Often times, the key to great content is emotion.
But you can’t just make someone cry without setting the story up. You can’t make someone laugh without laying the groundwork for the punchline. And you can’t create excitement without some sort of framework. To draw out the emotion, you need context.
Here’s the context:
Saturday afternoon game, Ohio State vs. Maryland. The game isn’t even close, but I only get 12 regular-season Ohio State games per year, so I take them all in. I watch a harmless pass go to a Maryland player, who is hit hard and fumbles. The Ohio State player who made the hit recovers the ball and he is on his way to the endzone.
Written like that, the play sounds kind of boring—it wasn’t boring to watch, but the words don’t really capture the feeling. Even if you got to watch the play yourself, if you’re not a football fan already, you might miss why the moment matters.
In contrast, consider how announcer, Gus Johnson described the same play:
“Wooooo, what a hit! Denzel Ward, you got bar-b-que back there. And you didn’t invite me. Hurt my feelings.”
His words, his delivery, everything tells you this play was important, that it was exciting, that it was fun to watch. The emotion is contagious. But if you had only Gus Johnson’s words, that wouldn’t be enough, either. Only when you get the commentary and the play together, do you get the moment completely—a moment that has people watching YouTube clips, that has people talking about the hit and the call by the announcer, and that makes people want to tune in next week to see what Gus Johnson has to say.
Think of your writing like this, context and emotion. Don’t just deliver your message, deliver it in a way that makes the reader feel something. Provide information, provide build-up, and then make it meaningful with the words that—in the right context—show how much your message matters.
Creating great content means creating your own great plays—and, at the same time, being your own Gus Johnson.