The podcast starts off with an explanation for Gene Knauer’s book, Herding Goldfish, and the interesting fact that the average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish. For the writer or speaker in marketing, that’s not good news as information now needs to be even more interesting than before. Gene shares his thoughts and valuable marketing experience in this podcast with Byron White, CEO of WriterAccess.
Gene Knauer starts off clarifying the critical difference between a technical writer, a term mistakenly thrown around a lot today in online content production, and a marketing writer. While it may seem like semantics, the difference really matters, especially when writers need to communicate their benefits to clients clearly to land projects.
Knauer’s background comes from street-wise application. He started in the business an advertising copywriter, moved into work for big companies and department stores, then launched himself as a freelancer for marketing agencies. He’s covered everything from furniture to restaurants to merchandising variety and now public relations and technology.
Every tip and bit of advice Knauer shares in the podcast is rooted in experience. He did not get into the industry with any formal business training; instead his one line of education was in journalism writing. Instead, trial and error were Knauer’s professors and trainers. That also allowed him early on to realize one of the big deficiencies in business involved companies using poor copy that had no basis and no clear audience target, much less an appropriate messaging voice.
The messaging voice, according to Knauer, is a result of research every marketing writer should be doing. That involves learning the client in terms of what the business has done, who they sell to, what does the public know about them etc. You are crafting a buyers’ journey now and it has a lot of information stops today that didn’t exist before. People have always gone through a “figuring out” process before buying, but today the Internet has made research far easier. So basic sales opinions don’t work as well yet they still play a part. Marketing writing now is a successful crafting of a multi-phase journey, a series of touchpoints with the customer to increase interest to the point of engagement/buying.
Writers should enjoy helping people get comfortable talking about a topic. Client interviews for research, as a result, shouldn’t be book-theory structured. Conversations work far better, but the writer should keep asking until a clear answer emerges for each point of information needed. The writer should take charge of the interview but make it personal and easy to talk, not stilted and formal.
According to Knauer, marketing writing plays an important role for clients. People today are overwhelmed. Their in-house product is not what they really want; instead, it’s often a half-done product just to meet a deadline. So a writer needs to triage, ask lots of questions, and determine how people need help. [Tweet it] And remember, you’re not after the credit, you’re the ghost writer. Let the client get the accolades and praise. Your primary role is to mentor the client upwards to see what they need and you can help them get with your work.
- “As a content marketing writer, you’re selling. And you better be selling or else you’re not doing your job.”
- “Writing something with a strong voice that’s distinctive is [always appropriate]. People just resonate when they read something that has a voice.”
- “Well written communications of any type are worth their weight in gold because people resonate with them.” [Tweet it]
- “Find a mentor, find someone that you respect, and learn as much as you can.”
- “You really have to write in a really compelling way, and keep it short, and keep it sweet, get to the point.”
Gene Knauer closes the interview with his views on the future of content writing, but the real takeaway is how the human marketing writer is still essential to business and selling in a fast digital world. Listen to the podcast to get Knauer’s details and more.
5-Star writer Tom L brings to customers and clients 17 years of extensive writing and editing experience working in government and producing documentation for public consumption. Additionally, he has spent the last 8 years privately producing written content and analytical products for clients and freelance agencies as well.
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