In her chapter entitled Moral Point of View in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Ann Lamott describes formula fiction: Good wins over evil; the guy gets the girl.
We (the audience) crave stories and for the most part, like to know that good does win, and that we can find hope and inspiration in relatively ordinary characters.
But, she continues, you must believe in what you are writing (switching back to the storyteller perspective), or it will show.
If you don’t believe in what you are saying, there is no point in saying it. You might as well call it a day and go bowling.
To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care.
Certainly in business, the stories we share should be formulaic in the sense that, they do have a happy ending. The hero (the buyer/prospect) finds a solution to her problem, and they all live happily ever after and your brand rocks without being annoying or self-serving. Whereas in creative writing, the ending might be tragic or a surprise, those types of stories don’t tend to serve brands well, needless to say.
It’s easy enough to create content around “case studies” and how-tos in your industry and that’s important. But as your space becomes inundated with the same idea being regurgitated 18 different ways, what will differentiate you will be how much you care about something.
CEO and founder of Patagonia Yvon Chouinard cares about the environment. This drives everything they do as a company from the factories they outsource their fabrication to, to the content in the catalogs (and the paper it’s printed on), right down to their ad campaigns.
Your content gets that much more meaningful and connective when it comes from a place of caring. And you don’t have to be a Patagonia to pull it off. I’ll share three examples from clients I am currently working with:
- The founder of a financial services firm believes in planning for retirement without sacrificing living life now. Some of us won’t make it that far anyway, so are you living life in the meantime? He writes about “life in the middle” and shares his experiences crossing items off his bucket list and how to plan for both – living now and later.
- A CEO in manufacturing is a firm believer in doing business and being successful without losing sight of the human side. The content we create will surround that perspective and show the people who make things (not aerospace parts, but any thing,). It might tackle minimum wage standards, and what it means to do business in a global economy.
- The founder of a technology platform designed to help home service professionals build their business by referrals believes cold internet leads are far less effective than trusted referrals. Many professionals might disagree but this content strategy helps professionals scale their business, essentially changing their marketing plans.
It’s a bit of a leap of faith. Each of these brands risk ticking someone off with their ideas. But the reward is far greater: The result is far superior content that provides the ability to connect, gives the consumer of your content reason to care, because you do.
And if you don’t? Then you might as well go bowling instead.