Quoth the Raven: 4 Takeaways from Edgar Allan Poe for Content Marketers

December 20, 2019 | 5 minute read
Michael McNichols
Senior Content Manager
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"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream." 

"A Dream Within a Dream" by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is no doubt one of the greatest writers of all time. He likely invented both the mystery and suspense genres. Content marketers and content creators of all kinds are also writers and artists, working on blogs, design, landing pages, case studies, infographics and more. There is much they can learn from Poe, even more than a century after his death. 

1) Tone and Mood

“I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.” – “The Fall of the House of Usher”

Few writers managed to evoke dread and a mounting suspense of fear like Poe did. Readers can simply sense that something is off and about to go horribly wrong in “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Similarly, you can feel the unnamed narrator slowly losing his grip on his sanity as “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

When you are creating an asset, what is the tone and mood you are trying to strike? Of course, you’re not trying to instill dread and creeping fear into your audiences. No, you’re trying to impart information and value to help your audiences solve problems (or get one step closer to solving a problem). Still, you need to strike the tone of your brand, which will change from company to company, business to business, and industry to industry.

In this case, you have to do the opposite of Poe: you have to make our readers feel welcome. Does humor work well with your audience? What is the proper tone that conveys your brand’s character and how can you best get your information across? Intriguing copy? Visuals?

Like Poe, though, you have to be clear and straightforward in your messaging. While Poe often uses mystery as a great writing tool, you have to be straightforward. Poe never said his narrator was going mad, but everyone understood it. You have to make sure that your copy and content carries this same level of clarity, even if you have to be more upfront about it than Poe ever could be.

2) Brevity and Conciseness

“And the only word there whispered was the whispered word, ‘Lenore?’” – “The Raven”

Poe is best known for his short stories and his most famous poem, “The Raven.” However, he once attempted a novel and was both a prolific poet and editor. Even his one novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, is only about 176 pages. So, for a novel, it is on the short side.

Of course, Poe was a succinct writer, who only used as many words as was needed. He kept things as short and concise as possible for proper impact.

Copywriters, blog contributors, and marketing writers of all kinds should emulate this approach. Especially now that we are in the digital age of marketing, you only have so much space to use. Most marketing emails are only a few paragraphs. Newsletters are longer, but do they ever really run that long?

Social media posts are even shorter, and when web writing, you’re often working with microcopy or writing short, simple copy to make the strongest point and impact. Blogs, marketing collateral, and case studies might give you the chance to write something even longer, but you’re not writing novels.

As most professional writers will tell you, concise writing is good writing. No unnecessary words or information. Get to your point and make things as clear as you can. Concise does not mean short. It means only taking up as much writing space as you need. An image can be concise, too. Often times, both visuals and the written word, simpler and cleaner work the best and leave the strongest lasting impression.

3) Calculation and Formula

“There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a story.” – “The Philosophy of Composition”

In his “Philosophy of Composition,” Poe argued that every poem needed to have each and every one of its lines calculated for proper effect. This meant that he tinkered and rewrote each line, measuring it for the response it would create or the emotion it would stir in the reader.

Content creators do something very similar. They have digital analytics to know what their audience’s preferences, interests, and needs are. Therefore, they can craft content that speaks to those needs and shows their audience how their brand can help with their problems or offer information that makes their jobs and lives easier.

When creating content, you do not ramble on and create poetic verse simply for the sake of. You take what space you have, and you address your audience’s wants and needs. Sometimes, you can be more creative in doing so, sometimes not, depending on your brand and the type of content is it. However, you are not in the dark. You have data to guide you in creating something that is effective and drives people to action (clicking through on a link, downloading a pdf, signing up for a newsletter, and so forth).

4) Create and Innovate

“In me you lived—and, in my death—see by this face, which is your own, how wholly, how completely you have killed—your self!” – “William Wilson”

Poe is widely credited with creating the detective fiction genre with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and the psychological thriller with “The Tell-Tale Heart.” “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “William Wilson,” and many of his works contributed greatly to the genres of horror and suspense.

When he wasn’t outright creating genres, he was innovating the short story and the format of a poem.

Content creators (and marketers in general) also need to know when to create and innovate. It’s not always about reinventing the wheel. Email marketing is still an effective way to reach and connect with customers. Social media and mobile are still important channels as well. You do not need to create a new channel. What you do with each channel is what matters.

What is the most impactful email you can create?

How can you keep people interested on social media?

What are you doing with the mobile channel?

This is where you can innovate.

But where can you create?

What about your blogs? How creative can they be? How clever? Can you experiment with the format?

What different types of content assets can you dream up?

A how-to? Interview? What about a video? An infographic? Cartoon? Comic strip?

Really, the sky (and your brand) are the limit.

Quoth the Content Manager, Nevermore, Nevermore

Marketers and writers can always look back to the greats for ideas and inspiration. After all, it was authors and artists like Edgar Allan Poe who made us want to become writers, artists, painters, and creatives in the first place.

                                                                                                           

Feeling creatively stifled at work? Are you looking to find a way to let your inner artist out? We might be able to help. Learn “How to Find the Right Voice and Tone and Work with Your Brand’s Style Guide.”

Check out the blog.

 

 

 

 

Michael McNichols

Senior Content Manager

Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.


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