Estimated read time: 4 minutes
He said, she said writing ✍️ really must go and die a quick death now in corporate content marketing.
I’ve given it three years now but the formal third-person style of writing persists! I won’t take offense. I’m used to people my kids not listening to me. I have to say everything 22 times. #dadlife
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Related: Why kids must hear no more
I’ve seen a number of studies and comments now on children hearing way more “no” from their parents (and others) than they hear “yes.”
This has often been shared as a sign that the parents are oh so not empowering their children. Bad, bad parents! Oh, please, but no. Ha. Maybe there’s truth to the numbers, but I wonder if the two words carry the same weight.
For example, I have to say “no” repeatably to my kids for the same thing. When I say “yes” that’s usually that. No repeats needed. One-time use works with “yes.”
“Daddy, can I do/buy/download/watch ….”
“No because ….”
“Did you say yes?”
“OK, no means yes and no means yes. Which one is it?”
This can go on for a while. That last one is a trick question usually and no matter what parents answer the kid will hear “yes.”
“Daddy, can I do/buy/download/watch ….”
End of discussion.
Some “nos” are adding up quickly too.
The other day the 2-year-old was heading for a temporarily uncovered outlet.
“No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.” as I’m sprinting across the room to put the cover back on the outlet.
So that was a bunch of “nos” counting against their childhood total right there. Oh no. I hope my kids can overcome the trauma.
I’m all for empowering and encouraging my daughters and be successful at whatever they choose to be successful in. I’ll focus on that while somebody else is counting my “yeses” and “nos.”
I grew up in a third-person world. News releases by us were quoting us like we were a third party. It makes writing too formal in my opinion and formality slows things down.
First person makes us appear human to our readers and it seems more conversational to me.
First-person writing doesn’t always mean it’s just opinion – though it could be at times. But it means you can add expertise and context.
For example, when I was a police reporter, after years I certainly could make certain general assertion based on police behavior and the like.
But reporters are trained to not do that. Somebody else has to say it. Of course, some TV shows have actually taken this to the extreme where people now just spew opinions and speculation. I’m not endorsing the extremes!
In corporate content marketing, we aren’t true practicing journalism anyway. It’s content marketing which ultimately ties to business goals. Why not loosen up some and try a new way of engaging and driving results?
When I made the switch to mostly first-person:
It empowered me.
It helped me think through things even more.
It made me think about if the messages are actually getting through.
I’m personally vested in my brand and of course the brands I’m associated with.
I’ve seen the same with clients who move to a first-person expert based system. The experts who are public facing take ownership in the messaging and they help humanize the brand – the corporate one and theirs.
Once in a while marketing vice presidents will tell me that brands aren’t human and this doesn’t work. We must be formal.
Sometimes formal is fine. But I’ve never heard somebody complain about conversational writing. Maybe too casual but that’s different. I used “ain’t” and somebody said that was too casual. Probably mostly true, but it was a text!
Conversational helps us tell better stories, drive business results and first-person writing helps us get there.
The trick is to try it, see what works and what doesn’t. I’ve seen projects where this was struck down the first time it was mentioned.
And then I’ve seen projects where this was implemented and it helped publish quicker and build brands and results.