Content Strategy

The Cure for Corporate Blah

Kevan Gilbert • 3 minutes

I think we’re itching for better web content.

In conversations I’ve been having lately with colleagues and clients, I sense a growing readiness to bring more personality and art to what the corporate world usually produces.

We seem ready to make a web worth sharing. I think we’re tired of sending email newsletters 70% of people don’t open, and of seeing web stats that reveal most of our websites are wastelands, too.

This “corporate content” we collect and launch on the web is rarely something we would take to show and tell. It’s more a checkbox checked than a work of art. I can plead guilty to launching content that makes my eyes glaze over, naively believing that someone, somewhere, was going to use it.

But we, the publishers, the senders-of-email-newsletters, the online-communicators, the decision-makers; we are among the last gatekeepers left on earth. If we don’t say no to horrible content, who will?

I needed to ask my friend Harrison Mooney about this. He’s become a prolific blogger in his own niche lately, and writes new web content for ready audiences daily. I asked him what it takes to create content people care about.

“First of all,” he said, “calling us content creators makes us sound like automatons. If you want good writing, treat writers like humans.”

He continued: “If I’m writing about stuff that doesn’t interest me,” Harrison said, ”it’s not going to interest anybody else.”

Harrison also decried writers who crank out work for clients and aren’t proud to pass it along. “As soon as you finish writing something, why aren’t you excited to share it?” He argues that if writers were truly engaged with everything they created, their readers would be too.

This very human filter can sound foreign in a corporate context. It means being ourselves, relying on our own tastes and biases, which sometimes clashes with the corporate identities we’re often tasked with puppeteering.

This is exactly what Domain7’s president Shawn has been working hard to share with people in his recent posts about the Social Executive.

It’s a push towards leaders being more human online. Human leadership, offline and on, influences everything. It’s why WestJet staff can sing you a song on a flight without seeking permission from their bosses, and why reps at Zappos can make the gut-level decision to treat you well without filling out a form first. A human company is modelled first by a human leader, who frees up human employees to say and do very human things.

This applies to web content, too: when we’re free to be human, we’ll say and do things that other humans appreciate. We’ll bring art and magic and truth and personality to our game, instead of reverting to being cold robots, slaves to our corporate overlords.

It’s just the kind of humanity we need around the corporate web. I’m fed up with business communication defaulting to the same-old corporate blah, and I think you are too.

To writers, creatives, artists, I say this: the business world needs you. You’ve been arms-length for too long, seeing involvement in the corporatocracy as selling out. It’s not a compromise, it’s influence. The currents of business are the tributaries of culture; these are the rivers that can send ideas all across the world, and unless you splash your humanity and art into this stagnating channel, this place won’t change.

We need your passion, your humour, your art to inject these dull corporate channels with life. We need the magic of real writers, makers, dreamers to illuminate these placid gray cubicle walls. Bring your vibrant souls to the communication systems that help make up our world.

And to business, I say this: You need art. You need it so bad. If you want to truly reach people, it’s not going to be through clinical, careful systems. It’s going to be kind of offbeat, slightly terrifying and surprisingly real, and it’s the only stuff that’s ever going to inspire people.

There is no such thing as content. The only thing that causes a commotion is hand-crafted, hard-fought, heart-infused art. Everything else is just placeholder copy.


This is a guest post by Kevan Gilbert. Kevan’s ideas, speaking and writing are usually in partnership with Domain7—a web agency on a mission to humanize the web. You can discover more of Domain7’s storytelling and strategy work at Kevan is a proud dad and doting husband, and has been known to improvise songs for almost any occasion.

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About the Author

Kevan Gilbert

Content Strategist, Domain7

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