More than 14,000 people huddled at the INBOUND 2015 conference in Boston last week to learn the latest trends in digital marketing. Marketers, salespeople, writers and designers raced from session to session and stood in long lines to hear talks on the neuroscience of memorable content, the changing face of SEO, how to use Twitter more effectively, and dozens more.
I attended the conference to learn everything I could about writing web content that people actually want to read. Not fast content that can be thrown together in a half hour and posted to Twitter-Facebook-LinkedIn-YouTube-YouNameIt based on fleeting hourly trends. Not listicles filled with fluff. You know the click bait lists ("Six ways to jumpstart your blah-blah-blah"), which often lead you to short articles filled with superficial information you already know.
I was in good company. Many speakers bemoaned the state of writing on the web as often mediocre at best. Ann Handley of MarketingProfs addressed it straight on during her session, "Good Content vs. Good Enough Content: A Fight for Sore Eyes."
Her advice? "We need bigger stories, braver marketing, bolder writing," said Handley. "The biggest issue with content today is that people play it too safe."
Handley suggested developing meatier content and using a writing style that speaks directly to your visitors in language they understand and relate to. It's important to develop a strong tone of voice that fits your brand, she said. It may repel some readers, but if people don't like your writing style, they probably aren't your target audience anyway.
So how do marketers create bigger, braver, bolder content? Sonia Simone of Copyblogger had a tantalizing answer in her session, "The Intersection of Content and Social Media." She said that companies need to hire real writers. "I hire playwrights, novelists, and poets," said Simone to a capacity crowd in an encore session.
Yes, you heard it right. Businesses want playwrights. And novelists. And poets.
Simone said she often finds writers by posting jobs with Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) programs. She likes how these creative writers can talk about a company's brand with passion and clarity. They use metaphor, humor and succinct language to evoke emotion and be persuasive. Creative writers also help cut through the web copy clutter that too often sounds like a sales pitch from an infomercial.
Strong writing is emerging as a real asset that can be used to create a competitive business advantage by developing loyal communities. This is a happy intersection for those of us professional business writers who are creative writers on the side. Our narrative skills and ability to develop a unique tone of voice may be more desirable than ever in a world where always-on digital channels need to be fed continuously.
So if you are a poet, playwright, or novelist, it turns out that your day job could be more fun (and lucrative) than you thought. As strange as it may seem, the digital business around the corner may just be looking for you.