Gregory Ciotti

Writing / Content Strategy

Writing your personal style guide

Style guides are created to ensure what’s published sounds like it’s coming from the same place. That works on a personal level, too.

Writing says something about your topic, but it also says something about you. What would you like to project? Sincerity? Humor? A casual, laid-back style? A confident, authoritative tone?

A personal style guide can help lay the foundation for your writing. And because they are personal, I can’t tell you what the perfect style guide looks like, but I can share how I approached mine.


Words on words: 5 books that will improve your writing

Remove the fanfare and most writing advice boils down to read more, write more, and get better feedback.

Let’s talk about that first one. If writing is output, reading is often the most important input. You’ll understand what makes Hemingway’s writing exceptional (or overrated) by reading his books, not from taking his advice. Study your idols; that is a more rewarding and reliable strategy.

That said, there are a number of useful books on writing that can supplement your education. Here are five that I have always kept close:


All writers need role models

A common, tired parlance in the world of personal development is to never compare yourself to others. The intent is honorable; the advice is terrible.

There is a self-aggrandizing belief that you never need “suffer” from viewing your work next to someone else’s. This thinking stems from the fact that many people are unable to recognize what makes for a healthy, constructive comparison and what makes for a toxic one.


Make your writing more meaningful

Writing is valuable. You give voice to your team, help to your customers, and benefit by getting thoughts to page: writing doesn’t just transfer ideas, it creates them.

Since good words are worth much and cost little, choosing the right words is worth the price you pay in time (and sanity).


8 SaaS content marketing mistakes to stop making

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

New year, new goals, new ways to get there.

As noted in Help Scout’s yearly review, we hit 2 million unique visitors on the blog for the year; not to mention all of the stellar product improvements.

But that’s in the rear view mirror — today I’d like to cover some of my biggest mistakes made, and those pitfalls I will be hell-bent on avoiding this year.


Creating content for Jobs-to-be-Done

Educating customers comes down to two basic principles: 1. Teach them how to use your product, and 2. Teach them how to get results.

As with the Jobs to be Done framework for products, this gives gravity to the job and reduces the importance of the industry you’re in, the competitors you deal with, and the personas you sell to.

Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the “average” customer in their category may do — but they often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve.

With an understanding of the “job” for which customers find themselves “hiring” a product or service, companies can more accurately develop and market products well-tailored to what customers are already trying to do.

People hire information as well. It’s the reason we buy books, it’s the reason we spend time reading blog posts, even if they are free.

Content obviously allows for a few exceptions–the “follow our journey,” the creative use of tools and side projects, the viral lift of a popular opinion piece on the company blog–all can be used to attract new prospects.

But the bread and butter is still figuring out the jobs-to-be-done by readers and future customers (hint: they should be one in the same).


Are you an honest content marketer?

An enviable skill for any creative maverick to possess is the ability to objectively assess strengths and weaknesses.

In regards to content marketing, this has lead me to believe that a candid “content audit” can be an illuminating process for any marketer.

You’re probably sick of seeing David Ogilvy musings in my essays, but I promise this one is good and will be the last one for a while.

It’s from a letter he sent to his staff at Ogilvy & Mather, later to be released in The Unpublished David Ogilvy:


How to vet new content hires

The team you build is the company you build. Hiring well is the most important part of your content efforts.

We recently hired our second content marketer at Help Scout.

I wanted to share a quick and dirty run-through on how we evaluated candidates in hopes that it will help you with your next hire.


An apology to growth hackers (kind of)

You know growth hacking is still undergoing an identity crisis when the top entries at regularly look like this:

Growth hacking has an image problem, not an intentions problem.


25 Lessons from 25 Months of Content Marketing

At Help Scout, we take content and customer success through education very seriously.

Twenty-five months in, here are some of the odd lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

I hope they’re useful for you: