How to create connection not just more content
Businesses, small and large, are now deluged with advice to create content, create ‘brand stories’ and connect authentically with their audiences. You are told by the experts that if you’re not creating content in the form of blog posts, white papers, thought-leadership pieces, eBooks, real books, tweets, Instagram posts, you’re not going to be seen acquire or retain customers/clients. In short, you won’t have a successful business unless you create content.
As a corporate storyteller I welcome the ascendancy of content and content marketing. Words are my business. However, I think content has become a bit like toilet paper. It’s everywhere, people need it in their daily lives and most don’t even think about it, until they go to a 5-star hotel where the toilet paper is so soft and luscious that you notice the quality of the 'connection'.
I’ve had the opportunity recently to pause and think about the power of great content and ‘toilet paper variety’ content. I recently went on holiday part of which involved an organised tour around the battlefields of the Western Front of WW1.
This area is a 26-mile (and I use mile not kilometre deliberately) line of small towns that stretch from Yrpes in Belgium to Montauban in France.
On this 26-mile front line 1.3 million soldiers were killed in what has become known as the Battle of the Somme, a battle that went from 1 July 1916 to 1917.
I was asked to write a summary of tour and as I looked at my blank computer screen it occurred to me that there were at least two versions I could write. The toilet paper one or one that was more considered, personal, and vulnerable. Here’s the first few paragraphs of the two versions. Let me know which you connect with?
I joined the Somme WW1 Tour at Ypres and experience a moving ceremony at the Menin Gate. This ceremony occurs every night at 8.00pm and has done since 1927.
54,896 names are inscribed on the memorial of soldiers who died with no known grave.
From Ypres we travelled though the actual front line of the Somme that extends from Ypres in Belgium to Montauban in France. Our tour was focused on the Australian contingents and their role in the Battle of the Somme, so we visited the battlefields of Mouquet Farm, Pozières, Fromelles, Villers-Bretonneux and Amiens.
The smallness of the Somme front are in complete contrast to the numbers of young men that were mown down and that’s literally what happened. 1.3 million young men in total.
The tour has changed me forever. It’s challenging. You see the stupidity of war in its real and rawest form.
I joined the WWI Somme tour at Ypres in Belgium without understanding the significance of the city or the reasons why the other people on the tour were part of it. Within an hour we were at the 8.00pm ceremony that is held at the Menin Gate every, single night … just as it has been held since 1927.
Al, a mid-70s Vietnam Vet, was one of the tour group. Two of his great uncles had died on the Somme and the name of one of them was chiselled in to the Menin Gate Memorial, a memorial that has the names of almost 55,000 Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives and have no known grave.
I had the privilege of watching Al lay a wreath at the Menin Gate and over the following week we burned some gum leaves at the cemetery where Al’s other great uncle was buried. Al is a softly-spoken grandfatherly person. Quiet, observant with a pithy sense of humour. When we found the grave of his great uncle he commented, that, “I’m the first person in my family to visit this grave and now he knows he is never forgotten.”
A heart-breaking moment across time, continents, generations and shared with strangers, who no longer were.
These were just two moments from my Somme tour. I made a new, dear friend in Al. We shared his heartache and sense of pride in his great uncles, of their duty done … almost 100 years later. This journey has changed my life and my appreciation for the lives and futures that so many young men and their families lost so that I could live it.
Connect in business stories
While we can’t necessarily capture such personal experiences and emotions in our business stories/content, we can make an effort to understand our audience, and that's absoltuely critical for business stories if they are to connect.
To do this you need to understand who your clients and customers are, deeply. What are their problems and challenges, what’s important to them in their jobs and in their lives. By understanding them you can connect with them not simply tell them why they should buy your service or product.
It takes time, research, thinking and empathy to write content that connects. It’s not an afterthought in the marketing process, it’s at the heart of all good content and communication you do.
If you’re stuck about how to start, where to research your clients/customers and what to actually write, contact me at email@example.com. I’ll help you create content that really connects.