Content Marketing Writers, Are You Teaching or Preaching?

I was sitting on the sidewalk, lacing up my white roller-skates. A neighbor came out and said, “Good morning, Carrie!” What could I do but strike up a conversation? So we talked about skating and, being the gregarious child that I was, I found myself asking if he would like to learn to skate.

He did, so I found myself teaching a swami living in the monastery next door how to skate.

How awesome is that!? Oh, the bold things we do as children, before fear and self-limitations hold us back.

I was nine years old. Today it’s still one of my mother’s favorite stories to tell. I’m not quite sure how much she’s embellished details as the years go by, but I have to admit it’s a VERY entertaining story.

All my life, I’ve been a teacher.

From a confident little girl teaching the swami across the street how to roller-skate, a horse trainer during my twenties teaching little girls to jump their ponies, to an author launching pre-sales this very week for my first book–teaching has run through my life like a slow moving river. A steady theme.

It’s who I am.

I’m also a learner, because you can’t be a teacher without being a learner. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. The moment you stop learning is the moment you should stop teaching, because ego has probably gotten in the way.

#PRprochat and my book are my teaching outlets.

Preach it, Teacher

I was putting together Thursday’s #PRprochat questions for Ann Handley this morning, thinking about writing skills and storytelling.

If you haven’t read Ann’s book, Everybody Writes, go get it! It should absolutely be a well-thumbed (or bookmarked) book every marketer has on their bookshelf. Go buy it. 

I was trolling through her Table of Contents as inspiration for chat questions, when this one stopped me in my tracks. “Chapter 40: Limit Moralizing.”

Hmmmm. Awesome thing to watch for as you write content!

There’s a fine line between teaching and moralizing: how do you know if you’ve crossed it?

Tone of content is everything. It can make a post  laugh-out-loud funny or something dismissed before the first paragraph ends. It can also make a writer come across as a self-important pontificating preacher, instead of a brilliant teacher. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

How do you know? I think it’s one of those things that you can’t really see in your own work. I don’t know. I’d hope someone would tell me.

What I do know, though, is this:

  1. Our inner thoughts trickle into our writing, so why not try to think with a spirit of humility, generosity and gratitude?
  2. Keep ego out of it: one person is not better than another. We’re all just a product of our experience and history, at different places in our lives and learning curves.
  3. I don’t like to read content that is condescending. If I don’t like it, why would you? Try to be the kind of writer you love to read.
  4. Being aware of a potential problem can make you more self-aware. If you don’t know or don’t care, then it’s probably not on your radar.
  5. Don’t be a mean girl. Ever. If you must criticize, make sure you comment on the action, not the person.

Depending on the content we’re working on, sometimes it’s hard to prevent sounding a bit preachy and sometimes it’s even intentional, but if we consciously watch for it, that’s NEVER a bad thing, right? Mindful writing is the best prevention.