Persuade, inform, or entertain?

Too much comms content seeks to entertain. This is bad for the companies that pay for it.

Published on 30th May, 2022

by David Lewis

In school, we did creative writing exercises where we had to write in different styles: persuasive, informative, or entertaining.

You hear this distinction made rarely in adult life – even amongst professional writers. And indeed, it feels like the majority of professional content today is focussed on the entertainment style. 

That is a legitimate style, but it is rarely right for B2B content. Most people are not looking at science and tech companies because they can’t wait for the next hit of your corporate comms programme. They read your content because it offers them something useful.

What, then, should business content do?

Be informative

Mostly, it should inform. Companies have expertise within them. Anyone who might buy from you will be looking for information on the challenges that you solve. Content which gives them that insight will be appealing, and they will read it.

Assuming you pick the right topics and say something informative, this audience will be interested. Assuming you offer credible insight, they will grow to trust you.

Sometimes we should also persuade. There may be industry challenges ahead, problems to navigate. There may be political decisions we want people to take. Building a convincing argument is worthwhile. Again, if you pick a topic where people are making a decision, they will be open to your arguments. If you make them respectfully, back them with evidence, you stand a good chance of winning people round.

If you’re really good, you can do both. 

Leave the entertainment to Netflix

So why does so much content seek to entertain, rather than inform or persuade. The generous interpretation is that people mistakenly assume that the best route to market is maximum awareness and that means hijacking attention. In a world of noise, we need to be the noisiest, goes the thinking.

That may just about hold for big budget consumer campaigns, but not for corporate content. We as B2B companies will never out-shout the real entertainers, nor should we. We know our audience, we know things that they want to know. Let’s focus on that.

The more cynical interpretation is that communications industry does not teach people how to create this type of content. 

It lets them learn their craft in a feedback loop of clicks and likes, not through a rigorous approach to professional writing. Content creators are chosen and celebrated for their ability to provoke - not for their knowledge of, or interest in, the subjects they write about. But as any class clown secretly knows, ‘entertainment’ is a good place to hide if you don't really know what they are talking about.

Entertainment is an easy option, seemingly vindicated by clicks and likes. But if you really want to make an impact with the people who might buy from you - rather than just entertaining your peers - you need to be informative. 

For practical recommendations on how to create content that informs and persuades, download our report ‘How can thought leadership influence enterprise decisions?’ And skip to Part 3.

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