Content Strategist, Flawless Inbound
When was the last time you actually paid attention to what you're reading – the words, the meaning, what's written between the lines? We're so enveloped in writing that we often take it for granted. Here's how I found new appreciation for great content. Buckle up and ride shot-gun with me on a road trip down Writer's Boulevard!
Here's a simple question: When was the last time you read a well-written article, novel, essay – anything, really – and thought by yourself: "It's not that hard. I could do that!" Let me be honest with you, I've certainly been guilty of such or similar notions, carelessly uttered aloud or inside my head. But before you write me off (no pun intended) as a traitor to my own trade, bear with me a little longer, because my current job in Marketing has taught me a thing or two about an occupation I thought I knew like the back of my hand.
Old Roots, New Fields
For over a dozen years, I've dipped my toes (and, to be honest, my feet and ankles and whole legs) into pretty much every corner of the wide and wayward ocean that is writing and publishing: articles for online magazines, academic book editing and reviews, countless last-minute seminar papers, a dissertation, blog posts, social media, and eulogies, I've written and edited more than I'm comfortable remembering.
Writing had always been my way of processing information. After graduating from a degree in History, I found myself yearning for a more timely application for my writing. I got lucky: almost immediately, I found a job as a Content Strategist. I like that it allows me to explore all the nooks and crannies of the contemporary media landscape. Working with different clients from different industries is exciting, and, most of all, I enjoy the opportunity to bring their stories to life.
With every day that I dive deeper into Marketing, I stand more and more convinced that good writing isn't about fancy words or precise grammar, but about the ability to create messages that resonate. Here's why:
I've spent a lot of time in university. You know what they – that ominous entity of undefined yet universally accepted wisdom speakers (The truth is out there!) – say about the ivory tower: crusty, dusty, unemployable. In my opinion, it's little more than a traditionalised barrier to uphold the perceived discrepancy between the glorified bubble of academia and the harsh parallel reality of the 'real' world.
And while the stereotypical crazy professors and weird students who exclusively inhabit their own headspace are a part of this construct that we call secondary education, more than a decade in university has taught me a lot of very useful and very realistic skills – such as the value of solid research, ethical integrity, and how to think strategically.
In my former life, writing was the natural product of research as well as the weapon of choice to make the results of said research strategy accessible to others (in the case of the Humanities, 'others' is the sum of supervisors, close family members, and really good friends who are contractually or socially obliged to read said products and offer diplomatic criticism thereof).
In my current role as a Marketing professional – one that I had never imagined myself to be in – writing is a service. I get to apply the same toolkit that I once used to tell stories about 18th century people to a whole different set of questions: how to get which bits of information about products to the people who want to hear it most (or maybe don't even know that they do yet).
Over the last few months, my perception of great writing has expanded dramatically. When formerly I was most intrigued by coherent argumentation, great grammar, or stylistic finesse, I am now actively seeking out copy that manages to combine all those factors with the ability to convey information to customers and successfully engage them – in short, I'm looking for writing that resonates with the breadth of human needs and emotions.
Telling Their Story
At Flawless, we are working with clients in SaaS, Health Care, Manufacturing, Waste Management, and many other industries on a daily basis. Besides the technical content requirements (SEO, information), the Marketing success of our clients depends on our team to get their messages across. That – for me – is where the trade turns into an art form.
From my experience, I've received the most positive feedback on projects that I can personally relate to and feel passionate about because it allows me to pass that personal dimension on to the readers. Yes, it's important to get the details right, and yes, you need the right key words so you can be found by algorithms. But in a human to human world, wrapping it up in a layer of human connection will make the difference.
Writing in Times of CoViD
Great content writing happens when we relate to our clients and see them and their clients as individuals with a problem that requires solving – not just a money-making opportunity. My superpower is my ability to connect the dots, do research, and bring everything into writing. I can use that skill to make a clients' products and services seen and understood.
The times when Marketing's primary goal was to desperately bring people to buy things for the sake of buying them are over. That's the bottom line of the Inbound methodology: presenting a product that solves a problem or adds value, and to educate people so they can make an informed decision. Right now, in mid-2020, the dominating problem is a global pandemic.
Over the last two months and a bit, I've noticed that people are reacting more strongly to straight-forward and uplifting messages – those that get to the point and help solve problems. In light of a crisis that hit us all like a wrecking ball, we are, as a species, looking for connections with others across the social distance and for a helping hand. Following that intuition, I've adapted my content to reflect those values as much as possible. So far, it resonates.
Why You Should Care About Writing
A lot of factors go into a winning Marketing strategy: SEO can give you the right buzzwords; spec sheets provide facts; excellent web design makes for a great user experience; demos and trials give your prospects an insight in what your product can do. Great content, however, brings all those factors together for the reader to see and engage with.
Companies that value good stories and encourage powerful storytelling in their Marketing strategy give their clients a chance to form deeper connections with a product, service, or brand identity. Taking into account the changing Sales and Marketing landscape during and post Corona, I am confident that – going forward – the deep brand attachment great content creates will be an even more essential part of what makes or breaks a business' success.
Next time you read an excellent article, an enticing book, an informative brochure, or a useful FAQ section, ask yourself again: Could you do it? And, more importantly, is your company's story getting the writing it deserves? If yes, congratulations! If not, you know whom to call (Hint: it's not the Ghostbusters).
Thanks for riding along and until next time. Stay safe.