A lot has changed recently with regards to producing top level blog posts.
I'm of course referring to new generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Wordtune entering the workflow of the majority of blog writers.
I make a large chunk of my living writing blog posts. I would have never predicted this at an early age.
In the past year alone, I’ve worked with 20 popular brands with tremendous digital clout—Klaviyo, Sprout Social, and Litmus—to name a few.
During this time, I’ve developed a seven-step method to deliver posts that outrank competitors and rarely need edits. I call it ‘The Writer’s Guide to Design Thinking’, and it’s exhaustive, full of examples, and damn hard to perfect.
This method can work to compliment using AI tools, but will ensure the result is not as generic and low level as sometimes comes from some of these AI blog generators.
What is design thinking, and why use it for blog posts?
Design thinking is using continuous innovation to create human-centric solutions. Essentially, you develop a concept after three stages of research and use it to design a solution to a problem. Finally, you refine your solution till every claim is supported by facts, figures, or case studies and your solution is leak-proof.
As a blog writer, you’re not just writing a narrative or a story—you’re solving a problem.
Unlike a journalistic report or a personal essay, a blog post needs to be actionable and value-packed to be helpful to its readers.
Blog posts that use design thinking solve problems, create exclusive value, and entice readers to take action.
Let’s dig into how design thinking works.
Step 1: Use AI to create a problem brief
Your problem brief lists everything you know about your audience, their pain points, and content goals. This will be your source of truth for all of the research, interviews, and edits.
But this is not your SEO or content strategy brief. Those exist to provide you with an overview of your blog post, your problem brief exists to give you clarity, depth, and understanding.
Your SEO and strategy briefs tell you where to dig deeper into your problem brief.
Here’s what your SEO and strategy brief looks like:
Client: Clip SMS Marketing Software
Here's what a problem brief looks like:
But how do you gather all of this information?
Do these five things before you start writing your blog post:
- Schedule a call with your strategist or send them a list of questions they can answer with a voice note or an email.
- Put aside one to two days for research. You want to dig deep into audience questions, other blog posts, and even set up interviews.
- Put aside one day for Literature Study (more on this soon)
- Schedule interviews with people who match your target audience and send them a list of questions beforehand.
- Schedule one day to outline and pull together all of the information you’ve gathered.
How AI can help with the problem brief
When building your problem brief, there are bound to be gaps. Most of the time, you'll be able to bridge those gaps through interviews and further research. However, when you are strapped for time, asking tools like ChatGPT for missing fields that are not hard to figure out can save you a lot of work.
For our example, I asked ChatGPT what questions ecommerce site owners might be asking about the topic:
Of course, when adding these questions to my brief, I try to be as doubtful as possible, challenging the relevance of each and every point the AI brings.
Read more about writing briefs.
Step 2: Literature study (AI summarization)
After such an extensive outlining and research session, I used to think my job was done. After all, I had outlined all of my strategic goals, identified customer pain points, and included expert opinions.
But after a while, I saw my problem brief missing a step—a bird’s eye view of the blog post.
Other than my own client’s content library, where did my point of view fit?
Did it have relevance in the industry as a whole?
Did it tie into any news, trends, or research findings?
And I realized I needed another step in my research process — a literature study.
A literature study shows you how something came to be, its trajectory and new developments in the industry.
Thankfully, a literature study is a shorter process than researching for the problem brief—you just need Google (and good Googling skills).
Let’s continue our example of Clip SMS Marketing Software to identify literature study questions:
These questions are not exhaustive, but they give you a good starting point. Allow yourself to go down any rabbit holes or tangents this part of the research leads you to.
How AI can help with research
There's always more research to be done, as any journalist and blog writer knows. AI can help summarize articles, to skim them for relevance before adding them to your list of sources.
Step 3: Find gaps in other articles on your topic
We have reached the final step of research in building a high-value and actionable blog post. Luckily, this is also the easiest step and also one you might be familiar with.
Read at least eight to ten blog posts with the same title as the one you’re writing.
In our example, ‘The benefits of SMS marketing in your marketing stack” or “SMS marketing versus email marketing” blog posts are our sources.
Evaluate what the top blog posts cover. Find the interesting questions, pain points and arguments that are missing in those articles. These are some questions you should ask while reading:
- Does this blog post reference any industry trends or market shifts?
- Are there any valuable examples in the blog post?
- What are the key takeaways from each section?
- What is the overall angle of the blog post?
These questions outline an article's building blocks and tell you where to add more value.
For example, in the first Google result for ‘Benefits of SMS marketing’, the writer shares how SMS marketing originated. (If executed well, you’d have uncovered this information in your literature study).
Second, she shares industry-specific statistics.
Then the blog post lists eight specific benefits of SMS marketing to strengthen your business.
- High open rates.
- Better conversion rate.
- SMS is inexpensive.
- Greater audience reach.
- Instant delivery.
- Campaign success visibility.
- Easy Opt-in/Opt-out.
- Flexible and reliable.
While these benefits are easy to skim, they lack depth. The paragraphs following these subheads only re-state what the subheader says.
For example, this is the text that follows “2: Better Conversion Rate”
“Even with the high usage of instant messaging via apps, the advantages of SMS in business are plenty. For instance, SMS still witnesses a better conversion rate than all its new-age counterparts. People are more likely to visit your business and take action on promotions or offers shared through SMS than via any other marketing service.”
Here, the only new information is that people are more likely to act on promotions shared through SMS, but even this doesn’t give any specific numbers or conversion rates to convince us of the likelihood.
After thoroughly evaluating this blog post, we notice that it does not give any specific examples of SMS marketing in action, SMS marketing campaigns, or even the results SMS marketing brought for a brand.
Do as many case studies as you need to understand your core concept.
Now, to make your blog post more valuable and actionable, identify areas of opportunity.
For example, the first case study for ‘Benefits of SMS marketing’ does not list any examples or takeaways. You can easily create a better blog post by adding those to the foundation created by the existing blog.
An important strategy to creating a better blog post is to find leaks in the existing content and plug them with context, examples, and takeaways.
How AI can help with finding gaps
While this is a repeat of something we already wrote, using AI to make summarization to the articles will make it easier for you to spot the gaps you might help fill in with your article. It can be quite overwhelming to review even three articles at once. Use Wordtune Read to skim over the articles and extract your winning concept for the piece (which is the next step).
Step 4: Define a concept
Even though the previous step will help you understand (and outrank) competing articles, your entire blog post cannot be based on finding and plugging leaks.
Because your piece will lack cohesion. You need a strong concept to avoid creating a disjointed and bumpy article.
Your concept is a single idea that unifies every part of your piece.
Storytelling, using stats and data, and referencing studies are all strategies. Your concept uses multiple strategies to accomplish its goal.
For example, my concept for the piece on SMS marketing will be:
“Show readers how phone consumption has not just increased but also evolved over time. When millennials started using smartphones their primary purpose was to talk to their friends and family—via both phone calls and text.
Both Gen Z and Millennials use their phones to shop, interact with consumer-focused content, and share recommendations. But how can you redirect these changing winds into profit for your business?”
So how do you come up with a concept?
For me, a concept develops in response to extensive research. But here are some other ways to develop a concept:
- Talk to an expert in the field—they’ll always have an opinion. You can build on that.
- Follow conversations around your topic on social media—especially those where experts weigh in. You’ll learn of new developments, industry trends, and market predictions.
- Brainstorm. Just let your ideas flow and note them down without critiquing them. Soon you’ll get past the surface level ideas and to a unique standpoint—the conceptual bedrock.
Now that you’ve developed a concept, you can begin designing your piece.
How AI can help with the brief
It's extremely important to articulate your found concept as concisely as possible. This is where AI paraphrasing comes in handy. Simply enter your initial concept in, and let AI come up with better alternatives.
In the example below, you can see how AI was able to improve the initial articulation of my concept.
Step 5: Design your piece and build an outline
This step is the most fun part!
Designing is where you use your concept to build an outline.
How? You keep asking questions and plugging in research to answer them.
Here’s what this would look like for our piece on SMS Marketing:
Note: This is a barebones outline. Feel free to add as much information to your outlines as you feel is essential. Good outlines help you stay on track while writing. They also identify missing links, disjointed data, and obstructions to a logical flow.
How AI can help with the outline
I prefer to build the outline myself, since this way I can make sure I keep control over the article. However, I've spoken to many writers who use AI to produce the outline. If you do go the AI way, make sure you define the prompt in an elaborate way, so the outline correlates to your concept properly.
Step 6: Write the blog post with AI
This is a critical step—even if it might not appear that way.
After you’ve developed an outline, refine each segment. Replace incomplete hypotheses with complete ideas and identify how you can substantiate them. These are the questions you should be asking at this stage:
1. How can I paint a word picture for this segment? Are there any analogies, case studies, or even fictional stories I can use?
For example, in a blog post I wrote on Twitter Ecommerce for Sprout Social, I used an analogy to explain what Twitter drops were. It said:
“Product Drops are to Twitter shopping as trailers are to movies. Show potential customers a sneak peek of products and drum up anticipation before they officially launch.”
This analogy cements the reader’s understanding more effectively than my version from Step 5:
“Product Drops show potential customers a sneak peek of products through a Tweet before they officially launch.”
2. How can I close the loop for my reader?
For example, in How To Be a Great Storyteller, I add takeaways at the end of every section.
Why? Because these sections cover many sub-topics and I didn’t want my readers to connect these dots themselves.
Here’s what this looks like:
A good story is designed. Each element needs to lead the narrative forward while being coherent, crisp, and well-formed. The topics and characters need to come together logically while paying attention to details and maintaining balance.
One rule I stand by: A good story does two things: show the reader something in the world, and engage the reader in a conversation.
The takeaway: Critical thought is the foundation of good storytelling. You need to know every element of your story to construct a powerful narrative. Pinker’s guide is accessible, actionable, and relevant.”
3. Can I show an example of this in action?
Very few things make information as memorable as good illustrations or pictures.
An Instagram reel in action is more memorable than text saying, “an Instagram reel is a 15-second film. You can add multiple photos and videos to a reel-making space on your Instagram account’.
Here’s how I showcase ‘Product Drops’ in action for one of my blog posts:
You can also aid your ideas with statistics, case studies, and expert quotes.
Note: Repeat Steps 5 and 6 till your argument is cohesive and watertight. There shouldn’t be a single passage that makes a reader doubt your expertise or research.
How AI can help write your post
AI is able to help you the most with this step.
I'll share just a few examples below to show how Wordtune produces relevant analogies, cited statistics and expert quotes, among other suggestions.
Statistics (with cited URL sources):
Step 7: Presentation and editing
This is your final draft.
Now that your ideas are as refined as possible, you need to go over your writing with a fine tooth comb.
- Cleaning up the structure
- Rewriting headings to match SEO guidelines
- Self Editing
- Formatting your document
- Adding Alt text
- Attaching a folder of images for your editor or client
- Checking to ensure the blog post matches the client’s editorial guidelines and style guide.
- Checking sharing permissions
And hitting send.
How AI can help with editing
We actually wrote about the topic of AI editing, paraphrasing and proofreading extensively, so feel free to follow the full tutorial.
Writing a blog is hard
From problem briefs to outlines—writing a valuable blog post is hard work. To make it easier, I give myself time between each step to let ideas breathe. As a result, I often come back with a fresher perspective and a chopping block.
It’s important to be ruthless while refining your vision. Some ideas need to go. Make sure you’re left with only the key pieces of the puzzle so your readers can dig deep into every concept without wasting time.
Getting a friend or fellow writer to review your blog post before you hit ‘send’ is also helpful. They can catch errors you might have missed in your excitement to get the piece across the finish line.
This article was co-written with Wordtune. Wordtune didn’t write the whole piece. Instead, it contributed ideas, suggested rephrasing alternatives, maintained consistency in tone, and of course - made the process much more fun for the writer.