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22-year school comms professional
Former assistant professor
K-12 PR, marketing and branding agency owner
Crazy about design, efficiency and helping others
If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that we won’t accept muddy communication. 2021 has raised the bar with a new standard of marketing and a more distrusting consumer; a world where communication which doesn’t seem transparent and authentic doesn’t cut it.
This is where content marketing gets its value. Key word: value. Content marketing offers something useful to consumers other than what you’re selling.
Under this sea of content marketing, lies its monster: the blog. While content marketing comes in many shapes and sizes, the majority and most successful of it resides in this reverse-chronological feed of informal articles.
The reason? Blogs offer value in the form of authentic, helpful and entertaining content. The age of the internet has made it easier for consumers to detect insincere marketing. We have all been there as the consumer where this sort of “in your face, tell me what I want to hear” marketing just becomes annoying.
With that said, successful blog content can be genuine if it is approached that way. For example, in schools, you should discuss topics related to what your educational model is like or your special service areas without directly promoting yours is the best. Or, if you are a consultant, share tips and research that can help your readers do their jobs better or make their lives easier.
Essentially, you want to share your knowledge without overpromoting yourself; the reader should see you as a trusted resource.
The way to do this and sound genuine? Write authentically.
This sounds like it should be easy, but for many people, it can actually be a difficult process because we are too concerned about our “brand” or public perception.
And, for those who dislike writing or are simply dry on writing juices, consecutively pumping out an article may seem like you are back living by school delegated deadlines. While it may be nice to feel younger for a few moments, you quickly realize that you are only adding worry lines stressing over the written content.
Growing up with an English teacher for a mom and a right sided-brain, writing always was my strong suit. That is to say, my grades in English and social studies classes were always closer to the beginning of the alphabet. Even so, I never enjoyed writing like I do now and I was never good at it like I am now. The difference? More experience, worse posture, and learning to own myself in my writing.
The capitalist way of thinking we are nurtured by is not the only evidence that our worth is often defined by the approval of others. Ever reliant on words of affirmation, for many of us, it isn’t until someone else tells us that our writing is great that we consider our storytelling worthy.
The act of writing has similarly become a form of expression which is conflicted by an idea of what our story and its delivery should be like to be worth readership. Ultimately, we find ourselves forcibly writing words and a story that is not an authentic expression of our truth.
There is nothing wrong about being different from your competitors and standing out. In fact, it is actually a breath of fresh air for your ideal customers/families who will be attracted to your mission, vision and values…as long as they are articulated in your writing.
Okay, forget about grammar and spelling for a second. Go back to that when all else is done. To sound like the nemesis of your high school English teacher, this part does not make a great article or essay. Maybe it makes a solid one, but the difference between a solid one and a great one is the voice and the story.
Think about the first story you ever remember writing. Mine was in second grade in my class journal. It was about the “coctales” we had at my grandparents house the weekend before. I remember this story because my teacher had some questions for my parents after she read about how I liked eating the olives out of my grandpa’s martinis. It was so ordinary and had practically no correct spelling or grammar, yet it was a story my family (and probably my teacher) won’t ever forget.
Slowly, as we grow, the stories that flow naturally dissipate behind a fence and filter of grammar, facts, academic style and literary analysis. Our own voice becomes unreliable. We forget how to tell a story without care. We tell a story that someone else expects because our grade depends on it. We learn to write for approval from a person expecting a certain voice and story.
While this is an important part of education, there are symptoms to years of quieting our own voice. We become self-conscious writers and rule-followers; as if we didn’t already have enough of these attitudes in our lives!
With this in mind, the most useful technique that I use is my own voice. I mean that literally. I write how I would talk to someone I was comfortable with. Think of someone in between an interviewer and your best friend. Keep in mind, you can always edit things out unlike a real conversation. I find my words flow faster when I just have this conversation. Sometimes they are not good words and that’s okay.
This brings me to my next piece of advice….
I have found that being vulnerable automatically makes you relatable and trustable. Vulnerability is our most commonly felt and least commonly shared emotion. With that in mind, it is my own theory that a commonly understood, but uncommonly written truth is what defines the best works of writing.
I get it. Often, we do not have the freedom to choose just any topic. Many of us are assigned a topic which we may not be all that experienced with and much less passionate about. Whether this is the case or not, find something in common with your topic. What would you say about the topic? What is your relationship with the topic? Start here.
Be vulnerable and reflect. By vulnerable, I mean taking the risk of expressing and exposing things about yourself that you might not like to think about, much less look to for inspiration.
The story which comes from a place of raw sincerity is the one that resonates with people. We are raised to keep vulnerability private. When we read someone elses’ writing where some of this vulnerability comes through it somehow feels more relatable and more personal. As the reader, you form more of a connection to writing that is saying something which makes you feel not alone.
The essence of good content marketing is establishing a trustable relationship with the consumer. Owning your humanness is what fosters a sense of integrity despite the ironically unauthentic medium through which it is being done.
And, what should you do if you have to write on behalf of your employer on a topic you may not know a lot about or care to learn about? Get inside the heads of your readers. What do they want to know? What content will help them better understand your school or organization?
From there, brainstorm, make lists and, as I said earlier, let the imaginary conversation flow onto paper or your screen. Imagine having a face-to-face conversation with one of your readers and let the words go. Edit as needed for clarity and brand alignment, but be sure to stay authentic.
Still in need of some creative inspiration? Download our free, “Unleash Your Creativity” e-book, chock-full of great tips and ideas geared toward helping you jumpstart the creative process. Get it here.
Brand Journalist Gabby Esposito is a student at the University of Connecticut pursuing a degree in journalism and philosophy. As a Brand Journalist with School Comms Lab and Holdsworth Communications, she works to tell the stories of brands and businesses, including schools.
Her articles are an organic form of PR, branding, and marketing. She is passionate about sharing the stories of others—big or small—and learning about lives and ideas that are different from her own. She has written for publications including Her Campus and UConn.
Gabby is from Connecticut and enjoys spending time with her family, dog, and two cats. Aside from writing, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching Tik Toks, and listening to podcasts.
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