Blackad book review: Clout, The Art and Science of Influential Web Content

Written by Alan Black

So you’re sold on the idea of content strategy – but how do you produce content that people will actually read? Better yet, how do you write content that people will want to share? Colleen Jones sets out to answer that question in Clout – taking us through everything from rhetoric and psychology to the ethics of being an influencer.

How to write influential content: tinkering won't help

Clout is about influential content: the art and science of making stuff that people will read, and encourage other people to read too. This sort of content takes commitment, and a lot of work: making tweaks, minor edits, and adding the occasional image won’t cut it. Or at least it shouldn’t be ALL you do. And you can forget about relying on tactically placed keywords to bring in your traffic: clout is measured in the difference between being found and being worth finding.

So why is this important? Because of the shift in emphasis from the short term customer transaction to the long term customer relationship. Content marketing is all about the long game: establish a relationship with the customer, and somewhere down the line they’ll be ready to buy from you. (Go on, send us your briefs.)

Aristotle's best advice for digital content

That’s the big picture – and there’s nothing radical in Jones’ approach. It’s in the smaller details that things get a little more interesting. For instance, she takes the ancient principles of rhetoric from Aristotle, and applies them to the digital context. The trick to influencing people has always been to combine credibility, logic, and emotion – get the balance right, and you can be persuasive about almost anything.

There’s an element of psychology too. Jones explores how you might recognise behavioural patterns in your customers – and how to use those patterns to your advantage in your content. It’s not as cynical as it might sound – these are simple, common sense things like framing, metaphor and social proof. She doesn’t venture into Jedi mind control, which is disappointing, but probably for the best.

With the principles of Clout established, Jones sets out how to plan and implement your way to being an influencer. There’s a lot of useful advice in here – how to map everything out, how to ask the right questions, and how to get useful answers. It’s a considered, well-rounded piece – with plenty of action points, if that’s your thing. And then there’s this gem of a quote, from Mike Tyson:

Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.

Which is just the sort of influential content you can take to the next planning meeting. 

Next steps

🛒 Order 'Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content' from Amazon

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