Write something. It’s easy enough. All you have to do is tell a story. Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

The Discovery of a Brand’s Language Creates Marketing Gold

Content struggles are real for most brands. The monthly content calendar lays blank before us as we ponder, debate, and stress out over what to write about.

The problem is compounded by the modern day version of a get rich scheme. It’s the same game, but now it’s get followers, likes, and conversion rate schemes. Our feeds are inundated with promises that we can create a content calendar in just fifteen minutes!

Is it possible? Sure! Is it possible that a fifteen minute content calendar strategy will satisfy business goals? Unlikely.

A few years ago, when social media first started to influence millions of people to become entrepreneurs, an industry was born to support these newbies and teach them how to make a brand. The term storytelling became popular at this time as a way to teach inexperienced business people how to market themselves.

It’s easy. All you have to do is tell a story.

The problem is that storytelling depends on the ability to write and the ability to write compelling content that converts, is cohesive, and works to achieve business goals is not a level of writing that non-writers can easily achieve.

We don’t hear about marketing as storytelling as much anymore.

We do hear a lot about copywriting, which is an industry made up of many talented writers, but hiring a copywriter will get you copy. When you hire a writer, you get a story that creates value that reverberates throughout the brand.

Writers offer perspective that is hard to find elsewhere. Due, mostly, to our voracious reading habits, we are naturally inclined to look for evidence and clues while we seek out where the story organically wants to go. We are gifted at wielding words to create the turns and tension that lead to a satisfying end.

Think back to your days writing term papers for school. You were, most likely, asked to make a claim in the form of a thesis statement. The remainder of the paper was meant to prove that claim with evidence from outside sources to back up your point of view.

Students that did well in this area know that it is not easy to focus on a topic both broadly and specifically at the same time. An ‘A+’ paper pulls each thread of the narrative tightly enough so that it can stand on its own and it proves the claim set forth by the writer.

Every piece of content put out by a brand whether it be a blog, a social media post, a podcast, a Clubhouse, or an article should work in the same way. Each time a brand sends a message it is making a claim that its product, values, and culture are worthy of its consumers’ dollars. The content associated with their messages must work to build trust by establishing the brand as an authority in its industry.

Brands today are encouraged to lean into conversational content that provides value and sparks authentic engagement with their audiences. Meanwhile, the increased preference for video content on social media platforms makes it easier for brands to reach their audience through additional sensorial connections.

Brands have gotten quite creative as video takes the lead in our feeds. Our daily scroll now includes the sound of the soft shhhhh of a perfume bottle spray as we watch the scent infuse the air; we hear the rake of a comb through hair as we watch it effortlessly detangle from itself with the use of a serum; we hear the pavement pounding of a runner’s stride as we watch their sunrise run in fresh, new Nikes.

Regardless of the medium and platform used, high quality video content that performs to its expectation is based on a story that is grounded in business goals and steeped with brand language and core values.

This process can benefit greatly from the mind of a writer. We offer insight, perspective, an extensive inventory of language inspiration, and — most importantly — we know how to pull the threads tightly so that each element of the content reaches its intended goal.

Put it in Perspective

Writers tend to look at things differently than most people and can offer brands a unique perspective on how their marketing works to achieve their business goals. (Note: This approach works best with brands that think long term.)

A writer will provide a zoomed out, objective perspective, ask a lot of questions, and then look at the materials specifically through the lens of how marketing efforts create the value the brand is aiming for. We look for the long version of the story, and dig for the details that will help the brand build itself along the way.

Searching for the words?

Language is a writer’s inventory and our shelves are fully stocked.

According to Hubspot, “it’s undeniably important for your business’ bottom-line that you’re able to consistently create helpful, engaging content.” A content calendar is a fine tool for the job but wouldn’t a content warehouse be a more valuable asset for a brand to build?

A content warehouse has shelves stocked with products (content) ready to pull. Just like building and stocking an Amazon warehouse, there is a lot of planning, heavy lifting, and hard work involved in getting the product to the people. To put it plainly, if content is a challenge for a brand, they probably have not spent enough time developing the value of the brand (aka, doing the heavy lifting).

The solution to the content struggle lies in the writerly process, which begins with research.

Research

This is everyone’s favorite part to skip over.

A superficial exploration of a brands’ value will result in superficial results. In order to articulate value into an authentically engaging story, research is absolutely necessary.

Tom Herman, co-founder of Veda Intell, a strategic consulting firm that is centered in customer research, has seen the pitfalls of marketing without research. When asked about the impact of research on marketing efforts Herman pointed out, “the key to effective marketing content depends on two things: understanding the wants, needs, and beliefs of your ideal customers and speaking to them in their language. Customer research allows you to do both of these things well.”

The point of research (both in term papers and in branded content) is to contextualize the information being presented. Research allows a brand to develop a strong and shareable point of view on a product it is proud of or a social cause that it believes in. Without research, a brand runs the risk of missing the mark with its messaging, sometimes with very negative results.

Remember the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that enraged the community Pepsi was trying to reach? That was way off the mark in a moment when brands needed to listen carefully to their audience. It was also a time when people were sharing their thoughts passionately on social media. It would have been very easy for Pepsi to gather data about the attitudes of America’s youth in the spring of 2017. Instead, it looks like they made a lot of assumptions about this particular customer segment.

“The truth is that most companies know less than they think they do about their customers,” Herman said, “rather than doing the work to understand them, brands push their own perspectives at their customers.Then they wonder why their marketing struggles to resonate.”

“Nobody reads anymore,” they say. Ohhhhh, but the algorithm does!

Yes, even for TikTocs and Instagram Reels.

According to social media strategist Kar Brulhart, founder of KB Brand Marketing, “with the explosion of short-form video on social media — specifically TikTok and Instagram — it’s more important than ever to ensure that viewers are getting additional context outside of the video. It’s essential to provide a caption that gives the viewer additional details that may not have been included in the video. With most videos averaging between 7 and 12 seconds you can imagine how much is being left out.”

According to Brulhart, Instagram is encouraging minimum 100 word captions to accompany every post. The platform intends to utilize key terms just like search engines — in addition to a very long list of other qualifiers — to rank posts and push them out to the right audience. That creates a lot of space to communicate unique value to your audience. It also feeds the algorithm the information it needs to match your post to the audience that wants to see it.

The Authority of an Author

Did you ever read a book that worked on you in such a way that you couldn’t put it down? Have you ever stayed up nights and woke up early just to return to a story you couldn’t stop thinking about?

(Side note: If you have yet to experience this, and you are a person who intends to form a brand that has lasting impact, I strongly suggest you seek out at least one story that speaks to your soul in this way).

There is nothing like the written word to increase empathy, compassion, and foster connection. Written words push the mind to imagine things we have never seen or heard or felt. The effect is lasting.

Isn’t that what your brand is after? Brands put lots of time and effort into creating content. That content should resonate with someone beyond the 30 seconds they spent with the brand on social media.

Alison Maloni, owner of Alisonmay Public Relations and author of Breaking in the News: Build Buzz Around Your Brand, says that written content is the best way for a brand make authentic connections, “blogging helps brands establish trust with their customers. But before brands can do this, they must be sure of their value.When working with clients, we recommend that they write down everything they know about their industry and think about what is important to the reader.” This, Maloni says, is the secret to creating informative, authoritative content that “encourages discussions and knowledge sharing.”

It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

There are many, many things that we can point to when a brand’s marketing doesn’t hit the intended mark. But brands that lean into the literary qualities of their personality will find that is we find the marketing gold: authenticity, compassion, empathy, and some very impactful language.

A writer is the one who can take you there.

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Susie Ippolito

Susie Ippolito

Brand Strategist and Creative Non-Fiction Writer Developing Intelligent Creative Content