Note: This post is an excerpt from AMI’s Thought Leadership in Latin America, a whitepaper we created to guide companies in developing or refining their thought leadership marketing strategies.
Click here if you’d like to read the entire whitepaper, which spans more than 40 pages and covers not only content development, but also how to create a successful thought leadership strategy for Latin America and market your content effectively. You can also view the webinar we conducted, in which we share dozens of thought leadership recommendations.
While the quick and easy solution to creating thought leadership blog content is to hire an experienced content strategist who has extensive experience in developing everything from blogs to whitepapers to videos, in many cases this isn’t an option. Instead, existing marketing teams—who may be very skilled in developing online strategies featuring hyperpersonalization, programmatic advertising driven by AI, influencers, chatbots and other new resources—may have to flex a different set of muscles to develop content and distribute it. To help those marketers and other leaders interested in developing or improving their thought leadership content, we’ll cover the major content types and offer some ideas for optimal execution.
Finding Your Format
Your initial ideas for blog stories could come from implementing the strategies we mentioned earlier: surveying your audience, talking to your sales team, reflecting your brand identity and USPs.
With rough topics established, the next step is determining how you’ll cover them. There are a number of tried-and-true blog post formats:
LISTICLES: These have been around since at least 2005 or 2006, but still work well to draw traffic. An sample title for a listicle focused on LatAm would be: “Las 6 principales tendencias entre consumidores latinoamericanos.” The idea of a list tells the reader the exact amount of what to expect. Since they understand the benefit, they may be more likely to click. This format also allows you to organize your story as a simple list united by topic. Another benefit of the listicle is that its simple titles make it easy to include key words or phrases you want to be found for during Google searches.
EXPLANATIONS: Applying your expertise to a basic question plaguing your industry will draw readers searching for answers. One of AMI’s most popular pieces in 2020 was entitled “In Much of the Americas, COVID-19 Will Burn out Before Vaccines Arrive.” This piece explained how the progression of the pandemic would play out give data on infection rates and other factors. Another popular explanation story for us was “Why Digital Wallets Aren’t Working in Latin America.” Your explanation stories can be more generalized or specific, as you see fit. But what will truly make them work is when they provide insights to ease the pain points of your audience.
ANALYSIS OF NEWS: With this story, you can explore how certain regulations could affect your industry, what a new technological development means for your industry, the threat of a new political administration, what a shift in consumer behavior means, and so on. General and business media often seek to publish this kind of story, but your company may have leaders with the expertise to provide a fuller answer that will benefit—and influence—your audience.
STATISTICAL ROUNDUPS: An example of this would be “8 Top Strategies for Reaching Brazilian Consumers” or Lo que más compran los mexicanos por internet.” With these types of stories, you compile hard data that signal trends or fill in a knowledge gap for the reader, then package the data into the story. The advantage for the reader is that they get hard data on a topic of interest in one place, with no need to do loads of research. With this approach, YOUR company could become the go-to source for topics in your industry that directly relate to your brand and products.
STUDY RECAPS: While media often cover studies, they focus on broader studies in areas such as health and human behavior, not for specific industries. With a study recap, you could read a 40-page study and distill the most relevant points in a 500-word story, which is a helpful service for professionals looking to stay on top of their industries.
How to Write for Blogs
With blogs, the challenge writers face—though they may not know it—is writing for both people and machines. The reason is that while you want living, breathing humans to enjoy your work, you also want search engine spiders to home in on the phrases, bullet points and headlines you employ so that your blog post comes up in search results as soon as possible, preferably as the #1 result on page 1. That’s because once you initially promote your content via a newsletter or some other “push” tactic, the only way your content will be found in the future is by people searching for the topic you wrote about. If your content doesn’t cater to search engine spiders (programs that scour the Internet to evaluate content for relevance and determine if it should be included in search results and which page it should appear on, ranging from 1 to 200 or more), then it won’t be found. For all intents and purposes, online content that cannot be easily found via a search engine does not really exist. It may be there, just waiting for a reader, but if no one knows it’s there, it’s invisible—and inconsequential.
To help you strike the balance between writing for people and search engine spiders, we’ve prepared a few tips.
DETERMINE YOUR STYLE: Bloggers often write in a very conversational style. This may work for your brand—or not. Your style will depend on your brand’s identity, USPs and usual style in its ads, website and marketing collateral.
USE KEY WORDS: As you write your story, write out key words and phrases that you think people would search for online. In writing a story on Internet trends in Latin America, the title would have the phrase “Internet trends in Latin America” and you’d want to repeat a variant of this phrase in the introduction to the story to ensure that the search engine spiders pick up on this. You’d also include it in the rest of the story, where it makes sense, to associate your story with this main phrase. As you break out each trend, you’d want to write sentences that correspond to phrases people may use to search for topics that are part of your LatAm Internet trends story, such as:
- The amount of Internet users in Latin America
- The average adblock penetration in Latin America is 7%
- Peak mobile phone and tablet usage times in LatAm are
- There are 79 million Internet users in Mexico
- 28% of Latin American mobile users make online purchases
- Latin America’s average ad click-thru rate is .17%
These phrases are written to match what someone may enter into a search engine when looking for information about these topics. These phrases are based on rough guesses, though you can go further and have your team do keyword analysis to decide what words or phrases are best to use.
BREAK IT UP: Avoid using long blocks of text the way you would in writing a memo or report. Blog writing reads better when you have chunks of text set off with heads.
DEVELOP A STYLE GUIDE: Some writers use series commas and em dashes with no spaces (you either have style—or you don’t), others like to have spaces (you either have style — or you don’t). Some capitalize only the first letter of the first word in a headline and nothing else (Develop a style guide), while others capitalize the first letter of all words in a head except propositions and articles, e.g. Develop a Style Guide. Regardless, someone on your team has to draft style rules for everyone to follow, otherwise your text will be inconsistent and go against your company’s preferences. This doesn’t just apply to minor punctuation: certain companies will be sticklers for how they spell their names, which industry terms they prefer, the spelling of these terms, and so on. A style guide has to address these points.
USE SHOTS TO BREAK UP TEXT: Stock photos let you illustrate the points made by your text while also offering visual relief and space. Even though we are all used to reading on digital devices, too much text with no photos or space to provide eye relief either bore us or tire our eyes. Photos help alleviate that and make for a better experience for the reader.
WORK IN GRAPHICS AND PULLQUOTES: Known as sumarios in Spanish, pullquotes are interesting sentences in your text that you style differently by using a pullquote template (in WordPress, for example) or by selecting special fonts and sizes. It offers eye relief. Graphics can serve the same purpose, illustrating a point in the text better than regular text while also breaking up boring text blocks. Below we show an example of both.
DROP IN VIDEOS: Embedding custom videos in blog posts lets you tell your story effectively while also enriching the story flow: just make sure that the video is a natural part of your story and not a forced element that is added for its own sake. You may also be able to get away with using video from other sources, but ensure that you have clearance before doing so. While we see media outlets do this all the time, it’s always best to check to avoid copyright violations.
VARY POST SIZE: Offering longer-form content of 1,500 words or more is actually fine for SEO and is good for the reader by offering depth. You DO have to be careful with count, though, because readers may tire after 2,000 or 3,000 words. That’s why it’s best to offer a blend of short (100-250 words) posts, medium posts (300-1,000 words) and longer posts (1,500-5,000 words).
DON’T SWIPE SHOTS: It’s tempting to save on photo costs by simply downloading shots from other sites. However, stock photo sites and photographers are now adept at using software to detect unauthorized usage on sites and can force you to pay or face legal action. The safest course is to use images from reputable stock photo sites that charge for use or images from free image sites such as pixabay, which do not charge for editorial use of photos.
NO SMILEY SHOTS: Stock shots often feature office workers or construction workers grinning happily at the camera, and we know this rarely happens in real life. To make your thought leadership content look more authentic, try to search for shots that capture people in action, not looking at the camera. This is a small detail but will give your content (be it in a blog, whitepaper or presentation) a more professional, natural look.