Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild Podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life, in-the-wild stories about business and marketing.

Julia: Everybody, I am excited to introduce you to my friend and fellow StoryBrand guide, Paige Worthy. Paige, tell us a little bit about what you do and your business. 

Paige: I am a recovering journalist, so everything I do is really deeply rooted in telling a compelling story and just badgering my clients with questions that dig deeper, and dig deeper, and dig deeper until we really get to the core. So I’ve had my business, which is creatively named Paige Worthy LLC. For just over a decade, I got certified as a StoryBrand guide in late 2019, just before all hell broke loose. In recent years, I’ve completed a feminist copywriting certification, and I am in the midst of learning more about UX or user experience focused copywriting. So if you can’t tell, I am largely a copywriter. So I use the StoryBrand framework to create a really clear message around what my clients do, and then together, we figure out, okay, how do we want to say that? So brand voice is the other really defining characteristic of what I do with my clients. 

And then I either coach them through the writing itself. So I do offer co-writing services and services on the done for you side. So I have a blast. 

Julia: That’s awesome! 

Paige: I’m a word nerd, and it’s just tons of fun to take clients from all different industries. I really don’t have an industry niche. What I say is that I work with businesses that give a shit. Am I allowed to curse? 

Julia: Oh, yeah! Curse all you want! I mean, I don’t think we could have you on this podcast and not let you, Paige.

Paige: I joked, only didn’t really joke that on the podcast I had for one sadly short season that I single-handedly earned us the little E tag.

Julia: No, I love it. I’m here for it!

Paige: So businesses that give a shit is my niche. So it’s people who care really deeply about what they do, and are also really concerned with having marketing that’s ethical and kind of understanding that they come by whatever sales that they get honestly. 

Julia: Yeah, that’s awesome! 

Paige: One thing I say is that we want customers to feel seen, not sold to. 

Julia: I love it! I love that so much. So before we talk about some of that stuff, how and why did you jump into this? You said you were a recovering journalist, so there has to be a story behind that. Tell me more. 

Paige: Well, so around the time that I graduated from college, which was in 2005, Journalism as we knew it was just about to explode. So in my first job, which was at a community newspaper, staff cuts just started going wild. Morale was in the tank. I eventually moved to New York to work for some little magazines, and just seeing the changes in the way the industry was happening. I was a copy editor, so I wasn’t exactly out hitting a big beat and any of that, but I saw the industry changing. I wound up in trade publishing, managing three, just deeply sexy, horticultural trade magazines and really enjoyed the job, but felt super boxed into the JOB part of it. I was commuting three hours a day, round trip, so like a bus, a train, a shuttle, and then on the way back, the same thing. 

So I guess I dipped my toes into marketing in the end for no other reason than it was my ticket out. I’m a very square peg, round, holy person, and so I just kind of jumped, and the net appeared. I’m a very fortunate human, which means that pretty much everything I know today about marketing, I either learned from just deeply screwing it up the first time, or have collected knowledge via courses and certifications and obviously the StoryBrand community along the way. Every day, it feels like I learn four new things about what I do. So it’s really fun to know that I’m getting better at what I do every day through the people I come into contact with in the community, through my clients. My clients teach me a ton. 

They say that when you get into business for yourself, you’re not actually your own boss. Like you have more bosses than you could ever possibly imagine. 

Julia: Oh, totally! 

Paige: But I just don’t really see it that way. 

Julia: Yeah. Tell me more!

Paige: Like, yes, of course, I’m beholden to people to make sure I can pay my bills. Yes, I answer to them editorially, and they’re the ones who get to put the final check mark on it. But I have been fortunate to create relationships with people who are open to a partnership. So I don’t feel like I’m ever a word monkey who’s just spitting out stuff at people. Like everything my clients that I collaborate on is truly just that, and it makes me really happy to see them happy. It’s more fulfilling than just getting paid for what I do, which is also lovely. 

Julia: Totally! 

Paige: I love money! I love money! I love getting paid. I love taking vacations and eating great food with that money.

Julia: We started using the phrase co-create around our office just to remind people that, yes, we are maybe working for other people, or we’re doing projects for other people, but we are in this process of co-creation, and what that tug and pull looks like with the client. Because sometimes we’re like, we need more from the client, or the client needs more from us, and so what does that co-creation look like? So I love that. 

Paige: I’m actually in the midst of wrapping up some web copy for a really amazing HIV community center up in Minneapolis, and there’s these last two pages hanging out that I know the shape I want them to have, but I had none of the details going in because it’s totally new content that doesn’t live anywhere on their website yet. So there’s been a lot of trying to get that information out of them. And once I have it, great, I’ll be able to spin it into something resembling gold. But I don’t often have to do that, but it’s been an experience. 

Julia: So I’m curious, even just from asking good questions, your journalism background plays into this, and how you do your work, and your methodology. I’m also curious if your journalism background plays into your desire for ethical copywriting. I know that’s a loaded question, but I’m curious how your background has brought you to where you are. 

Paige: No, I like my questions like I like my baked potatoes. I think that’s a really interesting comparison that I don’t know if I’ve made before, and I think it’s right! Understanding, especially now – my tagline is words matter, and looking now at the way the news is presented to people, it’s all about generating rage and getting the clicks, and stuff like that. And often, the information is skewed or it’s downright wrong, or any number of things. It’s really hard to find content out there that is appropriately nuanced that encourages you to think a little bit more deeply to engage your critical thinking skills. And it’s really all meant these days, at least, major – I’m not gonna attack the “lame stream media”, but the business model for news outlets has just changed. I don’t like it, and I don’t like what it’s done to reporting. I know people who continue to be reporters who really hate it. 

Julia: Yeah, totally! And I think that that’s where even your niche, being wanting to work with businesses who give a shit, sometimes it feels like the news doesn’t give a shit.

Paige: Yeah. I think journalists still do, but they’ve been wrangled into working within this system that really doesn’t value its readers.

Julia: They’re also trying to pay the bills.

Paige: Yes. A lot of news now seems to have this undercurrent of almost manipulation, and marketing absolutely has that. 

Julia: Oh, totally! 

Paige: The people who literally wrote the book on what we call direct response copywriting, which honestly, it’s what StoryBrand content does; it’s meant to get people to take action right now. It uses a lot of shady tactics that were put into place by people who already had power and wanted to keep power, and get the sale by any means necessary.

Julia: Well, and then you get into bro-marketing and all of that stuff.   

Paige: And that’s what it is. So there’s a book called Launch. The author’s name escapes me, but guess what? He’s a white man. I know. Shocking. But I mean, it is the roots of bro-marketing. It’s using these social triggers, these psychological, I guess we can call them tricks, to press on people’s bruises and exploit their weaknesses and get them to say, “Oh, yeah, I’m definitely broken all the way at my core, and this is gonna be the thing that fixes it.” That’s basically what those bro-marketing tactics end up doing. And let’s be clear, bro-marketing is not limited to men. Actually, the big women’s wellness and lifestyle brands are massive perpetrators of bro-marketing. Here’s the thing, it works, but it’s not the only thing that works.

Julia: And I think it doesn’t really serve people in the long game either. It’s people who want quick fixes really attacking, especially like the Women’s Health Movement, it’s attacking these core worthiness or self-deprecation, like feeling unworthy, and it’s saying, “Oh, if you drink this or you do this, then you’ll feel more worthy.” I believe, and I’m sure you do, if you’re not solving a problem, you shouldn’t be in business. You’re not gonna last very long. 

Paige: Agree! 

Julia: But our solutions solve one problem very rarely, unless if you’re a therapist, are you actually gonna solve a core, core problem. And so I think that that’s the difference, is that you can market to people, but you have to realize, let’s not go so deep that we’re trying to be the be all, end all for them.

Paige: Absolutely. And that does a disservice to our product too, because if we’re trying to be absolutely everything to everyone, then everything gets watered down. So, yeah, let’s speak to the one person who’s having that one problem that we know what we’re selling can help them solve. And certainly, the transformational identity or aspirational identity is going to help them ascend beyond that practical success and getting what they want, but it’s still not gonna be like you’re gonna be surrounded by a golden aura for the rest of your days. 

Julia: If only it was that easy!

Paige: I know. 

Julia: Then we wouldn’t need happy lights or worry about winter. So I have a question for you. It could go one of two ways, and I’m trying to decide which way. 

Paige: Choose your own adventure. 

Julia: So one of the things that I love is everybody, if you want to be on a good email list, go sign up for Paige’s.

Paige: Thanks. 

Julia: And Paige, you sent an email that I immediately responded with and was like, where is this under your blog? I need to share this. 

Paige: Yes. 

Julia: And it was about the financial market. The reason I bring it up is because it was very timely. The Silicon Valley Bank, when it shut down, everybody was freaking out and everybody was sending out emails like, “Don’t worry, we’re not banking with them. Don’t worry, we’re not banking with them. Don’t worry, your money is not put up with them.”

Paige: “Your money is safe with us, don’t panic.”

Julia: And you wrote an email about it? 

Paige: I did. 

Julia: Tell us about it. I loved it. 

Paige: Thanks. Super timely news jockey emails are not my – Ooh, I’m gonna use a $5 word. They’re not my bailiwick. It’s not what I typically do, but the messages that were coming out following SVB’s collapse were so box checky, and so this could have been written by ChatGPT, which is another thing that I do not even wish to get started on today. 

Julia: Don’t worry, we won’t touch that one. 

Paige: I’m sure you have another conversation planned about that with someone far more qualified to talk about it than I am. 

So I think what bothered me the most is that most of the banks that were sending out these messages really missed a valuable opportunity to act like fucking humans. You could have copy and pasted the exact same email into every single bank’s email client and sent it out, and it would’ve been perfectly in step with the messaging strategy that all these banks were taking. There was a guy in the email who I referred to, and I’m now forgetting his name. 

Julia: I think it was Brad. 

Paige: So there was one bank CEO of a mid-size bank, which I think very directly correlated with the kind of business size and audience type of Silicon Valley Bank. He is an outlier because instead of sending out the same stock email, he sent an email with his dang cell phone number in it, and said, “Hey, if you have questions about what’s going on, if you have questions about the ramifications of this on your money, what’s going on with our bank, get in touch with me personally.” That in itself is a bit of a gimmick. 

Julia: It works though. 

Paige: And it worked! I mean, his phone blew up that day with text messages and phone calls from people who were genuinely concerned, and he was able to have a human one-on-one conversation with those folks who were feeling the pressure of this news event on their lives without just dumping empty platitudes into an email.

Julia: And I think that that’s where like, it is a gimmick, but at the same time, it does work because it hits people so much differently. And when you’re getting a massive amount of emails that are just like platitudes, and one person stands out, that is gonna mean something in the end. 

Paige: And it meant something from a marketing perspective too, because I think I heard about it on Marketplace. NPR, it may have even been just their 10-minute morning report, but I heard about it, and my brain latched onto that right away. I came back, and I was like, “I’m gonna write an email about this.” I had to put into Google, like, bank guy who put his cellphone in an email. I found it because also the New York Times had written a story that he was mentioned in. So he used the gimmick, he approached his customers like humans, he probably engendered some additional customer loyalty, and he got a little bit of a marketing pop. So good for you, Brad. Brad, if you’re listening, good for you! 

Julia: Brad, I hope you’re listening. But one of my favorite things was in the PS. You were like, “You don’t actually have to give your cell phone number out like Brad.”

Paige: Oh, absolutely not! 

Julia: But just do something. Because I do think that, again, this goes back to our previous conversation, is how are we treating people like humans, and how are we really approaching them with more empathy than our competitors do, and in this very ethical way? You don’t have to give your cell phone number out, but how are you helping assuage people’s fears? I think that that’s the question, because people were scared.

Paige: They were scared. And if we pull back a little bit, away from this bank BS, because I’m so tired of banks. I’m so tired of them. There’s a lot of things that I’m just very tired of. But there’s a difference between planting fears in people’s heads, which is very much what those “don’t panic emails” did. And also, I think what some websites can do by having sections on their website that have a bulleted list that’s like, have you ever felt – and then it puts these horribly negative things, like, dissatisfied with your life? I can’t even think about what other bullets there might be. And then saying, here’s the solution. PS, it’s us! There are other ways to help people see, “Hey, we can help make your life better in some way without saying, check it out, we know you’re broken, here are the different ways you might be broken.” There are little shifts in positioning, and the way that we speak to our customers. There are always gonna be people who don’t mind being marketed in that way. 

Julia: Totally! 

Paige: And I really think that a growing group of customers is getting a lot smarter and starting to realize when they’re being bullshat at. 

Julia: Yes. No, I agree! 

Paige: And so we have to understand how to talk to those more enlightened customers, because those smart people are gonna be the ones that are more valuable to us in the end.

Julia: Totally! I mean, people on this podcast have heard me talk about it, but one of my favorite books is The Marketing Rebellion, where it’s the most human marketing wins. 

Paige: I haven’t read it!

Julia: Oh, you would love it! It’s everything that you’re talking about right now. Like literally, you could have written it, Paige. 

Paige: Only I didn’t, and that’s the difference between the author and me.

Julia: But anyway, the Marketing Rebellion talks a lot about the stages of marketing in the United States in particular, and how way back when, snake oil marketers were a real thing, and it was a lot of bait and switch. And then the second phase was like, oh, we actually want the facts, don’t lie to us. And then this newest marketing rebellion is people are like, show me the human. Show me the human behind the brand and how effective that is. And it relates to everything that we’re talking about, because in the end, if you don’t show up as a human, you’re very unrelatable.

Paige: Yes. And you risk appearing as a commodity if you don’t show up as a human. And being a commodity means a race to the bottom, not being paid what you’re worth. It’s not only a disservice to your customer, it can also end up screwing you in the end. So it quite literally pays to be just a bit more intentional with the way that you’re marketing on so many different levels. 

Julia: I agree! Yeah, for sure! So I’m curious, if we were to get practical around this, how do you help people figure their voice and how they’re gonna talk about some of these things? 

Paige: It’s a big process, right? So everything, obviously, like you and I, are both StoryBrand guides, so the message foundation has to be there first because we have to figure out the what before we get to the how. So the messaging part always comes first, and then I have a full-blown workshop that I do with some of my clients who really want a voice and tone guide that they can hold in their hot little client hands. And I have a homework questionnaire that I send out beforehand that I really like anyone who is a stakeholder, in-brand voice, or who is going to have to put that to use, I like to have every single person involved fill that out. And it’s really interesting to see both where they think they want to head with it, like what they actually think they should sound like, and also, I have them think about the different ways that the company shows up in the world right now, and what’s the worst example of how you wanna show up, and what is the best example of how you want to show up?

So a lot of what happens during that workshop is taking a look at all of the responses that I’ve gotten from people, collating those, and then helping us reach consensus. So like you said before, it’s a co-creative process. So not only between the client and me, but among different stakeholders at the client. Because if you can’t come to an agreement about the way that you wanna talk about things, you’re never gonna be successful. Because as we know, a solid brand, and I think a lot of people hear the word brand and they’re like, “Oh, like a logo or how your website works.” That’s the tip of the iceberg, all this stuff underneath, the brand is how you make people feel, and voice is a huge part of that. So if you have disjointed voices all over the place, you’re not gonna have that solid brand. So on a practical level, we go through and talk about the different examples of their voice out in the wild as of right now, and then we build some pillars around, okay, if a customer were describing your brand to someone they know, like they’re talking about a friend, what are four to five adjectives you would love for them to use when they describe you? And how might that sound? And then on the flip side, we talk about, okay, under no circumstances would you want people to describe you as X, Y, and Z. Give me three to four examples of that. 

And then one of my favorite exercises that I’ve always taken clients through is thinking about, if you were to appoint a celebrity spokesperson for your brand, who could, in their voice, represent how you wanna show up, who would that be? 

Julia: That’s such a good question.

Paige: It can be a tough question because there’s a distinction that has to be made between a person who does really great things, who represents themselves in the world the way that you would like for your brand to be seen overall, and really drilling down into the way that they, the way that they conduct themselves personally. A lot of people are like Oprah. I’m like, Oprah has a very specific way about her. A very specific way that she talks, and there actually are two Oprahs. There’s sitting with Megan Markle, having a really sad, at times, one-to-one interview, and then there’s, you get a car, Oprah, right? So you even have to decide which of those Oprahs do you wanna be? 

Julia: Totally! 

Paige: So it’s coming up with that person and then really qualifying, okay, why? Maybe even coming up with some examples of like, if it’s someone who’s given a TED Talk, or who’s spoken at a conference, or maybe even given an award speech, coming up with examples that actually lets you hear them speaking and take notes on, how does that actually sound? 

Julia: I love that! My biggest part then is taking all of those notes, taking their brand scripts, taking those voice and tone pillars, and turning that into a narrative that really sets forth the example, here is your message, and here is how it could sound. It’s always so important to give that example. And the nice thing about the – some people call it the BrandScript script, I call it a brand narrative, is you should actually be able to pull parts of that out and use it verbatim or take a section out and expand on it, and bulletize it for a website when you’re talking about your benefits. So it’s about putting together a playbook that you can remix, you can plug and play stuff. 

I’m also in the middle of really mastering brand archetypes, and using those to define a brand personality. 

Julia: We had Meg Kypena on the podcast a few months ago to talk about them, and she was so sweet! I was about to go on vacation and she was like, “I’m gonna send you the brand archetype book that I love.” It is fat, Paige. It is so thick. And on the podcast, I was like, “Oh, yeah,! I’ll read it on vacation.” Yeah, that book did not come with me. 

Paige: No, you won’t. It’s a big, fat book! But the woman who wrote that book is a mad scientist, genius. 

Julia: Yeah. I’m excited to read it when I do actually read it. 

Paige: Another fellow guide, Julie Stroud, has put together a really helpful training for guides that takes a lot of that really big information and translates it specifically to using it in marketing, and also more specifically to what StoryBrand guides do. 

Julia: That’s awesome! 

Paige: So I recommend that to you and possibly any other StoryBrand guides who might listen to this if it makes it in. 

Julia: No, that sounds great! 

Paige: But the nice thing about archetypes is that a lot of the personality stuff that we can come up with independently, it can be hard at times to wrap your arms around. With archetypes, you have these blends of universal grounded types of personalities, that because they’ve been around for so long – I think they started with Plato or Aristotle, and they moved up through Carl Young, and now they’re being used in personality tests and brand personality stuff. We have things to compare them against. So if you’re like, “Oh, I’m a creator archetype with an outlaw side-ish”, there’s actually a spreadsheet that’s like, okay, if we bring these two together, we get – I actually think Etsy is the example of the creator outlaw archetype. And then you have a whole bunch of source material that you can go off of.

Julia: I think what’s so cool about that, plus your question about a celebrity, it just makes it really practical. Because even I, as somebody who works with words, works with marketing, I struggle with voice. And I think a lot of it is because our clients can’t always distill it in a way, and it’s not translatable sometimes. 

Paige: I think another struggle that people have around really using voice in their marketing is that we just should all over ourselves, right? So we have this idea of what marketing should sound like. And I think in the StoryBrand community, that’s an especially big struggle because it’s easy to get boxed into the “shoulds” of the StoryBrand framework, for example. So getting it out of our heads that the way that we talk about things, if we do it “wrong”, that our marketing isn’t gonna work. Well, that ain’t it! Actually, figuring out your voice and putting it into play is going to help attract those ideal customers. It might repel some people, but those aren’t your people anyway. And that’s actually a superpower! So I think that that pressure to conform to what we know works, and model our copy after what we know works, is a crutch that it’s so understandable that people lean on that crutch.

Julia: One of the questions that I’ve been asking our team and our clients is, let’s create content that gives people permission to think or do things differently than what the industry tells them to. What I love about what you’re saying is in the same way that human marketing works, and humans are so unique, your marketing should be as multifaceted as a human can be, and that includes your voice. And if we give people permission to not do the same thing that everybody else is doing, it can be overwhelming to have that freedom. 

Paige: It can be! It can be! 

Julia: But once you embrace it and figure out, okay, well, what do I want to stand for, and what do I want to sound like? Then suddenly, you’re opening yourself up to being in front of the right audiences and repelling the wrong audiences, and things like that. 

Paige: I think that’s really smart. And I think part of the overwhelm of having that freedom and permission to do things a little bit differently, we can take some of that overwhelm away by offering those kind of child safety locks of a strong message of brand personality pillars. Even a visual perspective, having a style guide or some sort of guidelines, like if you’re in the sandbox, you’re safe to start chucking sand out of it. Great! I think I have said this a lot, the StoryBrand framework in particular has allowed me to learn the rules and then have a really great time breaking them. 

Julia: Yeah, for sure! I love that! I love it! I love it! As we close, if you were talking to a new business owner, what’s one piece of advice you would give them?

Paige: Spend as much time thinking about how you want to show up in the world as you do what you’re selling. That is what I would say. 

Julia: I love that. I think that’s so important because for one, your product will be your representation or your service, but you’ve gotta determine how you wanna show up even before people have to purchase. 

Paige: And I can understand the fear behind doing that as a new business owner. The scarcity mindset is real, and it is understandable. So having a support system or members of your team who can keep you aligned toward that sort of true north of a strong message and understanding, what perspective do I wanna put out there, is just critically important.

Julia: This is great! I have really enjoyed this conversation, Paige. This has been awesome. If people wanna follow up with you, learn more about you, follow you on the socials, how should they do that? 

Paige: Best way to connect with me would be to get on my email list. My weekly email is called Words Matter.

Julia: And it’s so good. Five stars! 

Paige: Thank you! You can subscribe directly through my website https://paigeworthy.com/, no prelude, or I have a guide to using brand voice in every facet of your marketing. It’s called Win Hearts With Words, that will get you the free resource, plus it’ll grant you access to my Cool Kids List of Words Matter subscribers. 

Julia: I will say, everybody who’s listening, I get a crap ton of emails every day. And Paige’s is one that I read faithfully because every time I walk away inspired. As somebody who is not a copywriter, every time I read good copywriting, I am like, I just can’t handle it, because I’m like, this is what I wish I could do and what I’ve practiced towards, but it’s worth every minute. 

Paige: Very sweet!  And what I will say about your emails is that they come across as really friendly and genuine. You may not be playing fast and loose with wordplay and stuff, but you have a really solid brand voice as well. So don’t discount yourself as like, “Oh, I’m not a copywriter.” Because here you are! 

Julia: Well, I don’t write those. 

Paige: Here y’all are, writing copy and representing your brand! 

Julia: I mean, I did find the brand voice, so I’ll give myself that point. But we have great copywriters too. But I’m glad. That’s really awesome! 

Paige: I think you’ve got a great team. 

Julia: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Everybody will have links to all of Paige’s things in the show notes, but go find her on social media and sign up for her newsletter. It’s worth it! 

Paige: Thank you for having me today. This was so much fun!

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 wanna 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.

Mentioned in this episode…