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When someone scans the headlines on your blog, can they understand what you do?

When you amass a larger body of written work, it can become difficult to understand what you do, the way you do it and what you’re trying to change or activate with your writing.

Sometimes I do a bit of a “test” to see if I can grasp a person’s positioning quickly: I scan their blog or the articles they have written on LinkedIn and see if the headlines tell me a single or coherent story.

Getting the message just by reading headlines and subheads

If, after reading the headlines, I cannot understand the direction a person is going, then it’s possible the person is:

  1. still figuring this out themselves

  2. serving multiple audiences with multiple messages (and thereby confusing or alienating some audiences)

  3. using the writing to explore their own ideas

This is all fine and good, but it can lead the writer to feeling frustrated, asking questions like: “Why am I not being heard? So many good ideas, but so little resonance.”

Bringing good ideas to the forefront

Indeed, you may have many good ideas, all of them fascinating. But without some color coding, icons or other form of orientation, you’re asking your readers to work too hard to join in your conversation. The body of work may appear to them to be like reading a rambling stream-of-consciousness piece.

One solution might be to segment out the ideas and topics into subchannels or find other ways to give your readers orientation.

If you don’t, it would be like a newspaper not having sections: News, features, profiles, sports and business would all be lumped together. Understandably, that would be confusing.

Test your own blog

For people running their own ideas-based business, I think it can be beneficial to run this test on your own content: With fresh eyes, scan the headlines of your articles and see if someone new to you and your ideas would be able to see:

  1. how the ideas have developed

  2. what you offer

  3. why you offer it

  4. how your ideas could help them

Narrative sequencing for your ideas

Lining up your headlines like this is a form of narrative sequencing. I recommend you do this retroactively to your body of work if your headlines (taken as a whole) are potentially confusing.

When developing your editorial calendar for the next months and/or year, it is something you’ll definitely want to do, too.

Which ideas build on the others and need to be set up?

What’s the logical way to roll out your story ideas?

Where do you want to jump into the conversation?

By making sure the headlines represent a conversation that builds on itself, you can share your messaging quickly and easily. People can get the idea just by scanning the headline and decide later if they want to jump in and commit to reading full articles.

In that way, you’re already serving your reader, which is the whole point of writing in the thought-leadership style anyway.

Want to learn more on writing in the thought-leadership style? See my article “Want to write like a thought leader? It’s a three-step process.”

By Rhea Wessel

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