“We want our content to have a bit more personality” is something I often hear from clients, but when they see copy that reflects the individual, it can make them nervous.
It reads as more conversational and less formal than the traditional B2B content you normally see.
The built environment sector I work in is frequently described as a people industry, yet you wouldn’t guess that from the content that is regularly published.
A lot of it sounds quite similar, as if following a particular rule book about how you write to sound professional and authoritative.
To reflect personality in your business content, that rule book needs to be ripped up. It will read a little differently, but it can help your target audience get to know you and the people in your business. It can make you more relatable and approachable.
And content that is a bit different is good in the noisy world of the internet and social media.
You don’t have to completely change how you write or sound like an Innocent smoothie advert. There are small, subtle ways to add a sprinkle of personality to your B2B content that will make a difference.
Whether you are writing your own content or writing it for someone in your business, here are four ways of adding personality:
1. Particular word choice
Start with choosing words and phrases you would use in a real conversation with a friend, family member or peer. If you would naturally say you were ‘chuffed’ or ‘over the moon’, write that.
If you are writing a piece for someone in your business, listen carefully to the words they use. I like to record content chats and get a transcript (Otter.ai is the tool I use).
Are there any particular words or phrases they use? How do they explain their viewpoint or describe something when chatting about it?
Use these in the copy so that it sounds authentic to them.
A simple example is someone who works in the healthcare sector using the word ‘poorly’ rather than ‘sick’ to describe patients using a facility.
2. Conversational structure
It’s not just the particular words you use in conversation, reflecting on how you or others speak is also important.
Starting sentences with ‘and’ and ‘but’ is natural in conversation and isn’t breaking any grammar rules. But if you tell stories or ask questions a certain way, try and reflect that in your writing.
For example, perhaps you use colourful or visual descriptions. Maybe you lean towards the odd analogy, metaphor or simile?
If you were describing how there is caution in the market to someone and would say something like: ‘Getting deals over the line is like kicking a mattress up a hill’, then use that phrase in your writing.
(Yes, someone said that to me once while interviewing them for an article.)
Maybe you like to use understatement (litotes), for example, ‘this was no small problem’. Or tend to use irony, self-deprecation or rhetorical questions.
Again imagine you are chatting to a friend over a coffee or beer; how would you naturally describe something?
You can always do an audio brain dump – record yourself talking about the topic using voice notes or the dictate function in Word or Apple Notes.
3. Feelings and impressions
Reflecting on how something made you feel tells your readers a little about you. It can make content more relatable and sound human rather than dry and corporate.
And the same goes for your impressions of a particular scenario, situation, idea or person.
This isn’t about being overly emotional but injecting just a little of what makes you human.
It can be one descriptive word. Here are a few examples: Inspired/inspiring, surprised/surprising, challenged/challenging, shocked/shocking, saddened/saddening, upset/upsetting etc.
Start with LinkedIn and social media content which tends to be a little more informal or conversational.
Rather than just talking about a project milestone or deal success, say what it was like for you working on it and how it made you feel or changed your perspective. How was it for you?
For example, ‘Proud to have been part of this team that delivered a quality development in challenging conditions. We may have had to grit our teeth with some inclement weather, but it was inspiring to see collaboration at its best’.
Anecdotes can be powerful mini-stories that subtly put people and personalities into your writing. They can add colour and human interest and can be relatable.
Again it’s important to think about how you would talk about your chosen topic with a friend or how something is explained.
If there is something you’ve personally experienced that highlights a point you are making, think about using it.
An example might be something you overhead or witnessed that illustrates a point simply and powerfully.
In the process of ghostwriting a piece on climate change for a client, I was told about their six-year-old daughter and a sharp observation made about how early the cherry blossom was. The anecdote not only painted a vivid picture but also reflected on the person telling it.
It became the introduction to the piece.
Personality is a set of characteristics that reflect our thoughts, emotions and feelings and make us unique. They shape our interactions and behaviour with each other.
In B2B, people generally do business with people, people they’ve got to know a little, and you can help them do that by letting them see some of you in your content.