Subscriber TT writes: “How often do you ask the audience for what they want to read vs. composing what you want to write?
“I see a lot of content people now firmly suggesting that we should only create large projects when they have been validated.
“In the back of my mind though, I wonder if that doesn’t somehow mute the ‘crazy ideas’ out of the possible and turn most projects into market-friendly, gray-scale stuff.
“On the other hand, once enough money is generated to allow for creative freedom there is probably a lot more leverage for doing whatever the hell you want.”
The short answer is: when it comes to my how-to writing, mostly I write what interests me.
Why this works: I am much like my readers, so if something interests me, it is most likely going to interest a lot of them too.
However, there are two major exceptions to this.
First, some of what I write, like this article, is in response to specific questions different readers, like TT, ask me.
And once in a blue moon, I ask my online subscribers what they would like me to write about by doing a survey of my subscriber list using Survey Monkey.
But even when I have asked readers what they are interested in, or am answering a reader’s question, I still write what I want to write.
In copywriting, it is slightly different: my clients tell me specifically what they want written; e.g. a sales letter selling a dietary supplement; a whitepaper about recycling electronic equipment.
But even then, I am writing what I want to write, because I only take on assignments that interest me.
When TT refers to “content people” he probably means corporate types responsible for content marketing.
I am not sure how he is defining “validated”. Or to what degree the topic is validated before the OK is given to create the content.
In my experience writing content for corporate employers and clients, management already knows what information its prospects want.
And so they go ahead and create it with no formal market research, survey, or validation other than their own experience, instincts, and knowledge of the marketplace.
When it comes to deciding what to write about, heed the immortal worlds of best-selling author Dr. Benjamin Spock: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.