I scribbled this question in my Moleskine journal back in 2016 where it waited, unanswered, until I discovered it a month ago during an afternoon of decluttering.
Everything else was getting tossed, but I tore this page out and magnetized it thoughtfully to my fridge.
It’s always seemed absurd to me that we take something as wild and unwieldy as human engagement and try to apply a set of rules to “make it happen”.
Should we be striving to create a “tried and true” scientific method to compel the soul? Even thinking about it makes me cringe and laugh uneasily. I think the human soul deserves more than a team of marketing suits and some seriously underhanded manipulation.
And yet, I wrote down that question because engagement was what my clients wanted. They were hungry for engagement, begging for it, hoping I would show up with my Shakespeare wand and poeticize people into a place of joyous transaction. The science of engagement was the arena I was in, like it or not.
I felt ill-equipped to follow through on these lofty expectations and even deeper than that, I didn’t want to, damnit! I saw the programs and “secrets” that promised engagement results for a high price, and I didn’t like them. The rebel spirit was strong in me, and at some point I decided to exit the arena, stage left.
In the intervening years, I entered a state of deeper connection and intuition when it came to writing for businesses. It is a place with less rules, more experimentation, curiosity, fun, creativity, and depth. And engagement.
Here are my three hard-won realizations and rules I write by:
The problem with using formulaic sales writing is that we’ve all seen too much of it by now. Any person with access to the Internet deletes most of their emails before opening them because they know they’re being sold to, and they don’t appreciate it. I see you nodding. We ain’t buying it anymore.
Tip: Don’t write stuff you wouldn’t click on.
Authenticity, once one of my favourite words, is now one of those tired, overused things. But I want to help revive it. No matter how it’s packaged and sold, people pick up on fake authenticity the way they identify a used car salesman by his wolfish smile. This is fine if you’re a big corporation with a shiny, impenetrable exterior, but not so good when you’re a rising, soulful business who does it differently.
Tip: Don’t write anything you couldn’t say in a natural tone of voice. How to test it? Read all your writing out loud.
Branding, I’ve discovered, isn’t a logo and a colour palette. I used to leave that part in other people’s hands, but it turns out that as a writer I was part of the process the whole time. Your brand runs deep, all the way to the core of who you are and why you’ve chosen this adventurous road. You have a natural way about you that magnetizes people. Any confusion, inconsistency, and uncertainty you feel shows up on the surface.
Tip: Don’t waste any more time posturing. Discover what’s at the core and spread it confidently through all aspects of your business.
Back to the initial question: Is there a science to engagement?
In my opinion and experience so far– blessedly, no. Engagement is an ongoing conversation between the soul of your business and the people you love to serve, who are out there looking for you. It takes some creativity, deep digging, honesty, and open-mindedness to tap into your voice... the voice that gives your people what they need.