Is the future of content well written?

First, the value of good copy

  • By Kathy Wagner
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  • Mar 24 2014
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  • Categories: Articles

Businesses are finally starting to understand the value of content. They understand it needs to be relevant to the audience. They certainly know it needs to engage and convert. Some even know that it needs to be structured and reusable. But very few people can recognize, let alone understand the value of, well-written copy.

Here’s what I know: Well-written copy engages, even without a call-to-action. Well-written copy feels good, whether or not that was the customer-experience goal. It’s persuasive, even if you’re not selling. It’s clear and concise, even if it’s a 5000 word research article. Well-written copy can change people, and it can certainly change businesses.

All science and no art makes writing a dull boy

The content strategy and marketing industries both focus very heavily on the science of content. Finding the metrics, the ROI, the right mix, the most conversions, the widest reach, the best model, the highest efficiencies. Coming up with those things in a way that meets business goals within available resources is certainly something of an art, but the artistry doesn’t make it to the page. Customers aren’t affected by it.

Audiences are typically affected in a positive way by one of two things: a truly compelling story, or well-crafted writing. For most of us in the corporate world, even remotely interesting stories are few and far between. It seems to me that hiring skilled writers is a way to hedge your bets. When you’ve run out of food, sex, and fear to sell and you just have to convey information, a kick-ass writer can make that new vacuum attachment sound appealing. Or write a beautiful knowledge-base article that creates a new and happy customer.

Maybe the next big thing in content — that thing that helps you leap over all your competition — is simply well-crafted content.

Writing is an art

While there are more and more businesses acting like publishers, it’s unfortunately rare that they’re investing in the talent that’s cornerstone to successful publishing companies.

As content strategists (or content marketers, or content marketing strategists, or whatever) we lead our clients forward into a continually new world of online content. We owe it to them, and the world at large, to help them see the difference that well-crafted writing can make. We need to create positions that are interesting to talented writers where they can hone their craft, even if they’re writing about products and services, and even if they’re writing in a structured environment.

The design community (and the general public!) would have a collective seizure if design jobs were given to corporate subject matter experts armed with MS Paint. So why is this still ok for content?

A few resources:

The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

Writing with Power, by Peter Elbow

On Writing, by Steven King

The Chicago Manual of Style, by University of Chicago Press

The Yahoo! Writers Style Guide, by Yahoo!