Content Writing

Lessons in Content Writing from Shonda Rhimes and Can’t Miss Thursday Night TV

by Shany Seawright

As business-to-business (B2B) marketers, we know that content is king. Every aspect of our job is about delivering engaging content that captures our audience’s attention. Yet, when you are developing for a B2B or B2G audience with IT as a focal point, engaging content is often hard to come by. But it can be done. In fact, I believe there are some lessons that we can take from content we watch and listen to outside of work that can be applied to B2B marketing.

For example, week after week I wait for Thursday night TV to come on. Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal have me hooked. I come back each time to see what the writers are going to do next. What lessons can we learn from pop culture TV and apply to B2B content marketing? It’s all in the writing.

Last year, I had a chance to see Shonda Rhimes speak about her road to success with the various series she created for ABC. Currently, she has three award-winning shows (Grey’s, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder) with other shows being tested in the off-season.  I was fascinated not only with her story, but how she tells a story. She has a rhythm.

Even in a Q&A setting, she knows exactly where she is going to take you, before she ever opens her mouth. If she says something, there is a purpose. She has a strategy. And this is what keeps viewers coming back week after week to find out where she will take us next.

Want to check out her style?   These videos Rhimes created to promote writing for an online writing master class she launched give good insight.

But while her style is right for TV is there anything that we can adapt to the B2B marketing environment and content development?

Here is what I’ve learned from Shonda:

  1. Think like a producerknow what the end point of your content strategy is – Lead gen? Registration? Multiple page views?  Start with that end in mind and work backwards to create a content strategy that leads our reader from one piece, to another piece, to a download page.
  2. Always tell a story with a perspective. Your audience wants to hear from an authentic person with a unique perspective. They don’t want to be marketed to by a company. Our clients come to us to create independent buyer communities where they can cultivate a group of expert contributors from their own organization along with others to share insights on a particular set of issues. They are not trying to sell a product or solution, but rather educate their buyers on the issues surrounding a new trend or technology.
  1. Know where the story is going. Before you start writing, know how you want the story to end and then don’t lose your audience along the way.
  2. Everything you write should have a purpose in this story you are creating. From episode to episode (or article to article), content should link back to a purpose.  Nothing is a throwaway.
  3. Give your audience a reason to come back to learn more and build enough trust with them that they click to download content along the way. I recently worked with Westcon-Comstor to create a podcast series on federal buying season on EDGE360. In each episode we tell our reader what to expect in the current episode as well as next week’s episode.
  4. Tell your readers what you want them to do.  Perhaps you want them to download content, or share the article with others, whatever it is make the directive clear. In addition to editorial content, we often build resource centers where readers can go to find more product focused content or white papers. But they won’t go to those pages, until you tell them to do so.

So while it might be a stretch of the imagination to believe that we can relate the writing techniques from hit shows like Scandal into our B2B or B2G content marketing programs, it’s really not. There are some good tips that we can take with us to ensure that we are engaging, entertaining and educating our audiences with every piece we produce.

Got more tips to share with us? Share your thoughts with on MMT’s Twitter using #ShondaWrites.