On prac at a private girls’ school as a budding English teacher, I taught a unit on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The unit required the girls to write an essay which, in the end, they collectively did quite poorly on.

There were many reasons for this and, of course, I’ll admit my inexperience in teaching was one.

But another reason was the girls’ ability to articulate themselves on a page. They could relay great insight into the text to me when discussing in class. On paper, though? Not great.

It wasn’t entirely their fault though.

The English Course didn’t have any time dedicated to learning the structures of language. So they hardly even know how to write a sentence.

Coupled with the fact that nobody in the class had read a book in the last five years (they leaned on Sparknotes), they never picked up the skill of writing via osmosis.

“So how do we improve the way we articulate ourselves on a page then?” one of the students asked.

“Good question, Jenny,” I said. “Read every night.”

“And what if I don’t want to do that?” Jenny said.

“Then come to my tutoring lesson after school and learn the basics of writing a sentence.”

“And what if I don’t want to do that?” Jenny said.

“Then don’t improve then.”

Doing good English, like anything, is a process that begins with laying the foundations. Creating a brand that people connect with, want to support, and share with their friends is no different.

I’m watching a start-up from a far right now, in the States, where everyone is so preoccupied with building sales, they’ve ended up pursuing a few directions at once. They’ve tried to attract different audiences with new products and messaging and, in turn, have created a lot of confusion—for themselves primarily, but also their customers.

The multitude of brand touch-points promise different things and the socials and email are used purely to promote than engage. Even their products have changed for the worse, compromising their initial strong identity and reputation in the market.

Yet, instead of clarifying who they are and who they are here for, they keep asking how they can grow.

The problem is that sales is like getting good grades in English. They are a bi-product of putting time into building the foundations.

In the case of the business I’m talking about, they could go back to the drawing board and get hyper clear about the business strategy and, in turn, get clear on the messaging and voice that would facilitate connection with the right people—the very connection that will, in the end, most likely result in sales. Drip-by-drip, they can send meaningful messaging and words out into the world that resonate with the people they aim to serve and, ultimately, get them to share their story with others who value the same things.

Building the foundations and drawing the dots at the start can save us a lot of time and effort running around in circles, trying to decide on how we position this product, communicate that newsletter, or write this social post. Building the foundations means we can take a damn breath, knowing we are build held by some sturdy pillars and that we are heading in the right direction.

Hi. I’m a copywriter and brand message strategist for hospitality, farm, food, and drink businesses who want to tell a better brand story.

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