5 mistakes that keep your writing from gaining traction

by Amanda Miller Littlejohn, personal brand strategist and founder PYG Academy

When I started writing as a print reporter for a newspaper in Washington, DC I knew I was a strong writer. I was a former English major who had been writing for most of my life, so I was fairly confident in my ability to share my ideas through words.

But what I didn't know was how being a strong writer isn't enough if you want your writing to gain traction.

As I learned the business of news, I quickly found out that subject-verb agreement and flowery prose are just the beginning.

I had to learn how to pitch the concept to editors before they'd green light my story.

I had to craft the perfect headline that would intrigue new readers.

And I had to go deep into one area if I wanted to brand myself and own my own "beat" - journalism parlance for the topic you write about most authoritatively.

The same goes for you.

You have to know how to sell your ideas if you ever want people to read them, and that starts with branding your writing as a credible source of information on your topic.

Here are 5 of the most common mistakes you may be making if you haven't been able to get traction through your writing.


You lack a clear focus

If you're not getting traction or leads from your writing, you may be talking about too many things. As a result people don't know what you do, what they can rely on you for, or why they should be reading what you're putting out there.

You may be like the many people I see who want to tackle too many topics when they first start out. This can easily confuse your audience and cause them to tune out before they've even given you a chance.

Solution: Focus on one topic and build traction with that topic before introducing new topics of expertise to your audience.


You're not writing from a strategic position

Before you publish a Linkedin post, a Medium article or even a tweet, have you thought about what you want your reader to do as a result of reading?

For example, if you write about positioning yourself for a career pivot, are you using the article to introduce your career pivoting workshop, tease one of the points in your upcoming career pivoting book, or connect your readers to your online community of career pivoters?

When you fail to invoke a strategy - even loosely - you can easily fall into the trap of creating content just to create it.

Ultimately, the goal of your content should be not only to position you as an expert but to also connect you to what you want more of - more job interviews, more speaking engagements, more book sales, more social media followers or more coaching clients.

Solution - Before you write, think about what you want more of, and what the next steps could be for getting there. How is each piece of your writing helping your audience take the next step?


You're not positioning your writing as a solution

Sometimes, during the personal branding process we make the mistake of thinking that our writing should be only about, well, ourselves.

However, if you want people to read, engage and share your work it has to somehow be a solution to a problem they have.

Now this doesn't mean you can only write "how to" articles tied to your expertise - your writing can also be a solution by making someone laugh, inspiring them to move forward, or sparking a creative idea.

Solution: Before you write, think about your intention behind your solution. Are you setting out to inform, educate, entertain, or inspire?


Your headlines are making your writing hard to find online

When I work with personal branding clients, my goal is to help them to stand out beyond the people they already know.

But one thing I see often when giving writing feedback is our headlines are too specific to attract an audience of strangers.

One thing I learned early when I was working as a print reporter in the newsroom is how important headlines are to the writing process.

You need to quickly capture the attention and intrigue of your reader so they read on. If your headline only makes sense to you and people who know you, two critical issues emerge.

For one, most people won't know what it means so they won't be intrigued to learn more. Secondly, without a good headline, it will be difficult to find in a general internet search.

Solution: Before you press publish, ask yourself "would anyone Google this headline when searching for information on this topic?"


You are inconsistent in the beginning and/or you give up too soon

You have to talk about the same topic and offer value consistently in order to build trust. Only when you build trust can you build an audience of engaged readers who keep coming back to you.

The dynamic between writers and readers is a relationship like any other, so you can't expect overnight intimacy.

Think about the people you have full faith and trust in. They may be trusted friends, confidantes, employees, or vendors.

Before handing over your complete trust in them, they had to prove themselves to you, right? Trust didn't happen overnight.

The same goes for you and your audience. You have to keep showing up consistently, especially in the beginning when you're working on gaining traction.

Solution: Hang in there with your readers and consistently add value around your topic of expertise so they have the chance to see you as their guru on your topic.

Have you made any of these writing mistakes? How could fixing just one or two of these gaffes change the audience you're able to reach through your words?

If you want to learn how to master writing for thought leadership and get even more helpful insights like these, there is still time to join our 6 week group intensive on writing!

We'll be discussing how to uncover writing ideas, create six months of writing topics, determine what to write about, market your writing and more.

Are ready to step out of the shadows? Are you ready to find and amplify your voice online? We are building a cohort of intentional thought leaders and would love to have you join us.