Get a glimpse of the newest web content book, Clout

Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content was published last week and we feel it’s a must-read for web content and technical communication professionals. Author and content strategy expert Colleen Jones has kindly given us permission to reproduce an extract from the sample chapter called Rhetoric: The Art of Influence. In the chapter, Colleen explains four principles and shows how they apply to web content. We’ve picked one of those principles, repetition, to share here…


Repetition that doesn’t bore or broadcast

The ancient Greeks crafted creative ways of repeating ideas. Why go to such pains? Those toga-sporting orators knew that repetition helps people remember – but also risks boring them.

Today, when we use tweets, emails, and ads to blast a message again, again, again, again, again, and AGAIN, our users could tune us out. So, let’s take a closer look at repetition.

Three really is a charm

When it comes to making the same point, three times is enough. Research everywhere from speech communication to television advertising suggests three as the magic number.

A challenge with web content is that we can’t control exactly how many times a user sees or hears our message. But, we can control how often we publish the same message, how often we change the message, and how we bring the message to life through web content. We can avoid bombarding our users.

Apply repetition to content

With web content and some help from modern media, we have the power to plan our repetition wisely.

1. Editorial calendar

This is a tool borrowed from journalism to plan content over time. Usually a spreadsheet or table, the exact form of an editorial calendar doesn’t matter so much as the planning. When you decide in detail what content you will publish and when, you’re more likely to repeat messages, topics, and themes appropriately.

spreadsheet with dates and content types

For a longer look at editorial calendars for business, see How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing by Michele Linn at Content Marketing Institute.

For an examination of editorial strategy for media and entertainment, see Exploring Editorial Strategy by Jeffrey MacIntyre at Predicate, LLC.

2. Hook

As journalism slang, a hook refers to why content is relevant at a particular time. A hook can help you breathe new life into your message, theme, or topic. Some examples include tying content to

  • The season
  • An anniversary
  • A recognition, such as becoming first, most, or best
  • A current event or an industry trend

For example, AOL News took the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing as an opportunity to re-enact it through web content – videos, animation, audio, photos, and more.


3. Amplification

It’s all the ways to amplify, or enhance, your point instead of repeating it like a robot. For example, on the television show Northern Exposure, the poetic DJ Chris Stevens used amplification to explain the meaning of light:

John%20Corbett%20Northern%20Exposure“Goethe’s final words: ‘More light.’ Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that’s been our unifying cry: ‘More light.’ Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier Field. Little tiny flashlights for those books we read under the covers when we’re supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and foot-candles. Light is metaphor.”

Classic rhetoricians used words to intensify a point. Today, we can augment an idea through web content in several ways.

4. Content formats and types

We can make points through a combination of photos, podcasts, videos, articles, and more. HowStuffWorks, for example, offers several ways to experience the danger of sharks using video, photos, and text.


5. Echo

This is a phenomenon on social networking sites where other people share or restate your message or your content. When that happens, you don’t have to state it yourself so often. (An extreme version of this is having something go ‘viral’.)

Clout-book-coverExcerpted from Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content by Colleen Jones. Copyright © 2011. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and New Riders.

Photo of actor John Corbett by Alan Light.

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