I had the absolute pleasure of speaking at AMA_Iowa at their Experience conference on February 23, 2018, to a room full of attentive, enthusiastic marketers who asked some really great questions after my presentation. I’ll get to those great questions but first, let’s do a quick run through of my tips for Finding Your Voice: Writing Authentically to Engage and Retain.
What you need to know about me, and my presentation is that I am not prescribing a singular method for the authentic writing process. What I do recommend, however, is that you develop your own process that is just yours and own that process. Like just about everything, we get better through practicing and honing a specific methodology. Mine involves setting aside an entire day for writing so I can give that writing the love and care it deserves.
If you are anything like me, you feel pretty overwhelmed much of the time as you work to keep up with the moving target of content marketing, let alone data analytics and sometimes you want to put your head in your hands and cover your ears with headphones blaring Rage Against the Machine.
There is no way anyone can keep up with all of the information promulgated so we all have to learn to be selective, to trust our instincts, and find the content that truly captures us.
Here are my five tips for finding your voice and writing content that is not only educational and informational but authentic engaging as well.
Make writing a part of your life. Writing should not be that last, hurried thing you have to do before the end of the week. That’s why my writing day is Tuesday. By writing on Tuesday, I have time to let my writing season and simmer.
No more than one would throw all of the ingredients for chili into a pot and eat it right away, good writing needs time to season and simmer. At AMA_KC, we got to laughing about how nobody likes “bad chili.” Good content needs to simmer.
By letting it simmer, I can step away from it and come back to it with fresh eyes and a fresh(er) perspective and then make the necessary edits. It also helps to get a neato little notebook so when you have a stroke of genius or even a passing thought that could become a killer blog post, you can write it down by hand, which also matters and helps the brain to help you become a better writer.
To be heard above the noise, you must be compelling and to be compelling is to be vulnerable. No one likes any person, personality, or business that purports that they are perfect and invulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be human and we all trust the organizations and people that admit when they’ve made a mistake, that cop to being afraid and worried at times, and that express their humanity.
Hone your tone. It is hard to be an authentic and compelling writer without being a good listener. I’ve always felt the authentic voice comes from the authentic person so I ask a lot of questions of everyone I communicate with throughout a given week and I listen carefully to the answers. Invariably, because I am listening, I learn something and get inspired by others which I then use as writing fodder. And ask yourself, is this how I talk? If the answer is no, it probably isn’t an authentic piece of writing.
Consume content and make connections. Be an interdisciplinary thinker. The world is more interdisciplinary than ever before and studying and learning outside the realm of marketing is incredibly valuable. Consume content is not marketing content.
I consume my content on long walks so my advice to take a long walk in the woods is advice that I adhere to as well. It is incredibly helpful and taking the time to listen to content while walking seems to open up my mind and enable me to make connections in a way I am just not able to do while sitting at my desk.
Listen to podcasts but podcasts are, of course, just one form of content. If reading is your thing, then read and pick up magazines and articles you might not normally read. I cannot tell you the wealth of ideas (and knowledge) I gain by reading Omni Magazine. Before you contradict me and tell me that Omni Magazine went out of print in the 90s, check again. They just quietly relaunched a quarterly publication that is worth a review, as is Scientific American. I love learning about science (because I am not a scientist) and making connections between science, marketing, and business.
5. Find the thread and headline last. One of the benefits of making writing a part of your life is that you now have the time to go back and revisit a mediocre piece of writing, find the thread, improve the piece and then last, but not least, write that killer headline that will capture readers far and wide.
So back to those two of those questions have stayed with me—the first of those questions was how to straddle and balance the need for an authentic voice with the established brand identity of the organization.
In simpler terms, how do I write for my organization and still sound like a human being and not a brand robot?
My answer lies in the creative brief. We all know this tool is ideal for working with clients and solving problems but it can be effectively repurposed as a tool for finding your voice that not only aligns with the organization brand but enhances it greatly. I highly recommend developing a creative brief that marries your voice with that of your organization.
The other question from the session that stuck with me was how to enhance and expand on content when you run out of words or when the topic has been hashed and rehashed. The answer to that lies in creating your own content library. My Gmail account is my content library and at any given moment I can search for the emails I have sent myself and scroll through them to find an ideal argument (or better yet, counter-argument) for the topic I am writing about and I manage it like a librarian.
Lastly, and certainly not least, I remind you, the gentle reader, to make writing a part of your life. Writing matters and your words deserve that much love and attention.
Yours in authenticity,