How I learned how to expose my heart in my blogging



By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Years ago, Mark Schaefer told me my writing had no heart. He told me the reporting I was doing would never make me a star.

Years ago, Mark Schaefer gave me some of the best writing advice I’ve ever received.

“You have to dig down and bring your heart into it. Your posts don’t have a heartbeat. It’s time to take it up a notch.

  • What is making you angry?
  • What is making you sick?
  • What is making you delighted?
  • What part of the social web makes you excited for your children? Terrified for your children?
  • Have the courage to weave your story into the narrative. And then watch what happens!

After taking his advice, I wrote one of the most successful posts of my career, one of my most popular posts on Mark’s site even to this day.

The photo with this post shows Mark reading that original email to me years later on stage at the conference in Montenegro — it was a key part of my talk and one of my best profressional moments to share this with Mark!

Digging deep for heart

I try to remember Mark’s advice anytime I write, but I’ll admit it’s difficult when the topic involves law or business. In the interest of communicating information efficiently, I sometimes forget that readers are people, driven by emotions, just like me.

This week, I had another reminder that great writing requires heart. I wrote a post for MarketingProfs detailing my experience with their “learning challenge” for employees. I wrote about how I had the opportunity to learn something new, and about what people thought I should do with that opportunity. Then I wrote about why I ignored their advice.

This post, like that first attempt, has been one of my most shared pieces. I have even received feedback through MarketingProfs’ customer service channels! People have really gone out of their way to let me know that my writing touched them.

Once again, I’m reminded that Mark was right.

Marketing is about emotion

People connect to other people. People buy from other people. The customer is the marketer. Life and business are not that different.

And yet, over and over again, businesses forget these content best practices and revert to features and benefits language they think will help them sell things. What they fail to realize, is that people literally do not even see ad type sales copy anymore. They simply filter it out.

It’s like driving by McDonald’s every day for years. Eventually, you don’t even see it anymore. One McDonald’s franchise near my house in the 90s painted its exterior white in an effort to stand out again. This was exactly the problem they were dealing with.

McDonald’s had become part of the landscape.

Salesy writing has become part of the landscape.

If you want people to see you, if you want people to connect with you, if you want to people to buy from you, you have to put your heart into your writing.

Putting your heart first

No question, this can seem odd when what you want to talk about something like software as a service. The solution, if you’ll excuse the pun, is simple: don’t talk about software. Talk about the people whose lives are made better because they used your software. Talk about the problems they had, the challenges they faced, the bad situation made better because they were able to use your software.

For examples of powerful storytelling, check out Airbnb’s community stories or GoPro’s YouTube channel. You’ll see right away how different those stories are from anything you see in a typical marketing email or sponsored post.

Most of us are familiar with the common story arcs: the hero’s journey, the Pixar formula, and so many others. Why do we completely toss these out the window when it’s time to write for work?

I’ve written before about my realization that I have always been part of the marketing rebellion. What I have since come to realize is that we are ALL part of the rebellion, and always have been.

I am part of the rebellion.

Every time we ignore a white paper, a salesy blog post, or a cringeworthy social media post from a brand, we are part of the marketing rebellion.

Every time we share an inspiring story about how someone overcame a challenge, and that piece of content was created by a brand (although it’s not about the brand), we are part of the marketing rebellion.

Every time we recommend a product to someone just because we love it and not because we have any affiliation with the brand, we are part of the marketing rebellion.

Here are some tips for embracing your role in the marketing rebellion for the betterment of your business in the world at large:

1. Look for stories everywhere.

Start thinking like a storyteller. Every customer service interaction, every sale, every online conversation, has the potential to turn into a brand story. Review every customer touch point and employee interaction through this filter, and suddenly you’ll have enough story ideas to keep your editorial calendar full for months!

2. Infuse your writing with heart.

Even when you have to work on product pages or more traditional copy, which we all do, work to infuse your writing with heart. Think about what words you could use that are less dry and more emotionally charged. Don’t get overly dramatic, but do make an effort to use colorful words when possible.

And don’t stop with your writing: put your heart into all your content, whether you’re creating videos, pictures for Instagram, podcasts…anything! The same principle applies.

3. Always remember the people you serve.

You don’t sell billing software, you help professionals to bill their time more efficiently. You don’t sell project management tools, you help people streamline their processes so they can focus on more creative, strategic work. Look up from your portfolio of solutions to envision the people you serve every day. Keep them in mind the next time you create content.

And remember this lesson that I’ve learned and relearned, courtesy of Mark Schaefer:

“Have the courage to weave your story into the narrative. And then watch what happens!”

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is a writer, lawyer, speaker and educator. She’s also a Learning Designer at MarketingProfs. Kerry hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast and gets people to open up about their cool collections, weird hobbies, and inspiring side hustles on The Punching Out Podcast with co-host Katie Robbert. Find Kerry on Twitter.


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