Writing is easy. Writing well is really hard, because if you are any good at it, people have likely been telling you that you are good at it for far too long for you to think you are anything but a tiny little Hemmingway with a better handle on your drinking problem. But….here’s the thing:
You are not. I am not (yes I am!) No, I’m not.
Writing, especially business writing. ESPECIALLY B2B technical marketing writing is so bad you guys. But that doesn’t mean I want us all to give up and go home. NO! I want us to focus on making all the content we’re so busy creating BETTER.
So I will tell you all the things I tell the writers here (and have had drilled into me in newsrooms, investment firms, mean blog comments, magazine editors and one time when I auditioned for American Idol).
You’re not crafting anything.
Joyce Carol Oates crafts things. John Irving creates characters. You (read: I) write about software and technology, products and work. But hey, that doesn’t mean your work should be lifeless. Your writing, IS important and it WILL be read by someone besides SEO robots or octupi or whatever they are using to “crawl” the web these days. So while you may not be writing the next american novel, you can put your best creative juices into seeing your audience or yes, writing to that one person.
Lose the jargon.
I remember when Kris Dunn first called me up to write for Fistful of Talent. He thought it was hilarious that I compared onboarding to waterboarding (which is not at all funny now…or then) but it was because I didn’t know. The reason I didn’t know was because I was afloat in a sea of holier than thou blog posts that never once took the time to define what the devil that word meant. Not cool you guys.
Get rid of filler, cliches and redundant words.
See what I did there? Don’t do that. Typing the same thing, worded slightly differently might get past your college newspaper editor but it won’t get past me. No, not even “at the end of the day.” If you can say it in ten words, do not use twenty.
Lists don’t suck.
They may be linkbait and a cheap gimmick but they’re only useless if you don’t provide ANY original analysis. Sometimes people want to know what YOU think of something and get a bunch of stats in one post just like sometimes people want a cheap a$$ bowl of Lucky Charms (WANT!) Give them that.
What is the definition of news?
Think about this. For so long, we’ve been watching Fox and CNN scroll seriously inane stuff across the bottom of our screens that “news” and “breaking” have lost their meaning. So you have a new VP? A rejiggered product? A fancy new website? Make me care about it or it’s not news. Actually, I don’t even really think funding is news (except to analysts), other than when I hear about it, I pick up the phone to ask what their marketing situation is.
We don’t use “No Duh” statements.
This one is really hard to get people to learn, because one person’s “No Duh!” statement is another person’s “perfect tweet” and honestly, people come into this business at different times, so who am I to judge? But a statement like “Employee engagement is important to companies” should not exist. That is one step up from Hooked on Phonics worked for me, okay?
What do I do now?
I have this weird belief that business writing is like the biggest ask ever. I know I wrote it so you will read it, and maybe, just maybe eventually, buy something. You know it too. So in order to get over that sort of awkwardness, I want to write you content that’s going to give you the best I can give. The best I can give is my expertise, my experience, my “how-to”, the next step, the surefire way. If you say things like “a comprehensive marketing strategy is the surest way to help your brand skyrocket…..blah blah…” well,
what does that even mean MAN!?!?!
It’s complete gibberish. “A complete marketing strategy may vary but should at least contain a timeline, a list of 5-20 KPIs, a breakdown of total budget and the accountability guidelines for each stakeholder or department. ” That tells someone who is not in marketing what in the heck to look for next! Do that instead! Always give your reader a reason to go ACT on what you told them.
This is sort of like the one above but harder because you have to do research and whatnot. “Leading companies are doing whatever to increase whatever to deal with the surfacing trends of whatnow?” Puh-lease stop this. What company, in what sector, is doing what specifically and why? Only when I have that information, as a reader, can I say, “Oh, this solution could potential work for me, because I am in aviation, and we have about 700 employees and I am ALSO based in the southeast.” Now you have again given them a gift with your writing instead of wasting their brain cells on the written equivalent of raisin pudding.
It’s okay to wonder.
Most people (read: I) feel like they have to have all the answers before blogging. Read any blog to immediately shake yourself of this absurd notion. We barely know anything! None of us! And any of the stuff we knew before is sure to change soon. So, wonder! Ask questions with fuzzy answers or maybe make a statement that seems totally out there. You might be right!
P.S. I’m just kidding. You are crafting something. So make it something you can be proud of!