There are few things I love more than buying people presents.
Even when it’s not their birthday or a holiday, I’ll get my friends gifts just because it makes me happy to get them something I know they’ll love. Naturally, the Holidays are my favorite time of year because you have an excuse to go on a gift-giving frenzy. I really enjoy trying to figure out what brings my loved ones joy. Sometimes I know immediately, and other people are more difficult.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized choosing the right gift for someone is all about connection. When you know exactly what someone wants, it’s because you’ve shared open communication—you’ve been vulnerable with each other.
The same rule applies to marketing content.
There’s a lot of content on the internet and tons of people clamoring to be heard. But the best content out there are the pieces that resonate on a human level.
Here’s why the best writing always comes from a place of honesty:
Vulnerability is not weakness.
A lot of people have trouble being vulnerable, and that’s completely okay.
It’s hard for me too.
I often think back on an experience I had in sixth grade. I was in my school’s QUEST program for accelerated students, and that year, we were tasked with creating a pop-up book—these weren’t any old pop-up books, but research-intensive books that highlight unique cultural attractions. As we approached the project deadline, I realized that I was in way over my head and asked my teacher for help.
She turned to me and said, “You know, we’ve been working on this project for months and I have offered my help time and time again. You’ve never wanted to accept it from me or the other students. I trust you to figure it out.”
And I knew she was right.
The whole time, I’d been stubborn about wanting to do it on my own. I was worried if I asked for help, it would show weakness. Many people feel this way, but it’s completely backward. Asking for help and talking things out with another person takes courage and shows more strength than weakness.
When it comes to writing content, rather than just lecturing your audience like you know it all, let them know where you struggled or needed help.
After all, some of the best teachers teach by sharing their mistakes and the lessons they learned from them.
It’s about being real, not perfect.
In What Great Salespeople Do, authors Ben Zoldan and Michael Bosworth share a story about a single parent trying to keep up with a circle of competitive parents. They describe one occasion in particular where the parents were all one-upping each other about their kids’ accomplishments.
“My son got a perfect score on the SATs.”
“My daughter is the highest goal-scorer on the soccer team.”
“My kids are all going to Ivy League colleges.”
Eventually, the single parent got fed up and decided to shift the conversation. Instead of bragging about his kids when came his turn to share, he talked openly about the struggles of parenting. It worked. Another parent shared a struggle, then another. Rather than a brag-fest, the conversation turned into something more honest, open, and productive.
Everyone left feeling more connected and even picked up some parenting tips.
Likewise, content that comes off as boastful and self-aggrandizing tends to turn people off. If you open the gate with “I’m so great,” people won’t relate. The best performing content owns up to gaps in knowledge and mistakes you’ve made. Rather than saying “I revolutionized this industry,” aim for content that says: “I’m human, are you human, too?”
As psychologist Brene Brown said, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we are all in this together.”
It allows you to truly see someone.
When you first meet someone, do you immediately share personal details? Or do you typically hold back?
If you tend to withhold, know that self-disclosure is a common feature of healthy relationships, and it’s a crucial component of developing intimacy. Sharing personal information that wouldn’t be easy to find otherwise brings people closer. It’s the only way to really understand where someone is coming from, and to know how to respond.
The content that performs best online is built around personal experiences, mistakes, or wins.
When the piece is coming from the founder of a company, this inside look into their lives positions the organization as a person, rather than an abstract concept.
When it comes to Christmas shopping, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how long I’ve known you or how often we speak—if we don’t have an open and honest relationship, I won’t know what to get you.
Likewise, when creating content, vulnerable self-disclosure will establish trust and generate a loyal audience. The goal is to be open enough that your company becomes a person you’d know how to shop for at Christmas.