This month’s question gets to the heart of what it means to be a B2B copywriter: the tension between our technical subject matter, and the need to be compelling, engaging, and clear….
You might remember last time, we asked Katherine Wildman of Haydn Grey and WeTransfer’s Robyn Collinge:“How can I take a fairly dry – some would say boring – non-sexy service, such as law, which is often laden with jargon, and turn it into something people actually want to read?”
The question came from Dave Briggs, marketing manager at Nash & Co Solicitors. And Dave, we’ve got another answer for you. We wanted a perspective from the client’s side, so we got in touch with Brian Macreadie, who has a long history of making legal stuff interesting as Head of Marketing at Addleshaw Goddard.
You can read a full transcript of this episode at the bottom of this page.
Here’s some of what Brian had to say
1. Newsflash: commercial law is sexy
Often, topics that seem dry on the surface aren’t actually anywhere near as boring as you thought. Take law: “I think the law is pretty sexy,” says Brian. “It’s an industry full of incredibly smart, busy, often pressured people making really big risk-decisions to keep companies safe. And so I’ve always found it to be alive with emotive issues and human angles.”
2. Focus on how the subject impacts real people
If you’re looking for an interesting angle, focus on outcomes or barriers to progress that potential clients will care about. Brian explains: “If we can find sources of tension in our client’s worlds and offer a strong opinion about that, it’s likely to be more evocative.”
3. If bringing a topic to life feels nerve-wracking, you’re doing it right
Brian’s time-honoured approach is to “hire a great agency and let them do their thing”. But if a creative approach is going to provoke a response in your audience, you should it expect it to challenge you too.
“If the ideas that we get pitched by our agencies don’t make us equally excited and nervous, we’re probably not pushing things hard enough to stand out,” he warns. “If a piece of content of a piece of marketing doesn’t actually move us, and I mean genuinely evoke a smile, or a wow, or some serious intrigue, it almost certainly won’t move the reader or listener either.”
In this short and sweet episode, you’ll find…
1:01 – We pose Dave Brigg’s question to Brian Macreadie
1:50 – Brian shares his thoughts on turning marketing on its head
6:37 – David shares some thoughts too
Have you got a question for B2BQ&A?
How to listen:
- You can download the episode here (right-click and select “Save As” to download)
- Or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts
- Alternatively, add our RSS to your preferred podcast player
- Thanks again, Dave Briggs for your exciting – some might even say sexy? – question
- A huge thank you to Brian Macreadie for the fresh perspective and insights
- And thanks to you, for listening
Podcast editing and music by Bang and Smash.
Transcript: B2BQ&A 106.5 – How can I make boring B2B subjects more interesting? (Part deux)
David McGuire: Let’s have a bonus episode about making boring B2B subjects interesting. And this time, let’s ask Brian Macreadie at Addleshaw Goddard.
Hello listener, you are extremely welcome to – well, let’s call it episode 106-and-a-half of B2BQ&A, the podcast that goes in search of an answer to your question about B2B content writing. My name is David McGuire, I’m Creative Director at Radix Communications, the B2B writing agency. And as it’s just a sort of mini episode, I don’t actually have a guest co-host this time. We’ll put that right next time.
You might remember last time we answered this question from Dave Briggs…
Dave Briggs: My name is Dave Briggs. I’m the marketing manager at Nash & Co Solicitors in Plymouth. And my question is “How can I take a fairly dry – and some might say boring – non-sexy subject, such as law, which is often laden with jargon, and turn it into something that people actually want to read?”
David: We got some brilliant answers from Katherine Wildman and Robin Collinge but they are both copywriters. So I thought to give us a marketer’s perspective, I got in touch with someone that knows this territory really well and who has long experience of making legal stuff interesting. That’s Brian Macreadie, the Head of Marketing at Addleshaw Goddard, and Brian was kind enough to send us this…
Brian McCreadie: Hi, I’m Brian Macreadie. I’m the Head of Marketing at an international law firm called Addleshaw Goddard, and I was asked the question, “How can I take a fairly dry – some might say, boring – non-sexy service, such as law, which is often laden with jargon, and turn it into something people actually want to read?”
I guess I have to protest before I provide an answer; I think the law is pretty sexy. Without it, trade can’t happen and it’s an industry full of incredibly smart, busy, often pressured people making really big risk decisions to keep companies safe. And so I’ve always found it to be alive with emotive issues and human angles.
So if anybody wants a fresh perspective on the law, you can go to our law firm website, https://www.addleshawgoddard.com/poetry/ and get a whole bunch of fresh perspectives where we’ve invited poets to offer what they think about the law. So just sharing that in case anybody wants a different viewpoint on the law.
But back to the question, how do we find more interesting angles on topics that might on the surface seem quite dry. So I’ve worked in several B2B industries, and the same answers apply to law as other subjects, I find.
So one possibility is to not necessarily focus on the law and instead, focus on how the law impacts people. If we can find that the outcomes that potential clients and buyers care about, or their barriers to progress, then that can become the focus of what we want to write about. If we can find sources of tension in our client worlds and offer a strong opinion about that it’s likely to be more evocative.
So a process I often follow is to consider the human that we’re aiming to help have a clearer view on how our topics impact that person, and bring those impacts to life in the most interesting way possible, perhaps using stories or humour, provocation, strong opinions. Essentially, we’re just looking for the most interesting aspects of the topic, and then bring that interesting aspect to life somehow.
So just a couple of quick examples, maybe to elaborate on that. So my team and I once delivered a real estate law seminar, where we looked at what was changing in real estate. But to make that point more provocatively, we twisted the theme to focus on what was turning real estate on its head for the people that worked in the industry. And then to further bring that to life, when guests arrived at our physical seminar, we suspended a city upside down over the heads of the people as they walked into the room just to kind of make the point.
Just one other example may be, at the start of the pandemic, we wanted to offer fresh perspectives to clients on how to transact amid all the uncertainty. So we summarised the top five to seven issues that decision makers should consider when delivering major corporate transactions back in that surreal environment we found ourselves in during the initial lockdown. And then to bring that to life in the most interesting and relatable way we brought the surreal times to life of the pandemic using Picasso-inspired imagery.
So those are a couple of ways forward and and us marketers don’t necessarily need to come up with those creative ideas or those leaps. We don’t need to do that ourselves. If we each have creative ideas then great, but we’re of course often better served focusing I find on the objectives and the strategy and the calls to action and the results. So if we each need some new inspiration, some new creative ideas, the time-honoured answer is to hire a great agency and let them do their thing.
But there is one last little imperative of that I wanted to share, if the ideas that we get pitched by our agencies don’t make us equally excited and nervous, we’re probably not pushing things hard enough to stand out. Every marketer that I know, their threshold for what makes them nervous varies; I find the competence to push boundaries comes with time. So the convenient truth is just to push it as hard – that’s right for us and right for the brands that we work with.
But I think we must each always remember that if a piece of content, if a piece of marketing doesn’t actually move us, and I mean by that, genuinely evoke a smile, or a wow, or some serious intrigue, it’s almost certainly won’t move the reader or listener either.
And just to close, you know, the writer Robert Frost offered some sage advice on that when he said,: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader; no surprise for the writer, there’s no surprise for the reader.” So if it doesn’t surprise or evoke us in any way, it won’t evoke the reader. So we do have to find that creative twist ourselves or with agencies.
I hope that helps. But just want to say one last shout out for the law. It’s an amazing B2B sector to work in.
David McGuire: Oh, Brian, I knew you’d be great at this. Thank you so much. And I couldn’t agree more: it is not about somehow making a subject sexy or interesting. It’s understanding what’s already inherently interesting about it, and bringing that to the fore. And a lot of the time, that is the human element.
And I love the point about needing to feel a little bit nervous about your ideas, but that everyone’s mileage may vary, of course. Plus, Robert Frost! What’s not to like?
Dave, I hope you’re satisfied not just with last month’s answers, but also with the insight that Brian’s given you here. For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to work in commercial law, well, there’s plenty we can apply there too.
So very short and sweet episode this month. We’ll be back answering another in a bit more detail next time. And remember, it could be your question we answer in a future episode. If you have a question for B2BQ&A to answer email a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on social media. You can also get in touch with us on Twitter @Radixcom or on LinkedIn.
Next time we’ll dive into a question and a bit more detail with all the normal stuff like copywriting pro tips that you’d expect. I’ll see you next time for another B2BQ&A.