In her blogs and on her social media channels, Erica Suter doesn’t hold back.
“I feel that speaking in profanity is an attention-grabber,” said Suter, who’s a youth soccer and strength and conditioning coach in Baltimore. “It can emphasize a point better.”
Should corporate blogs and content strategies follow suit, lacing content with F-Bombs and other four-letter words? The answer isn't as easy as you think.
Certainly, I don't recommend profanity in official corporate content. Only in rare, extreme cases would it make sense. However, I do recommend companies look at ways to add more personality to their content.
One of the most common things I see in content marketing, or just about any other business communications, especially in business to business, is a lack of personality and voice.
Companies too often revert to bland, straightforward language that lacks any and all feeling. Perhaps they’re too beholden to their legal departments. Maybe their approval processes are too stringent.
I don’t want to be too hard on anyone, because it’s a trap that’s easy to fall into. Even for someone like me. The desire to please everyone and not offend anyone is strong.
So companies almost always play it safe and use plain language.
The problem, as Suter points out, is that it’s hard to stand out that way.
“There are so many people writing and blogging,” she said. “How are you going to stand out?”
Erica has been able to stand out. In three years of blogging, she’s built a significant and loyal following. She writes about soccer, fitness, and sometimes life in general.
And her writing carries a definite edge, as she uses pop culture, sarcasm, wit, and irreverent humor. “That’s how I talk in real life,” she said, adding that using her voice helps her create better content. “When I’m being more sarcastic and witty in my voice, I feel more in my creative flow, and I’m better able to write up a piece.”
Suter also had been known to sprinkle profanity in her content. She’s since toned that down, as her audience has grown to include young girls, but otherwise, she’s kept her sarcastic edge.
And her message is getting through. Suter notes that young players read her articles about recovery and nutrition, and parents and other coaches are sharing her thoughts on the pressures young athletes face and how the traditional approaches to youth sports are sometimes harmful.
She’s even hearing from non-athletes, especially regarding her life-coaching articles. “People have reached out to me and said, ‘Thank you so much. You saved my life,’” she said. “As a writer, that’s such a success to have that impact on people.”
Would Suter have had the same impact had she not used edgy language, and even foul language in her earlier work? She suspects not. She believes her voice is what set her apart and allowed her to capture her audience.
More importantly, it’s authentic to who she is. And that’s really the lesson in all of this. Not so much the language she uses, but the fact that she’s being real.
She said that her audience can relate to her better because of her authentic voice. “When you present yourself as who you are, people catch onto that,” she said.
It’s a lesson that many brands and companies can learn. “It’s about connecting to your audience,” she said.