B2B content writing that stops the scroll: The art of the unexpected

Back when I was a B2B property journalist, I started a bog-standard, state-of-the-market feature by drawing comparisons with famous pieces of art.

I wrote that if the market were a painting, it would be less like Monet’s Water Lilies and more like Dali’s The Putrefied Donkey.

Writing something unexpected can be a good way of grabbing attention. Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

The point was to grab attention with my opening line by throwing in something unexpected yet illustrative of the point I wanted to make.

I chose words and created an image that readers flicking through the magazine wouldn’t usually read.

Whether you are writing an article or a LinkedIn post, if you are following the usual tropes with all your content, you risk being lost in the crowd.

It’s not necessarily about saying something different to everyone else; you can have a similar idea just present it in a different way.

Getting creative

I could have said the property market was challenging or leasing conditions were difficult. But that’s what everyone else would say, so I got creative.

And I returned to the art theme running, concluding how the market might be a different painting in 6 months.

Let’s look at it another way. Which quote would make you want to read the piece more:

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Grappling with personal brand: My voyage of discovery

Personal brand has become a bit of a buzzword, and I confess I wasn’t entirely clear about what it meant and its relevance. And I know I’m not alone.

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

The May edition of It’s A B2B Comms Thing LinkedIn Live was all about personal branding: What it means, what opportunities there are in B2B and tips on building a personal brand.

Watching the replay of the Live with regular hosts Ayo Abbas and Emma Drake and guest host Eimear Strong (who stood in for me) gave me some clarity. And it made me realise that I’d been building a personal brand without realising it.

The first question of the Live does a great job of answering what personal brand is, framing it as how your reputation and values are perceived in your industry or by your target audience.

It is also about personality and authenticity, and there is huge value in that. People do business with people – Ayo had some stats on just how that manifests in engagement on platforms like LinkedIn. (You can find the video of the Live at the bottom of the post).

Standing out

And given that no two people are completely alike, personal brand is an opportunity to have a point of difference and help you stand out.

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Should you use LinkedIn Live as part of a comms strategy?

These days all major social media platforms give the option to do live video, and LinkedIn is no different. I’ve been co-hosting a monthly LinkedIn Live event with Ayo Abbas and Emma Drake since November, and it’s been a huge learning curve.

Screen shot from our LinkedIn Live showing Ayo Abbas and me side by side at the top of the screen and Emma Drake at the bottom in the middle of the screen. We are all wearing headphones
Screenshot from It’s A B2B Comms Thing LinkedIn live episode on…LinkedIn Live

So in the April episode of our It’s A B2B Comms Thing LinkedIn Live, we decided to talk about what we’ve learned from using the platform and whether it was good for business.

Here are some key points. Scroll down to watch the full episode, which includes audience questions.

What do you need to know about LinkedIn Live?

Me: At the moment, you need to use an external provider to do the broadcast. We use StreamYard, but LinkedIn is developing its own in-house platform to do live events, which is being beta-tested.

When using an external platform, you can customise it, add a banner, put questions on screen, add your branding and make it look quite slick.

We didn’t do everything to start with; we kept it quite simple and added new features as we’ve gone along. It’s a bit of a learning process.

We didn’t know what to expect for our first broadcast, and people started submitting questions, so we adapted the next one by adding a Q&A. We were surprised by the engagement with the actual event.

A LinkedIn Live is not just a live event, the recording stays on your LinkedIn event page, and people can go back and rewatch it. You do create something that has longevity.

Emma: The platform is glitchy, and we’ve had a few problems that we’ve had to work through. So things like you can’t go in and change certain details once you’ve set up an event. I set up one for midnight instead of midday, but we got around it.

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Lessons learned from publishing 102 blog posts

Blogging regularly has taken a bit of practice, but I passed a milestone recently, publishing post number 102. (I was so busy posting I missed the 100th blog milestone.)

Photo of an old fashioned school room with wooden desks, ink wells and a blackboard.
Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

And I feel pretty chuffed with that, particularly as it takes time and effort, and it’s been a learning curve.

Even though I write for a living, writing for my own business hasn’t come naturally. It’s taken a little while to find my feet, working out what to write about and how to write about it.

There is stuff I’ve had to establish and get comfortable with, like tone of voice.

So what have I learned?

1. Write stuff that is good for business

When I first set up my website and blog, I was fresh out of a 20-year career as a B2B journalist in the built environment sector. I was comfortable writing about the industry and what was going on but not about me and what I do.

I ended up posting sporadically, a weird mix of stuff about being a freelancer, some work-life stuff and the odd thing about writing.

Neither the frequency nor the content mix was doing me any favours. It wasn’t engaging, and it wasn’t doing much to demonstrate my knowledge and expertise.

2. Make the blog top of the content pyramid

At first, I’d been trying to turn stuff I was writing about on LinkedIn into a longer format suitable for a blog post.

Then I had a lightbulb moment, which seems so flippin’ obvious now: Write the long-form blog post and repurpose it as shorter LinkedIn posts.

I’m still experimenting with how to repurpose the blog content, but it gave me the incentive/kick up the bum I needed to blog a bit more regularly.

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The diary of a B2B journalist at a trade show

I was walking along the Croisette in sunny Cannes, on my way to my fourth meeting of the morning, my thumbs rapidly typing a Tweet.

Screen shot of a Tweet showing a picture of the beach and sea in Cannes. Beach is covered in deckchairs with parasols. Caption is Gorgeous morning here in Cannes, just in case you were wondering #MIPIM makes for a lovely walk to work.
Tweeting from Cannes back in 2017

It was day two of MIPIM, the international property trade show held every March, and already I felt like my phone was part of my hand and might have to be surgically removed at the end of the week.

Tweeting was par for the course, something you slotted in while hurrying to the next event or one to one. It was about mopping up the sights, sounds and hot topics of the show to give a flavour of what was going on and what it was like for those not there.

It was also a way of showing what you were up to and that you were ‘all over the show’.

But it was only a small part of the output.

My work on MIPIM usually started in December, coming up with content ideas and commissioning the features for the supplements that would go out with the ‘MIPIM issue’.

Planning ahead with content

Supplements usually had an eight-week production schedule. However, because of the volume of content going into what was our biggest issue of the year, preparation started earlier so I could drip-feed articles through to the production desk for subbing and layout.

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