What’s Your Message?
The perhaps most important question when you publish is “what’s your message?” or in layman’s terms: what do you want to say?
The problem with the new “content is king” and “content marketing” craze is that it focuses on the form instead on the message.
In design the main paradigm still is “form follows function”. In online publishing it seems to be rather form follows finance. The more money it makes the better.
When long articles work to get more social shares, eyeballs and ultimately advertising revenue, who cares about the message then? Which message btw. ?
On many blogs and internet publications you will struggle to find an underlying message.
In old media publishing houses there is always a political agenda and every article reflects it more or less.
Even the choice of topics or which event to cover is rather a conscious choice reflecting the underlying message.
Self-promotion is not a message
On most blogs you will wonder “what does the author want to tell me” though. S/he doesn’t have a message at all probably.
Especially business and corporate blogs fail to conceive and convey a message. In many cases the main message of a company blog is simply
- “we’re great”
- “look at us”
- “buy our products”
A real message shouldn’t be solely self-centered or downright selfish.
Something more inclusive like “we enable you to do this or that” is significantly better. People may read your actual headlines but they intuitively grasp the underlying message you are sending. Let me give you an example:
My “50 Ways to Make the Web a Better Place” post’s underlying message is clearly “altruism is the best egoism”, one of my favorite long standing mottos.
Yes, you need to devise a message both for your blog as a whole and for each post.
My underlying message changed over the years gradually. At first it was inspirational. It started somewhere along the lines of:
“you too can make it happen on the Web! You don’t even need Google! Just look how it works. Jump in and start using it as well!”.
The message reflects how you feel
My message ended up at something like: “search, social media and blogging is difficult. Don’t try it yourself or you might fail. Take small steps. Don’t take risks”.
I got burned by my own success and frustrated because of it.
My frustration got translated into more pessimistic posts. I’ve been writing for old school SEO blogs for peanuts receiving not only poor money but also no respect for what I did.
I limited myself more and more so that at the end of the day I was doing traditional Google optimization or link building and blogging about it like my clients expected me to.
Long story short I had to rethink my message again. I had to look within myself what I stand for as a blogger.
I was never like those opportunists praying to Google to get their rankings back after a penalty or something.
This blog’s message is about social empowerment online (in short SEO).
It shows you how “with a little help of your friends” you can succeed on the Web despite Google, Amazon, Facebook and all the other giants standing in your way.
How to spot the actual message
One of the ways you can quote like no other is by spotting the underlying message of a post in a nutshell and sharing it with a representative sentence.
My underlying message is “you can make it happen, again and again, success on the Web is possible, without having to own a company and exploiting dozens of people”.
We’re not designers. We don’t have to focus on the form at all. The message is what we as writers, bloggers or content creators have to care for.
The form is only how we me make it appear. Don’t get fooled by the “form follow finance” trend.
Selling out makes you lose your readers because your underlying message changes as well from “how can I help you” to “give me all your money or attention”.
- The form is only the packaging.
- The content is what’s inside.
- The message is how it smells.
A well designed bottle of milk is not a great product when the milk already stinks. Do you think it gets better with a bigger bottle?
Message in a bottle
One day while walking on the beach I’ve found a bottle someone discarded. I was in such a good mood that I didn’t think about it as garbage though.
I considered it a message in a bottle where the message has been taken out already by someone else. I was intrigued. What could have been the message?
Is your blog post an empty bottle without a message someone has thrown away? The bottle was empty. I didn’t pick it up. I should have done that and carried it to the next waste basket though.
Don’t obsess about the size of the bottle. Make sure to put a message inside.
What’s your current message? What do you really want to say? Tell me about it below in the comment section!
Spread it on social media or write it down on a piece of paper, put in a bottle and throw in the water. Don’t use plastic bottles though. Animals get killed by those.
Last updated: May 15th, 2018. Clarified some sentences.
Updated: November 11th, 2016 – I made the text more readable on mobile screens and some sentences or expressions clearer. I also added subheadings and a new image.