People in business: How to add personality to B2B content

“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.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

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.

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Personality in B2B content and why its good

Some thoughts on showing personality in B2B content and if it’s ‘professional’

There seems to be a fear about showing personality in B2B content. Either that it doesn’t sound professional or makes people feel exposed.

Showing some personality can be using a particular turn of phrase or choosing more conversational words in your writing.

Or perhaps using an anecdote or talking about a personal experience or how something made you feel, something that shows some of your personality.

What is ‘professional’?

First of all, being professional isn’t about sounding or dressing a certain way.

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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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How do businesses talk about going green?

There is increasing pressure on businesses to set out their strategy for going green. Aside from having a moral imperative to mitigate climate impact, businesses face increasing scrutiny from investors, clients and customers.

Crowd of people and a woman is holding a cardboard sign which says Planet over Profit.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

This is coupled with increased scrutiny from the government, which is introducing a number of measures to stop greenwashing – inflating green credentials.

For the second episode of It’s A B2B Comms Thing, I joined comms specialists Ayo Abbas and Emma Drake for a LinkedIn Live to discuss how businesses talk about going green.

If you are interested in the full discussion, including all the questions from the audience, you can find it here on LinkedIn but what follows are some highlights.

Why do businesses need to communicate their sustainability strategy?

Emma Drake: First, if you’re doing something amazing, then you want to tell everybody about it. As consumers and buyers, we’re increasingly looking for connections to sustainable products and services.

I had a guest on my podcast last week who works with startup companies finding investment for them. She said there’s an increasing number of investors looking to invest in sustainble businesses.

The flip side is consumers and buyers are wary, so it’s important that we communicate all the details and facts of what we’re doing clearly.

Ayo Abbas: The government is forcing peoples hands; every company by 2023 will have to have detailed public plans about how they are going to reach net zero.

Sustainability strategy and sustainability overall, if it’s done well, will be a differentiator; if it’s done badly, it will damage your business.

Me: People are much more savvy about greenwashing, and there’s a lot of scepticism about what businesses are doing or not doing. So it’s increasingly important to talk about what you are doing and your strategy.

Where does open and transparent communications leave us as communicators?

Emma: Greenwashing, whether that’s intentional or unintentional, can lead to a lack of trust from a consumer and a supply chain point of view. It’s a reputation issue that will affect the bottom line eventually.

It’s not just about best practices and communications; it’s about making sure that what we’re selling and what we’re telling people we’re selling are aligned in the simplest terms.

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And another thing…How to keep B2B writing focused

This is something I get asked about a lot: How do I keep my B2B writing focused and to the point.

There is a temptation to cover a lot of ground in articles and stories, particularly when it’s a big topic. Sustainability is the one I find hardest to keep succinct.

Slightly out of focus picture of the word Focus spelt out in lights
Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

It can be difficult seeing the wood for the trees when you have a lot of information to work with and so much seems relevant.

Writing for print can be easier because you have to keep to specific word counts, but most content is online these days, so word counts are far more flexible.

In my early years as a magazine features writer, I quickly learnt how to hone in on what is critical for the article. We were time-poor, and overwriting, then editing down just wasn’t an efficient way of working.

Going a little bit over was fine as it was easy to cut words tightening up the copy in the edit. But having to cut out huge chunks to make it fit the page just made the writing process more time-consuming.

There would inevitably be far more information than I could include in a feature, so I learned to plan out my features and keep it focused.

Carefully plan your article

Spending time planning before you put your fingers on the keyboard makes writing much quicker and can stop you from getting overwhelmed by too much information – or sidetracked. Here’s what you can do.

List of the main points you want to make. If that list is getting long, then think about how you can trim it down or break it up into more manageable chunks.

Remember, stuff you dump from this piece can be content topics for another day, so don’t bin it completely.

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