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Why startups need good writers (and how to know you've got one) Written by Matthew Bostock on 5. November 2012


Matthew Bostock knows a thing or two about startup communications. His current bread and butter is handling content creation for Readmill (as Community Manager). Before that, he helped 6Wunderkinder tell its story across a two million-strong user base. Here, he explains why startup founders should hire, beg, borrow or steal a good writer – or, failing that, learn to become one themselves.

With users scattered across the globe, looking in on what you’re doing from a shiny box, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to create meaningful, intimate relationships with them. There are plenty of mountains to shout from the top of, but with startups seemingly shouting the same thing, it’s getting harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chaff. There are a good number of companies that are able to cut through the noise and make you listen, such as Vimeo and Mailchimp. They invite you into their world, they tell stories, and they talk to your heart as well as your head. So how exactly are they doing this? Chances are, it’s the work of a good writer. Here’s why you should pop one on your Christmas wish list.

You need a unique voice

Creating a unique voice is crucial at the beginning. It helps differentiate your company from the others out there. Writers naturally have a way with words, and can draw in the “average Joe” giving careful consideration to tone. Every time I begin to write, I imagine that I’m talking to a stranger on a couch right next to me. I don’t know them, and chances are they don’t know me. I don’t assume anything. I’m also placed in an intimate scenario, so being friendly and down to earth is key. Writers are good at putting their own personalities to one side, which leaves a company with a voice that’s calculated, powerful, and all their own.

You need to simplify what you’re doing

It’s no secret that developers spend the majority of their time forking master branches to matrix pits, or something akin to that. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most riveting content for the vast majority of people. Like a bird of prey, writers are good at zooming out and placing things into a broader perspective. This makes it much simpler for people to understand them. They’re good at drawing on comparisons and analogies, and manage to communicate the complexities of who you are and what you do in a simple way.

You need more meaning

The great thing about writers is that they paint pictures. In essence, they don’t necessarily tell your users what’s in front of them, but what could be in front of them. Good writing gives your company a human quality, which increases your chances of striking an emotional chord with people.

Let’s say you go on a company retreat. Maybe the trip helped the team focus for an upcoming release, which could act as a teaser? Maybe it solidified some company values, ready for an impending hiring spree? This is good material. There’s always something meaningful for readers – extracting it is the key.

You need to make more of what you have

The product roadmap is your holy grail. Let a writer in on your bi-weekly planning sessions and sprints and you can expect way more bang for your buck when release time swings around. There’s a lot a writer can do, from creating a blog series leading up to a launch, to partaking in guest blogging for sites with a readership that’s comprised of a potential new market. Creating stories around impending releases and updates is a great way to expose your brand to a wider range of people. It’s also important in stating your expertise in a field, and promoting yourself as a thought leader.

Hiring a writer is not just about using edgy words and spelling things correctly, it’s about having the real power to tell the world who you are, what you’re doing, and why you matter. Writers can take the bad, and turn it into the good. They can take the triumph, and turn it into a lesson for others. How you shape experiences says a lot about what you believe in – and belief is the one thing that runs through the veins of every startup. Why shout the loudest atop a mountain when you can have one all to yourself?

Image credit: Flickr user Slaff


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