Being Interesting, Even if You Aren’t
Before I started blogging, I did a lot of technical writing that had to be fair, balanced, and concise. In short, the polar opposite of being interesting in written form. Unfortunately, I was about to find out that being interesting was what blogging was all about, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. While technical and accurate writing was perfect for a curious and analytical mind like mine, it was probably far from eye catching from a copywriting perspective. As I started moonlighting with sites that handled content outsourcing for blogs, I was forced to pick up some tricks along the way. I was also forced to realize that while my previous employers were more than happy with my writing style, my style needed some tweaking to be widely accepted by those businesspeople looking for quality copy. After all, quality copy is often all about being interesting.
The situation became clear when I realized that I had a choice to make. I could either adapt to new needs and wants or I could find another line of work that did not require me to be so interesting in print. Not being one to shirk from learning something new or taking on a new challenge, I decided that I would try to adapt and learn to excel at being interesting. Being interesting is both an art and a science, and it is also something that can be taught and learned. It is worth noting that being interesting is something that would probably get me fired at my old day job, which I was able to quit thanks to my new skills and income earned by learning how to write copy. Now I am going to share the secrets of being interesting with you!
Understanding Interests is Key to Being Interesting
Being interesting requires understand that one fundamental truth about interests. The one fundamental truth that will help every copywriter at one point or time at another is that being interesting is a matter of perspective, but never yours. A large part of this perspective comes from each individual need and want for information. Answers, ideas, ways to conceptualize things, and opinions are all sought after pieces of information, and they are all desires that can be played on to build interest. Meeting these needs makes you and your content innately interesting to those with specific questions or interest. For example, anyone interested in rebuilding a Chevrolet 350 engine would find an article on the subject very interesting and it could serve as the launching pad for a discussion about something that you are interested in, such as selling refurbished carburetors.
So, the very first lesson is that it does not necessarily matter what you have to say on a subject if it is not what someone else wants to hear. If there is an existing need for answers on a topic, then plug in to that need. If the need is in a related field, then build a bridge from the interest(s) of readers to your own interest and highlight why and how the two are connected. Remember to start with what they want to see and hear before moving on to what you want to say for the best effect.
Understand that being truly interesting almost requires saying what people want to hear, but that alone is not enough and there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Express Complex Ideas With a Twist
People have questions, and one of the most common question types is that of a desire to simplify some complex subject or decision making process. If you can find a way to explain or relate something in an interesting way, or create a useful tool to help people reach a decision, you will be well on your way to success. A great example of this would be how Professor Niall Ferguson has built an entire career off of explaining incredibly complex economic issues in simple terms that are easily understood by the millions of people who buy his books, videos, and/or attend his lectures.
Simplification is not the only way to go for those looking for unique ways to be interesting, here are some ideas for generating unique twists:
- How A is like Z – This works especially well when the two things being compared seem to be completely dissimilar or even fundamentally opposed, such as candidates from opposing political parties.
- Simple analogies for complex ideas – Ever hear of the Art of War? The book contains countless references to water. Why? Because the largely agricultural residents of ancient China could easily understand the concepts if they were related to something that they could understand.
- A different point of view – Presenting a subject from an unusual point of view or with unique context can be interesting and even open the door to humor. It also opens up the door to sensationalism, something that many viewers seem to find innately interesting even if the content is lacking. What would Stalin think of the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010? Now there’s a strange point of view bound to grab attention and be deemed interesting.
In short, being interesting can be achieved by looking at things in an unusual way.
A Killer Title Helps
Grabbing attention starts with an interesting title and then continues through with the hook. Here are some great examples of titles that work well:
- Numbers and lists such as 10 ways to… or the top 50…
- Round numbers are good, but strange numbers are more interesting. How to earn $2874 a week is a great alternative to 10 ways to make money at home.
- Offer solutions as part of the titles, such as the aforementioned 10 ways to…
- Ask a question. Do you know why you can’t lose weight?
- Be impertinent or even outright rude if it suits your style. This has worked wonders for R. Lee Ermey. Why Are You So Fat?
- Say something absolutely ridiculous and then defend it. While I won’t name any names, recent years have seen many vice presidents and vice presidential candidates that say the zaniest things and often overshadow their running mates. The same is true of news commentators that have taken absurdly irrational stances that even third graders are able to see through, yet they draw massive crowds to their banners.
If you follow this advice for titles, you will be well on your way to being interesting.
Open and Candid
Not everyone can be right all of the time, so be willing to admit when something you said was inaccurate or only accurate in certain situations and/or from certain points of view. While people like to read and/or watch people that are successful and reasonably accurate, most people have learned to be suspicious of people that are always correct. Few people are interested in outcomes that they know from the get go. In other words, why would anyone waste their highly valued time if they knew what was coming? This means that being interesting might require you to try something like this:
Everyone knows that diet and exercise are required to lose weight, right? WRONG! There is actually a lot more to it than that, and I found that out the hard way…
Another great example that works well for sites that handle reviews of products and/or services is to make open predictions in a preview about an upcoming review. Then see how well you did in the review. This builds free links and a sense of honesty and openness that modern ‘net users seem to appreciate. Here is an example:
I just got my new Apple iSomething, and I thought I’d post a few pictures of if before I get started with the review. From the buzz I’ve heard and my first impressions opening the box, here is what I think it will do:
- The other thing
Now that your predictions are public knowledge, go about your review and offer a section either near the beginning (after the hook) or before the closing about the accuracy of your predictions. Here’s an example:
When I first unboxed my new Apple iSomething, I really thought that it would do this, that, and the other thing. While it does do this and that, it really does not seem to do the other thing that I thought it was going to do. On the other hand, it does something else that caught me by surprise and actually turned out to be one of my favorite features.
Why is being candid innately interesting? Well, the truth is that being candid is only part of being interesting, but it is better than being timid and afraid to make predictions. An example of this was the fan blow back from the new Star Wars prequel trilogy. Other complaints aside, many fans felt that it was pointless to build tension by threatening to kill characters that they knew would survive because they appeared in the original trilogy. Readers might agree, disagree, and even get involved with the predictions if they are given the opportunity to get involved. Having readers get involved is a sure sign that you are being interesting, though there may be reasons why readers are not getting involved even if your content is interesting.
People enjoy a good laugh, but try to keep it relevant and positive. This means not taking unwarranted digs at celebrities or inserting random knock-knock jokes or off-topic humor. There should be plenty of room for humorous on-topic anecdotes and/or observations. Sometimes just strange or bizarre titles and headers are sufficient. An example of that includes…
Boobs, Butts, and Other Body Parts
When all else fails, you can use the oldest trick in the book: good looking people with little in the way of clothing. Whenever you can’t be sufficiently interesting on your own, you can always go with scantily clad hotties. Sadly, this technique actually does seem to work more often than not, at least as far as getting people to read the first few sentences. If hot bodies are not available, try other interesting images. In some cases, gross or unsettling images are interesting enough to catch the attention of readers. Get your hooks ready!
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