“We wrote our first blog post before we wrote our first line of code.”
- Jon Miller, founder, Marketo

Blogging is important for every business. So we don’t just offer ghostwriting services for others. We blog for ourselves. Why? To discuss big issues such as content strategy, commissioning and ROI, as well as tactics for effective copy creation or editing, not to mention news about Collective Content.

Remember, over a third of marketers say blogs are the most valuable content type. Let us know what you’d like to read about here.

4 ways to write marketing copy that stands the test of time

Out of all of the millions of things that humans have written over the millennia, very few can be described as ‘timeless’. And those typically falling into that category tend to be literary or philosophical – think Shakespeare’s plays, Plato’s dialogues, the Bhagavad Gita – rather than marketing materials.

On the flip side, when we think about marketing materials from times past, we often find them comically quaint or embarrassingly retrograde. Think, for example, about all those famously awful sexist and racist ads from the 20th century. (And, yes, you can still find far too many examples of both today.)

While marketing content is written with very different goals in mind than are, say, philosophical treatises or epic scriptures, there are ways to help make it more enduring. And, hopefully, less cringeworthy to current and future audiences. Here’s how:

  • Use specifics, not generalisations – The strongest content features information that’s focused, well-researched and well-substantiated, rather than leaning on stereotypes, clichés, tropes and other writing crutches. Consider the following two examples, and think about which one better grabs your interest:

‘People are using mobile devices more than ever to work, play and live…’


‘More than three-quarters of US adults today own smartphones, and nearly half also own tablets…’ (Source: Pew Research Center)

  • Zero in on your audience’s needs – Consider this ad for sewing needles: “[W]e buy high quality steel rods and make fine quality needles to be ready for use at home in no time.” Sounds pretty good, right? It also sounds amazingly modern, considering it was written on a copper-plate ad sometime during China’s Song dynasty (960 – 1279 AD). What makes this copy timeless is the fact that it speaks to a specific market with a specific need, telling them what the business can do for them.
  • Write with the long view in mind – Social conventions, attitudes and beliefs evolve over time. So tread lightly in your references to current trends, memes and ‘common knowledge’ that might prove to be neither common nor correct. This is especially important in a time of ‘fake news’ accusations, social media manipulation and targeted messaging by actors with ulterior motives.
  • Most of all, be as transparent as possibleTransparency is one of the best ways to build trust today, writes media critic and New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen. While Rosen’s list of transparency-supporting strategies is aimed primarily at journalists, his advice applies to anyone producing content for an audience.

Whatever your business and whatever your brand, your audience expects you to be thinking about their needs, not yours. And that’s as well as the words you use need to reflect that, as BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti recently noted:

“In the past, consumers were loyal to brands – brands created distant, aspirational images and we strived for them,” Peretti wrote. “Increasingly, the balance of power has shifted and consumers have more control. Today, brands need to be loyal to consumers.”

Read Further

What’s more important than consistency in your copy? Give this a Go

With matters of style in your content, there’s generally no right answer to whether you should be informal, use Oxford commas or do – or don’t do – a number of other things. Believe me, that’s a controversial enough statement. (I’ve been accused of being an Oxford comma fundamentalist.) But it’s true.

We’ve stressed before to be, above all else, consistent. But ‘above all else’ is wrong. There’s something that trumps consistency.

I was just watching a short video about the ancient board game, Go. And there’s a clue here in what I’m talking about.

Go, the game, is interesting. But I’m drawn to why most spelling of games takes a lower-case letter. We write ‘chess’, not ‘Chess’. Or ‘tennis’, not ‘Tennis’. This is a constant. It’s not even so much about style, although we could probably think of rare exceptions in sports manuals or signage where these all get capitalised.

But try reading about Go, the game, if you use a lower case ‘g’. Given the meaning and common usage of the verb ‘go’ in English, it makes for hard work.

So here’s what trumps consistency: It’s pragmatism.

Above all else, be pragmatic with your content. Ultimately, you aren’t trying to prove you have been consistent 100 per cent of the time. You are trying to communicate. To influence. To speak clearly.

Be pragmatic 100 per cent of the time.

So I use Oxford commas when they help separate clauses in long sentences. I slip into informal second person prose for a call to action. I accept title case as opposed to sentence case makes sense when someone asks us for Google ad copy.

You will still aim to be consistent 99 per cent of the time. But that is not your goal. Your goal is to be effective. Pragmatism will guide you.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

Download our exclusive research and report ‘Will PR and content marketing play together nicely?

Read Further

11 essential content marketing links from Q4 17

  1. Copywriter vs. Content Writer: Skills, writing fees and expectations

This isn’t the exact same take we’ve provided but Barry is always good and this piece has a lot to ponder on when to be overtly commercial in your writing.

  1. Four simple tips to make boring copy more exciting

Of course, you might hear people say there is no such thing as ‘boring content’ but this piece from eConsultancy is packed full of useful tips.

  1. How to develop a content marketing code Of ethics

This is one of those subjects we hope we’ll hear a lot more about in 2018. Well, we can always hope.

  1. How could the Internet of Things change the game for content marketers?

We hear a lot about how IoT, or the blockchain or a handful of other technologies will change our worlds. But this piece made us think about some opportunities.

  1. How to use storytelling in your start-up

What better place for storytelling than start-ups? You’d think all founders should know this but it often gets short shrift – or ignored altogether.

  1. What is a content audit and why do you need one?

We’re always working on a content audit for one brand or another. We know our way around the discipline but here’s a nice concise pointer from the guys at Contently.

  1. Four audiences for your content audit

And to follow up that last link, here Tony explains who will consume the output of any content audit. Always have this in mind if you’re tasked with an audit.

  1. How to curate content: The secret sauce to getting noticed, becoming an influencer, and having fun online

Curation is important for most brands marketing with content today. But we can’t say how often we have to explain its advantages.

  1. Branded-content deals account for 60 percent of CNN International’s revenue

Closely linked to how brands are doing content marketing is how they’re engaging established media owners for native advertising. Here’s a show and tell showing how important native has become to CNN.

  1. Who are the main publishers’ content studios?

And beyond CNN, who’s doing native and brand content more generally at the major media companies? We did a bit of a ring around, a while back.

  1. Content metrics for content marketing and journalism

Much like ethics, which differ for brand content and journalism, people don’t discuss metrics nearly enough. Here’s a starter for 10. (Sorry, 11.)

And why 11 links? Just like the amp in This Is Spinal Tap, this one goes to 11, 11, 11… well, it’s one louder.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

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Contact us

Contact us to find out how we can help you:

Email:  tony.hallett@collectivecontent.co.uk

Twitter:  @ColContent

Facebook: facebook.com/CollectiveContent

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/collective-content

Phone:  0800 086 9333