trouble of re-editing, try letting loose the hounds before writing, not after.

Sourcing out high quality sites/magazines/publications that may publish your story is the perfect first step in deciding which blogs or publications require a specifically crafted tone and which will accept your natural writing voice. Many sites, such as The Art of Manliness, list their writers’ guidelines specifically and request that articles be written in a tone befitting their readership.

Other sites require a bit more intuition. While they may never say outright that they prefer a certain writing style, you will not get very far without talking their talk. Investigating the tone of desirable blogs, particularly when cold-pitching to sites that are not calling for submissions, is essential to landing the guest post of your dreams.

A note about style: Style involves syntactical and grammatical preferences, while tone is more subtle and shapes your piece’s personality. AP Style and Chicago Style are just two of the many styles used often in current publications. When seeking tone, be sure to pay special attention to the site’s style and adhere to it for the best outcome.

What if I’m tone deaf?

The short answer is, you’re not. This isn’t an invitation to master a Bach Cantata for Organ when you’ve never touched a keyboard. Figuring out the proper tone for an article you plan to write involves reading the site and absorbing how these articles are written, then replicating that manner of writing for approximately 500 words. You can do it, and its easier than you think.

Do the site’s writers use a lot of technical terms and write in the third person? Is the language flip, savvy, and straight to the point, or are there long, editorial-style descriptions leading up to the meat of the piece?  Examining these components will help you to master a tone that you can slip on like a new jacket and wear for the duration of your writing process.

Organic Means “Real”

The goal of web movers and shakers right now, be it in the Social, Search or Content Galaxy, is to make the online experience a seamless blend of technology and real life. This push is largely curated by Google and the desire of billions of users to maintain the comfortable norms of daily life in their user experience..

Think about it. If Google wants links to be “natural” and rolls out algorithms many times a year to nip any fakers in the bud and keep us all on our toes, wouldn’t it stand to reason that bloggers and magazine editors would strive to keep their blogs full to the brim of only pieces that perfectly fit the voice and therefore purpose of their sites? The aligning factor is integrity, and whether it is Google checking for links that make good on their promises or bloggers that want to publish what they preach, aligning your writing style with the purpose of the site you are submitting to is the very least you can do.

But how do I build links without an article to use?

How do you dive without a diving board? Waiting to write does not mean waiting to choose a topic. Link building prior to article writing can take two forms: seeking links with an idea in mind, or seeking quality links that will inspire an amazing article.

If you have a brilliant idea that simply must, must be shared, congratulations! Your article will be wonderful no matter what tone you choose because you are passionate enough to make it so! Use keyword phrases drawn from your idea and tailor your search to fit your article’s purpose. During the link-seeking process, feel free to jot down notes that may enhance your article when it comes time to start drafting. Heck, you may learn more about the topic just by exploring the internet (one of the primary joys of inbound marketing, provided that you don’t get sidetracked by niche hobby sites about creating dollhouse miniatures on a 1” scale out of playdough, or whatever obsessive hobby you enjoy in your non-work life. Just sayin’.)

The other approach, sourcing out must-have sites, like Esquire Magazine, allows you to brainstorm based on topics relevant to your client that would specifically serve the given publication’s mission and target readership.

Finally, no rule says that you must outreach the minute you find a link. Note the link, write your piece, and then come back, guns blazing, and hit that editor up with your specifically-tailored piece. Tailoring your writing tone to the needs of a publication is the key to making a pitch no editor can refuse.

Looking to eliminate revisions prior to outreach? Tone up before unleashing your worker-bee writer self. Worker-bee editing self will thank you for the vacation.

Have another perspective? We’re always (and I mean always) looking for new ways to write and market content. Leave a comment below!

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