Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.

Julia: Everybody, I am excited to introduce you to a good friend and colleague. I know so much more about writing because of Katie. Before I get into things, Katie, can you just introduce yourself, tell people where you’re located and tell us about your business?

Katie: Yes. Thank you, Julia. My name is Katie Lantukh. I am located just north of Atlanta in a city called Suwanee, Georgia. I run Murphy Marketing, where we help businesses tell their stories.

Julia: The reason that Katie and I know each other is because we are both StoryBrand certified. How did you end up in StoryBrand?

Katie: I, like many people in StoryBrand, knew of Donald Miller from the memoir days. When the book first came out, Building a StoryBrand, somehow I got my pause on an advanced reader copy, and so I read it when it was weird in my Kindle, and I loved it. It’s interesting because I studied communication in college, wrote my senior thesis on Walter Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm, which if you’re a deep-into-the-woods nerd like me, but there’s overlap between how stories are told. So I super identified with the StoryBrand framework after reading it and loved it. At the time, I was trying to build my own freelance business. I had just come out of the agency world, and then I had gone in-house at a software company in their marketing team, had a baby, and then was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. 

At the time I discovered StoryBrand, I was trying to build my own freelance business doing a lot of social media, a lot of honestly what anyone would hire me to do, and I was really over complicating things. I was trying to give businesses a personality test, I was trying to give them an Enneagram number as a brand, and it was just so complicated and not working, quite honestly. When I figured out that StoryBrand would be a much simpler way to approach it, I was like, okay, this makes a lot of sense. That is how I found it.

Julia: So you got into the marketing world via your degree. You mentioned agency, software consulting company, and now freelancer and then business owner. Done a little bit of everything. What’s your favorite? Or what are some things that you’ve liked about each stage?

Katie: That’s a great question! I really love people, and I love helping people solve problems, and it didn’t matter if I was in-house or at an agency. One of my favorite things to do is just to hear what’s going on, and map it out on a whiteboard or a big piece of paper, or whatever’s going on, and just kind of bring order to the chaos. My focus in college was journalism, and I loved taking really complicated issues or just something that was hard to distill into a 500-word column, and just boiling it down for people. And I think that’s, to this day, my favorite thing to do, waiting into a complicated situation and wrapping arms around it.

Julia: Which makes me respect your VIP days all the more. Katie advertises these VIP days where she takes clients and does that in a 24, 48 hours? Remind me.

Katie: It’s eight hours. It’s a business day.

Julia: She does that in a business day. I would rather do a lot of things than do that. What do you love about doing your VIP days?

Katie: There’s a bullet list. I love deadline pressure. I just really thrive in that environment. I also really like focus work. And so on my VIP days, there are no other meetings, I don’t have to go anywhere, I have complete focus. I just think that there’s something magical about being able to do that. We meet with a client in the morning to do all of our intake and information gathering, and then I go and put my headphones on and work that whole day. Usually, we have at least one or two people from my team on standby to proofread and be a sounding board, and then by the end of the day, we present the deliverable, whatever it is. Sometimes it’s a landing page, sometimes it’s a StoryBrand transcript, or could be a number of subpages, kind of whatever their package is, but we present it live to the client, receive their feedback, and then they can be on their way. It’s really nice to be able to knock stuff out.

Julia: Wow! That’s so nice for the client too. Even when we’re doing our own website, it just is like, well, it takes one day to write it, and then another day for somebody to edit it. It just can take a long time, and so that’s really nice for the client.

Enough of those details, we gotta talk about what you were telling me about. Katie and I were talking, “Well, what could we talk about on the podcast?” And she was telling me that one of her recent soap boxes is about marketing, not creating fear and anxiety. We had somebody a few months ago, Carson Murray on the podcast, and she talked a little bit about what she calls ethical copywriting, and I think that there’s a little bit of overlap. But I wanna talk about it, why is this something that you’re talking about lately, marketing, not creating fear and anxiety?

Katie: I think in my own personal life, I have become so aware of how the messages that pass through my eyeballs, whether that’s on the news, or social media, or even in the books that I read, it affects me. And as a pretty sensitive person, I have a wild imagination, and it is not hard to take it to the extreme and start catastrophizing about all the things that could go wrong. And so, I started to notice that it’s so pervasive in marketing because it’s so easy to do. It’s very obvious to say, “You need this car seat because you don’t want your baby to die.” It’s like, “Well, obviously, no!” There’s so much more room for creativity, but also empathy and thinking, okay, what are these parents actually going through? Or whatever the brand is, whatever the product or service that you’re selling, instead of going to the most obvious worst case scenario, or the problem that you’re solving, or the stakes that are there, having compassion and empathy in even how we articulate that from a marketing perspective is so important. 

And I think that if we, as marketers, as writers, if we can have more compassion in that area, I think it could change the world. I think it would alleviate so much fear and anxiety in people if we just changed what we were talking about.

Julia: For sure. Can you give us some examples of how you’ve used this in some of the work that you’ve done?

Katie: Yes. One of our recent clients who was very on board with this concept, they’re a cybersecurity firm, and obviously we could go very worst case scenario. Instead, we brought it more short-term success and failure. So off the top of the head, you would sleep better at night, you would not worry, you have a partner, you tell them more positive, short-term success instead of you don’t want your business to be hacked and taken down overnight, and your whole future is crashed. That is true, and we wouldn’t hide that. But I think leading that conversation, the landing page, the marketing with more short-term and less catastrophe, because people know what’s at stake.

Julia: For sure! Especially if they’re looking for that product, they’re probably already worried. And so they don’t need to be told, “Oh crap, if I got hacked and all of my clients’ stuff, I’d be out of business.” They already know that. So then, how do you balance that with talking about the problems? I mean, because for any StoryBrand fans, the problem is like the second step. And then we also are told to talk about the failure too. I don’t believe StoryBrand is gold, there’s a lot of other ways to do things, but I’m curious how you balance that.

Katie: For the problem, I always make sure that we are aligned on the problem as it relates to what the brand can solve and will solve. So not all the things that are standing in the person’s way, but what is the one thing or two things that that business can solve for the customer? That’s one thing that we always make sure is aligned. And then when it comes to the failure, we usually, in our brain scripts, we’ll write the long term kind of worst case scenario, all the possible options. But when it comes to implementing that on a website or email campaign, we really just speak to the shorter term failure or stakes, or whatever you wanna call it.

Julia: So for example, for that cybersecurity place, would you include the problem right front and center, or is that something that you would say for a different web page? Like if we’re talking about a website, what would you do?

Katie: I think definitely still keep it front and center, because it’s still important that they know what problem it is that’s going to be solved, because I think that also alleviates that fear right off the bat, because they know it’s a problem, they know it’s gonna get solved. I think the other thing that we’ve experimented with different brands is bringing in statistics, like 80% of X, Y and Z. What is the situation or the reality of the environment or whatever the customer is facing, not just like, so there are hackers in the world? So being a little bit more creative with how we’re presenting that problem instead of just always going straightforward, the kill shot

Julia: Right! As somebody who has an equally creative imagination and is always worried someone is breaking in her house, I’m also the person who is like, the basement is dark, I’ve run up those stairs. I know that there is nothing behind me, I will run! 

I do think that there is a lot of fear and anxiety, as you said, coming into our eyeballs all the time. One of the things that I’ve had to stop doing personally is, I don’t know if you have the Nextdoor app, but I used to have the Nextdoor app, and it talks about all of the things happening in your neighborhood, and everybody was talking about all these break-ins. I was like, “I can’t think about this.” And so deleting that off. Obviously, that’s just social media and not advertising in general, but if we think about our clients and having empathy for the fact that they’re getting that from all sides, do we wanna be the people who are creating the same amount of fear, or do we wanna be, as you said, bringing light and hope to those problems? I think that was a really cool way to talk about it.

I think one of the other things that I’ve been thinking about is post pandemic/no, it’s not over yet, even that, our lives have been on this heightened sense of awareness and fear for the past two to three years. Are we, as companies, adding noise to that fear, or are we being like these beacons of light and hope? Do you have any thoughts on that?

Katie: Yes, I do. I feel like one of the big things that we all gave up during the height of COVID was our agency. We were told when we could leave, what we could do, who we could be with, when we could be with them, for how long, at what distance. It was all very controlled, and we had no control over even our decision-making. And so I feel like whenever we’re able to give that back to people, even in how they choose a product, or just coming at it with more open hands instead of like, this is a right or wrong decision, but like, if this is great for you now, amazing. Here it is. Instead of that, really stressed out from both sides because the brands can be really stressed too. COVID was hard on everyone, brands included. But I think that if we choose a different path forward, especially in the way that we talk and sell and market to people and even run ads, it matters. And I think that by giving people choice again, and agency, restoring that is so powerful.

Julia: For sure! Utah had some real weird campaigns during COVID. I’m just gonna put that out there to all my Utah people. We just had some real weird ones. One of them that I remember was a picture of a dining room table. It was like a billboard. A picture of a dining room table of all this family hanging out, and each person had like, this person got COVID and survived, this person got COVID and passed away, this person has lung COVID, labeled these people around the dinner table. First of all, it’s cringey. I just remember looking at that and being like, this is not motivating me to do anything, this instead is making me shut down in fear and anxiety. And no matter where people who listen end up on what you wanna do about COVID, I don’t really care, that’s not effective marketing for anybody. It was scary.

Have you seen any other things that you’re like, wow, that’s a really good example of light and hope or fear and anxiety?

Katie: One thing that we’ve noticed is it’s like a really subtle shift, but in our copywriting, we make sure to be really clear about what words mean when we use them.

Julia: I have an example for you. This happened to me just last week. I was talking about, these odds are semi political, like they aren’t like the political. I feel like this episode is making me sound like I do a lot of things in politics, and I do not. So I just want you to know I have very strong opinions.

Katie: We’re alive in this, 2023!

Julia: I’m like, I have more empathy than opinions. But one of the headlines we used was, America should be in control of her energy supply, and we had an internal debate on whether it should be her or our, and what kinds of conversations were gonna ensue. I realize that that’s not the same as light and hope, but when you think about what words truly mean, they might mean different things to different people. And did we want to genderize America or not? And so we had a really interesting conversation. I’m sure you guys have tons of those as copywriters, of like, what does this word mean to you? What does this word mean to me? 

Katie: And even when people are trying to label what they do, when they’re trying to articulate the character want, for example. We have a couple coaches that we work with, and one of them is a leadership development coach, and the other one is an executive coach. We’ve had to be careful about, what do we mean? Because on the outside, it looks like they do very similar things, but the way that they approach it is so unique. So in their content, we just make sure that it’s really clear in every opportunity we can. And wherever we sense that there’s multiple ways to interpret it, we give breadcrumbs and explain, what do we mean? I think it just goes back to clear as kind, and whenever you can, make sure that it’s very clear, like what you’re saying and what you’re trying to communicate, I think it helps remove the confusion.

Julia: This episode also sounds like I’m picking on StoryBrand, but I’m not. I just think that when people walk away from the live streamer from the book, there’s just this really simplistic view of less words is better. Sometimes that is true, but I even think about, sometimes you do need more words to explain something to be clear. And your executive versus leadership development, even hearing that I’m like, oh, those are the same things, just different words. But in that case, if I truly wanted to hire one, one might be a better fit for my style than the other one, and words might have to help define it. They could literally have the same headline. If you were going for the less words approach, they could have the same exact headline, same exact copy, but you would get two different results, or two different experiences.

I’m curious, if people were like, okay, this is the kind of marketing that I’m inspired to do, less heavy handed, less anxiety inducing – Also, everybody, you should know that during the pandemic and post pandemic, or this weird season, we still have COVID, whatever – I don’t know what to call it anymore – There are more people going to therapists than there ever have been before. And so that means that in general, whether people have had problems and are just finally confronting them, or whether more problems like that we need help with exist, if we are those companies that help alleviate those problems, we are gonna be in a better business position too, frankly. Better human position, but also better position business-wise. If somebody wants to take this on and start doing that, what are some tips that you would give them to start infusing more empathy into their copy or their marketing?

Katie: That is a great question!

Julia: I did not prep Katie for this question.

Katie: It’s okay! First step is to define empathy for yourself. What does that mean for you and your business? And practically, what is your business gonna do about that? We’ve made the distinction that one of our core values is compassion, and the way that I define it is that it’s a step further from empathy. So not only do we imagine ourselves in their shoes and what they’re going through and all this stuff that has to do with it, but I feel like compassion gives it that next step of, okay, based on what’s going on and where they are, what are we gonna do about it? How are we gonna show up in that situation? How are they gonna experience our team and all this stuff that goes along with running a business? But it’s so individualized. The way that I apply empathy and compassion in my business, it’s gonna look different than a plumber, or a cybersecurity firm, or another marketing firm because they’re unique people with unique services and unique customers. So I think that’s where I would start. Just sit down with a notepad and think about, what does that word mean to you? And imagine the ways that you could show that to your customers.

Julia: I think that’s an excellent first step because if we don’t actually mean it, we could put whatever words we want anywhere, but if our actions are not following it up. And I think this is more than like, oh, and by the way we give to charity every year. It’s like, how do we interact with people? Three months after we moved into this house, our heater went out. And suddenly, in the middle of winter, we had to find somebody to fix this heater, and it was awful. I was so cold. Roger took off a day of work, got three or four HVAC people to come in and look at it and give us an estimate. Only one of them came in and was like, “Wow, it’s really cold in here. Let me go out and get some space heaters outta my truck for you.” He went out, got some space heaters, set them up in our house and he was like, “I don’t really care if you go with me for business or not, but you guys need some heat. And if you go with someone else, just call me, and I’ll come pick them up.” You better believe we actually hired that man because he had suddenly, for one, differentiated himself with this compassionate empathy. Everybody else had walked in and said, “Wow, it’s really cold in here.” And we’re like, “Yeah, no shit!” But like this was the first person who did something about it. I think that is a way that people can put their actions where their words are, and follow it up. 

I even think about your VIP days, I know we talked about them, there’s something very compassionate and empathetic about that where you’re solving a different problem. All of your clients come to you because they want fabulous copywriting, but the people who are booking VIP days are like, I want this to happen fast. And you’re solving a problem of like, will this actually get done? How fast will it go? You need a new homepage tomorrow. There is something compassionate about even framing our offers in a way that actually serves people and not just ourselves.

Katie: Yes. The other thing I would add to that is your offers should serve your team really well as well. 

Julia: Tell me more. 

Katie: Being compassionate to them. Now you’ve put me on the spot! There are things that I could sell that only I can do, like one-on-one coaching, or I don’t know, different things like that, that literally my face is the only one that can solve that problem. But instead, thinking about what does my team need? They want work to do, they need it. Their creativity should be in the world, and so instead of just selling the things that are maybe easy to sell right now, instead thinking about no, how do I take really good care of my team by selling what serves them as well?

Julia: I thought you were gonna go into a different direction, like, well, what kind of deadlines am I promising clients? Is that serving my team or even myself? Now we’re going into empathy for ourselves, self-care, all of these things. This is bleeding into personal development. But last week, I realized I had volunteered for this event at our church. It’s gonna be really cool. It’s a prom night for people with disabilities. I had just volunteered like a regular run-of-the-mill volunteer, and then our pastor was like, “Hey, can you be in charge of this team?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m great! I’m great at being in charge of things.” This weekend, I was like, I am so stressed out and I don’t have anything done for this. I realized I cannot be in charge of things outside of my work and my home life because I’m tapped out. I can be the person who shows up, but I can’t do more in-charge things. And so I was really proud of myself because I quit. Not being a volunteer, I’m still showing up, but they have somebody else who can be in charge. But I think even with that, showing compassion towards what our bandwidth is like, yeah, we could sell a crazy amount of stuff if we wanted to, but what can our team hold? If we do too much, that actually could backfire and not serve the client. There’s so many things that it almost becomes this business way of life, which I love that it’s part of your values.

Katie, any last words? Say it now or forever hold your peace.

Katie: No, I love this conversation and I love that it’s not a final answer either. I think that’s the beautiful thing, that I’m always learning more, and revising and editing, and even how we approach things and how we articulate even our core values. We keep going back to them. I just think it’s fun to figure out. AndI just hope that they too are inspired to figure it out for themselves, because that’s where joy is. It’s so fun.

Julia: And in the end, we are humans serving other humans, and I think there always runs a risk of, if my business is built on scaring people, which there are businesses in the world that are like that, if you suddenly are like, “Hey, I wanna change this, will I lose business? What will happen to the bottom line?” You always run the risk, but in the end, I want clients who share my same values. And so, I feel like there is a risk, but also, the reward is so much higher. 

Katie: And they’ll be better served by someone who wants to do guru marketing, and they’ll be fine.

Julia: I am not your guru. Who says that? Katie, this is so fun. I’m so thankful for you. If people wanna connect with you, how best can they do that?

Katie: Our website is https://murphy.marketing/. We are on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/murphymarketing), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/murphy_marketing/?hl=en), all the things. But it’s probably easiest to find through the website. And then if you wanna email me, katie@murphy.marketing. 

Julia: Sweet! Awesome! And then, can I plug your stickers?

Katie: Oh, sure!

Julia: I just got mine over the weekend, and also Katie knows me so well. She sent me a card with a bunch of dogs on it. It was the cutest card I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’m gonna save it forever. Katie and her team just came out with these stickers that say Words Matter. Why did you pick those words to be on your stickers?

Katie: It is such a reminder to myself that the words we use matter to everyone, not just clients when we’re writing marketing stuff. But when I talk to my kids, when I talk to my nieces and nephews, talk to my sister or my mom, what I say to people matters. Your words have such weight to either bring light or destruction. I think that I needed the reminder and I wanted them on stickers.

Julia: I love it! That’s one of my favorite stickers now because I agree. I feel like if there was gonna be a summation to this conversation, it means that even the words that we use in marketing matter, and they can bring light, or they can bring anxiety. Everybody, you can find Katie at www.murphy.marketing. I’m putting this out there. If you want a sticker, you can also email her and request one.

Katie: I’ve got a lot!

Julia: They’re much more gracious than my ‘snarky could have been an email sticker’. So somebody’s better at bringing light right now than I am. 

Sweet! Well, Katie, thanks for joining us. I really appreciate it.

Katie: Thank you. I love your podcast! Keep it up!

Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have, if you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.

Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be too.