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How 10 Years in Magazines Prepared Me to Help With Your Marketing

A lot of businesses struggle to talk to their customers in a way that gets results. It turns out my time as a magazine editor trained me well to help.

I see it so much: You’re a wizard at what you do. Customers fall in love with your product or service — once they get it. But that value is hard to explain. If only you could reach more people…

If that sounds familiar, trust me: you’re not alone. Most people struggle to speak or write clearly, especially about topics they know well.

Most people struggle to speak or write clearly, especially about topics they know well.

The Curse of Knowledge

I saw it all the time as a magazine editor working with expert contributors. People could be brilliant and articulate in their work, and somehow a confusing mess on the page. “What’s your elevator pitch?” I’d ask a CEO. Eight minutes later, they’d still be getting to the point.

An expert would be a master at some skill — taking a cat hiking, creating communities of purpose and practice, training astronauts — but it was only through careful questioning that I could tease out practical advice that translated easily and clearly to readers. 

More often than not, if I asked an expert to write it down themselves, I’d get back something confusing and incomplete. The solution was usually pretty simple: a quick phone call, a few smart questions, and some good notes on my side. Within an hour or two I’d send them back a new draft. “That’s amazing,” they’d say. “You totally captured it! How?!” I’d have to remind them it was 90% their words. I just helped pull out the important parts and put them in the right order.

I appreciate how magazines trained me to listen for the heart of what’s important in what someone is sharing. 

It was my job as editor to keep my readers in mind, always. To be the bridge between what an expert knew and what a reader cared about. Now, as a marketing and messaging consultant, I play a very similar role: I’m a bridge between businesses and their customers. 

Formats Beyond the Box

Another way magazines secretly trained me to be a marketing ninja was their use of visual and playful formats. 

We knew the importance of the short text: clear, compelling headlines; revealing photo captions; engaging call-out boxes. I learned to say a lot with few words. Fitting a clear message into a small space often felt like a cross between a puzzle and a haiku, and it was great training for packing a punch with concise homepage copy.

In magazines, both in print and online, we were also always looking for fun, creative ways to present information. Especially at the start of my career, hanging out in the WIRED offices, I learned how to brainstorm 15 different approaches to the same topic, then use my intuitive spidey-sense to figure out which would fit best with our larger goals. 

I worked closely with designers to present information in a compelling visual way.

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I created playful ways into learning, like quizzes and glossaries and even a board game. 

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And always, always, I strived to keep my reader in mind, and be both understood and interesting. People read magazines for fun, and also to learn. It was my job to make sure the words we created did both. This translates well to thinking about creative, helpful content marketing content, like lead generating PDFs or quizzes, or even fun emails.

Transitioning to Marketing and Messaging

As I spent more and more time with business leaders once I became the editor of Conscious Company Media, I soon began to realize that for businesses, clear communication means life or death. “People don’t buy the best products,” points out Donald Miller, founder of StoryBrand. “They buy the products they can understand the fastest.”

“People don’t buy the best products. They buy the products they can understand the fastest.”

Donald Miller, founder of StoryBrand

I stepped out of the magazine world for a while, to go wander the country in an RV. But I still found myself passionate about helping the business owners I knew explain what they did in a clear, compelling way. I want businesses with soul to win in the marketplace. To do that, they need great marketing.

So after years of business leaders telling me, “That’s the clearest anyone’s ever explained it!” I knew it was time to switch hats, from journalist to marketer, and from editor to copywriter. I’d watched too many companies struggle to attract the customers they deserved. It felt like my calling to help.

That’s why I founded Magic Words Marketing. As a copywriter, messaging coach, and StoryBrand Guide, I help purposeful businesses find the magic words to grow.

If you’re feeling frustrated and unclear about how to attract more customers, or struggling to talk about your business in a way that creates results, there’s a chance my words magic is just what you need to grow. To find out what magic we can create together, click here to request a consultation

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