This week I got the dream job of my life. Well, sort of…
My good friends at Acrolinx asked me to attend an event they’re sponsoring. As soon as I heard the words I assumed they meant a conference, a roadshow, or some other kind of industry event. Okay, I thought, mustering my enthusiasm, here we go.
As it turns out, they were actually inviting me to The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Yay! I mean, come on. I know I’m the Content Wrangler and all, but surely I’m not the only one who sees the fun in bringing cowboys and content together. Can I get a yee-haw?
All right, so maybe you’re not as excited as I was. Fine, though I honestly don’t know why. After all, writing has a lot more to do with bull riding than you probably would have guessed. Let me explain what I mean.
- It’s a lot harder than it looks.
As a spectator sitting in the stands, it’s easy to think that riding a bull is a pretty straightforward proposition. You get on and you don’t let go. In reality, it’s a different story. It takes experience, timing, and physical stamina to ride the buck successfully without getting thrown off.
Creating amazing content is no different. Sure, everyone thinks they’re a great writer, but that’s just not true. Finding the right words to express complex ideas in a way that’s easy to understand is really hard. All the more so when you’ve also got to worry about things like adopting the right style and tone of voice to make your content engaging.
So hats off to all the bull riders and writers. They deserve our admiration.
- You’ve got to have the right equipment.
When you think of a rodeo, you probably imagine a cowboy. You know, one wearing boots with spurs who’s got a lasso in his hand and (depending on the event) a saddle tucked under his arm. These aren’t just the components of an elaborate costume; they all help the cowboy do his job. The boots offer protection, the spurs help him maintain his balance, and the lasso is how he captures animals.
Of course, writers use tools too — some of which help ensure that their writing is accurate and on brand. In small organizations, those tools might include a dictionary and thesaurus, or a company style guide. At larger organizations where there are many writers creating content across departments, offices, and geographies, often that’s just not enough. To create great content at scale, big companies generally need a content optimization platform to help them ensure quality and consistency.
- Your lassoing skills matter.
Cowboys lasso animals, writers lasso words — to be honest, I’m not sure who has the harder job. In both cases, it’s all about trying to take something that’s totally wild (whether it’s a calf or the English language) and wrangle it into submission until it does what you want.
I’ve never gone head to head with a bull calf before, but I know from experience just how hard it is to lasso the right words to create really compelling content. As with any skill, it’s a matter of lots of practice. As with bull riding, it also helps to never show any fear.
- Individuals may shine, but it’s actually a team sport.
At the rodeo, the cowboys are the stars of the show. But they couldn’t do their job if it weren’t for all of the people who support them. The rodeo clown is just one example. While you may think of them as simply providing comic relief, they’re also there to protect riders thrown from the bull. Without the clowns, there’d be a lot more injured cowboys.
It’s the same with writing. We tend to think of it as a job for one where the author gets all of the glory. But often there are many people behind a good piece of content. From writers and editors, to subject matter experts and graphic designers, it takes a small army to produce really great content.
- It’s all about your score.
To win an event at the rodeo, you need to earn the highest score. There are typically between two and four judges who score both the cowboys and the animals, awarding them between 1 and 25 points each. The result is a score that can range from a low of 4 points to a high of 100. Since both cowboys and animals can have an off night, a low score (typically 59 points) can trigger an automatic re-ride option.
To ensure the quality of your writing, content scoring is also important. It’s a great early indication of whether or not your content is well written enough to meet its potential and really have an impact. According to Acrolinx, for example, any piece of content that earns a content impact score of less than 70 isn’t likely to be very effective. In fact, content with scores below that basically should trigger a re-ride… er… a re-write option.
So there you have it: Five truths about content coming to you live from The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. I hope it has inspired you to dust off your cowboy boots, fire up your laptop, and get busy creating great content. Now can I get that yee-haw?