Where to start when it comes to creative writing?
As a writer, of course I think words matter to your business. But they really do. They are how you communicate to customers, stakeholder and employees. They are how customers experience your product. They are what sell you. They rouse people to action.
Your website may be the first contact a potential client has with your company – the words on it have to be great. You only get one chance to create the right impression and you have to be purposeful at what you write. Whether it’s a letter, advert, Tweet, Facebook post, email or web copy, investing in the words you use is important.
We tend to put creativity in one box, and communication in other. When we’re earning a living from our writing, writing for business, engaging with corporate clients, there’s something about the involvement of transactions, and well, money, that sucks the life out of words and takes away all creativity.
It doesn’t have to be this way. All communication should evoke some kind of reaction, be it educative, informative, entertainment or emotion. This can’t happen unless there’s a bit of passion behind the words. A bit of creativity. Some life. It can be so easy to stick to the same formulas and language, yet this not only doesn’t benefit the client in the long run,
What can we learn from creative writing for business writing? How can exercises usually reserved for fiction and poetry help our business writing? How can we learn from the best to create our own communications, even on a budget. In more ways than you think.
There are similarities. Here are three descriptions of poetry that I think should be used in advertising and marketing.
- Poetry is the best words in the best order. - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning. - Dana Giola
- Poetry is that which arrives at the intellect by way of the heart. - RS Thomas
A brand is represented by everything that makes up a company, from the obvious tangible components to the more ‘abstract’ emotional associations:
Using creativity opens up different ways of thinking – you become a brand or business that is innovative and expansive in outlook, not stuck with the status quo.
Your business communications should do the same.
Use the best words, give them meaning, emotionally resonant with a clear action.
Connecting is the goal of any business. Ultimately relationships in all forms are about connection. When someone likes you or thinks you have something to offer, they will be prepared to invest their time – or money – in you. Customer can’t connect with inanimate objects, so you need to have some personality. What is your brand? What makes you different to everyone else out there? How do you speak and act? Bring this personality to all your writing. Don’t try to be professional at the expense of being emotional. People buy from people, so bring your personality to work. Find and express your story so that you can connect. What effect do you have, or intend to have, on your customers?
These exercises will help you to do that.
Free writing involves being liberal and uninhibited with what you write. It’s an opportunity to get your words down on paper in any way that suits you. Start with a blank page (and for free writing it is recommended you go old school) and think about your personality.
Don’t censor yourself, just let it flow.
- Why are you here?
- How did you start?
- What do you want to do?
- What impact do you want to have on the world?
- What do you do in an average day?
- What interests you?
- What’s your personality?
- Why would people buy your product?
- What makes you different?
- How do you want people to think of you?
This becomes your personality and the character of your business. This exercise can be done at any point, but is especially useful early on in your business life.
The most crucial element of any story is the character. Who they are, how they act, and what happens to them is how plot develops. It’s also where the emotion is found. People connect with other people. As great as a company might think their product is, or as much as an agency may believe people are passionate about electricity, as loyal as a shop might think people are, the truth is that it’s about the person.
So, when writing a press release about why the new brand of bleach is a must have addition to the shopping basket, think of the benefits to the customer, the person. The new formula matters because it keeps the kitchen clean and protects their children. The fast acting ingredients free up their time to go out.
Novelists say you should know everything about your character, even that which seems irrelevant to the writing at hand. They will have a bank of information, detailed character sketches, some of which will never overtly make it into the story. Do the same for your customer.
What is their name? What is in their bag? Do they wake up early or late? What do they like to read? Have they ever told a lie? What do they do on a Sunday afternoon? Do they prefer cryptic crosswords or sudoku? Only when you know your reader and customer do you know what matters to them, and so how you can connect with them.
Spend five minutes jotting down traits and elements of your character, or customer. Make them come alive. Your brand has to be able to connect with them. And their personality might shape your personality,
Keep it simple
Great tag lines, quickly convey not just what they do, but the impact that these brands want to have on their customers. It’s about the emotional impact
Nike: Just do it
Tesco: Every little helps
L’Oreal: Because you’re worth it
People don’t have the time to read all of your content and learn more about your business. You have to cut through the clutter, and you don’t have much time to do so.
The average website visitor spends less than 15 seconds on any given page.
87% of people are multiscreening.
The average supermarket contains more than 45,000 different products. The largest Tesco’s contain 90,000.
75% of emails from brands are unopened.
So you need to keep it brief. Take your free write and turn it into a haiku. It’s like your business pitch, but more fun.
There you have it. Some top tips from the world of creative writing that can help your business writing excel. Copy and content doesn’t have to be boring. Far from it. Whatever industry you are in, making your communications sparkle and connect with your customers.
- Develop content that has a human element – all business is ultimately about people
- Be sincere
- Emotion matters – engage with the heart, then the head
- Have a personality
- Ask yourself if you’d be genuinely interested in reading/watching it
- Know what connects your customers to you
- Stories have heroes and characters with unfulfilled desires – how do you fulfil your customer’s needs?
- Keep it simple, you should be able to describe a story in one line.