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How Article Frames Show Readers a Clearer Content Picture

Consider these two ideas: tennis and your lounge room. These ideas appear disparate. Tennis? My lounge room? So what? Put a Nintendo Wii into the picture. Now you have a frame—or context—for the two ideas. Within the frame provided by the Nintendo Wii, tennis in your lounge room makes sense.

A frame is a great way to communicate information. In journalism, it’s called a hook, or story angle. In marketing, the frame is provided by a product’s unique selling proposition. And a frame is something that bloggers can use to immediately draw users in and keep them reading.

Image by stock.xchng user pale

A frame is what makes the difference between the headline “Three things bloggers should consider in writing a post” and a headline that reads, “Blood, Sweat and Tears: Writing Advice I Learned the Hard Way.”

A frame is what makes the difference between an unfocused collection of disparate thoughts about setting up a home gym, and a post whose clear structure takes the reader on a journey through your experience setting up your own home gym.

A frame is what gives readers a reason to read: it promises a deliverable or outcome that you can highlight in your headline, promise in your teaser or opening paragraph, and shape your entire piece around. It lets your readers know what they’re getting—and how they can fit that information into their existing knowledge bank—before they even click the link to the full blog post for the complete picture.

As you can see, context—a frame—is an incredibly valuable tool for the blogger.

How does it work?

How can you put a frame around a basic idea that you’ve had for a post? Different authors take different approaches, but here are a few of the most common that I know of.

Headline first

Some authors choose to write a headline first, then use it to frame their content. They might know they have a content gap in their blog—say, on the basics of birthday cake decoration—and they might write a snappy headline first: “Dragons to Dragsters: Breathtaking Birthday Cake Ideas”, for example.

Then they’ll plan the article around that theme. Perhaps they’ll have a section on organic-shaped cakes, and one on cakes that look like man-made objects. Perhaps they’ll shape the post for different age brackets, starting with the dragon for young children’s birthdays, and working through different possibilities, arriving at the dragster cake last, for adults.

As you can see from this example, a headline can offer a number of possibilities for framing your article. It can provide a great starting point for a frame.

Topic first

Sometimes, the topic itself will offer you a frame for the content. Writing a post on your favorite golf courses? Why not make your list contain either nine or 18 courses, to reflect the number of holes in a game?

Perhaps your post on mixing the perfect Martini could be structured to reflect the steps in the process: icing the glass, rinsing it with vermouth, preparing the garnish, and so on. Or perhaps you’ll shape it around quotes about Martinis from celebrities, books, or movies.

Clearly, the topic of your post can provide you with a plethora of hooks or angles. Don’t just go for the most obvious ones: though. Sometimes, it’s the least-common aspect of a topic that provides fresh ground, and a new perspective for writers. Instead of reviewing the latest sci-fi flick like every other film blogger, you might choose the aspect you felt was the best in the movie—perhaps the soundtrack, or the cast—and use that as the viewpoint from which to review the film.

Content first

This is usually the approach I use: I write the content, the process of which gives me a few ideas for angles. Then I select the one that I feel is the strongest, and reshape my post around it.

It may sound like double-handling, but the way I see it, I’ll have to edit the post anyway, so the review is no big deal. Also, the hook I choose is usually the one that’s been made clearest by the content I’ve written, so the post usually already leans in the direction in which I want to take it.

As I write this post, it’s now that I’m beginning to think, “Okay, I know what I’ve said here. What angles can I see?” I’ve got three options in this list, so I could use the number three in my title. I’ve also talked a lot about hooks and frames; I could pick up on that theme in my title, calling the piece something like “How an Article Frame Gives Readers a Clearer Picture”. That works well with the picture reference I used in the post’s opening. I’ve used the word “context” a lot, but it’d be easy to change those references to “frame” to fit this angle.

Alternatively, I could work with the hook angle, changing my opening to talk about grabbing readers’ attention, and reeling them in with the bobbing lure of a promised post deliverable. I could call the article something like “Land Readers Like a Pro Using Catchy Article Hooks”.

Again, this is a fairly open-ended approach—the options are many, but because you already have your content drafted, they’re not quite as unlimited as they may seem when you’re starting with a headline or a broad topic. I find this approach gives a bit more direction than the others. That said, it’s important to take care to work your context into the post very well, so that it’s seamlessly integrated, and cohesive with the rest of the content you’ve prepared.

Not just posts

A content frame doesn’t have applications in posts or articles. You can just as easily and effectively use it to create a strong selling point for other information products: ebooks, reports, tutorial series, email newsletters, and so on.

Examples? 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is a great one. This content could simply have been pitched to readers as a list of essential tips, or master-blogger’s secrets. But as concepts that clearly identify reader deliverables, those options are pretty hazy.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog, on the other hand, says what the reader will get. The content is structured accordingly. Readers know what to expect, and they receive it. That leads to customer satisfaction, and builds Darren’s reputation for honesty and integrity in the process.

See how beneficial a good frame can be for matching your content to your readers? How serious are you about framing your content? Do you do it often? What tips can you share?

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Vivek Barun says:

    This is a great tip. Will use it more often now!

  2. I love this Darren! Metaphors and angles are how my mind works, so this framing or reframing article is an instant “YES”! I also tend to write my posts and then come up with the title. Other times I come up with a theme, then a title, then the content. It depends on how I plan to deliver it.

    For video, for example, I’m more likely to plan it out before I film. For writing, I can write and edit later so it’s a little bit more malleable.

  3. dotCOMreport says:

    Frames in articles or blog posts, yes. As easily overlooked as they are, they really are important. But thanks for showing that they could also be used in other products as well.

  4. Gi. Joe says:

    hi….i come search with google, and i found your site. wow your site is very nice, can we make a friendship in web?. if you have a time, maybe you can visit my blog too. thanks

    Gi. Joe

  5. d3so says:

    I haven’t been framing my articles but now I’m starting to use headlines. This is a topic that isn’t talked about but is important.

  6. adolf_ivanich says:

    very interesting approach

  7. Hi Georgina,
    Every post I have read that you write is inspiring and can see clearly why Darren chose to work with you.

    On the topic of Frames I have never heard this terminology before but all that you say helps remind me of the different ways you can structure a product be it a blog post or e book. Your article helps educate me once again on how to keep the reader wanting to moving deeper into the content. I work on achieving this on my site all the time.

    And one way to do that is to create valuable material like you do that hooks me all the way through.
    Thanks again,
    David

  8. jason says:

    I don’t mind article frames, but I would be happy to see more about this topic. Thanks for the post!

  9. Marie Young says:

    Great post. I like how you walked us through your thought process to give us really actionable advice. I read so many general post they say “you need to do X” but never give good details on how to do it.

  10. Dan says:

    Thanks Georgina, I apply this technique to my academic writing, especially when it comes to formulating an exact title to the piece.

  11. Paul says:

    By George I think I’ve got it: “14 Days to Beautiful Blooming Roses” or maybe “12 tips to gorgeous roses all year long”.

    Maybe with practice and patience I’ll get better. Thanks David for this great post.
    Paul

  12. Christina says:

    This piece was great Darren! I tend to start with my title and build a post around it. I will have a picture in my mind and then need to expand on that. Thanks for the great tips, will be using them.

  13. I have actually just started to restructure the way I approach a post, and this method has worked for me. After doing the 31 DBBB I took a different approach to writing my blog posts. It’s hard for a writer to pull themselves out of the box and approach their own articles with the scrutiny in which readers may apply to our work. I think approaching the article with a frame allows us to get a better perspective of what the reader will see.

  14. Walker says:

    That’s great advice. I usually write my content first and let the title come afterwards. For my work blog I am more structured and informative. On my personal blog, Delicacies.wordpress.com, I tend to use titles that are more humorous and catchy than informative. It’s a different content and less specific so it works, I think!

  15. Hi Georgina, some great advice for us budding content writers. I tend to write my content first, although the subject is very clear, the title is not always. Titles are something I have struggled a bit with, do you write for SEO or people or both.
    I like the concept of framing your content, and you have explained it brilliantly. More to think about.

    Pete

  16. OK, there needs to be one contrarian view. I started out as a business reporter without the luxury of time to write my story and then figure out the angle. I’m of old school of write the “grabber” or angle or story idea first. Everything flows from the grabber — the evidence you need to support your angle or POV, quotes from authorities, images you use and links to other sites. I just think you’re doing double the work when you start to write without a guidepost to lead you.

  17. Georgina, this is an excellent metaphor for what I call cohesive purpose when I teach this to my writing students. I start every piece of writing with a goal or purpose in mind. Even fiction. What is the theme of what I want to say? How do I want people to feel? What do I want them to learn. Once I have that, it’s like a target. Then I can pick and choose facts and vignettes and instructions that will help me hit that target.

    A frame is a wonderfully visual description that helps clarify this process.

  18. Nathan says:

    Thanks Georgina, for the advice. I had not heard of frames (other than for pictures or glasses), so this was very informative. I especially like how you suggested 3 different methods to come up with them.

  19. Hi Georgina, thanks for sharing this wonderful info though it is a great way to emphasis on the content if it is a blog. But as far as business blogs or sites are concern then i think it depends on the industry, as it could look a little bit odd if it doesn’t match the overall theme of the site/blog.

  20. Sandra says:

    I usually start with what I think is an attention grabbing headline but as I advance through the article the focus changes and I have to change the title. So for me it is a bit of a mix. I don’t think we can make rules for writing. Pity!

  21. Rita says:

    Thanks for these ideas.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide