Long-form is the new black for content writing

The old saying goes that ‘less is more’, and that has held true in many contexts.

Instagram, TikTok and Twitter all shared a common emphasis on brevity and scarcity when they first took off.

However, each has since recognised the limits of forced brevity and expanded the parameters of the content of their platforms.

Twitter doubled the character limit and introduced native thread functionality, Instagram expanded video length from 15 seconds to a minute at first, and then far beyond that, while TikTok increased the maximum length from 60 seconds to three minutes and now up to 10 minutes.

These changes were all intended to hold people’s attention for longer and build a greater connection than a fun-size morsel of content could provide.

The same is true for long-form written content, which remains an important storytelling tool for any organisation as more readers (and marketers) embrace it.

For example, CGM Communications recently launched a new long-form written content series designed to tell the stories of our staff.

The Under the Hood series goes beyond the typical bio that you might expect to see on a company website and asks the question: ‘what drives you to do what you do for a living?’

The series was posted to LinkedIn, using the platform’s article feature designed specifically for long-form content.

In the six weeks since the series was launched, the five articles make up the top five posts in impressions, click through rate, reactions, comments and engagement rate.

The average performance for these longer articles also significantly outperformed CGM Voice blogs (like this one) in almost every metric, in addition to the added benefit of helping colleagues get to know each other better.

Below are some of the keys to Under the Hood’s success that can work for other long-form content.

1. Think about the interview setting

Getting the interview setting right is an important part of nailing the interview.

Before conducting the interview, consider whether it will be face-to-face, in a public or private place, and how much time you and the source will have available.

The time that worked best for me was a Friday afternoon where people are switching off from the stresses of the weekend. This meant that they weren’t thinking about their next meeting or deadlines, and we had the space to let the conversation breathe and pursue interesting asides.

I conducted the interviews via video from my home office, which provided a balance between a level of connection and body language cues and some distance to allow people to feel more comfortable being vulnerable, and a level of privacy that is difficult to get in public.

The right setting will change for person to person, what matters the most is that it makes the source feel at ease.

2. Work collaboratively

A writer might start an interview with a specific angle or theme for the story in mind, but offering the talent the opportunity to provide feedback on the piece before it is published can make them more willing to open up.

For pieces like Under the Hood, which deal with one interviewee, it’s their story you are telling and you want to make sure they feel they have been represented fairly.

As the interview is wrapping up, consider asking the source what they think the theme of their story is, or running through any rough ideas that have emerged throughout the interview for feedback.

3. Find the right balance

Although you want to unearth as much background information about a person as possible during the interview, what makes it into the finished story has to strike the right balance between personal and professional.

For Under the Hood, there were topics that were deeply personal and compelling, but not relevant to the overall story and were left out. There were also topics that were equally sensitive but were critical to that person’s fundamental values and included with their permission.

Even if the source gives the writer free reign to include any sensitive details, take care to consider the intended audience and possible impacts those details being publicised might have on the source’s life.

4. Let the story dictate the length

While it’s normal to set a rough word count, consider allowing the writer the freedom to see where the story takes them without setting firm restrictions.

Giving the writer freedom to write can allow room for the sort of non-essential details that can often stick with people’s memories.

Most writers will know when a piece is getting too long, but it’s always easier to edit something down than to add more detail after the fact.

Long-form written content isn’t a universal solvent for increasing engagement and creating a connection.

But long-form content can help add valuable much-needed colour and vibrancy to a company’s story and help to share your values while promoting your product, brand or services.

Whether you’re drafting case studies for annual reports, writing stories for your company newsletter, or producing content for social media, the right long-form content can provide added value for both you and your readers.

For assistance with producing long-form written content to complement your communications strategy, contact CGM Communications.


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