Blog > To win Engagement, change how clients see the world
A tried and tested recipe to becoming interesting
Anyone who writes is hoping to engage an audience. Yet so much of the content we come across — especially corporate content! — is not engaging. How come the output of so many smart, creative writers struggles to appeal?
Here’s an answer, bluntly articulated by Larry McEnerney, who led Chicago University’s writing programme. (Clocking at less than ninety minutes, the entire workshop guarantees a lifetime of better writing.)
In short: experts write and think at the same time. They take notes and write down their thoughts. They use writing as a tool to think deeply about their domain.
Does the text created add value? To the person thinking and writing – it sure does!
But not to outside readers. To add value to an audience, a writer needs to do one thing and one thing alone: change how readers see the world.
Consider this FT story title about the slowdown in inflows to thematic funds. Pretty standard fare: one event (market setbacks) is followed by a second (falling appeal of thematic funds.)
And now, contrast it with a second headline.
The second story could have easily been fitted into the first story’s standard template format (“ETF sector trembles amid Russia Crisis”). Instead, the FT uses the much more evocative pattern:
“You thought ETFs were like cockroaches. But maybe they’re not”.
Baillie Gifford spun its entire company messaging using this one trick. In 2018 the company launched its “Actual Investors” campaign.
Over and over, Baillie Gifford kept saying, “You thought investors would be this or that. But no. Actual investors are completely different.
James Budden, marketing and distribution director at Baillie Gifford, said at the time the industry has been caught up “in the wrong debate” (of active versus passive), when it should be talking about “active versus actual investing”.
Notice the twist. He’s saying: you thought the right way to split the investment world was to “passive” and “active”. But no! Baillie Gifford suggests to partition investing into “active” vs. “actual”.
Is Baillie Gifford truly different to other active managers? Are ETFs really as resilient as cockroaches? Endlessly debatable.
But remember: being interesting isn’t about being right or wrong.
The trick is to move the conversation away from showing people how much you know (and making it all about you). Instead, it’s about showing your audience how their current world view suffers from a gaping hole. It makes it all about them.
You’re moving the conversation from talking about your world view…to changing theirs. Of course they’d find it engaging!