Can you teach someone to be a good writer? The answer is “Yes, of course.” Writing, like woodworking, is a craft. You create, by hand. The more you do it, the better you become. No one is born a good writer; to make this claim is to discredit the vast amount of practice required to write a polished story—fiction, non-fiction, or otherwise.
As brands transform their organizations into storytellers, inevitably, marketers and brand leaders will ask employees who aren’t experienced writers and who don’t usually create content for the company to write stories. This is why creating simple marketing resources in the form of writing guides for inexperienced writers (and experienced writers) is so important to produce high-quality stories, all while making communications more efficient. While some employees may have the technical knowledge of the subject matter, they won’t be able to spin the story as eloquently as a practiced writer would. And with editors’ hours already stretched editing numerous pieces of content, often with varying guidelines and expectations, they don’t have time to become personal writing coaches.
Here at the Content Standard, we’ve recognized this importance and have just released our first guide geared toward improving brand storytelling quality of writing, for both inexperienced writers who would benefit from a reference manual, and experienced writers who would like a helpful document to keep them on track. The guide aims to help writers start stories when they’re stuck by offering five ways to write an effective introduction, as well as tips to help evaluate quality of writing so they know they’re ready to submit. Tip No. 1: Identify your conflict and your characters.
For this guide—and as will be true for future editions—we wanted to keep the narrative short, simple enough to use, and contain specific enough advice for writers to turn story ideas into finished work that both writer and brand can be proud of. There’s no sense in creating a document that dies in everyone’s inbox—bookmarked but never touched. Our hope is to create marketing resources that will actually be used.
The impetus to create the guide begins with two core challenges that we believe many organizations face with those that they’ve tasked to be their storytellers:
The people writing the stories don’t have a writing background.
The people writing the stories are often internal employees and work full time; content creation is ancillary to their jobs—an added bonus to build a personal platform after their day-to-day work is complete.
Editors receive weak drafts of stories, increasing both writer’s and editors’ time spent revising.
Writers feel lost starting a story they’ve been assigned.
Will creating these guides transform your office into a bunch of marketing Hemingways? No, but if they help just a few writers and editors save time while producing more interesting brand stories, they’re worth creating. Consistent and quality storytelling is part of a comprehensive content marketing strategy. You don’t hit pause on publishing when running a media site, so take the time now to educate and equip your employees with guides to write better that will pay off week after week, month after month.
The elements of a good story haven’t changed much over time, so your guides are likely to stay relevant even if your content marketing goals change year after year.
Does your story have a good lead? How has equilibrium shifted—how has balance for your character shifted, and how will he or she react?
Will the consumer care about your character? How will you incite empathy within your audience? This is what makes the story meaningful for consumers—relating what they feel to their own lives.
Is the conflict compelling? No one wants to read a story where people aren’t fighting for anything. The story stakes aren’t always life or death for brands, but generating interest through the forces of antagonism placed on your protagonist are what will give the story energy.
When we talk about scaling storytelling, writer guides are the core assets companies must create and use within their organizations. Seventy percent of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago, as Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 trends report stated. Brands have a huge opportunity to not only produce great stories but become leaders in educating their own on how to tell them.
I encourage marketers to create their own library of writer guides that transcend grammatical and style manuals. These are important, but won’t equip writers with all the resources necessary to write a good brand story. Find the people who have writing experience within your marketing department and who understand the types of stories your brand wants to produce. Ask them to lead the creation and distribution of these assets: Upload them to your internal Wiki page; send them to writers as you assign their next story; promote them on your social media channels; write a blog post about them, and find ways to repurpose the material for maximum amplification. I think you’ll find them well-received.
Download the eBook here, and if you’d like to be updated as we release more marketing resources and writer guides, subscribe to the Content Standard Newsletter to have our top stories sent to your inbox each week.