Tone might just be the most important thing in content marketing
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Tone might just be the most important thing in content marketing

Jan 17, 2017 / by John Durrant / In Business, Content marketing, Social media, Uncategorized / Tags: , , , / Leave a comment

Juggling Swords CEO John Durrant looks at the importance of tone in content marketing and argues that it might be the most important thing of all.

So there was an almighty “stooshie” on LinkedIn last week when a company director and working mum posted an expletive-ridden blog about the challenges of working from home and being a parent.

It was a beautifully candid and engaging blog and I genuinely think it’s one of the best things I’ve read on LinkedIn for a long time.

The constant barrage of sickly-sweet motivational quotes and dull-as-dishwater advice that drips through my LinkedIn feed has me often slowly losing the will to live.

But Cara Mackay’s piece was more like a sledgehammer to the face than an invitation to read more. It was littered with “fucks” and for a few days last week it felt like everyone on LinkedIn was losing their mind over it.

Some of the responses from people were far worse than any swear word Cara used in the blog.

They were just pathetic. From a lot of pathetic people.

Content marketing: Tone is crucial

Let’s get one thing straight here. This is firstly a debate about tone – forget the fact that there were swear words in there – was the tone in keeping with Cara’s online persona?

Absolutely yes! Now I’ve never met Cara in person but we do associate in the same circles and I have connected with her on a few social media channels and I know that she is gregarious and a straight talker and likes to throw the “fucks” around.

She’s even developed a striking tone of voice for her company’s content marketing, which is in keeping with this. Crucially, it works for them.

So here’s my issue. Most people who were so offended by a few F-bombs in Cara’s piece made the point that LinkedIn is a public forum blah, blah blah. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s house and start swearing, would you?

Walking into a stranger’s house

Well, probably not (although I suspect Cara might). The problem with that analogy is that it’s completely irrelevant and wrong.

Posting on social media isn’t like walking into a single stranger’s home and speaking to them. It is far more like trying to get your drinks order to your mate standing 10 feet away in a heaving pub.

There’s many strangers there, and they’re all communicating in different little groups and there’s noise. Lots and lots of noise.

If you were in that pub and shouted to your mate, “Fuck sake Dan, I said a bottle, not a pint,” would it be the social norm for everyone in the bar to then notify you that they were offended by your language?

Of course not. That’s ridiculous. If you’re offended by one person’s use of a swear word that’s not actually directed at you, then it’s your problem. Not theirs. It’s the same with Cara’s blog.

Find your tone

The key point is that the tone of the blog was entirely in keeping with the writer’s personality and the sentiment of the piece.

Tone is one of the hardest things to get right in content marketing but perhaps it’s all about authenticity.

The way you write and the tone you present for your brand in content marketing must appear authentic to the reader. Sorry, did I just say, ‘appear authentic?’ I should have said, it absolutely must be 100 per cent authentic because people can see through fake.

I’m not suggesting that you start dropping F-bombs all over your content marketing efforts. It might be a bit of a shock to the system for many of your followers if your normally straight-laced content suddenly becomes a script from a Gordon Ramsay show.

But if you think there’s merit in adapting a tone that grabs a reader’s attention AND is authentic you should absolutely go for it.

The tone of voice you develop in your content marketing is the single most important thing you can do. It’s the stamp you add to every piece of content that your company produces. Spend time on it. Ensure it’s authentic.

Lastly, if Cara’s blog has taught we content marketers anything over the last few days, it’s that sometimes being a little bit controversial is no bad thing. Just ask Cara about her engagement and sales over the last few days!

You can read Cara Mackay’s LinkedIn post here.

John Durrant is the CEO of Juggling Swords, an Edinburgh content marketing and PR agency.

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