What's a Nut Graf? (+ Other Hidden Elements Inside Great Content Marketing)

Over the past few weeks, I've been running The Daily Content, a bite-sized newsletter for content marketers. It's entirely focused on helping marketers master the craft of content creation. While tons of support exists to help us promote and measure our work, very little dedicated resources exist to make us better creators. (And now that content marketing is more mature, the advantages of being first are long gone, and being loud and low-quality was never a good idea. Being genuinely good at production is now the most important skill for our work, our results, and our careers.)

If you're not a subscriber, you can join the newsletter right here. 

(You'll get one example of awesome content plus one practical takeaway each weekday.)

Today, I wanted to share four of the most popular lessons from the newsletter, starting with this simple question:

What's a Nut Graf?

First, let's clear the air on that second word: "graf" is newsroom lingo for paragraph. Now pair that with "nut," as in "in a nutshell," and you're left with the all-important nut graf -- the "in a nutshell" paragraph.

These paragraphs are meant to convey why something is newsworthy or worth reading. They include the basics, like who, what, where, when, and why, that prompt more reader attention. And they should almost always be used early in a post. Are you including them in your articles?

So, why is this important for content marketers?

I've always been amazed that so many organizations want their writers, bloggers, and content marketers to move faster, yet none educate us about the brass tacks of what makes a great article. This is about quality and quantity together, and isn't that every CMO's dream? A nut graf is part of the "template" for a great post. It helps writers more easily structure their writing and helps readers more easily stick around to read it.

The blog post below does a great job using nut grafs. Because the post is broken into a few parts, there are actually multiple nut grafs used -- one for the article, and one for each subsection. Paragraph 5 is the entire article's nut graf. Can you spot the others?

Example via HubSpot: Lessons from the Rebrands of Gap, Airbnb, Vodafone, and Starbucks

3 More Hidden Elements in Great Content

1) Providing "anchor points" to improve the reader experience inside a larger piece

The interactive infographic below offers readers multiple ways to consume the story from start to finish. You can follow the "narrative" of the car designs, the movie titles, the years, or (my personal favorite) the single line of copy under each image.

This is a great use of "segment thinking."

Segments are small amounts of information that are uniquely and clearly packaged and then repeated throughout a single piece or across multiple works in order to retain audience attention and build community. SportsCenter's Top 10 plays is a famous segment on ESPN, for instance. You eagerly anticipate it as a viewer, while hardcore fans appreciate the consistency and some various inside jokes involved in the segment.

Example via UK car retailer Evan Halshaw: Bond - License to Drive


2) The subtle use of music at the right time and right volume

In a video focused on selling a stock video service, it's the brand's use of audio that truly makes it a hit. Pay close attention to the transitions between the "home base" aka narrator jingle (the blue screens with yellow copy) and the sounds, voiceovers, and music behind each video clip. These audio snippets help the jokes hit home while keeping the viewer engaged and interested start to finish. (I thought the audio behind the Babe recreation was particularly LOL-worthy.)

(Also, I'm not sure the kids are still saying LOL. Let me know on my MySpace page!)

Example via Dissolve: Scenes You've Seen

3) Capturing hyperactive readers and casual viewers by summarizing throughout a large piece

In B2B, us content marketers tend to get pretty PDF-happy, creating tons of guides and ebooks to educate. Not Help Scout, makers of customer support software. They produce some truly remarkable guides by packaging them in a visual, web-friendly format, like this one on converting customers using psychology.

In the graphical guide/site page below, they do a wonderful job providing value to both dedicated readers, who get a well-researched, in-depth piece, AND those who prefer to skim. The latter audience benefits from a series of clearly marked boxes titled "Bottom Line" placed strategically throughout the guide. So no matter how much time you spend with this content, you still walk away thinking highly of Help Scout.

Bottom Line: Offer some bottom lines. Don't forget to add value to those distracted readers out there.

Example via Help Scout: 10 Ways to Convert More Customers Using Psychology

There you have it! Four simple, subtle, but oh-so-powerful elements hidden away inside some great content.

I'm sharing one example of great content like these, along with key takeaways to make you a better content creator, in The Daily Content.

Learn more & sign up for the newsletter >>

Thanks for genuinely caring about your craft, its quality, and the expectations and needs of your audience. Happy creating!

Posted on March 5, 2015 .

Red Bull & GoPro & Google, Oh My: Introducing the Daily Content Newsletter for Marketers

I'm excited to invite you to my new project aimed at helping marketers master the craft of content creation: The Daily Content Newsletter!

Get Daily Examples of Great Content >>

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What's This All About?

There are tons of resources available to help us content marketers improve our abilities to plan, promote, and measure content ... but what about CREATE content?

Over the past 6 months, I've been chatting with and surveying hundreds of content marketers (I'm rather sleepy) about their abilities to produce content. Here's what I've learned:

We all really want to improve our skills as content producers, not just as distributors.

But two major challenges stand in our way:

  1. We often feel isolated at work. We could use more community feel and peer-to-peer feedback when it comes to the actual creation part of our job.
  2. We want to improve our production skills in four key areas: process and workflow, multimedia know-how, ability to be prolific, and idea generation.

So, from this point forward (and really, it's not all that new for me), I'm focused on a single mission:

Help marketers master the craft of creating great content.

And after two months of closed testing to 120 marketers, I'm excited to invite you to my first project in pursuit of that mission:

Join the Daily Content newsletter >>

You'll get one example of great content and one lesson learned every weekday (plus other surprise goodies).

To reiterate, this email is focused on our production work alone. (There are plenty of top-notch resources about marketing strategy, distribution, and measurement.)

So ... if you agree that it's time for content marketing to experience some creative enlightenment, or if you just want to improve your abilities to produce amazing work and learn from others who do so, I hope you'll sign up for the newsletter.

In the Daily Content's first two months of experimenting, we've featured examples of great content from brands like these:

If your friends or colleagues could benefit from something like this, feel free to share the invite link: bit.ly/dailycontent

Thanks for genuinely giving a damn about quality and creativity in content marketing.

Posted on February 19, 2015 .