When visiting my twin sister’s office recently, I pretended to be her and chatted about five minutes with her assistant. It was hard to keep a straight face, but until my sister walked in, he had no idea I was Stephanie and not Melanie. Yes, we’ve pulled that trick a number of times in our many decades of twin life. Most of our close friends can easily tell us apart, but for others it can be disarming. But it’s all in good fun!
There, I’ve told you something personal about myself. There is a lot I could tell you about me that goes beyond my standard corporate bio, and I think B2B content writers need to consider going beyond the corporate template more often.
Telling you my twin story doesn’t distinguish me as a subject-matter expert, but it does make me human. And relating to an audience on a more personal level often leads to greater trust (even if I like to trick people).
Creating content isn’t just about marketing, notes John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co. “It’s about affecting behavior.”
Spot on. My sister, who also happens to be a professor of psychology and neuroscience, shared a few studies with me about communication and trust that reinforce that point. Consider this insight from Robert Hurley, author of The Decision to Trust: How Leaders Create High-Trust Organizations. In this interview he speaks to the people who receive the communication (your audience):
"You need to make sure the degree of trust you offer matches the degree of trustworthiness in the other party. How aligned are your interests with the other party? How similar are the parties’ values, how predictable is the behavior, and how transparent in communicating is the trustee?"
That can be a challenge, particularly if you write strictly from an organizational perspective and don’t reflect the authenticity of your content creators (or their subjects) as humans.
In my previous role at UBM, I saw many drafts of well-written executive Q&As that provided thought leadership on technology topics, but also a strong human element — the software exec who runs marathons, the networking SME who used to be a pastry chef. But in so many cases, that info was stripped out once the content made its way through the various review cycles because it “wasn’t on-message” or it was “not pertinent to the discussion.”
Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, noted in a recent Content Marketing World wrap-up, “Too often, B2B stands for boring. We write and create content as if buildings are reading them. As if buyers who completely lack emotion are engaging. This is more than just adding emotional triggers to your storytelling. It’s about humanizing your brand, humanizing your people.”
Jill Metzler Patton, senior editor at Life Time Fitness’ Experience Life website, reveals a lot about her character in this post.
"I relish friendly conversation, whether deep discussion with friends or breezy banter with strangers. I’m energized by social situations where connections spark and ideas fly. If I’m relaxed, I’ll strike up an easy exchange with almost anyone; if I’m excited or nervous, I’ll keep talking, only faster . . . and maybe louder. (Sorry.)"
Then she gets to the point of her post – how to truly listen to assure that the other person has been heard — and shares expert insight on how to make that happen.
As Heinz says, “Sharing details about what makes you tick outside of work isn’t irrelevant. It’s magnetic. It creates connective tissues between people that carry over into business contexts. Old-school sellers called this relationship-building. Today it’s that plus a critical competitive differentiator that puts something unique and irreplaceable between you and your buyer.”
A few years ago, an Oracle executive (and former UBM colleague) wrote a blog for Forbes BrandVoice® in which he talked about his mom’s passing and the great advice she bestowed. In 10 Things My Mother Told Me, Bob Evans writes:
"I ask your indulgence in stepping outside the realm of business and technology because over her 95 years on this Earth, Rita Evans accumulated, generated, and shared great wisdom – and wisdom is an asset that should be shared again and again."
There was no official Oracle messaging in the piece. No mention of Oracle technology. Oracle’s only identification is next to Bob’s name in his byline. But Bob told me that he received an outpouring of thoughtful responses. That’s a great sign of building a loyal audience.
I can only imagine the powerful effects experienced by Brendan Connolly after he wrote (When It’s Not) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for National Life Group’s blog. Brendan, who works for an affiliate of the group, offers four tips to help people grieving the loss of a loved one manage the holiday season. But he shares why he is writing the piece, detailing how he needs that advice too because he lost his wife and unborn child nine months earlier.
If this example sounds familiar, it’s because Heather Levy included it in her recent post, How to Create the Ultimate Branded Style Guide. And while Bob and Brendan personalize their writing by sharing so deeply from their hearts, Heather personalized her post with a simple confession: “I’m a sucker for first-person content.” That drew me into the article because I could relate — I love first-person content too. Then I learned what Heather really wanted me to know — how to create a style guide for your brand.
That’s the key. Your audience needs to know you’re a person too — not a corporate bot only programmed to write from the perspective of a monolith organization. They are far more likely to trust you if they know you’re part of the real world — of their world, too.
In a recent Twitter chat on 2017 website trends, Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media, said, “A personal, human touch will never go out of style. Be a person. Be yourself!”