Why marketers tell poor stories
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How to be entrepreneurial in writing for customers, even if you're not in a startup

First, just start answering your customers, sharing things with them. Then worry about how to organize and edit what needs to be said and how to style it. Stephanie Hay, a 'content strategist' with Capital One was recently interviewed about why so many companies have so much trouble generating 'engaging content.' See her excellent remarks quoted below. 

Her recommendations reminded me... 

  1. Content is a made-up word to describe what goes into all the holes in our web sites and newsletters. 'Generating content' is a made-up occupation by managers who don't know how to share information with customers. Informing and answering our customers is the priority, not 'generating content.'

  2. Once we know what are customers care to know and enjoy talking about, then we can easily decide if we need a Facebook post or a blog or a brochure. Web sites are a wonderful place to store our customer conversations. Future customers get the benefit of our being well organized. 

  3. 'Engaging content' is a buzzword for answers and information of high quality. When we speak clearly and with appropriate emotion about the things that interest our customers, they become engaged. Being consistent with our brand and making the information easy to find are good business, but if you put that cart before the horse--worry about branding and SEO before you consider your customer's needs--you will interfere with your own success, as Stephanie points out. 

Aquent: What's so hard about writing meaningful content, 2016-Apr-18, Interview of Stephanie Hay by Jeremy Osborn

The biggest challenge is convincing people they can start creating lean, engaging content today. They think they have to sell the idea first. Or that people in their company won't let them. I always recommend people start redesigning the content in places teams typically overlook--like terms and conditions language, error messages, or FAQ pages--and interject more human, personal, and natural language there. Just dig in and do the work, then show the work to people. You'll be amazed how little time and energy it takes to start the ball rolling by redesigning those micro-moments to be truly delightful; people will want that everywhere.... 

What hasn't changed (and won't!) is human nature to want to structure and categorize content immediately, or have an entire architecture designed before ever looking at what the content actually is, or figuring out what language the customer is using. Letting go of that structure-first mentality to fully immerse yourself in the story you're trying to tell (and that customers want to read), and then identifying the patterns and structures that naturally emerge ... well that takes patience and a real commitment to iteration. Not everyone feels comfortable with that level of entrepreneurial design.

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