This is section one of the live published book, “How to Create Content That Changes The World” by Rhys Knight. Check back every two days for more updates.

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Introduction

 

There’s a lot of terrible content out there in the form of the written word, video, imagery and podcasts.

 

Terrible Content : Stuff that blends into the background, doesn’t change anything and nobody – except the creator and their Mum – cares about it.

 

You’re reading this because you don’t want to be on the losing side, your goal isn’t to just produce something; you want to be responsible for something that creates change in others, and then you want to be able to do it again, and again. You’re looking for a system, a methodology from which you can duplicate good works.

This is that methodology.

You see, the least important part of content is the value of the content itself. If were this simple, the best videographers in the world would be those with the most expensive equipment, and the greatest writers would be those backed by the largest budgets – but can you name a top corporate copywriter who has changed the world?

This book is designed to be read from start to finish. Don’t skip to the chapter you think is most important to you, because within each page is embedded points that will change the way you think and look at creation for an audience. It will dispel myths, sometimes blatantly and often more subtlely. You might feel that you’re a few steps ahead, and don’t need to learn the basics, and you’re probably right, but swallow your pride and start from the beginning anyway, it’ll make sense why this is important later in the book.

Also, don’t expect a business course or a discussion on what’s ‘art’ and what isn’t. This is a book designed to help you create content that works, that gets attention and changes minds, it’s a mix of psycoligy – yours and your audience’s – and highly practical actions that you can use to improve your content creation immediately. If you’re not one for holistic concepts, then it’s important you put your bias in this area aside. Your mindset will form a crucial component as to whether you produce standard, boring outputs, or the work people talk about, share and act on.

It’s suggested you read a chapter a day, and take the required. This will allow the learnings to sink in, and should give you enough focused time to test the practical elements.

 

Now, let’s get into it.

 

Chapter One

 

Unique vs Better

‘Just create.’ This is the mantra of many Copywriting Coaches, Photography Courses and Media Advisors. It’s a seductive piece of advice, suggesting that all you need in order to succeed is to act, and from that action, something good will come. However, as many have discovered, just creating isn’t enough and many, having written a few articles on LinkedIn, developed a blog that got small readership and no results, and a Twitter feed that feels like a demonstration of the pointlessness of social media, just give up, resorting to more traditional, labour based promotion.

So where’s the gap? Why do some succeed and so many fail, when the distribution platforms are the same, the budgets often aren’t exponentially different and everyone is constrained by the same words and mediums?

 

“Just create,” is not good advice.

 

In fact, it’s like telling a three-year-old that they’re doing a “very good job,” to increase their self-esteem; it’s nice, but doesn’t serve any tangible purpose. Better advice would be, spend more time thinking about what you’re trying to say, not how you’re trying to say it.

 

The idea is everything.

 

At the core of every great piece of content is a brilliant idea. It doesn’t need to be clever, it might be funny or sad, engaging or relatable, but the idea forms the central communication – the reader can take understand the idea clearly without needing to think about it, this is the most vital part of content in the digital age – being able to get that idea across quickly and effectively.

The audience needs to be able to relate without explanation or delay, because if there’s any delay, you’ve lost them. This is where common knowledge – and common sense –  will talk about how critical the headline, sub-headline and first sentence are – which is true – but it’s like saying you need fuel to make a car go fast; technically accurate, but it doesn’t get to the heart of what the problem is. To do this, we need to explore in more detail the anatomy of an idea.

 

Where do ideas come from?

 

It’s the question that’s plagued writers, artists, orators and singers for longer than anyone can remember. Some have said that ideas are everywhere, flying through the clouds and occasionally ducking down to earth for us to grab and bend to our will. A few have spoken of LSD, alcohol and other mind bending intoxicants enabling them to tack into different parts of their brain in order to access ideas and inspiration at a higher level. Still more try to repackage the knowledge of others in a more accessible fashion, explaining the thoughts of geniuses in a more digestible way.

 

But it’s not about where ideas come from that matters, but how they’re ‘banked.’

 

Winston Churchill used to take naps, so did Joseph Stalin. Ernest Hemingway went fishing, Hunter S. Thompson shot things. Francis Bacon read cookbooks and Henri Matisse cut shapes out of paper. All wrote down ideas, told an assistant to note them, scrawled on paper or spoke into a recording device.

 

Regardless of what your line of business is, understanding that you need to take ideas and do something with them is crucial, and the first step is having sustainable options for doing so. The first step is being able to take ideas that present themselves and help them evolve from theoretical precepts, into meaningful concepts. This is the vital step, taking something that has the potential to be exciting, meaningful or funny and being able to communicate it quickly and easily.

 

Write down theory, speak concept

 

Theory is ugly, it’s a broad idea that has no basis in reality. Theory is a “what if?” It’s about questioning the status quo, or sensing there may be a joke, but the words aren’t quite there. In theory, you’ll find a basis and through writing it down you’ll give yourself something to talk about, to dissect and try to translate into concept.

 

Concept is tangible and explainable. Given a certain amount of time, and potentially a few raised voices, you can explain a concept, and, if it’s powerful enough, get someone to buy into it. Concept is something you understand, but perhaps have trouble explaining. If you’ve ever been to a sales training, personal development session or motivational speech and later attempted to explain a portion which you found powerful to friends, only to be greeted with blank stares and shrugs, you’ve taken a powerful cliche, and tried to explain it as a concept.

 

Cliches are monumental, they change the world. There are young clichés and old ones. Old clichés, having been repeated enough that they often make people roll their eyes in boredom – because they’ve heard it so many times before. They are passed down through generations and their wisdom is taken for granted. They may be short – “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, or long in the form of fables such as Hansel and Gretel or Peter Pan. “The Scream,” by  Edvard Munch is a good example of an art based cliché, being used in both art history and popular culture and being easily recongnised, requiring no translation – the central idea being fear.

 

New clichés make people nod, their eyes glaze over as they recognise something in the words or images that resonates within them and from then on they are slightly different as their approach to life changes, perhaps ever so slightly. When we’re exposed to newly born clichés we share the joke, speak the knowledge –often as if it’s our own– and ask others to accept it. Those responsible for new clichés have the power to change how other people see and understand the human condition and the world around them. Movie makers have used this to their advantage, manipulating emotions (more on this later) and making audiences feel something different, rather than simply being entertained…but we get ahead of ourselves.

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