Why your copy and content should entertain as well as educate.
There’s no denying it, I’ve been around a bit.
In the previous 20 years before I started The Copy Bear, I was a journalist for Reuters, The Times and, er, the Daily Mail (the money was good and I had children to feed – let’s move on).
While at The Times I was sent on assignment to interview pop stars in cities such as Tokyo, L.A., New York, Paris and Athens.
I mixed with famous musicians (someday I’ll tell you the story about being kidnapped by Depeche Mode) and was party to some outrageous behaviour – some of it NOT mine.
It was a hugely glamorous life. I loved it. My stories made the front pages of newspapers and I was interviewed on TV. I was, for a little while, a well-known writer.
But I am a much better writer now than I was then. I look back at some of the pieces I wrote, pieces that were praised to the skies and I just don’t get it.
Yes, it was ‘sexy’ subject matter. But so much of it was so dry.
The sentences were too formal and long and there was little in the way of light or shade.
I was relying on my readers’ intense interest in the subject of my pieces.
I was so into music myself that I couldn’t imagine that there was anyone who wasn’t similarly enthralled by pop.
So, I made no attempt to hook the merely curious reader.
OK, so I would occasionally embellish the narrative with a little ‘colour’, as it’s often called by journalists.
But describing Michael Stipe’s new haircut or grizzling about the storms in Moscow only allowed an already self-important writer to unleash the pen of purple prose.
‘Colour’ doesn’t move the story on. ‘Colour’ doesn’t engage.
It was all dreadfully serious.
I’m quite a funny chap but reading some of the turgid blah I wrote 10 years ago, you honestly wouldn’t think it.
I really did think the sun shone out of my behind.
The reason I’m reminded me of my rockstar days was that I was in a debate last week with another content marketer.
We were at a startup event and he was complaining to me that his ROI was suffering.
He revealed his content tactics.
He’s always felt that his audience only needed the facts.
He lays out the science, supporting his position thoroughly with stacks of detailed documentation.
In forensic, plain, detail he explains things from all angles.
His copy is drier than a toasted sand sandwich.
Once he’d finished bemoaning his luck, I suggested he inject some humour into his copy.
Shorten his sentences.
Add a little dazzle.
Failing that, have an opinion.
Don’t be all things to all men.
Take a stand.
But he didn’t like that advice. Called me ‘flashy’ and ‘showbizzy’.
He thought instead that maybe that he needed more facts, more detail.
When I failed to swallow a giggle, he flounced off.
He reminded me of myself a decade ago. Self-important and unwilling to lighten up.
When you’re blogging for your business, you often have big, important things to say to your audience.
You’re offering them relief from their pain points. You’re helping them.
But they’re never going to read your content if it’s dull. Add some wit and style to your content and people will be drawn in.
With knowledge of the issues and a goal to persuade, you can write funny, witty, punchy posts that favour subtle substance over dry facts.
And people will be engaged.
As Roxette once said, “Don’t bore us – get to the chorus.”
(And, no, Roxette were never unfortunate enough to be interviewed by me.)