Mastering the Art of Storytelling with Cathy Harris
Posted on 12th May 2023 at 08:19
In this episode, Zach is joined by fellow Artus copywriter, Cathy Harris. With a background in teaching, proofreading and now freelance copywriting, Cathy delves into her passion for the English language and how it can be used to tell compelling stories.
With a background in Classical Studies, Cathy discusses how she used her education to further her passion for English. From website copy to blog writing, Zach and Cathy acknowledge the importance of businesses making the most of their words to help shine a light on their services.
Zachary Greaves 00:03
Welcome to Words That Work! My name is Zach Greaves, founder and director of Artus Digital Marketing. We're here to empower businesses to tell their own story through compelling copywriting and content.
Today I'm here with Cathy Harris. She's a copywriter, proofreader, published author, and teacher and one of our copywriters here at Artus too. So, a very warm welcome to you, Cathy. Thanks for joining us.
Cathy Harris 00:32
Thanks for having me, it's great! Thank you!
Zachary Greaves 00:34
Yeah, well, lots of hats you have there, Cathy, all kind of relating to the act of storytelling, in a way I suppose. So talk to me a little bit about your busy life and the different hats you wear?
Cathy Harris 00:48
I think you’ve summed it up there, Zach! It's a very busy life I lead! But yes, the commonality throughout all I think is words.
I'm an English teacher and that's, I suppose, where my career sort of started with words. I've always been a writer for pleasure and then got a publishing deal last year for my first children's book, which was fantastic. And so, I teach words, I create words, and I check words,
Zachary Greaves 01:18
All angles of the English language!
Cathy Harris 01:20
I proofread for lots of different clients and also freelance as a writer for yourselves at Artus! So, everything I do is very wordy. And so that is something that's just a common theme running throughout it all. And I think that probably stems from my original love of reading. So, being inspired by other people's stories and writing styles and having a go myself, and just find an absolute joy in it.
Zachary Greaves 01:51
It is, it's a really joyful, therapeutic form, isn't it? And I know it's something that's been there in my life, too. I mean, I'm a very slow reader, Cathy, but I can write and write and write, hence why I started the business.
But it's interesting to hear about where you've kind of come from and how it's sparked your career really. And how it, as I say, you're attacking all angles of the English language, aren’t you?
Cathy Harris 02:22
Yeah, I suppose I am creating it, and then also critiquing it at the same time. And it's, it's funny you said about it being a therapeutic activity because I did a course a couple of years ago now called Bibliotherapy and about how books can be prescribed as therapeutic tools. And I think that's something that we often self-prescribe books. So if we're feeling down or sad, we have our comfort reads, our go-to books that we always turn to usually. And we see children do that as well instinctively, they like to go back to their baby books, their bedtime favourites. And usually, the ones that are a little bit lower than their reading age, as just a comfort blanket. And I think that's something to be encouraged.
Reading shouldn't always be about pushing them on to get higher reading ages or improving a score on this scale. It can be something that is there as a lifelong habit that can help with mental health and enjoyment and entertainment. It's got so many more facets than just educational. So as a teacher, part of my frustration is when children say to me, “I don't like reading” or young people say “I hate books. I don't like reading, reading’s boring”. And I always just copy the line or steal a line from my mother, I steal a lot from her because she's just an inspiration in so many aspects of my life, but she always says you just haven't found the right book yet. And I really believe that's very true.
Zachary Greaves 03:53
That's right. And it's, you know, to add to that list, there is escapism for a lot of people, isn't it?
And it’s interesting that children should kind of go back to books that they've read in the past and perhaps below the reading age. But I can understand that in terms of, perhaps going back to a past emotion and wanting to recapture some of those feelings.
Cathy Harris 04:18
One of the things that I found most interesting about the therapeutic course that I did, they said there's a real correlation between that kind of thriller, killer, driller, horror books, and grief, and that people often turn to that sort of genre of book when going through bereavement. And I would never have thought of that.
So it doesn't always have to be something that's escapism because it's soft and gentle. It can be about sometimes understanding that you might be going through a bad time, but there's somebody worse off. Or at least I'm not this trapped in a basement! And there's an escapism into other people's pain as well as an understanding that can come from that.
Zachary Greaves 05:07
Yeah, that empathy.
It’s a massive thing for me.
Yeah, the empathy and sort of delving into someone else's pain and understanding, you know, empathising with them on that level. It's really interesting how powerful the English language is.
Okay, so to Cathy, talk to me a little bit about your career then, and how it's unfolded in this way.
Cathy Harris 05:30
So, I really fought against being an English teacher for a long time, because my mum was an English teacher. And I wasn't going to do that, even though I really loved the subject and just that typical teenage rebellion. So, I dropped the subject as soon as I could, and actually did Classical Studies at university, which is very literature based. Let's face it, we're looking at the sort of the origins of Western literature with Homer and Ilijada and Odyssey, and all those greats. And then I fought it for as long as I could, but it became inevitable, really, and I did my teacher training and became an English teacher, and just loved it.
And I loved as part of that, how creative it is, because teachers write a lot. To be an English teacher, you're writing lessons, you're writing reports, you're writing newsletters, you're writing emails all the time, and communicating with lots of different stakeholders with different focuses and with different tones. And your writing as well for a tough audience. You're trying to sell Shakespeare last thing on a Friday on a really hot summer's day, and there's a wasp in the room, and you've got to be the most entertaining thing in there. And it's hard work, but it's very creative. And as part of it, I would often find kids saying, this is boring, this is boring. So I would write my own texts that we could then analyse and really enjoyed that. And I liked seeing that they, they also enjoyed those texts, maybe a little bit, and I'm not saying more than Shakespeare, but they enjoyed them.
At one of my schools, I used to write along with some other colleagues, the end of year pantomime. And I really enjoyed how creative that was, and seeing people laugh at the end of when a line has been delivered, that you've written is just a really empowering thing. And also really understanding the audience because you've got in an in-school staff Panto, you've got a lot of in-jokes, and things that wouldn't translate elsewhere, very specific to that target audience, very specific to that year. So really current, and I really, really enjoyed that as well.
And I've always done that part-time since having my children. And that enabled me to pick up some freelance writing work and working as a proofreader for predominantly case managers. And so using a lot of those English skills of writing and checking and marking, but not needing to give any sort of comment at the end is always nice. I suppose, what started off as side hustles, we'd call them little business ideas on the side, that have grown and grown. So, that's really how the career side of it has come to me with words for me.
Zachary Greaves 08:31
Fantastic! And talk to me about your case manager work, because that's kind of a niche within the niche of freelance writing, really, isn't it? Or, proofreading rather.
So how did that come about? And where are you looking to take it?
Cathy Harris 08:47
Well, it came about through my best friend who is a case manager. And she sets up on her own and she wanted a proofreader. But she also wanted a proofreader that she wasn't going to feel embarrassed by sending mistakes to. This is a big barrier, I find for people, they often send me work with an apology. And of course, there’s going to be mistakes in there. If I write something, if you write something Zach, there's gonna be mistakes in everything we write, we all have to have a check and usually go away from it, come back and check and even then we can miss it when we've written it.
And we sat next to each other in English. And so, I always joke I've been proofing her work for years anyway. And then from her, it became a word of mouth, personal referrals. And that's been really helpful to me. And it's just grown and grown from there. And case managers do amazing work looking at all aspects of people's lives when they've suffered some sort of injury or catastrophic accident. And the work they do is fantastic and they produce very detailed medical reports and recommendations for the support for their clients. And it's important that those are a true reflection of what is happening for that client, what needs to happen in the future, and of the progress and the plans that have been made. And it's a real privilege to proofread for case managers because you're entrusted with medical records, their client's records and their reputation.
And it's something that I'm really, really proud of that I've been doing now for about, oh, maybe four years or so, I've been building that up. And it's growing and growing. I’m working with more and more case managers from different firms. And it is, it really is a niche, because when she told me what she was doing, I said “You’re going to be a what now?”. Because it's one of those jobs that really, it's good to know are there, but most people maybe wouldn't know about them existed until we need them, and then they swoop in.
Zachary Greaves 10:48
Exactly right. Yeah. And so, obviously, it's a very detail-driven job, isn't it? As you've just alluded to Cathy, and I know that you've got a real flair for that nuance of the English language.
So how does that compare with the joy of creativity with writing? And how do you square the two?
Cathy Harris 11:11
There’s different challenges in proofing, especially when you've got such detailed reports. And I know my case managers so well, and they all have their own styles. So, they're all sort of writing within the same framework, but they have their own unique way of putting things in the ways that they prefer things set out their way, the way they formulate their sentences. So, you become a bit of an expert in that. And that's creative in its own way.
And sometimes unpicking something to think what does, what do they mean there? Or what are they getting at? And have I got that right? And could that be put in a more succinct way? There is a creativity in that, it's not the same.
It’s objective, isn't it?
Yeah. And making sure that you're being true to what it is that they need to get across. And you get quicker and quicker as you know your case managers more and more and you know, get to know their styles.
The creativity with writing is completely different. And it depends on how you're writing. So, if I'm writing for a brief for Artus, then in a lot of ways, it can be quite similar to proofing for my case managers, in terms of, I'm writing it, but it's not my voice. I'm writing on behalf of that client for that business and that's really important that I understand their voice. So, that might be looking at previous blogs or their website, their newsletters, their adverts, their LinkedIn. How do they like to communicate? And making sure that what I'm producing matches that.
And that's a creative challenge, because it's almost paint by numbers, but you need to know what your numbers are first. Whereas when you're writing as an author or just to be creative, it's just me, and you can feel very vulnerable. You're not hiding behind the tone of voice of this business, it's just me.
And so, it felt very brave of me. I felt very brave, putting myself out there and sharing what I write. Personally, there's some things that I write personally, I know I will never share, no one will ever see some things I write and immediately delete. And that's just for the joy of writing. But, it's nice to kind of work within all those different aspects of creativity around words.
Zachary Greaves 13:29
It's so interesting having these different angles to your work, Cathy. What is your favourite? I mean, I suppose I mean that professionally rather than personal writing.
Cathy Harris 13:43
So, what's my favourite between proofing and …?
Zachary Greaves 13:47
Well, yeah, between copywriting between, you know, it might be writing your novel or proofreading, analysing.
Cathy Harris 13:55
It really does depend on the way the wind is blowing on a particular day.
Zachary Greaves 13:59
Because I get the sense that you know, you wouldn't be fulfilled without the whole sum of them all, really.
Cathy Harris 14:05
Yeah, I think you might.
Is that true?
Yeah, I think so. I think I like to learn and I like to be interested and I like to have my interest kept. I think I get maybe a bit bored very easily. So, it's variety. It's a complete variety. I think there's there's different challenges.
There's nothing that I do that is as tiring as teaching. Because you are like a stand up comedian sometimes, you have to be on emotionally. Everything is so planned that the level of tiredness you feel at the end of the day, because you are so on, on every level, nothing else touches it.
The flow you can get into when you're writing and you forget to eat you forget to drink and you don't you look up and you go, “How long have I been writing?. This is unbelievable. I've been writing for so long.”. But the struggle that can be sometimes as well, when it's not flowing, you know, that can be a real challenge.
Proofreading, sometimes it feels like when you've unpicked something and you think, “Oh, I've got it, I've got it! I've got how that can work!”, that can feel amazing. And how nice and neat that is. It's a package that comes to you, and you unwrap it, and you make it all perfect. And you tie it back up with a lovely bow and send it off, and it's done.
Whereas with writing, there's usually always something more you could do. You never can quite feel - so, I'll send things off to you and you'll go “Thanks a lot!”. And I'll say, “Oh, maybe I could have done it another way.”. And it's, it never feels done in the same way.
So, haven't answered your question at all there, have I? Because the answer is, I like them all in different ways, on different days.
Zachary Greaves 15:48
Well, I think it's so important. And, you know, part of the joy for me really is dealing with a whole variety of different clients in different niches. You know, talking about concrete production, one day, recruitment the next and, you know, work for a charity the day after. So, it's that real variety that keeps me going too and certainly gets me up in the morning.
Cathy Harris 16:16
With Artus, it's amazing the variety you’ve got!
I love that learning and I love going down that hole of research and it coming away as a mini expert in something!
Zachary Greaves 16:30
Where else would you learn about the industry without actually working in it?
Cathy Harris 16:34
Zachary Greaves 16:35
It's fascinating, isn't it? And I just love the different angles that we have to our work and the different skill sets and backgrounds of the people that we work with too.
But one thing that we're having in common with a lot of our writers, I think you're maybe the third or fourth of our writers to have a book published now. So again, congratulations on that, Cathy.
So, the title of the book is Dylan Just Couldn't Do It. So, tell me about that.
Cathy Harris 17:10
So Dylan Just Couldn't Do It, is a book for primary school aged children, which is not the age group of children I work with, but it is the age of children I live with. So, I have two primary school aged little boys, Daniel and James. And it's a book about a little boy, who when he finds something difficult, he calls it stupid and gives up.
And it's a book about resilience. And it was born out of necessity, in that I find as a teacher, I have more patience than I do as a mother. And that led to, you know, a bit of guilt. A bit of mum guilt. And I wanted to find a way of giving my children access to teacher Cathy, who is a lot more patient maybe than mummy Cathy, sometimes.
And so, how would teacher Cathy approach a situation like that? And in terms of how can I frame this sort of conversation around resilience to help give a visual. So, it’s a social story, kind of a coaching model that we can refer to as a family or we could refer to as individuals that would help with building resilience and not giving up easily when things are hard.
And the book itself was written on my phone, sitting in my car at the school car park, waiting for my children. I arrived uncharacteristically early to pick them up from school and was sitting in the car park and it just kind of came to me and I opened the note section on my phone and wrote it there and then. And the book that's published only has maybe one or two changes from what I wrote sitting there in my car.
And it's a short little book. It could be a bedtime book, or it could be an individual read. And it's funny and it's helpful. And I'm really, really proud of it. I would never have thought If you'd said “You're gonna have a book published, Cathy”, that it would have been a book aimed at primary school children because that is not my age group. So, it happened and I'm so thrilled and proud that it's been published and I get to share it and I get to see children.
And so, go around primary schools and read it and do Q&A's and assemblies. And when you stand and you read your book, and the children laugh in the right places, or come up and say, “Oh, I really liked that you're writing another one?” or “Have you got another book?”.
What a feeling!
Oh, and I was recognised!
So, I was in a local bar and i was doing a Q&A at a school. I saw this family sort of lightering out of the corner of my eye, and I thought they wanted our table. I thought they were kind of asking. So, I caught her eye and I asked, “Are you alright?” and she went “Ah, I'm sorry. It's just that my daughter's just recognised you. She's just said, that's the author”. And it took like a beat and I went, “Oh, yeah, I am! That’s me! Hello!” It was just, I mean, that was wow. Not quite being mobbed. But it was amazing. Yeah, it was really cool
Zachary Greaves 20:31
It doesn’t get better than that!
Yeah, it was really cool!
Local celebrity! Fantastic, Cathy.
So, the writing process, it's so interesting you could do that on your phone, in the school car park. That's incredible, really. So how did that discipline to do it come about?
Cathy Harris 20:50
It's always been something that I've done. I've always got notes. I’ve always got like a notebook on the go. I've got a book, just down there to the left of me, actually, and in the back of it is just lines that I like or ideas. So, there's poems, there's ideas for plays, there's ideas for plot outlines, for novels, there's all sorts. And sometimes I’ll be going through, and I think “I don’t remember writing this, but that's good!”. It's just something I've always done.
I've always utilised the note section on my phone. Sometimes poems, sometimes for like I say, just lines or words that I like, or a phrase that I see or like, it just pops into my head. And I think, “Well, that's good. I’ll write that down.”. And I've never written a full story before, on my notes page, but I have now! Maybe I should do that more.
And so the book that I'm writing at the moment is another is another children's book, it's a longer one. And that came out of, we were sitting around the table with my in-laws, and my family, and my youngest son did a really loud sneeze. And I’m not going to give it away, the first line for this next book popped into my head. And I said it. And my husband’s step mum said, “That's good. That's the beginning of a novel.”. And it's happened from there.
And then months later, I was talking with my children. And we were saying, we were talking about that very loud sneeze. And I said, I've never written that book and I just sat down and I wrote the first chapter. And then I read it to them, and they loved it.
And they were going, “Mummy, write some more, write some more!”. And so, I wrote the next chapter. And then “What happens next, and what happens next?”. And then that's just, it's kind of kept going from there, really. So, watch the space with that one.
Zachary Greaves 22:44
Isn't it wonderful how the smallest of ideas can branch out and form this life of its own, organically. It’s so exciting and that's the power of writing right there for you. Or the power of an idea. And then just running with it - fabulous!
Cathy Harris 23:02
Yeah, just where does where does this go? And I think I've heard a few things that say there's different sorts of writers. Is it the architect and the gardener? The architect plans everything out, but the gardener just scatter some seeds around and sees where they grow, where they flourish.
I think I'm a bit of a combination. I think I know where I'm gonna scatter my seeds. If that makes sense?
Zachary Greaves 23:23
Yeah. Yeah. So, the writing process, we had a very brief conversation before we hit record here, Cathy, and I was talking about how different it must be writing for a children's fiction in comparison to writing for business.
And you said, well, actually it’s very similar. So, explain that to me and tell me more about that.
Cathy Harris 23:48
I'm not sure what I meant by that. I think there are similarities. I wouldn't say they're very similar, I think obviously, there's differences. But at the heart of it, writing is getting your story and your meaning across. And the beauty of writing for children is you get to be super direct and honest, and sometimes jarringly and in a humorous way. You get to be very, very direct. And that means that you could, in a way, cut a lot of the sort of fluff, and I think you do that when you're writing for business as well. And you don't need the fluff.
You need to know what does the client want their audience to know? And what's that quickest point from A to B? Because that audience, you are not guaranteed their attention. So, they’re time-poor and kids are brutal. We're going, “This is boring. Don't like this. No, you haven't got me in the first page. The whole book, therefore, is boring.”
Well, I'm not saying we treat our audience like children, but we have to acknowledge that we've got them for a limited time to hook them. If they are scrolling, if they haven't sought exactly what you are writing out, which is very, you know, a very small percentage of your audience will have deliberately searched for the exact thing you are writing, you need to make sure that you are hooking them and that you are giving them what they want. Whether that be entertainment or information. And so in those ways, I do think there is a lot of similarity between writing for children and writing for business.
Zachary Greaves 25:32
It's such an interesting comparison. I know you said we're not talking about business owners or managers as children, but it's such an interesting comparison to draw. And, yeah, it might be a little tip for the team there, I think!
Cathy Harris 25:49
Yeah! How would you sell this to a child?
Zachary Greaves 25:51
Exactly, right. Yeah, yeah. And stripping through the nonsense and getting into the the power of a headline in business writing.
Cathy Harris 26:00
And for web copy. It drives me up the wall when I click on. I'm, you know, somebody with a high reading age, a very avid reader, know the business, and I click on a website, and I think “It's just words. What do they do?”. It's just innovate, energise, synergise, I don't know what you're selling me. I still don't know what you're offering me. And I'm about to click off for this other person that says, we do this really well. And here's how you can tell we do this really well. And here's the problems we're gonna fix for you by doing this really well. And you think, right, that's what I want.
Zachary Greaves 26:41
I know what they're talking about, I trust this company. Yeah. Yeah. I love this. I love that idea, Cathy.
So, talk to me about some of the businesses that you've written for. And it might be an Artus client, and how you approach those briefs.
Cathy Harris 26:59
I approach them by, it doesn't matter if it's Artus, whoever. Getting to know them as best I can. So, the easiest ones, are the ones that obviously have direct contact with yourself. So that you've had that conversation, you know, the sort of words that that client uses when they're talking about their business. Not buzzwords, but the words that you go, “So, just tell me about that, again, just what do you do there?”. And then they kind of fall into it and the way they put themselves.
It's harder, sometimes with companies who have employed lots of people to do different bits of writing for them, there's not that cohesion of message. So, if I think “Well, how are they coming across on LinkedIn is very different to how they're coming across on their website and very different from the tone of their blogs.”. And I think that's something for businesses to think about, is the cohesion across their writing. It doesn't mean that it has to be written by the same person. But you know, it has to make sense as a whole.
And so I spent a long time researching, whether that's the conversations or reading the different output, getting to know the products. So, if it's a company that's selling something, and I've got to understand how those products work, what sets them apart, and then understanding their clients and their customers.
For example, one of the first ones I think I did for you was for grass seed. You know, I spent I hours, I was a full-on expert in grass seed! I did not know there are that many different types of grass seed. And I could talk quite at length about that. What do we need to look for, and it's like, well, what are you wanting it for? Are you wanting it to firm up your grass verges? Are you wanting it to, you know, there's different types of grass or different things? So, are we playing sport on this grass? What are we looking for?
And so that's really the starting point, for me, understanding it really, really well. And then the ideas will come naturally, and looking at the competition as well, you know, so understanding what it is that makes the business's main competitors, what is their, you know, unique selling point? And is it similar? Is it something that's worth competing with or not worth competing with? And then the kind of copy can come from there? And what is it that in that industry in that world, what are the conversations that are happening? What are people looking for the answers to and can we provide those in the copy we give?
Zachary Greaves 29:17
It's that really rounded, highly-researched approach, which always wins, doesn't it? In the art of copywriting for business.
So, how do you bring story to your writing, when you're writing for business? We all know that in the world of copywriting for business, that it’s story. That is that kind of central hook, really. And that's what gets eyes on pages and that's how we transfer emotion and how we ultimately resonate with the target audience and get them to buy from that company.
So, the art of storytelling, how do you transfer that or how do you work with that in your own writing, Cathy?
Cathy Harris 30:03
For me, I think it's about understanding what story the business wants to tell. And does that match with, and how can we make it match with the story that the client wants their customer to hear? Or, wants the answer to and matching those things up. And also understanding that the story that you tell as a business, I’m thinking massively through your web copy predominantly, will change and will develop. Because when you're starting out as a small business, it might be about the individuals and the story of how you've got there, and why you've got into this business and what's going to set you apart.
And then the story changes into how we've been so successful and how we've retained our customers, and how we're solving these problems for our customers or meeting this need. And then how we built that and how the offer and the service has changed. So, your story needs to change as well. Not in a way that your previous story was a lie, but you understand that you're not a one-story business.
Zachary Greaves 31:03
The story of the business has moved on and so should the website copy,
Cathy Harris 31:07
Exactly, for every new chapter. And that's why refreshing your web copy is so important. And it doesn't mean that you lose sight of who you are or how you began. But the chances that five years into your business, you are serving the same customers in exactly the same way is actually quite slim really, isn't it? It's quite a low chance that that's happening. And things change.
But you'd the impact that you will have on your customers will change. And so that all needs to be reflected in your story. And that as you will become experts, if you're not already, in your field, and what's the story of that journey? And how does that inspire confidence in you as a brand and as a business? And so, there's multiple stories going on, all the time. And also, as you're, you'll know this, Zach, you'll have a favourite book that you'll come back to time and time again. And every time you read it at a different point in your life, you'll see something different, and it will resonate differently.
For me, I went to go see Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of), at the theatre last weekend. And I love Pride and Prejudice. So, I read it as an 11 year old and I loved it, I loved Lydia, I loved Mrs Bennett, I loved how over the top people were. As I became a teenager, I really started to love the romance, absolutely loved it, loved Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a villain. And then as you get older, you start to see things from a different perspective and you think, “Well, maybe Elizabeth is a bit impetuous in some ways, and she's not coming across.”. You know, maybe my sympathy is a bit more with, a lot more sympathetic to Charlotte Lucas, who I just immediately dismissed as boring when I was 11 and a teenager. But now I'm looking at thinking, this is a well-rounded character that's very incredibly pragmatic woman trying to make the best of her social situation at the cost of her own happiness, because she just rejects this idea of romantic love.
And so as I've changed and developed, what I'm getting out of that story is different. And I think, as your client base changes and develops, what they are going to get out of your story is going to be different. And so, as a business have an eye on that as well. And just constantly asking yourself those questions, who is our audience? Who are our clients? And how have they changed?
Are they the same people?
Are they even the same people? Are they in the same country? Have we got the same cultural references? Are we a local business just serving the people of Yorkshire? So, we know what we're talking about when we say a Tea Cake? Or, are we now a global company and alienating a lot of people? People from across the hills who are calling it a Barm Cake? And so it's, it's just having an eye on that. And that's going to affect the story we tell all the time as well.
Zachary Greaves 34:11
It's interesting, you should talk about this. Cathy was involved in our fifth birthday celebrations a few weeks ago and I was conscious you know the amount of writing we do for our own clients and the website copy that we're doing week in week out, it's time that we changed our own actually and refreshed it. And it's probably 18 months since we last refreshed our own website copy, but it's amazing the changes that have happened in that time.
Cathy Harris 34:43
I'm exactly the same. I’m in exactly the same boat, Zach. I'm sitting here saying it all, knowing that my website copy is very much focused on me and just, ugh. I look at things and cringe now, and that's in the process of being refreshed as well.
Zachary Greaves 34:58
It's cobblers and the shoes, Cathy.
Cathy Harris 35:02
Yeah! It really is! It’s a do as I say, not as I do, sort of thing.
Zachary Greaves 35:08
Fantastic. Well, thank you.
So, we're talking previous to an important part of our nation story, with the upcoming coronation this weekend. And, I know you spotted a certain word, or it was not even a word, in a post recently.
Cathy Harris 35:30
Coronated is not a word! I have to say, it's a bugbear of my mum's as well, I have to give, you know, to give props to Mary. I have to give a shout-out to my mum. She's amazing. And it is the certain things that have really started to grate. I'm not a grammar purist. I'm not a language purist. I do a lot of work teaching A-Level language variation and change. We know that that's how languages grow and develop and grammar grows and develops as well as a part of that.
But it's not a word Zach! Coronated is not a word! He's going to be crowned on Saturday. It isn't “He is going to be coronated”. There is going to be a coronation, where the king is crowned. But coronated is not a word. So I felt that strongly about it. I've made a meme that's going on my LinkedIn on Friday.
Zachary Greaves 36:24
Oh, I can’t wait to see this!
Cathy Harris 36:27
I’m bigging it up now, it isn’t that great of a meme! I've never made one before. So, you're always learning that you're always creating.
Zachary Greaves 36:34
So, I guess rounding up now, Cathy, really? What would you say are your top tips for business storytelling? Be that it might be a marketing manager, it might be a solopreneur who is setting out on getting their business out into the world. And how would you do that in a successful way, or to ensure that you're speaking to the right people?
Cathy Harris 37:01
Obviously, as a teacher, I'm a big believer in learning from the best and reading the best. So, if you're starting out as a business, and you're thinking I want to think about what I want to have on my website, think about the websites of the companies that you've used, that you respect that you like. Not your friends ones, not even ones necessarily in the same field as you, just websites that you've responded to that have made you click on a link. That have made you take you know, that call to action, you have subscribe to something. What was it about that email that resonated with you? And how could you apply that to your business? What is it that you want your customers to feel, think, know, or understand, as a result of reading your copy? And work backwards from there.
I want them to come away feeling that we are the experts in ‘X’. Okay, so what do you need to do to be an expert? Well, I need to have well-researched, accurate, up to date information on my website. Okay, well, then how am I going to make sure I'm doing that? I'm going to answer the questions that they're asking. And I can do that through blog form, I can do that by posting regularly. I want them to think that we are a cutting-edge, slick company. Okay so, actually, I don't need a lot of waffle, I want it to be straight to the point. And so, you can start thinking about those things and having a really clear idea about what you want. And then when you communicate that, the more specific you can be, then you can, I'm not saying you create it, you communicate it to the experts.
You know your business, no one's going to work harder for your business, than you. So, you need to communicate that to the agency that you're asking, or the writer that you’re employing, and say, “This is what I want, I want minimalist, I want sleek, I want to look like we're cutting edge, I want it to be modern, I want it to be friendly.” Sort of, what do you mean by those things and have in-depth conversations with your writers, so that they really get to know your tone of voice as a business and then that can be applied, that would be my biggest tip.
Learn from the best and know what you want. And don't be afraid to when you get something go, “It's not quite what I had in mind”, and talk about it some more. Because, what you put on the website, or what you put on the internet, is the forward face of your business. And it's where you're going to communicate on a mass scale with your audience. And it needs to be right so that the person that picks up the phone is saying the same thing as the website is saying in tone of voice and things like that, but that would be my biggest tip.
Zachary Greaves 39:55
Wonderful. Thank you, Cathy.
Yeah, I think as writers and as business people sometimes, we have that temptation to be very insular and try and do it all ourselves and, you know, get all of those business plans out of your brain and onto paper or onto your website.
But, the reality is we do need to read and learn from other people, don't we? And, understand that what everybody else puts out there into the world isn't necessarily right. Or, it might not be as powerful as it needs to be, it might not be written in the right way. But, by reading and taking inspiration from all of these people, we can formulate our own businesses’ identity and take inspiration from that.
Oh, I love that. Thank you.
So, it might be right for them, but not be right for you!
Zachary Greaves 40:51
Exactly. Right. Exactly. Wonderful.
Well, thank you, Cathy! I think everyone should head over to Cathy's LinkedIn profile, by the way! She packs it full of grammatical tips and …
Yeah, that's the word I was looking for. So, people can find you at Cathy Harris on LinkedIn. And what's your headline, Cathy?
I don't know, what is it?
‘Supporting Case Managers with Proofreading, proud supporter of the IRCM. Copywriter and Author of Dylan Just Couldn't Do It.’
So, if you see Cathy's headline, you're connected or following the right person there!
Cathy Harris 41:33
I'm glad you know what my headline is!
Zachary Greaves 41:38
I hadn’t written that down, I just had the profile up and just in case! And in terms of Dylan Just Couldn't Do It, then. So, aimed very much at primary school children and perhaps those with low confidence. So, how would people pick up a copy of that, Cathy?
Cathy Harris 41:59
So, it's available online, at all your big retailers, and in every good bookstore! And there is also a teaching pack that goes alongside it, that is going to be launched shortly, which I’ve put together with a very good friend of mine, whose a primary school SENCO, and its eight-week mentoring sessions to accompany the book. So, really utilising that bibliotherapy sort of, that literature as a tool to help mental health to help emotional resilience, social, emotional health, all of those aspects.
So, that will be available soon. So, we're having a book launch. I don't know when you're going to publish this, Zach. But, I'm having a book launch on 24th of May, at Rawdon Community Library at quarter past five, and everybody's welcome to come along. I'd love to see you there!
Zachary Greaves 42:52
Incredible. Well, we'll definitely make sure this podcast is out in good time to publicise that, Cathy. But that's all fantastic and I’m really inspired by what you’re doing there, and how you are making the most of the fact that language has the power to change lives.
It certainly changed mine!
Absolutely, yeah. Well, wonderful hearing about your journey and thanks so much for sharing your top tips and words of wisdom, Cathy. So, a real pleasure to have you on today.
Cathy Harris 43:27
This has been so much fun, Zach! Thank you for having me.
Zachary Greaves 43:30
I’ve loved it, thank you!
So, invest in your own story with Words That Work, which is free to listen to once a month on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and whatever podcast apps on your device.
Head over to our website to learn more about our story! Thanks for listening, and we hope to see you soon.
Tagged as: Communications, Content Writing, Copywriting, Podcast, Podcast Transcripts
Share this post: