Good Business Writing Is Creative Writing
Why You Should Think More Like a Poet and Less Like a Marketer
I run a storytelling and poetry night. It’s called Dirty Laundry. I host the night and do a bit of my own before opening up the mic to a wonderfully varied group of voices.
At first glance, storytelling and poetry is a million miles from my day job where I help brands define their position, develop their tone of voice, and create marketing materials.
Actually they’re closely linked. Doing one makes me better at the other.
On stage, a storyteller or poet should read the room, adapt to the mood, and use their authentic voice to leave a lasting impression.
On a company website, for example, marketing copy should grab the reader’s attention and answer their questions, and do all this in a consistent voice.
There’s a misconception that creative writing and business writing are different things. They’re not. Good business writing is creative. To write well in business, we should act more like a storyteller or a poet and less like a marketer.
‘Business writing?’ thinks the managing director or CEO. ‘Yes, I want some of that. Creative writing? No, keep your hobbies at home. There’s no space for whimsical flights of fancy around here.’
It’s a missed opportunity.
Good business writing solves problems. Both of communication — finding new and better ways to get the message across. And for the reader — what do they need and want to know? Solving problems requires creativity.
Putting on the mask
When we come to work, in a bid to sound professional, we ditch our everyday conversational language and switch to a strange, semi-formal jargon. It’s all ‘bandwidth’ this and ‘circle back to align on quarterly objectives’ the other. This language is a disguise we wear to convince others, and ourselves, that we know what we’re talking about.
I’m not fooled. Talk like that down the pub and get laughed at. Anyone I’ve ever met who really knew their onions was able to tell me about their area of expertise in human terms. Sharing anecdotes, painting pictures with words. Clarity, simplicity, everyday language — those traits convey authority. And authority wins the reader’s trust.
People know this. That’s why storytelling has been a buzzword in marketing for years. Few brands do it well. Real stories contains setbacks and failures. Companies are nervous of talking about when they got it wrong. But if you’re honest about your mistakes, people don’t think less of you — they admire your transparency and perseverance.
Communication and relationship building in the real world is based on creativity: telling stories that help us make our point in interesting and engaging ways. The best business writing is creative too. To get away from unhelpful habits that make marketing copy boring and inhuman, put away the PowerPoint and pick up a pad and pen.
Need a creative copywriter to tackle your communication challenge? Get in touch and tell me your story.