This is a true story.
One time, a client got on their podcast and started to tell a story about their kid eating ice cream. It was a really long story; they talked about the color of the sky, the line at the ice cream shop, and even what the people in line behind them were talking about.
It was a long-ass story.
Honestly, after listening to it, our eyes had glazed over — so much so that we missed the small nugget of “lesson” they had tied in. Something about how ice cream melts but it’s about the journey. We’re a little unclear on that.
But after talking to the client about the episode, they asked: “What did you think about my story? Did it support the main idea?”
And you know what? We had to tell them NO. Because the story was so long and so seemingly disconnected from the main idea that it didn’t even seem relevant.
Our client isn’t the only one who’s done this, or will do this. We see it happen all the time. Because we’re told that “stories sell,” we’re all trying to infuse more stories into our content and copy.
But if we’re not finding the main idea and really tying it into a lesson, tip, or revelation… we’re kind of wasting everyone’s time.
To keep your audience interested in your content and copy, you need to get to the point. And sometimes that means being ruthless about what you keep and what you don’t. Kill your darlings and all that.
But how do you make sure you’re finding the main idea, creating clear content, and not rambling about? Read on!
Do you have a thesis?
Bringing it back to middle school and high school English class for a second: Do you have a thesis statement? I know you probably haven’t written an essay in what feels like forever, but this is a skill that’s essential to writing. (English major over here, and wow. It turns out I do, indeed, use my degree. I hope my parents are reading this.)
Just like an essay, your content needs to have a main point — whether that’s a call to action, making an argument, building a connection, etc. You should have ONE main point, and you need to stick with it.
And it doesn’t matter if the piece of content is long (like a blog post) or super short (like a social media caption). Each bullet point, the stories you tell to help paint the picture, all the way down to your CTAs — it all needs to come back to the main point.
How to hone in on your main idea
What if you want to tell a story… but you don’t know what the main idea is? We’ve got you covered. These 4 tips can help you find the main idea and stay on topic.
#1: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF IT?
With this specific piece of content:
- Do you want your readers/listeners/audience to follow you for more XYZ tips (brand awareness)?
- Do you want them to sign up to learn more about 1:1 coaching (drive leads)?
- Do you want them to engage with your posts (build connections)?
And with your content in general, what are your business goals? What is the overarching goal of your content strategy? Are you creating content because you want to sell more of your products? Are you in the middle of a launch? Are you trying to build authority in your space?
What, exactly, are you getting out of the story you’re telling? Sorry, but you’re not just telling a story to tell a story. You’ve gotta have a reason — and that can help you focus more on the main idea.
Knowing what you want (aka your end goal) has a domino effect. Because when you know what you want, you can steer your audience in that direction. Being clear on what you want your story to do (for them and you) helps you share the idea faster and with more clarity, too.
Which brings me to my next point…
#2: WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR AUDIENCE TO GET OUT OF IT?
Think about the main point kind as a CTA of sorts. With CTAs, or calls to action, you have a clear, decisive action you want people to take. Sign up for your course. Send you a DM. Buy your digital products.
The main point when we’re talking about content is pretty similar. Do you want to drive more leads with your content? Build brand awareness? How about growing connections?
You have to be thoughtful about what you want your audience to get out of the story you’re telling or the big idea you’re sharing. Because hoping your people can find the directions in a jumbled mess is pointless. They won’t. No one can.
So BE CLEAR and help people find the way.
#3: VISUALLY MAP IT OUT WITH A FLOWCHART
Look, it worked for me in college when I wrote the hardest essay of my life. I used a flowchart to map out my ideas and give everything a vision. And you know what? I got an A. It was actually one of the best papers I’ve ever written. And while I can’t remember what it was about, I do remember the process.
It’s stuck with me and is actually something I use on the daily here at Uncanny.
Flowcharts help you get a better angle of where everything is going. It helps you get the ideas out of your head, onto paper, and into working order. You’re basically writing an outline for your copy or content here.
Because when it’s all jumbled up in your head, it’s hard to tell whether or not it makes sense. But a flowchart forces you to make sense of it. You’ll start to see holes and how you can reorganize it all so it comes back to the main point.
Kind of like this guy.
NOTE FROM LATASHA: Clients love post-its for this!
#4: SEE WHAT YOU CAN CUT
30% of everything you write can be cut. That’s not a real stat but it feels right. I just know it.
Seriously, there’s so much that you don’t need in your content. Like me telling you that stat wasn’t real. But the rules don’t apply to me because everyone wants to hear what I have to say. Sike. I still have to be a little ruthless when reviewing my copy.
I get it. There’s so much you want to say! But you don’t NEED to say EVERYTHING. So when you’re reviewing your copy, see what you can cut. Don’t be shy.
NOTE FROM LATASHA: You can also edit your scripts this way! We’re all long-winded when we’re trying to explain things on camera… but be succinct as much as you can.
Feel like you’re buying the lede? We can help.
Remember, staying on topic is a delicate balancing act between being clear and concise, but not cutting so much out that you lose intrigue. Determining that line can be tough. So if you feel like you need a little help getting your copy there…
Give us a ring! The girlies are ready to help ✨✨Schedule a call here!