Five transitional writing tips from a marketing novice
A couple of weeks ago, a young guy named James Coyle came to Velocity towers to get some work experience. As it turns out, James is one hell of a writer. This is a post he wrote in the two minutes he spent hanging with us. (If you’re looking for a smart, eager, super-fast learner, hit him up.)
The transition from academic writing to marketing writing is a strange one. I think most of us have spent our academic lives being taught to write a certain way, striving to be as effective as possible in pleasing our academic superiors with well-constructed arguments, a tone they approve of and a rigid format.
I’m no expert on the policies but I’m pretty certain that riddling an essay with profanity at university would see me packing my bags. My degree and reputation would be hanging by a thread, if not over.
But holy shit do I prefer this marketing writing more.
Monday morning, I nervously walked into a thriving B2B tech marketing agency, Velocity, for a week of work experience. Turns out they don’t play by the rules of academia. Daunting right?
But just as a golfer can change their swing, changing writing styles is very doable. And (whisper it quietly) fun.
It can take time, as I’m finding out – so don’t grow frustrated with yourself if this is the case. I’m still a million miles off the talented writers I have met and worked with this week. But learning from their feedback and seeing how they work has been invaluable.
Ultimately though, it’s a rewarding way of finding out and developing skills that are definitely in there somewhere. You just have to train them out. Yes, it is a completely different way of writing but that doesn’t mean the tools you’ve already acquired aren’t valuable. In fact, you already know how to present an argument effectively and back it up. You’ve done it religiously with every all-nighter university essay. And this remains a required skill in marketing. (The effective argument part, let’s move on from the all-nighters.)
But marketing writing allows you to use your own voice. None of this academic, fluffy, trying to please those above crap. But your voice. And show it off. Talking to the target audience as if you are face-to-face but presented on paper. Easy.
Here are my top 5 tips to make your transition just that little bit smoother:
1. Write like you talk
This one’s simple but so effective: write how you talk. Writing the way you would want to be spoken to is half the battle. Use personal pronouns like “you” to make your readers feel involved in your writing. Because if people get the impression your writing is trying to outwit them, your message will either sound pretentious or go unheard. Which leads to my next bit of advice.
2. Shorter is always better
It can be hard to go back through a piece you are really proud of and delete chunks of your hard work. But sometimes it just has to be done. The end result will be worth it. By cutting out some of the extra dribble, you are making your message far more presentable. And in marketing, you sometimes only have someone’s interest for a minimal amount of time. So getting a short, sharp message across is vital.
I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you but it will likely involve cutting down some of your favorite work. I know, I know, your blood, sweat and tears go into some of your best content marketing pieces. But if you can trim it down, it will likely be more conversational and more punchy for your target audience. So just swallow that pill, safe in the knowledge that your work is now more effective.
3. Know your subject
Right, so I know this probably doesn’t apply to you because of its simplicity. But I’ll say it anyway. If you have no knowledge of what you are trying to market, don’t bother attempting until you do. You won’t convince anyone in the tech world that you know what you are talking about if you haven’t done your research. The audience you’re targeting are experts in their field. So in order to be able to convince them that you are too, research is pivotal. Unfortunately, blagging is just not something you can get away with. People will see right through any writing if it isn’t well informed.
4. Stay relevant
In the same way, don’t try to show off the massive amounts of research in your piece to the point where it isn’t clear what you’re marketing. Stay well informed, but don’t go off-topic. In academic writing, there is possibly more license to explore other avenues. In marketing, people will switch off the moment you go down a different path to the one you began with.
5. Have fun
Marketing writing brings a level of creativity that is difficult to find in other jobs. I’m sure it is not everyone’s bag but the license to write in a tone that stands out from the mundane excites me. The more you enjoy the writing, the more likely you’re creating an effective piece. So have fun with it and, at risk of sounding horribly cliche, let the creative juices flow.
Simple enough tips I think. The transition from writing in academia to marketing is a tough one, there is no getting away from it. But finding your unique voice in writing is incredibly satisfying and going into a job everyday that allows such creativity seems a pretty appealing prospect to me.
So go forth and keep tearing up the academia writing rulebook.