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What a F*cking Book Review: Dan Kelsall Edition
When our CEO, Tim, suggested I take up some ‘light reading’ to hone in on my content marketing skills, you can imagine my surprise when Dan Kelsall’s Fucking Good Content and This is Fucking Shit arrived at my door.
My previous corporate experience had NOT prepared me for this.
To be honest, I panicked. Had my blog posts turned out to be garbage? Was I actually as dull as old Karen from accounts? (we don't have a Brenda actually, but if we did, I’m sure she’d be pretty sound). I wasn’t sure. All I could do was get stuck in and hope for the best...
Did someone say Marmite?
Founder of Offended Marketing, Kelsall is known for his ability to push boundaries, take a stand and make decent content along the way. You’ll either love this guy, or he’ll make you feel a bit nauseous.
I can’t lie, my inner goody goody two shoes was ready to hate his writing. Everything about the grammar, tone and excessive use of profanities is the literal opposite of anything I’ve ever been taught, I didn’t think it would sit right with me. Yet here we are… never judge a book by it’s cover and all that!
Overall, these books are surprisingly helpful and at times painfully truthful, something of a strange self-help guide for content writers. If you’re stuck in a bit of a creative rut and need to try something new, take a look at what I’ve learnt below. Trigger warning: if you’re easily offended, I’d probably look away now.
“Brand awareness, as a business goal, is b*llocks”
I did say the truth hurts. As marketers, our whole existence is developing brand awareness right? The bigger the reach, the better the leads, blah blah blah. Apparently not. It’s never easy to have someone tell you everything you’ve been practicing has been a massive waste of time, but good content comes from a lot of trial and error. How can you differentiate between what works and what doesn’t if you never take a step outside of what you’ve already been doing?
You can’t magic brand awareness out of thin air, it comes secondary to producing consistently good content. It’s all about driving engagement, not reach.
“Common sense, innit?”
Yes actually, it is. At the end of the day, it’s all about being relatable. This doesn’t mean we all have to start swearing like sailors and reducing everything to mildly offensive analogies (which are actually very amusing by the way), but be true to ourselves in order to get our point across convincingly. Cringe, I know.
After reading both books, this is something that has really resonated with me. For quite a large part of his writing, Kelsall harps on about authenticity vs. relatability. He says “brands try so hard to be authentic, and forget this isn’t about them”.
Coming from a corporate background, I know I’ve done this a million times. In an attempt to come across as super professional, trustworthy and thoughtleader-y, it’s so easy to lose sight of what you’re actually trying to achieve with your customers. If you have to try so hard, it’s probably not authentic, is it?
“More boring than bird watching with Bill Oddy”
Sorry to any Bill Oddy fans, but it’s true. The fear of being anything other than middle of the road is what makes it so hard to be authentic. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of backlash, we’ve all been there. But if you want your content to work, you need to take a risk.
For me, this is probably the most important takeaway from these books - developing a voice. Without one, your marketing will remain dry and lifeless, forcing your customers to become indifferent about your posts. As Dan himself says, “there is nothing worse than indifference”. Your audience needs to feel something, either good or bad. It means your content is working. Those who do like it, great! Those who don’t, probably aren’t the customers you need anyway (apart from our CANDDi customers, we love and need you all).
“Have a f*cking biscuit”
You deserve it.
I appreciate this advice wont be for everyone, but for me personally, Kelsall’s real (harsh) insights into what is considered good copy and the logic behind it has been really useful for me in terms of breaking down my corporate barriers and tapping into my creative side.
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s all about remaining true to yourself and your own style in the hope that it’ll pay off. And if it doesn’t, try and try again. Don’t fall into the trap of pigeon-holing your marketing strategy. A good idea is to have a general plan of what you want to put out there and how to go about it, but you need to stay flexible in your approach as you never know what is going to come next.
If you have any other tips that you’ve learnt lately, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org