On Monday, I shared the 6 basic article types that I use to create posts for my blogs. I would say that most of my posts are in one of those formats. Sometimes, I use elements from more than one article type to make a post more interesting – like mixing a List and an Editorial to create a more complex Product Review.
Today, I’m going to share 4 more types of articles. I call these Advanced Article Types, because they require more from the writer in terms of skill and style. I wouldn’t say that they were any more effective than the 6 basic types, but certainly equal in their own settings.
I’ve broken each one of them down into their core elements. Hopefully this helps to demystify these article types a bit. Keep in mind, though, that each of them is designed for a specific audience at a specific time for a specific purpose. Using them at the wrong time, with the wrong people, or for the wrong reason will severely diminish their effectiveness.
Audience – Followers of the endorser or at least people who are impressed by the him or her
Time – The height of the endorser’s popularity or resurgence in another medium
Purpose – To convince the audience that the product will make them look, feel, sound, or smell like the endorser
Do You Have A Following?
You don’t have to be a celebrity to endorse a product, but you do have to have a following. Many bloggers, eager to make money, begin endorsing products right from Launch Day. The problem is that they have no following, so no one is listening and they just sound like desperate sales people.
I don’t recommend endorsing a product yourself until you have at least 500 people subscribed to your mailing list (1000 is even better). One the other hand, any time you can get someone with a lot of subscribers to endorse you or your product, do it. It could be the boost that gets you the opt-ins you need.
Have You Actually Used The Product?
Once you have a following, you have to be extremely careful about what you recommend to them. These people opted in to your mailing list because they trust you and value what you think. They listen to what you say. That’s power and, as we all know, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
I encourage you to only endorse products that you actually use regularly. Also, if you’re going to endorse it, buy it. Yes, actually pay for it – even if the manufacturer wants to give it to you for free. Buy one and give the free one away. It is a much more powerful message to say, “I like it so much that I bought it for myself and use it all the time.” “The company gave me one for nothing and I used it a few times,” doesn’t inspire the same kind of confidence.
Do Your People Need the Product?
When endorsing a product, you should be convinced that your audience (your followers) need it. They follow you because they are like you. They enjoy the same things and probably see the world in the same way that you do. So, in order to make sure that they need it, first be sure that you need it. If you find a product you cannot live without, you’ll probably make a good endorser.
It’s common today for sales people to refer to themselves as “Product Evangelists.” While I tend to scoff at effusive euphemisms like this, I do see the point. It has long been said that evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is. The implied need in that statement speaks to why this approach packs such a punch.
Can Your People Afford and Obtain the Product?
Finally, when considering whether or not to endorse a product, think about the means available to the audience. Even if I own a Rolex watch and use it every day, it doesn’t do me any good to endorse it to poor college students. I need to make sure that my followers are in a position to take immediate action and purchase my product.
By the same token, it doesn’t make sense to endorse fresh, organic, American lettuce to people in Saudi Arabia. Even though they may want and/or need it, and even though they can certainly afford it, they couldn’t possibly obtain it before it spoiled. Not all products are a good fit for all audiences.
Audience – People who practice the same skill as you at a lower level of expertise
Time – When your audience is most active (ie. teach snowboarding in the winter)
Purpose – To help the audience reach personal goals by developing their skills to a higher level
Be Good At It
OK, this may seem like a silly point to make, but you would be surprised at how many people try to critique skills they don’t possess themselves. If you don’t believe me, just look on YouTube at the folks trying to teach people how to sing. No one wants to listen to the criticism of someone that isn’t obviously better than they are at the skill in question.
This comes into play with regard to demonstrations. Part of a good skill critique is moving beyond the “What’s wrong with this?” stage to the “Here’s the right way.” stage. When you demonstrate the proper method of applying the skill, you tell on yourself real quick. You need to be able to tell your audience, “See, this is how it’s done.”
Be Successful At It
There is a distinct difference between being good at something and being successful at it. I know lots of people who are extremely accomplished musicians, but few who have managed to make a living at it. Think about it this way. Your high school basketball coach is probably a good shooter, ball handler, and game strategist. He can probably beat you at free throws or in a game of one on one. Is he Michael Jordan? Does he make his living as a basketball player? Does he have a following? If he endorsed a product, would people buy it?
There are local theaters full of part-time actors who have honed their craft to unbelievable levels. And there are blockbuster movies full of merely proficient actors who have figured out how to make a living at it. The trick is to be the successful master of the skill you practice. Then people will line up and pay big money to hear what you think.
Be Respectful About It
Regardless of how good or bad a person’s skills are, they are making themselves vulnerable when they allow you to critique them. That requires courage and it’s worthy of your respect. Simon Cowell’s American Idol persona makes for controversial television and brings in the ratings, but it doesn’t fly in the real world. People have feelings and they’re not overly fond of paying someone to stomp on them.
When people submit themselves for critique, give them credit for their effort. Find something they did right and praise them for it. Then offer critical observations with a clear desire to help them improve. Your critique will help a lot of people when they believe that you are genuinely on their side and wish them the best.
Audience – People who share or sympathize with the story you’re telling
Time – After you have established a friendly and trusting relationship
Purpose – To inspire people by proving something is possible
They Make Things Accessible
Stories may be the most powerful tools known to man for communicating inspiration. Tomorrow I will share 4 kinds of stories that you can use. Today I want to tell you why they work. Stories make unreachable things accessible. They tell us that, if someone else can have this experience, then we can too.
In the 1400’s the whole world believed that the earth was flat. It was preposterous to think otherwise until Columbus stumbled on a little piece of land called North America. After that story was told, map makers had to become map and globe makers. The results are the same whether we’re talking about globes, indoor plumbing, air travel, or moon landings. Stories make us believe.
They Are Irrefutable
The nice thing about personal stories is that they are, to some degree, irrefutable. If I say something happened to me and, as a result, I felt something or thought something, the worst someone can say to refute me is basically, “Nuh Uh!” This is also one of the major reasons that personal stories are so powerful.
The trick with stories is to fish where the fish are. In order to discredit my story, someone has to discredit me as an individual. If they are willing to do that, they have simply shown me where not to fish. Personal stories can accomplish far more than empirical data ever could, because they have the ability to move people emotionally.
They Are Memorable
How many historically significant dates can you recall from world history class? OK. How many weird stories can you remember about the people who lived during those dates? See what I mean? Stories are memorable. So much so, that telling stories was the only method of recorded history for thousands for years and still is in some places.
If you want your message to stick with people for a long time, tell them a story. Touch their heart. Move them emotionally. This is the true secret to marketing, anyway – Win the Heart and the Head Will Follow.
Audience – People who are trying to make a decision about the products you’re comparing
Time – Soon after the product’s initial release – while the market is hot and much is unknown
Purpose – To inform people about options and help them make a smart purchasing decision
Limit The Contestants
There’s a reason why most game shows only have 1-3 contestants. Aside from the TV time slot controlling the length of the program, people have trouble retaining any more than that many variables at one time. Believe it or not, I learned this from a salsa salesman at the grocery store.
My son and I were grocery shopping one morning and this gentleman had set up a stand for people to taste his salsas. There was clearly room on the table for lots of samples, yet he only had three on display. When I asked how many flavors his company made he listed six different varieties. “I only sample three at a time, though. I sell more that way.”
Be Fair and Impartial
When conducting a Comparison, try your best to present the products “Apples to Apples.” Have certain tests that all products must endure or categories in which all products are judged. By presenting your items this way, you’ll help people make a decision as they evaluate each one feature by feature.
Fair and impartial comparisons will also display respect for all manufacturers and/or service providers. It’s good to maintain a positive relationship with all the companies you engage. You never know who will be interested in sponsoring something you’re doing or paying you to help with their product development.
Give Your Thoughts In The Summary
I want to wrap up this section by discussing your personal opinion. If you read Monday’s article you heard my thoughts about opinions in Editorials, Product Reviews, and Reports. I think that it’s OK to have a favorite in a comparison, just save your personal bias for the summary section.
Just like with Product Reviews, people want to know what you think, so tell them – after you have given them enough facts to form an opinion of their own. After all, most of them read your stuff, because they trust your opinion, experience, and expertise. Give them what they came for.
These are the 4 Advanced Article Types that I use regularly. I hope you found this helpful. Be sure to check out tomorrow’s post on the 4 kinds of stories. That will be some powerful stuff.
Have you ever written one of these types of articles? How did it go? What advice can you give? Share a comment and let’s talks about it.