Do you know what separates the ordinary writers from the extraordinary?

Beginning at Johns Hopkins in 2012, I spent half a decade pondering this question. I wanted to know what makes our words persuasive and how to reach more people with them.

I have read hundreds of books and thousands of articles, as well as contributed over 120 pages of original academic research on the topic. In all this study, I was surprised to find that the answer is actually quite simple.

Practically everyone can begin implementing this today and take their writing to the next level.

Extraordinary writers don’t write to receive anything, they write to add value to their audience.

The mistake so many writers make is that they write with selfish motives. They write for followers, or money, or sheer adulation… but extraordinary writers don’t do this.

Extraordinary writers understand that readers only read for one reason. They read to receive value. The irony is that by focusing on adding value, extraordinary writers end up receiving tons of followers, money, and adulation anyway — they just weren’t looking for it.

Where Does Value Come From?

Value comes from unique knowledge or insight. This typically takes three forms:

We share experience: Everyone has experience with something. When we share our unique experiences with others, we are trailblazing a path for our audience to follow. This can be as simple as a mom sharing her pregnancy experience with other moms who are due, or as complex as Tony Robbins sharing in his book, Awaken The Giant Within, how he used neuro-associative conditioning to transform his confidence and make powerful changes in his personal life.

We explain research: A reader lives a thousand lives before they die, the one who never reads lives only one — George R.R. Martin. The great thing about research is it allows us to go beyond our personal experience and share the unique knowledge and insights of others with our audience.

We describe reporting: Reporting is describing an event or first-hand account to your audience. This gives writers the power to place their audience at the scene of an event or allow them to hear what went on “in the room.” For example, if you attended a significant event you can describe what it was like to be there; or, if you interviewed someone amazing you can describe what they said.

The Best Approach

Now you know how to share value with your reader, but I haven’t told you the best approach. There are two types of content on the internet, shallow content and quality content.

A Litmus Test For Quality

If your article meets all the following criteria then it is quality content, if it doesn’t then it is shallow content.

1.) Content that is timeless — content that is just as relevant today as it will be 10 years from now.

2.) Content that you believe — writing what you believe is the only way others will believe what you say.

3.) Content that adds value — content that shares unique knowledge or insight from your experience, research, or reporting.

4.) Content that matters to you — because if it matters to you, chances are it will matter to someone else as well

Does this Approach Really Work?

Ali Mese, the founder of The Startup (#7 Publication on Medium) shared how writing only 15 quality articles propelled him to the top of Medium.

These articles helped him amass over 58,000 personal followers and a publication that boast a whopping 280,000 followers. He says “I will publish an article only when I have something important to say.” He averages one article every two months.

Stats for Ali Mese’s 15 Articles:

Think of how much more engagement your articles will get if your primary focus is to provide value to your audience.

The 3 Powers of Quality Articles

  • The power of compound interest. Since every article is timeless, they never stop being relevant. This causes them to appear in top search engine results, feature in national publications, and gain backlinks from other articles. All of this multiplies your readership in extraordinary ways.
  • The power of increased exposure. Great articles get featured on Medium’s home page, retweeted by medium staff, and shared by people and publications with huge amounts of followers. For instance, the fifth article I wrote Strategic Leadership: Momentum Changes Everything was retweeted by Medium Staff and the Washington Post, exposing it to over 2.3 million followers.
  • The power of deeper engagement. When an article adds value to others, they engage more deeply with it. You will get more fans and followers from your quality articles — a massive amount more. They will clap more, highlight more, and follow you more. This, in turn, exposes your article to their followers, generating deeper returns on your investment.

Check out the startup my wife and I founded to help use business as a way of fighting human trafficking. We empower women to change the world through a cup of coffee. Fair Trade Coffee Cups and Products —

Originally published at