Good writing is an important skill that is too often ignored in the process of launching a tech company. However, since so much startup marketing is web- and media-based, accurately articulating what your company offers is more important than ever.
If you think your company can benefit from a literary boost (and what company wouldn't?), read on to acquire the basics you need to utilize writing to increase your company's chances of success. So dust off your quill and parchment and learn how you can harness the power of the written word.
Why is Writing Important in the Startup World?
Writers & Founders Are Not Exclusive from One Another
In the Forbes article, “Why Being A Writer Made Me A Better Founder”, Connu co-founder and CEO Susannah Luthi compares writers to coders because of their myopic and obsessive tendencies, as well as the fact that both types of people have grand visions that must be reduced for feasibility.
If you’re a writer, you need to be able to feel some pressingly personal thing that’s also big and sweeping; and then you’ve got to talk about it in such a simple and intimate way that everyone will think you’re a mind reader. If you lose your way, your words are worse than pointless; they’re noise. Coders work from the same binary.
Luthi states that the impetus for launching Connu with her co-founder, the driving force that motivates all entrepreneurs to launch companies, comes from the same sense of urgency that drives writers to write, further concretizing the parallel between writers and entrepreneurs. Writers, like all innovators, see things as they are and as they might be.
Creative arts belong at the heart of innovation and business.
Terrible Writing Can Hurt Your Business
High quality writing is more vital to the success of your company than you think. Jessica Stillman illustrates the impact the written word has on a company’s prospects in her Inc. article, “3 Ways Terrible Writing Can Kill Your Business.”
According to Stillman, one linguistic crime that many companies commit is the propensity to aggrandize their own mission or purpose. Making grandiose statements about how your business will save the world will only make you come off as pompous and showy.
Getting ahead of yourself when it comes to purpose, not only turns off commentators and potential employees, but also confuses customers, making it harder to understand and communicate what it is you actually do as a company.
Also, exaggerating the size, impact, or market of a company can lead to trouble in the future, as it is often indicative of a lack of understanding of the company’s offering on the part of the founders.
If you really know what you're doing, you should be able to sell your vision simply in five or ten minutes without endless bloviating about ‘first mover advantage’ and ‘breakthrough technologies.’
How to Create Compelling Content
Now that you know how inextricable writing and business are, let’s explore how you can utilize the written word to increase your company’s chances for success.
Pratik Dholakiya, founder of Growfusely & Preceptist, wrote an Entrepreneur article dedicated to the subject of crafting engaging content for a business. The article, titled “Think Like a Journalist to Create Compelling Content That Gets Noticed”, outlines several key points to consider when writing to attract customers, emphasizing the need to adopt a journalistic mindset over typical SEO copywriting.
Brand Content Isn't Always Reliable
Before creating content for your company, take into account the fact that most people are naturally suspicious of a brand’s content as they feel that they are only being coerced into buying something. If you want to attract the attention of your potential customers, look at your company’s offering from the point of view of your clientele.
Think in terms of a newsroom, and apply the principles of journalism. Be true, use facts and figures, give clear industry insights with some cross-references and complete your content with a compelling beginning, middle, and conclusion.
Valuable Content Establishes Trust With Your Customers
The best way to gain the trust of your customers is to prioritize the value you are offering them. In the realm of content marketing, providing something of value to your target audience is paramount and should take precedence over telling them to invest their money in your product.
The sole focus of your content should be to provide valuable insights to your customers so that they can make better purchase decisions.
How to Compose a Powerful Press Release
While digital marketers often scoff at the idea of employing press releases as part of their marketing strategies, there is no denying that press releases are still one of the most powerful means of informing your audience -- if executed correctly.
In fact, according to John Pilmer in his Entrepreneur article “The Venerable Press Release Remains the Cornerstone of Public Relations”, press releases, despite a history dating back to the early 1900s, are even more important in the digital age as they possess a professional quality that transcends cyber noise.
While social media, Google AdWords, brand based websites, email blasts, banner ads, blogs and a plethora of other new-age technologies are an important part of any marketing strategy – especially for startups – these things will not replace the more formal and far-reaching concept of a professional press release.
However, composing a powerful press release that will get you and your company noticed is no small feat, and too many forget the fact that badly written press releases end up in the digital dustbin. Furthermore, according to Erik Sherman in his Inc. article, “7 Simple Changes to Make Your Press Release Soar”, 99 percent of the press releases he receives on a weekly basis are immediately tossed. If you want your press release to stick, follow the steps Sherman recommends below:
- Unbury the lede
In the media industry, the lede is the introduction to a story. A strong lede will give your audience a reason to continue reading, so be sure to include your lede at the beginning of a press release. If it’s “buried” under several paragraphs of unimportant content, you’ve got problems.
Keep it short
Keeping your press releases short not only ensures that your lede is easy to find, it also allows journalists to develop their story quicker. Remember to only include the most important, relevant, and newsworthy items in your press release, and avoid unnecessary words.
You or your PR representatives should be able to write a serviceable release in 250 words or less. In fact, you should be able to pitch the kernel of the idea in a single paragraph. If you, or they, can't, then go back to the drawing board and throw out everything that is unimportant.
Have a point other than yourself
Entrepreneurs love to talk about themselves and their companies. Unfortunately for them, journalists don’t care. They only care about interesting stories, so research the kinds of topics that journalists write about and look up examples of press releases online.
Cut exclamation points
Including exclamation points, or any other flourishes you think are clever, will not entice your audience. Keep in mind that press releases should report facts, figures, major news, etc., so let the journalists determine how exciting the content of your press release really is.
I don't care how enthusiastic you feel or how young, energetic, and recently out of college the person who wrote it is. It makes you look like a rank amateur because it conveys no excitement at all.
Remember the audience
Too many startups submit press releases indiscriminately, without regard to who they are sending it to. If you don’t have a story that will pique the interest of the party you’re submitting to, don’t submit anything. Before you begin distributing your press release to reporters and journalists, compile a list of those who actually write about similar stories, your respective market, etc.
Kill meaningless and stupid buzzwords
When it comes to describing what your company does, take some advice from the great Albert Einstein: “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” Regardless of how complex your company is, or how complex you think it is, remember that it’s always possible to simplify your company’s description. Explaining concepts in plain english will only serve to attract more customers.
One of the best lessons in communications I ever had came during an organic chemistry class. The professor explained that buzzwords are terms invented to keep insiders in and outsiders out. If you keep out all but the insiders, there won't be anyone to talk to. Not good for a growing company.
Embrace some humility
When it comes to reporting on your company’s recent success or achievement, you can take confidence only so far before coming off as arrogant to your audience. Too many companies profess to disrupting or revolutionizing a market they’ve only just ventured into. Imbue some modesty into your press release to spare yourself some embarrassment.
How to Write an Effective Blog Post
While disseminating a press release that details your company’s recent success can be an effective strategy for attracting attention, it can be a costly and tedious process. However, for those who lack the funds and time to prepare and distribute a press release, writing periodic blog posts on your company and related topics is a viable approach to keeping your audiences updated.
In the Entrepreneur article, “How to Write a Blog Post in Just 30 Minutes”, Mel Carson elaborates on the practicality of a blog in lieu of a traditional press release:
While press-release distribution companies like PR Newswire and PRWeb definitely have their place in the digital marketing ecosystem, using a blog to tell a story that you can control can be an effective way to have your news and views shared inexpensively and generate coverage in third-party publications.
Since content marketing is so prevalent in the startup world, it’s more important than ever to know how to craft an engaging blog post. Not convinced? Just ask Neil Patel who, in his Entrepreneur article “8 Must-Have Ingredients of a Successful Blog Post”, expounds on the components you need to keep your audience interested in your company.
1. The article needs a point
The benefits of creating a blog post with a point are twofold:
- An article with a point gives your audience something they will feel more compelled to read, share, and comment on.
An article with a point allows you to implement the targeted keywords you researched when planning the marketing strategy for your company.
Yes, incorporating images in your blog post may not help it attract search engines and crawlers, but it will help boost the quality of your blog post and give your audience more context, something more to illustrate your point. Simply put - show, don't just tell.
Your blog post needs to be organized to ensure that you do don’t lose your audience. This may seem like a no-brainer, but a scattered collection of sentences and ideas will not keep your audience engaged.
Neil Patel recommends following the structure outlined below:
Introduction: Set the stage for your discussion.
Make your point. Explain it.
Make your next point. Explain it.
Do this for as many points as you have.
Conclusion: Wrap up the article with a call to action.
4. Unique content
To stick out from the plethora of blogs that already exist in your industry, you must create unique content or take a unique angle on a common topic.
While curated content lists, such as “best of the web” posts are fine, but because they lack original content, they should be done infrequently.
Unique content is more likely to be linked and shared. People are going to go to your content because it’s one of a kind.
5. Substantial length
While an article should be long enough to convey an idea or explain a topic, considerable data shows that longer posts tend perform better than shorter ones, so don’t be afraid to go in-depth when writing a blog post.
My research, experience, and data all point to long-form content performing better in social sharing, search indexing, organic traffic, and conversions. If you’re regularly creating content that is in the 1,000- to 1,500-word range, you’re doing well. If most of your articles are about 200 to 300 words then you could probably beef up a bit.
6. Internal linking
Linking to other related posts on your site is an effective way to enhance the quality and boost the authority of your blog posts.
Neil Patel outlines several easy strategies for you to link to other sources in your article:
Create enough content throughout the site.
Use links that the reader will be interested in.
Link to relevant data on your site.
Use enough internal links to make it worthwhile, ideally 3-10 per post.
7. Attention to proper spelling and grammar
Proper spelling and grammar on your site is important to maintain a professional and authoritative tone in your blog post, so remember to give your blog post several editorial passes before posting.
8. A call to action
Every post on your company’s blog should have a call to action, as it is the key to attracting more conversions. Be sure to craft compelling and eye-catching copy when creating your call to action because this is where your reader’s attention has been drawn to.
Every post needs a call to action. The reader is ready to respond, to do, to click, to engage. What do you want them to do? Whether it’s capturing an email address, visiting another page, purchasing a product, or downloading an ebook, you need to have an explicit call to action for each article, every time.
Remember, you don't need to be Shakespeare or Austen to create a powerful written message for your audience. However, regardless of your profession or industry, it is vital to cultivate a sensitivity to the effect words can have on your readership. In a digital age convoluted with text-speak and shortcuts, crafting a meaningful message is more essential for a company's prospects than ever, so always write truthfully and write with conviction.
"You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." - F. Scott Fitzgerald