Writers Roundtable: Where to Find Content Writers
Speaker 1: Welcome to Page One or Bust, your ultimate guide to ranking on page one of search engines. We've introduced our revolutionary pillar- based marketing strategy to help you achieve page one rankings. Now it's time to roll up your sleeves and put the digital pen to paper. In part three of our Writers Round Table series, we're talking to an author, poet, copywriter, and creative writing expert about finding content writers for your company. This week, Daniel Lasell joins Drew and Ryan to discuss why marketers should consider partnering with English departments and why it's beneficial for a content writer to have a background in creative writing. But before we get into it, here's a brief word from today's sponsor. Page One or Bust is brought to you by DemandJump. Get Insights, drive outcomes with DemandJump. Get started creating content that ranks at demandjump. com today. And now here are your co- hosts, Drew Detzler and Ryan Brock.
Drew Detzler: Welcome to Page One or Bust. This is your co- host, Drew Detzler, VP of marketing at DemandJump. As always, I am joined by my co- host, Ryan Brock, our chief content officer here at DemandJump.
Ryan Brock: Yo.
Drew Detzler: Today is our third and final part of our Writing Round Table series. If you have not yet done so, please check out episodes one and two. We talked about writing pillar content as well as how to pick those topics to create content around. Ryan, why don't you tell the listeners what we have in store for them today?
Ryan Brock: Yeah, today we're talking about the first thing you need to get right before you start writing content or thinking about what you're going to write about, which is understanding what makes a good writer and where you can find that writer if you're business needs one. Now, our guest today is an award- winning author, poet, and copywriter. He's written for companies such as Echo, Intervision, Blue Lock, and Angie's List. And he's someone that I've known for how long now, Daniel, a year and a half, two years, something like that?
Daniel: Yeah. My goodness, it's been a while.
Ryan Brock: It's been a while. And since the very first time we met, I think I knew that we were cut from the same cloth. He's a writer's writer, but he's also someone who's taken his exceptional skillset and put it into the work of marketing, which means that he's someone that I'm always excited to learn from and listen to. Welcome, Daniel Lasell, to Page One or Bust. Daniel, how are you today?
Daniel: I'm doing well. Thank you so much for having me.
Drew Detzler: All right, before jumping in, why are we talking about this specifically on an SEO podcast?
Daniel: Yeah. It sounds like you, you've done a series around how to create the content that really performs with SEO. And you have to have a writer before you can have some writing, and-
Drew Detzler: Very valid, very valid point.
Daniel: I think it's an important question to ask is, well, where do I look for that writer? And who is the best writer for my company?
Ryan Brock: If you want to be competitive in the organic traffic space in digital marketing today, your business needs to be a publisher as much as anything else. Not just how do you hire writers, but manage them and make them productive and give them what they need as creatives and individuals? And you can find writers all over the place. You search" Writers for hire" or something on the internet, you will find lots and lots of writers. But how do you know which ones you need and then which ones are going to fit with your vision and your culture and your goals and your budget? That, I think, for a lot of businesses who are realizing maybe now more than ever that they need to become publishing houses, that's a big thing to ask someone who's never touched that at all to think about.
Daniel: Yep. That's right. Yeah. I think there's different types of writers today. There are those who are so focused on that SEO approach as being like a word dump or a keyword dump that they lose sight of actually creating meaningful content and viewing content as a storytelling process. And I think what separates creative writers from other types of marketing writers is that foundation toward observing and storytelling. They have a unique creativity you just can't find anywhere else. It's not taught within marketing departments at schools, it's taught in the English department. Those classes really focus around what is the best possible way to convey meaning? And what is the best possible way to take a story and approach it from a certain angle that really resonates with a reader? And that's exactly what you want business writing to do is resonate with readers. You're getting them to the end of that piece of content, and you're getting them to convert to do something else. You motivate them.
Drew Detzler: What separates a strong writer from your average writer? And maybe even specifically in-
Ryan Brock: Specifically in marketing.
Drew Detzler: Yeah.
Daniel: Yeah. There are too many writers in marketing today that view writing from a mechanical perspective or from a metrics perspective only. As search engines grow better and better in their algorithms, they are going to prize the content that actually resonates with readers. They're searching for an answer to something. And it's incumbent on the writers to identify what are those questions that are beneath the question? What is the why behind, and how best can you convey meeting to really get them what they're looking for?
Ryan Brock: Yeah, listeners who've been following along in this series might remember in an early episode in this series we talked a lot about how the same question asked of two different people can elicit completely different responses. Having the mindset, the perspective, and even the insight into your audience to understand, of all the things you could choose to talk about in answering your question, what is the answer to your audience is looking for? It's a huge skill that is... it's overlooked, I think, by a lot of people.
Daniel: I agree. And I think that a lot of times English departments don't really know what they're sitting on in terms of the talent that they're fostering. And I don't think businesses really are looking in the right place when they're hiring for the types of writers that they really could be using. There's a symbiosis between an English department and a business. The types of talent that they're fostering, putting out the skills they're teaching for storytelling, and then businesses looking for something that's actually going to drive results at the end of the day beyond the metrics themselves too, and those two groups, I think, need to connect more and more. Oftentimes you hear the phrase starving artist. It doesn't have to be that way. I think-
Ryan Brock: Yeah. It's so funny because this was the whole thesis I had for my agency, Metonymy Media. It was all about, give me your English majors. Give me your people who willingly threw away years of their life to learn how to write a really good story and how to become other people with their writing and how to communicate in a way that I don't think can be taught on the job. I can teach you about SEO; and that's going to change every five minutes anyway. I can teach you about marketing and all of that stuff, but how to become a reliable narrator that someone's going to trust and write with authority and come from the right perspective, use the right emotion, that's not easy to teach.
Daniel: No, it's not.
Ryan Brock: When I'd go to colleges, I'm talking 10, 12 years ago, and I'd say, " Hey, I want interns from your English department, specifically your creative writing department to come," I ended up developing really good relationships with writing schools all over Indiana because they couldn't believe a business, especially a marketing agency, wanted to specifically focus on English majors. It made all the difference.
Daniel: They really could be using that talent to generate the best possible content for their business that is also going to build the foundation for a lot of their other content across all of the rest of their business all along that sales pipeline, and not just from an awareness perspective.
Drew Detzler: One question around that. Say we have non- English majors on the team, me, for example; how do I become a better storyteller? Daniel, how are you continuing to become a better storyteller? And how can I use that to improve my poor storytelling skills?
Daniel: I know this is one of those cliche answers that other writers often give, but it's all in what you're reading and who you're reading and how often you're reading. I don't read a lot of business books and stuff; I'm reading poetry voraciously because I'm looking for the experimentation there, the precision in language and the conciseness and how those poets are telling their story, conveying their meaning. All of those pieces of content can really help me really hone my own craft.
Ryan Brock: Daniel, you talked a little bit about what you're looking for in poetry and how that helps you, but can you give us a concrete example of how your experience with poetry, writing poetry has helped you become a better storyteller in marketing content?
Daniel: A poet is uniquely positioned really well from marketing writing in the sense that, as a poet, you're prizing conciseness, precision of the line, the best possible way to convey meaning within that line. And then pretty good vocabulary as well for choosing the correct words that will resonate in the best possible possible way.
Ryan Brock: Maybe I'll be mis- paraphrasing you, but I want to highlight it anyway because it's something that I think is vital to the success of organic content in SEO. When you talk about having a good vocabulary and understanding word choice and things like that, there's a deeper level of respect for your reader in that perspective than I hear from most people doing SEO content. And even people who know that that's not how it should be still think that SEO content is about writing for robots and being really base level with it. I always hear pundits at conferences talking about how your content has to be super short because people are goldfish and they don't have attention spans. I hear that you have to write for a eighth grade reading level because people don't have the ability or capacity to read about, care about what you have to say to interpret it well, to stick around. And I've always just thought that was so deeply disrespectful. There's no reason that we should think that, if we're writing good content that our audiences actually care about, that they're not going to stick around and read it, and that we can actually trust them to make some cognitive leaps with us and trust them with metaphor, trust them with precision, trust them to actually be human beings like we are. There's too much disrespect, I think, in the marketing industry, especially when it comes to content.
Daniel: Yeah. You're exactly right, Ryan. And all of those things that you mentioned are true if the writing is boring. But you have to really trust your reader too. They're not stupid. They don't want to be bored, they want to be entertained through the writing itself. They want to go on that ride with you.
Ryan Brock: I've always said it's less that modern readers are goldfish and it's more like they are the main character from the movie Office Space who gets hypnotized into not caring about anything. But the whole point of that movie is he's not been given any reasons to care about his job. He has no purpose, and so why should he care? And it's like, really, what's happened with the democratization of information dissemination, ooh, I'm getting real good here with my alliteration, is that we have options and we have so much content that we could go and find. And if something's not doing it for us, we'll go find something that does. So the onus is on writers to actually be good. It's not that people don't understand or have an attention, it's that you have to give them a reason to care about you versus the 40 other people who are trying to get their attention.
Daniel: Exactly. Yeah. And I think also with creative writers, there's an unspoken aspect of ego around whose name is attached to what writing. Oftentimes at business writing, the name that is published is not necessarily the name who wrote it. There is a happy symbiosis and understanding, I think, of, okay, you're going to provide me my bread, my way of living, and you're also going to support my art in allowing me to have the resources to them go and create my art separate from the business.
Ryan Brock: Yeah. A man after my own heart. Couldn't agree more.
Drew Detzler: All right, Daniel, so you've created this content. How do you measure the success of that content? How do you measure your writing success?
Daniel: What does the reader reader do after reading it? If you're able to measure the traffic to that page, that's great. That says your meta content, your titles, your SEO traffic, that's all working well. But when they get to that actual webpage, are they reading it all the way? What are they doing for that next step? Understanding that content pathway is really critical in understanding the success of the content. Let's not also forget iteration too. Iterate, iterate, iterate.
Ryan Brock: Well, along those lines, how do you handle that feedback loop with writers that you work with? How do you manage their expectations and help them iterate in a way that feels open rather than shut off and help them really keep their eyes on every consideration that needs to be made, like the business as well as the individual?
Daniel: It's reorienting toward those goals, not in a continual aspect, and offering constructive criticism in the same way a workshop model might. Just being kind to yourself and kind to the other riders around you too, and understanding what we're doing as an art form, and it needs to be treated with the respect that an art form should be.
Drew Detzler: That was a fantastic conversation, Daniel. We're going to jump to our lightning round of questions.
Drew Detzler: All right, Daniel, what was the last thing you searched?
Daniel: I've been working on this article around Auteur theory, which is a theory in filmmaking, that the director is viewed as the primary author of a film.
Drew Detzler: Keep an eye out. I love that. All right, are there any writing myths that you've busted?
Daniel: Writing myths. I don't know exactly if this is writing myth, but it's just something I've seen on the other hand of becoming an author with a book is that most of the popular writers out there often have the best publicists.
Drew Detzler: No way. All right, as an author yourself, do you have a favorite writer?
Daniel: That's a hard one because there's so many. I can share some poets and writers that I gravitated toward more recently, and one is Frank Pino. I think he's super underrated. His poetry is absolutely amazing. Ocean Vuong is another one, and Louis Glick. And fiction writing, I love Raymond Carver, his minimalist story was amazing.
Drew Detzler: Thank you, Daniel, for being here today. We really appreciate it. Why don't you tell listeners where they can check out your work?
Daniel: Sure. My website is daniel- lasell. com
Ryan Brock: And we'll link to Daniel's work in the show notes, so if you want to take a look at anything that Daniel's done, just jump down whatever platform you're on and click on the show notes there. Daniel, thank you so much for joining us. This has been an incredible conversation and one that I am interested in in an outsized way. Hopefully our listeners also caught onto our energy and understood a little bit of our perspective, that artists deserve to be invested in. And if we're trying to do something that involves artistry, we need to involve artists and that really understand how to make them successful. Your perspective on this has just been awesome.
Daniel: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for having me.
Ryan Brock: Well, Drew, that was a conversation close to my heart. I agree with Daniel on every single thing he said. I think he's right on. And he's lived it, so he knows it. I'm interested, as a marketing leader, not a writer, what's your big takeaway from this conversation?
Drew Detzler: Simple: higher English majors. Simple as that. No, I do agree with a lot of what Daniel said. The creative storytelling aspect that an English major has is something that you really can't teach outside of that degree and living it and learning it. As a marketing leader, it does scare me a little bit, if I'm being completely honest. I lose a little bit of balance there when it comes to the concrete, " Hey, here's what our product does. Here's why you should buy it," versus the abstract storytelling side of it. That does scare me. But then I think about myself as a consumer, and which piece would I rather read? And which piece would I come back to read something down the road again? And it is that storytelling side of things.
Ryan Brock: Yeah, and you're capturing something that I dealt with for years at Metonymy Media; we would advertise ourselves as storytellers, as creative writers for hire, and sometimes it would work against us where people in a marketing position would be like, " We don't need a bunch of artists sitting around doing this, we need to convey value and do things right." And so I think what's important to underscore here is that when we talk about storytelling, we're talking about this overall... the context for the engagement of reader and writer. That's the storytelling. It's not like I'm going to take you on a long and whining road to get to the value you need, it's I'm going to better understand the moment you're at in your life reader when you need this information. And I understand how to echo your feelings to resonate with them to give you a sense of relief from whatever pain you're feeling. And using that kind of language effectively and thinking rhetorically like that is something that an English major has spent years learning how to do. And so it's about just having an artistic vision and not delivering value, but it's about having the creative muscles to wrap that message in the right emotional tones, perspective tones, and contextual tones for a reader who might need real relief from something right now.
Drew Detzler: I talked about myself dealing with that. I got a text message this morning from someone I used to work with asking if we have content writers that do a little bit more technical stuff as opposed to creative. And I'm going to have to go back; there are situations when you do need a more technical writer. But I'm going to have to go back to him and combat that and say, " You want more of a creative writer. That's what people want to read." And quite frankly, I'm just going to have him listen to this episode when it comes out.
Ryan Brock: Well, yeah, and tell him that even creative writers are doing in marketing very technical writing regularly. It's a matter of even when you're doing technical writing, there's this whole conversation that can be had separate to this around there's knowing a subject and then there's knowing how to communicate your deep level of understanding and knowledge on that subject to the audience that needs to read your marketing content. An engineer is going to know a lot about what they do, but if they're selling to a financial person in a municipality somewhere, they've got to figure out how to get that technicality and filter it and bring it to the right level. And that's what you miss if you don't use a creative writer for that technical stuff.
Drew Detzler: That's exactly right. We are all humans. We all like stories. That's the bottom line.
Ryan Brock: Awesome episode. I think that's it for this one. Drew, thanks for spending some time with writers on this little round table roundup series we've done here.
Drew Detzler: I loved it. I truly have. I've got some insights that I did not have previously. As the least creative person in all of these episodes, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. That is it for this episode of Page One or Bust. Stay tuned for a lineup of marketing and SEO experts. See you next time.
Ryan Brock: See you then.
Speaker 1: Page One or Bust is brought to you by DemandJump. Know the exact content to create to increase first page rankings and drive outcomes with DemandJump. Get started for free today at demandjump. com.
Now that we’ve introduced our revolutionary Pillar-Based Marketing strategy, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and put the digital pen to paper—that’s why we’re focusing our Writers Roundtable series on pillar pages and topics. In our last installment, Daniel Lassell (poet, copywriter, and creative writer) talks with Drew and Ryan about how to write content that people want to look at, where to find great content writers for your company, and much more.
Got a topic idea? Hot take? Guest pitch?
We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us at PageOne@DemandJump.com.