Before you hit “publish”, are you adding value?

Before you hit “publish”, are you adding value?

Frankly, this post was tough to title. I toyed with a variety of options, but most just came off as condescending. I’m still not sure I like the title as written, but it’s at least one of the points I was trying to make.

The idea behind this post was to talk about what goes into writing useful and enjoyable content in the fitness, nutrition and bodybuilding space. Hence my struggle with the title. I could have titled it “A guide to writing content for the fitness industry”, or some such; but that’s where I draw a line, of sorts.

Tackling a post of this nature, you’d be forgiven for assuming I’m a successful personal trainer, fitness icon or otherwise accomplished writer. Fair, but wrong. It would also be reasonable for you to assume I perhaps have a science background, or qualifications in physiology, kinesiology and maybe nutrition. Again, no.

Well this dude better at least be jacked, right?

Alas, merely bumps in the right places, with a vein or two, and even some abs, when viewed under scientifically controlled lighting.

So what on earth gives me the right to be giving anyone advice on writing for the fitness industry?

Principally, not much more than the concept of the inherent human right to voice one’s opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment. Well, that, and my position as a long-standing, expert consumer of such materials.

In all seriousness, though, the internet has been both a blessing and a curse for the fitness industry. Never before has an individual had such unfettered access to a wealth of information. And yet, despite the abundance of information out there, never has it been so hard to discern the good from the bad, the essential from the extraneous. We are literally paralyzed from the overload of information.

However, there’s also another problem. Looking beyond the incorrect, ineffectual and otherwise inappropriate content that plagues the industry, what’s left–even when moderately useful–is frequently a diatribe of boring, regurgitated me too content where nothing valuable is being added to the mix.

“You are the master of your unspoken words, but a slave to the words you have spoken.” — Winston Churchill

What defines good content is likely a matter of opinion, and the context of both the author and reader will always matter. But given it’s my blog and my post, it’s my opinions you’re getting. None the less, I think there are some generalizations we can make about writing good content that cuts across themes and content verticals.

Are you adding value?

This one is sufficiently important that it earned its way into the title of the post. So before you hit that Publish button, proud as punch of your latest post, stop and ask yourself, is this adding value to <insert theme, discussion or objective here>.

You see, there’s something particularly exasperating about the shallow, me to posts that plague the fitness industry, where well-intentioned people offer-up regurgitated content on uninteresting topics that have sadly been covered to death?

  • Ten ways to get more sleep
  • Top foods for weight loss
  • The eight reasons you’re not making progress in the gym

… why? What value are you adding?

Now don’t get me wrong, if you are truly providing new, cutting-edge insight into these thorny topics, more to you, post away!

But do you know what would be better?

Find a well-written post on the topic at hand, back-link, and give us your critique, rebuttal, opinion or otherwise personal point of view on the content. That would at least be interesting. Still, you might want to get more creative with your titles.

What can I DO with the information you just gave me?

Yes, some content is intended to be pure entertainment, I get it. For other content, the intention might be simply to make one think. But if your post is intended to instruct, inform or otherwise change my behavior, it better contain some practical advice that I can apply to the problem at hand.

People buy people

When there are five dealerships in the area where you can buy a car at a good price, you gravitate to the dealer where you made a personal connection to the sales person. Likewise, I can’t stress enough how important personality is in your writing. Yes, the content matters, but a good post is much more than merely good content. On some level, it wouldn’t matter if you were writing about the weather, I should still be able to discern it’s you by the end of the article. Your voice, inflection, the analogues, anecdotes, quips and puns; your personality should shine in your writing.

It’s called social media for a reason

Building on the above, when you put out your content with no means to be contacted, comment or otherwise engage with your audience, it irks us.

Sometimes we have questions. And yes, sometimes those questions are f@#king stupid. Frequently, it’s a troll that wants to try and drag you into a pointless exchange of infantile banter. Those you can ignore, your avid supporters will do the job of beating them senseless with their keyboards for you.

But for the rest of us, for those of us with practical questions or meaningful commentary, engaging with us is important. If you solely use Twitter and Facebook as means to spew your opinions into the ether, people will eventually find another source, no matter how good your material.

Experience based

I care more about what you’ve done and what you’ve tried, and sometimes what you think. I don’t care so much about what you can regurgitate from a book or website, unless of course, it comes with a deeply insightful critique… especially if that critique is based on your personal experience.

So if you must write a post on how to improve your sleep, I at least want it to be experienced based. I don’t want to hear how you’ve read that sticking one foot out of the bed covers helps you to fall asleep more quickly, because I’ve read that to, three hundred and sixty four times. However, assuming you’ve at least tried it, I might want to hear about your personal experience with the practice.

Likewise, whether it’s exercise programming, losing weight, how to calculate your macros … no matter what the topic, it’s always more readable, more useful and more engaging when the content is based on your personal experience.

This material is DRY as all hell

Let’s be honest, some of this stuff is hard to get through, plain and simple. I mean, most of it is not rocket science; in fact, it’s often mind-bogglingly simple. So anything you can do to add a little color to the subject is gratefully appreciated.

Yes, I know it’s challenging.

As someone who feels that they are actually quite fun to talk to in real life (yes, life off the internet), I try hard to add a little humor and levity to my writing. And although I likely miss the mark with many of you, and I’m sure I’ve offended a few more than that, if it helps me to deliver a message that would otherwise have gone unread, it’s still a win in my book.

So go for broke. Add that bit of sarcasm, hold that opinion, share that joke. Remember, people buy people and I can likely buy your product or get your message elsewhere… you’ve got very little to lose.

Be consistent

Last but not least, be consistent.

Some of you are generalists and indeed have a wide repertoire of experience on which to draw. None the less, it’s better when you play to your strengths and focus the majority of your writing on a specific vertical or niche. Not only will this establish you as a subject matter expert, it will help considerably to differentiate you from your peers and build a like-minded following.

Also, be consistent with your facts, consistent with your opinions and consistent with your beliefs. Nothing will lose you credibility (and readers) more quickly than being seen to dance to the latest tune, go with the flow or otherwise contradict a previously held position. Of course, our positions do change, and that is invariably a great opportunity for a deeply personal, experienced-based post in which to engage with your readers!

It also helps when you are consistent in your writing style. Some of us are conversational, others write in stories or metaphors, while some simply deliver the facts. And all can work. But knowing what I am going to get when I visit your blog is both reassuring and valuable.

In closing…

While there are many great writers in the the fitness, nutrition and bodybuilding space, there are few doing it as well as Bryan Krahn.

Without doubt, Bryan consistently puts out some of the most engaging, informative and down-right usable content in the bodybuilding space. In fact, more specifically, Bryan has established himself as a subject matter expert on bodybuilding for the over thirty-fives, and as a forty-something year-old bodybuilder, I can connect deeply with both Bryan and his content.

Not only is his content well-written and entertaining, it’s deeply anchored in personal experience. And despite being as busy of the rest of us, if you want to engage with Bryan on his work, you can find him active on his email, Facebook, Twitter or Disqus.

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