This is the first of many articles to come that are for CreLong Media and the challenges I face in China when creating relevant content. I decided to start writing the first article on the part of my job that eats up most of my time; CONTENT.
Building the right content for the right customer is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. I had a lot of conversations with both clients, journalists and content writers. Honestly, there’s a lot of preconceptions that I hear from clients on what they think their customers like to read. The key word here is “think”.
No big surprise here, so for the heck of it, I decided to dig deeper and check what’s the general thought out there. I wanted to eliminate the word “think” from the conversation and go with facts. I know, I’m not the first one to write about this subject. I do deal with Chinese / English content creation and the game is quite different. Or so, we think! Dreadful word, I know!
Here’s what I usually get to hear from clients about writing content for their companies.
“People don’t like to read.”
“Put more pictures, less text.”
“Content is not deep enough, too simple.”
“Make it really short.”
“Here’s the information we got, just adapt it and push it.”
“Younger people don’t like too much information.”
Do you see the mixed signals I get? On one hand, I’m asked to oversimplify content and push with less then 200 words. INSANE! I know. On the other, I get tasked to put up content that is overly heavy with “industry” related vocabulary.
Now here’s the first fact.
CONTENT IS ALWAYS MEANT FOR THE READERS
I KNOW! Such a basic thing and everyone agrees… Except in it’s application. I try to ask the following to my clients:
“Is the information useful to them or are you just promoting yourself?”
Yeah, I know. Normally, the answer should always be “yes” if you are writing meaningful content. The challenge in China is that content is delivered a lot on WeChat (or Weixin). It delivers both promotional advertisement and content. People get confused about which is which. Even in the way you receive a message. You don’t know until you open it. Here’s an example of what it looks like [LEFT | WeChat Newsletter with non ads content RIGHT| WeChat Newsletter which delivers ads]. But to write content for your readers, you need to know them a little better. Which brings us the second big thing.
TAKE TIME TO KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
How is that different from the first one? The first one is during your writing process. This is BEFORE you even start writing your first article. Again, I’m sure most of you are telling me “that’s common sense!” You would be surprised to know how many times I’ve been asked to start writing before I even got information about the industry.
“Can you write an article for us as soon as possible? Just adapt it from this (read copy-paste here). Deadline is in two days.”
Most clients will dismiss the importance of research. They just see the word count. It’s up to us, super content writers, to make magic happen with little to no information. It’s even more true in China where I get asked very short content to be sent out as soon as possible. It’s challenging because you must balance your professional background with what you client wants to see, like their services and self-promoting content. There’s a catch when you don’t balance it.
Let’s face it, most of your readers are not idiots. If they open up the link, they are probably interested. You lose that interest as soon as you self-promote your services and stop being helpful to your reader. That means a lot of battles with customers to explain the following:
When you write in China, information must be literal many times, because “how would customers know about you?” Due to the platforms in China, there’s a weird need to mention yourself in the articles because WeChat doesn’t open your website, just the article with limited information as to whom it’s coming from. To add to it, WeChat being a mobile platform, there’s always talk about the length of your article. Which brings me to this last bit.
LENGTH DOESN’T MATTER
This is the biggest challenge yet. Everyone is on their smartphone in China. Because of WeChat, there’s this thought that content must be super short. Now, if you add it up with “self-promotion” and “short-content” why would you even read it?! I did some research on ideal content length. Short is good, if the content is constructive and useful. Long is fine too, if the content is interesting. Length really doesn’t matter all that much. Relevant content is by far more important.
I know this article is long. I write to share personal experiences and challenges that I face for the curious ones or other writers out there. And there’s a difference when you write for yourself or for a company. I’ll cover that in a later article for sure. In the meantime, to all the writers out there, stand your ground a little to avoid diluting the quality of your work.
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