Everyone on your team should be a writer or “writer,” regardless of what they do. Everyone.
I recently visited LinkedIn headquarters in NYC and the buzz wasn’t about conversions — it was about brand storytelling first.
In fact, Jon Lombardo, global market lead at LinkedIn recently told us this:
“Smart marketers will invest more heavily in brand-building and thought leadership over direct-response to build market share, command pricing power, and generate long-term cashflows.”
In order to become a content-first, lead-generating enterprise, many of us know by now that we have to hire writers. This usually means a managing brand editor, copywriter, strategist, and a slew of content writers.
But did you know you also need “writers?” These are the people who think and process information just like the writers on your team.
I’m talking about your UI/UX designer, site developers, coders, SEO (yes), technologists, analytics gurus, digital designers, creative directors, client strategists, social media ad folks, and landing page developers.
“Thoreau read Wordsworth, Muir read Thoreau, Teddy Roosevelt read Muir, and we got a lot of national parks,” Daniel Halpern in The New York Times Book Review
Everyone on your team should be a writer (or writerly) regardless of what they do.
Writers and the writerly-minded are great at documenting ideas, pulling insights/stories from technology, as well as synthesizing an ocean of information and data into a clear narrative line. The above quote clearly conveys how words build upon words (posts?) and eventually lead to action. Every word matters, especially as you’re building your content foundation.
This narrative line becomes the way forward for your projects, business, campaigns, content, messaging, and everything else related to getting customers today.
Once you have that, audience and lead generation strategy fall right into place.
Don DeLillo, acclaimed author, National Book Award winner (White Noise), and copywriter for Ogilvy & Mather (!) famously said,
“Writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them.” (Don DeLillo in The Paris Review)
“Storytelling” or “narrative” is totally abstract in concept – until, in practice, you write it down. High quality, creative editorial content (and client strategy) is really hard, and there aren’t any shortcuts.
Hire writer-technologists and technologist-writers.
The writer-technologist can document and transfer knowledge across an organization big or small, and amplify what your company can do.
A writer/”writer” can take a seed of an idea, give it velocity and run with it without the need for a lot of handholding in order to start on execution.
Writers (especially good ones) recognize patterns.
“Writers” can cognitively order and clearly explain technical things.
These days editorial strategy (the storytelling), brand strategy, technology and conversion strategy are all one, inextricably linked together.
For example, high converting landing pages (definition: here) require the messaging, story, campaigns and technology to line up just right.
There is story structure even here.
In a recent Unbounce blog post, Graeme Keeton wrote “for more meaningful landing page copy, think like a fiction writer,” Nice one Graeme.
Writers know that the “conversion” you’re so excited about may in fact be low quality. Writers know how to nurture leads (cue: email marketing). Technologists know how to elegantly layer automation on top of that.
Social Media content is high-quality journalism.
In March of 2016 Clique Media launched Obsessee, a new journalistic property that exists solely on social media channels (9 total) ; Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Periscope, Google+, YouTube, and Tumblr, as well as a Spotify playlist.
Demand for quality social content continues to rise – you need to have a team in place to meet that.
“Goethe so often cloaks his sophistication in deceptively simple language.” (New Yorker)
And you should too…
The above is so important, especially across the truncated digital spaces to which we’ve all become accustomed.
Social media ads, Snapchat stories, mobile landing pages. These are no longer a trifle (were they ever?) – and require savvy journalistic, storytelling minds.
The Resurgence of Narrative in The Visual Arts – The Designer-Technologist
Last year the Guggenheim presented an incredible exhibit, “Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim,” which highlighted the, “resurgence of narrative in the visual arts,” by pairing thirty poets and novelists to write about great works of art.
This also speaks to the resurgence of narrative in digital design as it pertains to content marketing. The creation of a visual narrative comes from this same thoughtful, writerly skillset – a.k.a. an embrace of the big picture.
In practice, this means you can send your digital designers and developers a stream of words – which they actually absorb – and can turn into something visually spot-on that has great content flow, functionality, and even better user experience.
The Difference Between Messaging and Storytelling
All successful social media advertising or content distribution campaigns are part of an engaging story or ad messaging drip that compels a user into your sales funnel.
Messaging is different than narrative.
Messaging components are the delicious (and essential) ingredients to your meal but in no way should be confused with the entire, evening-long sequence of a prix-fixe meal.
Messaging will get you a clicks or opens, but storytelling will get you a paying customer.
(to see the power of a serial story first-hand look no further than Elena Ferrante’s, My Brilliant Friend, and the other 3 volumes in her, The Neapolitan Novels series. Everyone is reading these right now. Everyone.)
Can We Make This A Little Less Dry?
Our managing content editor recently wrote that our role as writer/editors, especially for B2B storytelling is, “Can we make this a little less dry?”
“A writer rearranges life, shortens time intervals, sharpens events, and devises beginnings, middles, and ends,” John Steinbeck as quoted in Steinbeck:Life in Letters
John Steinbeck was also known to have said that every word he put down was the best he could find,
Business decision-makers want to be moved too.
This is the proven long game that keeps people, ergo, your best customers – current and soon-to-be – coming back to your site time and time again.
A photo posted by 818 Agency (@818agency) on
But I’m Not a Writer….
Everyone is a writer. It may be painful for some who have not flexed that muscle or are afraid to do so (“I can’t write”). Everyone can write. If you’re unsure where to start, try taking a class or two.
As Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in his groundbreaking, award-winning, Between the World and Me, it’s important to view, “the craft of writing as the art of thinking.” (taken into a comparatively superficial context for this post of course).
It’s No Longer Optional for CEOs
Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, which powers 25% of all site on the web (!), said in a recent Inc. interview,
“Skill in writing is one of the things I look for the most in hiring, because I feel that clear writing represents clear thinking, regardless of someone’s background, or whether they’re a designer or coder or whatever.” Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress
I feel the same.
Build your company with writers. It’s no longer optional as a means to effectively scale your business or campaigns.
Are you a tech-savvy advertising shop with a journalism wing (as Buzzfeed has been described). Or journalism shop with an advertising wing?
We happen to be on the latter part of the spectrum.
Bring it All Together. Enter the Writer-Technologist.
There’s a unique, yet deceptively simple recipe required for successful content marketing campaigns.
Artful, yet data-driven content mixed with landing pages, social media advertising, and analytics – all come together to bring you customers or users at scale. Your writers and your “writers” are key to that.
Are you a writer-technologist and/or technologist-writer? We would love to work with you. Get in touch.
Founder + CEO
P.S. All of your writers, creators and journalists also need to be top notch technologists, or at least insatiably curious about layering technology into their craft. Without delay.
More on that in another post.