Eric Wendt

The term “creative writing” conjures up images of college classrooms, writer workshops and painfully earnest poetry. What it typically doesn’t remind people of is marketing.

However, the lessons learned by those pursuing creative writing as either a career or creative outlet can be invaluable where content marketing is concerned. What company doesn’t want to transform boring content into marketing materials people will actually want to read?

There’s no law that says content marketing should be devoid of creative expression. In fact, marrying creative writing to content marketing can greatly enhance campaigns. The trick is recognizing the differences between the two.

Creative vs. content

Creative writing is essentially a catchall term for any writing that is more focused on art and expression than other types of works, such as newspaper articles or academic research papers. Everything from Stephen King novels to William Shakespeare sonnets would fall under this umbrella.

Content marketing also represents a broad category. Put simply, content marketing is the creation of content to capture consumer attention with a commercial goal in mind. From blog articles to animated videos, content can take many forms.

However, even when contrasting the two, it’s clear they inherently share one major theme: Showing, not telling.

Creative writers produce prose that follows characters or concepts to reveal ideas, thoughts and feelings without necessarily spelling them out. Content marketers create content that demonstrates expertise, capability and opportunity instead of telling people about it through paid advertisements.

Creative writing professors and content marketing experts can agree: Showing is more effective than telling. In fact, survey data from Fractl and Moz showed content marketing produces a higher return on investment than native advertising on social media.

To effectively inject creative writing skills into your content marketing, you must understand when it makes sense to meld the two, as well as when marketing goals must win out over creative ideas.

Creative content writing can lead to fans as loyal as man's best friend.

Creative content writing can lead to fans as loyal as man’s best friend.

Focus on storytelling

Human beings love stories. Ask any child demanding a tale before bed or the general movie-going public, which spends billions on trips to the multiplex each year.

Creative writing is often focused on narrative, and this fits perfectly with content marketing.

Presenting information in a narrative format that parses out important details and takes readers on a journey will keep your audience engaged. While the level of detail you dive into may change depending on the format – blogs aren’t novels, after all – the general focus on storytelling should remain.

This includes:

  • Providing readers with a clear beginning, middle and end.
  • Introducing dramatic conflict, whether it’s a recent news story or potential industry change.
  • Identifying a protagonist and antagonist: in this case, your business and the problems it can solve.

Maximize impact

Stories that maximize dramatic impact tend to resonate most with individuals. There’s a reason most literature follows the same general structure. The traditional arc of exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution invests people in a story. In turn, that emotional investment leaves readers feeling a genuine connection to the text.

Content marketers can leverage this same arc, particularly with real-world examples like case studies. Say a client of yours was struggling, maybe even on the brink of losing his or her business. Describe how your product or service was able to help turn things around. Let readers see the results. Perhaps the client is thriving today. Maybe they’re even expanding operations. Such a story may not bring your audience to tears, but it will resonate much more than facts and figures standing alone on a page.

Put your best foot forward with creative writing behind all your content.

Put your best foot forward with creative writing behind all your content.

Grab attention

Creative writers know it’s vital to grab readers’ attention from the get-go. After all, there’s no shortage of titles to choose from on bookstore shelves.

Content marketers are in the same boat. Every website on the internet, currently at well over 1 billion and counting, is competing for your audience’s attention.

Headlines, meta descriptions and opening sentences should all be provided the same type of care authors would give their novels.

It will be impossible to attract readers with an eye-catching title if your content doesn’t show up on search engine results pages, however. Search engine optimization demands the same attention as word choice and story structure.

This includes:

  • Organically incorporating targeted keywords.
  • Utilizing internal links.
  • Following best practices with meta descriptions and title tags.
  • Using alternative text with images.
  • Capturing external links.
  • Tailoring web pages for local search and mobile optimization.
  • Using schema markup.

Prioritize readability

How content is written is just as vital for marketers as for novelists. Crafting confusing prose or slipping in five-dollar words when simpler langu
age will do is a great way to send your work whizzing over readers’ heads.

Keep your audience in mind. Beyond the sophistication level of the content, you must account for how people read online. Arranging content so it is easily scannable is important, as is breaking up large chunks of text with imagery, video, bulleted lists and other visual elements.

Also keep in mind the majority of Americans read at a “basic” or “intermediate” level, according to data compiled by Statistic Brain. In general, this means you should aim for a sixth- to eighth-grade reading level.

Put content first

While the tips above may help you transition your creative writing to a content marketing focus, remember that the ultimate goal of marketing materials is to drive a consumer action.

Abstract ideas and fancy language don’t lend themselves to making a sale. Direct calls to action do.

While creative writing techniques can enhance marketing content, they should never get in the way of marketing objectives. It may be painful to let go of a creative idea, but all content should align with overarching marketing efforts.