Many marketers are slapping AI-generated text up on their blogs, sales pages, social media platforms, etc. and calling it a day. That means content writing tactics that convey a “human touch” now present a powerful advantage to those who adopt them.
Because business is built on relationships. To stand out in the tsunami of content now available, you need to help your audience feel some level of connection with you. Your content needs to give them a glimpse into the way you think, how you do business, or your personality.
Below are five content writing tactics can help you build that connection.
1. Share your experiences and life lessons
Sharing experiences that are related to the issues your audience wants to resolve will help them see you truly understand their situation. Content writing tactics like this work better than citing statistics or simply stating your credentials.
When I started out as a freelance writer, a big part of my work was writing press releases for small businesses. A surefire way to give some extra oomph to a business launch announcement was sharing the business’ origin story.
Usually, the new business was the result of the owner having an experience that many prospects would find very relatable. In addition, the origin story frequently showed how passionately the new business owner wanted to help others.
Sharing your experiences and feelings (within reason) builds an emotional connection between you and your audience. That emotional resonance makes your audience much more interested in what you have to say.
2. Give your brand some personality
Some readers (and writers) have commented that AI-generated text is often flat and boring.
Infusing your content or copy with a distinctive brand voice is another content writing tactic that can help your business stand out.
Think about it this way: if you’re communicating with your boss, you typically try to present yourself as assured, thorough, and capable because you want to make a good impression.
Similarly, a brand voice that appeals to your audience (and feels authentic for your business) will help your prospects develop a positive impression — and even a relationship — with your brand.
The workplace communications tool Slack declares:
The Slack voice you know and love is clear, concise, and human. It speaks to the reader directly, invites conversation, and rewards the curious.Source: Slack’s voice of the brand page
In addition, Slack’s style guide encourages the copy team to imagine the brand as a “friendly, intelligent coworker.”
The MailChimp marketing automation and email platform also strives to bring a distinctive voice to its content:
Using offbeat humor and a conversational voice, we play with language to bring joy to their work. We prefer the subtle over the noisy, the wry over the farcical. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.Source: MailChimp’s style guide
Both these examples call for an informal voice, but you don’t have to do the same. You can adopt any voice that will resonate with your audience and feels right for your brand: sober and measured, dispassionate, authoritative, etc. Just envision your brand as a specific character and let that character’s personality shine through your content.
Note: If you’re worried that adopting a specific voice for your brand will be too confining, remember that you can tweak your tone to suit the occasion or context.
For example, if you adopt a brand voice that’s plainspoken, you might curse (or come close) in more casual content such as X posts, blog posts, emails, etc.
However, you probably would not use curse words in whitepapers or other formal content assets.
If your brand has a more formal or reserved voice, curse words won’t be part of your vocabulary in any instance.
3. Original research and thought leadership
AI writing tools scrape content that already exists, so sharing original research is another one of the content writing tactics that will help you stand out.
I write for an edtech company that regularly conducts research studies on the efficacy of its products. It also surveys customers about edtech products. They’ve used their findings in an array of content assets and also to offer reporters intriguing information on what’s working for students.
Also, while AI tools can help you connect dots in new or surprising ways, they won’t be able to delve into new ideas the way a subject matter expert can. So, if you have an unconventional idea, think it through and then share it.
Don’t let the possibility of turning out to be incorrect stop you from sharing predictions or viewpoints. In 2023, noted marketing expert and futurist Mark Schaefer graded predictions that he’d made back in 2009. Some predictions received an A or B+ but there were also three Cs and a D.
If you take on the mantle of thought leader, you’ll have to accept that you’ll get some things right and be off the mark about other things. Your predictions don’t have to be 100% accurate, but they should be based on sound reasoning so that you can defend your viewpoint.
The upside of being thought provoking is that your audience is more likely to pay attention to you and remember you. Also, you’re more likely to attract like-minded customers — in other words, your tribe.
4. Rally your tribe
You can also help your content stand out from its AI-generated competition by using it to develop or strengthen a community.
Frequent discussion forums that address your areas of expertise and share your content in a way that’s helpful rather than promotional. Additionally, use your social media and any other channel to interact with your audience and foster a sense of community.
5. Evocative writing
The final content writing tactic that can put you ahead of AI-generated text is conjuring vivid mental images that trigger your audience’s emotions.
(Note: Technically, you could ask an AI tool to suggest those images, but a lot of people don’t take the time to write prompts with enough detail to produce something powerful.)
Of course, evocative text is not going to play a major role in business writing. However, small, strategic dosages can make a big difference.
For example, financial planning and analysis (FP&A) would probably be one of the last places you’d expect evocative writing. However, a past client conjured up this image in a blog post:
“… no more emails flying around with spreadsheets full of sensitive data.”
That phrase associates the conventional practice of emailing data with a feeling of breakneck, disorderly haste, emphasizing the risk being taken with that sensitive data.
(Seriously, if that client ever left the world of fintech, he would have a great future as a writer.)
You can also use sensory words to evoke images and feelings. For example, I wrote the following in an e-book for an edtech company:
“Creating differentiated lesson plans and activities requires a hefty amount of preparation. Given teachers’ already demanding workloads …”
I could have just written that the practice requires “a lot of” preparation. But the word “hefty” conveys a tactile sensation (heaviness), which emphasizes the work pressure teachers face.
I asked ChatGPT to write a blog post about content writing tactics vs. AI in a tone that was “ empathetic, upbeat, hopeful, entertaining.” I didn’t use the introduction or body text it generated, but I thought I’d share the conclusion:
It’s definitely upbeat, but I’d probably only use the first sentence (or part of it). Instead, I’ll leave you with this bit of advice.
While generative AI is a powerful tool for creating and repurposing content, it can’t take your place. People are interested in other people. That’s why human interest stories consistently rank among the most engaging news stories every year.
So, to paraphrase Schaefer, produce content that makes your business the “most human” in your market.