In this issue:

  • The lies we tell ourselves
  • Fixing creativity’s image issue
  • Handling more channels than you have time for
  • Earning topical authority
  • Brian Dean edits the beginner’s guide to SEO


Let’s go!


The Lie About Brand Storytelling People Don’t Want You to Believe

Count down to 2023-10-17T17:00:00.000Z​



Building a brand voice is hard. Like, really hard.
Think about it.
You have to come up with a voice that represents everyone in your company, they have to buy into it, it has to be adapted to different channels, and be adopted by different people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
How do you do that, and how do you do that well?
That’s where Kevan Lee & Shannon Deep come in.
Kevan was the VP of Marketing at Buffer and Shannon’s built brands for billion-dollar tech companies.
Now they run Bonfire, their own branding agency that offers 1:1 consulting for individuals, advising for leaders and founders, and workshops for teams.
These two are some of the best in the business, so if you can make it live, I highly recommend you come and ask away.


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Top of mind:

In the thousands of years we’ve been telling stories, there have only ever been four endings:

  • Sweet
  • Bittersweet
  • Semi-sweet
  • Bitter

There are four types of endings. Sweet, bittersweet, semi-sweet, bitter
Image credit: Studio Binder​

Last week we talked about how before content is ever written, we need to accept that:

  1. Our reader is the protagonist
  2. We need to know what they want
  3. We need to know what they need

We also discussed the difference between wants and needs, where wants are:

  • Known
  • External
  • Specific to the character
  • Drives the plot forward

In B2B, that could be a search query like “How to build a landing page.”

Needs however are:

  • Unknown or ignored
  • Internal
  • Universal to the audience
  • Necessary complete their character arc

In our B2B example, the reader wants to build the landing page because they need to win the approval of their boss.
Just by knowing these two things, we can determine in advance how we’ll address those wants and needs, and determine if the reader will have one, both, or none fulfilled.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to give the reader what they want and need while remaining authentic.
But first…

The trouble with sweet endings.

Our disposition as B2B creators is to gaslight our readers with the idea that what they just read has fulfilled their wants and needs.
It’s understandable because if we want to turn our reader into a customer, they have to have it all.
Problem is, it’s inauthentic, and can ding the credibility. Done too much, and the content will fail to resonate.
Consider the closing paragraphs in this piece on large language models:

With more capability, we could see LLMs used in creative fields, such as authoring novels.
Games are already considering using them for character conversations.
As LLMs become more advanced, they could be used to simulate human conversation for training purposes in fields like customer service or therapy.
As Dr KΓ‘roly Zsolnai-FehΓ©r likes to say on his YouTube channel dedicated to AI research, Two Minute Papers, β€œWhat a time to be alive!”

Now, I know you don’t have the full context, but up to this point the article was a straightforward, practical, explanation of how LMMs; talking about tokens and prompting methods, and stuff that’s only interesting to a very specific crowd (me).
Given what you know through the general discourse about AI and Large Language Models, does that ending feel right to you?
Me either.

A Satisfying ending is satisfying because the character earns it through their choices throughout the story.
To get to the happy ending, we have to look deeper into what the character wants and why they want it.

The lie they believe to be true.

In nearly every story, what the character wants and what they need are in direct opposition to each other.
In screenwriting, this is what’s known as “the lie your character believes to be true.”
It’s the pursuit of this lie that kicks the story into motion.
In “Wreck-It Ralph” Ralph wants a medal because he mistakenly believes if he gets it, he’ll be accepted by the other characters in his game.
As the audience (or in our case the creator) we know Ralph must learn to accept himself, and that his role as a bad guy, doesn’t define who he is.

I'm bad at making memes but I couldn't help but think of this when I see  people complaints / defending Papa Ainz's actions : r/overlord

This is often stated outright to the protagonist as the “You know what your problem is?” moment, but it is rejected because the customer *ahem* protagonist isn’t ready to accept the truth.
In Ralph’s case, he gets his medal, at the expense of betraying the trust of his best friend and endangering the existence of his game.
He got everything he ever wanted; the medal, the keys to the penthouse, and in doing became even more of a bad guy, and lonelier than he ever was before.

These story beats resonate because we all have lies we tell ourselves, and at some point, have gotten what we want, only to find out it wasn’t what we needed.
These lessons are universal.

These are the truth.

Earning the ending in B2B content.

B2B content is different in that we don’t control our protagonist’s actions.

We don’t get to make up what they want, write their character arcs, or dictate their transformation, and not all lies are deep-seated self-deception.

The good part about this work is that in real life we have a suite of tools to help us determine what people want. Keyword research, social monitoring, and customer reviews; all give us hints about what people want.

This is especially great when we, through our research, have discovered the lie our reader believes to be true.
​What does this look like in action?

Let’s stick with the “How to build a landing page” scenario from before.

Here’s how we might approach the subject:

What the reader wants: a step-by-step guide on how to build a landing page on their own.

What the reader needs: to convince their boss to give them the resources and hire a team of professionals to build the landing page for them.
​The lie they believe to be true: Easy-to-use landing page software will build high-converting pages with minimal effort.
Having all of this in mind, our setup might say something to the effect:

If you’re using the right software, building a high-converting landing page isn’t that hard, right?
There are tools, tips, tactics, and guides galore on how to make a good landing page.
While useful, there’s something people don’t talk about enough: Even though landing page software makes the act of building a landing page easy, making that page compelling is something entirely different.
In this guide, we’ll walk through, step-by-step, the process of building a compelling landing page, while also providing realistic advice and resources for each step so you can properly scope your project and make the best page possible.
Let’s jump in:

While I’m not in love with the copy (I’m writing this in the minutes before bed) notice what it does.

First line: Addresses that the reader understands landing pages are powerful.

Second line: Acknowledges there are many ways to get what they want.

Third line: States the lie the reader believes to be true.

Fourth line: It tells them we’ll talk about what they want, but also give them what they need.

We’ve clearly stated the premise of the article, reversed their expectations, and in doing so, have created a compelling hook to draw them in further.
As we move through the body of the article, we’ll break down the anatomy of a landing page:

  • Headline
  • Hero image
  • Hero copy
  • CTAs
  • Testimonials
  • etc

In each section, we’ll show them:

  • The goal of each landing page element
  • How the software can help them build it
  • How the can DIY fleshing out that element
  • Links to other articles specific to that element
  • Resources they can use to outsource the work
  • Reasonable budget expectations.
  • What to look for in a specialist in that area.

After doing that for all 10 or so sections of the piece, we’ll end it with something like:

By now, you probably realize that even though landing page software simplifies building, persuasive copy, unique visuals, and gathering real customer feedback is still a lot of work
Hopefully this guide has given you a thorough understanding of all of the steps, as well as how much time and/or money can go into making a great, high-converting page.
If you’re up to the challenge, check out our landing page gallery where we have hand selected great landing pages you can use for inspiration.
If you need additional resources on copywriting, design, or how to use the products, just follow any one of those links to go to the hub pages.
Best of luck and happy building!

Again, I don’t love the exact copy, and I would edit it heavily before ever pushing it live, but it does all the things I want it to do.

  1. It signals the reader has undergone a transformation from the beginning of the post to the end.
  2. It mirrors the intro in that it acknowledges the readers wants and needs while also debunking the lie they believed to be true.
  3. It addresses additional needs that may have cropped up during the reading.

The final thing it does, which all good endings do, is gives you a sense of what the protagonist’s life might be like now that their character arc is complete.

So now, dear Studio Insider, I have a challenge for you.
Take 20 minutes with a pen and piece of paper and draw two columns – what does my reader want? What do they need?
Under the wants, also write the lie they believe to be true, and why has it driven them to take action.
In the meantime, I’ll be working on the next issue wherein I’ll dive into how to give reader what they want, but not what they need, and still keep the ending satisfying.
Until then…


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What’s on our radar?

πŸ€“ Moz shares how to earn topical authority​

πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸŽ€ Shannon Deep fixes creativity’s image issue​

😎 Here’s how top startups position themselves​

πŸ’° How to profit in SaaS by selling services​
✍️ Write binge-worthy characters

Let’s get social

​Megan is the head of content at Reddit, so she knows a thing or two about overwhelm.
This carousel is a legitimately practical bit of advice on how to handle the kind of pressure that comes with managing multiple content channels at scale

From “The Vault”

Brian Dean was the originator of a technique that has become ubiquitous with SEO.
It just makes so much sense. Make content that is 10x better than everything else that is out there.
But has that been misunderstood over the years?
Quite possibly.
In the editing portion of The Cutting Room, I put him up against an article titled “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO”
I wonder what he has to say.
​Watch him edit.​
​Read the article. ​

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See you in the next one ✌️

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Tommy Walker | The Content Studio

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