Just in time for Christmas, 25 of us at Express Writers (from the executive, editorial, and writing team) put our brains together and created this collaborative holiday story for The Write Blog.
The idea was born around September, and it took more than three months to carry this through all the way to execution. The story was written inside of a Google Doc, with all 25 of us simply writing where the other person left off. Then, it was designed into a beautiful infographic by our full-time designer and finally, narrated by yours truly (Julia McCoy).
The narration audio has also been uploaded to The Write Podcast for easy on-the-go listening (subscribe in iTunes here).
This is dedicated to each and every one of our clients and readers. You make what we do at Express Writers possible! We couldn’t do what we do without you. Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!
Listen and read along to @JuliaEMcCoy and team in this fun, collaborative Christmas story, 'The Content Marketer's Surprise' 🎄#holiday #infographic #story Click To Tweet
The Content Marketer’s Surprise: A Collaborative Story by 25 Writers (Infographic)
The Content Marketer’s Surprise: A Collaborative Story by 25 Writers (Transcription)
- Julia M.
- Hannah D.
- Maricel R.
- Brian C.
- Fiona T.
- Adam R.
- Rachel F.
- Lyza H.
- Krystal L.
- Adam N.
- Josh S.
- Rebecca M.
- Alyssa E.
- Nikki W.
- Kimberly L.
- Austin M.
- Hunter L.
- John G.
- Tavia P.
- Mark L.
- Rita P.
- Kate B.
- Claire P.
- Vicki P.
- Danielle N.
‘Twas a dark, snowy night.
A young marketer sat at the computer in his home office, typing away, pausing only to glance up at the clock ticking on the wall.
Worry lines creased his forehead. He was focusing hard, squinting at his computer screen. Deleting, re-typing, deleting again. It wasn’t coming easy. But the website copy for the new site was due “before Christmas Day,” to quote his boss. And he was down to the wire — it was four days till Christmas.
The only thought in his mind was clocking out the night before Christmas Eve to enjoy two days off with the family. He couldn’t focus. Was this content going to happen?
His gaze drifted from his computer screen to the dark window. He could barely make out the snowflakes floating softly through the air. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something flash across the sky!
He jumped from his chair and ran over to the door and down the steps to see where it had gone. Its lights had looked like those on an airplane, but it was moving way too fast… almost like a cluster of falling stars, descending to the earth in unison.
He looked all around. At first, all he saw were shadowy outlines of the hills in the distance. But as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he began to see a glow coming from a cluster of trees.
His chest started beating fast. What could that be? He was too old to start believing that Santa Claus and his reindeers had just fallen from the sky.
He chuckled at the silly thought.
He went back inside, made himself another cup of coffee, sat in front of his computer, and forced his eyes to focus on the screen.
But no matter how hard he tried not to notice, the glow outside kept growing brighter, and his curiosity was getting the better of him.
The copy! His brain was screaming in agony. His boss would kill him if he didn’t get it in on time.
Against his better judgment, he grabbed his phone and jacket, put on his boots, and went for the door. Like a moth to a flame, he started walking to where the glow was coming from.
The wind whipped at the exposed skin on his face as the marketer trudged through the thick snow.
As he pulled his jacket up over his face, he questioned why he had left the warmth and comfort of his home in the first place. After all, this was probably nothing.
Just some kids playing a prank. Or something.
With visions of what could be causing the mysterious light dancing in his head, he noticed too late that he was coming up to the side of a steep hill.
His feet slipped out from under him, and he began tumbling down the embankment like a cartoon version of a snowball forming as it rolled down a hill. He hit the bottom with a thud.
Slightly embarrassed and ready to get up and go back home, he wiped the snow out of his eyes. But then he couldn’t believe what he saw.
It was a nose. It wasn’t red, but it was most definitely a reindeer’s nose.
“Young man, are you alright?”
For a second, he thought the animal had spoken to him. But no, it was the big guy with the white beard behind the reindeer that had spoken.
The marketer said the first thing that came to mind, “Shouldn’t you be wearing a red suit?”
The big guy chuckled, “My civvies are good enough for a practice run. I save my dress uniform for the big day. Otherwise, it costs me a fortune in dry cleaning. Can I help you up?”
The marketer accepted the hand that was offered to him and rose to his feet.
The copy ideas were coming thick and fast now. But so were a whole lot of questions that were much more interesting than the content he was supposed to be writing.
Where do I start?
The problem with meeting your childhood mythic figures, as we all know, is that words will never do them justice. Whatever questions you may have, conversations you may hold, you worry that their worth may fall short.
Actions would have to do.
The marketer reached for a spare receipt from grocery shopping earlier in the day. In his other pocket, a pen he’d forgotten about. He presented both to the big man himself, teeth chattering from nerve and cold.
Santa always knew what people were thinking. With a hearty chuckle, he accepted both and scribbled on the back of the receipt.
Yes, an autograph would do nicely.
“How’s the copy coming along?” he inquired, handing back the marketer’s prize. His eyes twinkled like stars as he caught his gaze. “I trust you’ve made progress on my assignment.”
The marketer blinked.
“The list? Maybe you haven’t gotten to it yet…”
“Oh, of course, I have,” the marketer mumbled under hurried breath.
He couldn’t fathom the idea of uttering disappointment to Mr. Claus himself.
The list? What list?
“I can’t wait to see it, young man,” the big guy confirmed with a jolly nod before disappearing into the dark night.
What. Just. Happened.
Trying to gather his thoughts, the marketer stood in awe, peering into the night. As his mind stirred, he struggled to grasp the reality of the evening so far.
With lungs full of chilled air, he did the only thing that made sense right now. He turned and shuffled through the thick blanket of snow back to his house.
The house was blessedly warm after the icy chill of the night. As our young hero shook off his coat, he considered what the big man had said.
What could that mean? As he racked his brain, a memory surfaced. Come to think of it, he had gotten a rather strange assignment. Was it for a list of some sort? And was that list for Santa Claus? Impossible, but…
The good father of Christmas would be needing a list. An epic list, famous the world over. Could the copywriter himself be tasked with writing it?
With a crack of the knuckles and a stretch of the back, he hurried to the computer to look over his emails. Time to get to the bottom of this.
Santa needed someone to create The List. Guess who he tapped to write it for him? Find out in this collaborative Christmas story from @JuliaEMcCoy and the Express Writers team. #holiday #infographic #story Click To Tweet
After all, little boys and girls hailing from all over the world depended on the very list he was crafting for his red-suited client!
Did Santa keep his list on the cloud so that he could refer to it on his computer at the North Pole AND on his smartphone on the road? Did he use Google Docs?
Ack, no! Don’t get distracted! he thought. This was worse than having tabs open on his browser with YouTube videos of cats. Which… was the case now, actually, so he begrudgingly closed those, first and foremost.
Finally, he unearthed an email in his inbox from “S. Claus” and opened it. It was, indeed, an assignment that asked him to create a list. One that would be checked once or twice, most likely, and involve a fair bit of research on his part. Who was naughty? Who was nice?
The marketer dissected the email from “S. Claus,” carefully examining every detail in this surprise assignment. He hadn’t planned on such an incredible responsibility so late in the year, but when did the holidays ever go as planned?
He thought of the other lists he had crafted himself. “10 Ways to Grill Your Turkey,” “The Best Vacation Spots in Northern Idaho,” and “5 Reasons to Ditch Your iPhone for an Android” weren’t going to prepare him for such a critical task.
What would the boardroom think if they knew he was taking a page from Jack Skellington, directly influencing so many Christmas morning photos?
He smiled as he began to explore the included names. This wouldn’t be easy, but how many people would be able to list “S. Claus” on their resume as a reference?
The marketer thought carefully about the important task before him. He wanted to make Santa proud. Jolly Old Saint Nicholas had brought him so many great gifts over the years – even during those times he was treading dangerously close to the naughty list.
He wondered how he would order the list. “I’m a marketer, not a philosopher,” he mumbled.
Then it clicked. What makes for nice content? It’s original, it’s helpful… he took another look at the task.
As confidence started to flood through his veins, the marketer reached for his now bitterly cold coffee before glancing up at the whiteboard that hung over his desk. It was scattered with assignments, to-do lists, and the beginnings of, what he thought, was a fantastic content idea – but nestled among all this was the one and only Christmas card he’d received so far this year…
And that got him thinking.
Every good piece of writing was inspired by something. “You need to live and breathe what you’re talking about!” he said as he banged his fist on the desk, sending the cold coffee flying.
If he was going to become Santa’s trusted content elf, he needed to finally embrace the Christmas spirit. “No more Mr. Scrooge!” he cried.
Spinning around on his chair, he jumped up and ran off into the kitchen.
First things, first, he thought, as he started rifling through his pantry cupboards. He pushed aside boxes of stale crackers, unopened jars of pickles, and a questionable fruitcake a well-meaning next-door neighbor had left on his front porch.
“Now, where did I put that thing?” he mumbled under his breath. Then, he spied it — a corner of cherry-red, fuzzy fabric peeking out from under an unopened box of candy canes left over from last year’s Christmas party.
He seized it with joy, yanking it out of the cupboard so fast that the candy canes flew out, too, spilling onto the kitchen floor in flashes of red and white.
He ignored the mess. The writer took the Santa hat in his hands and ceremoniously placed it on his head at a jaunty angle.
He was ready to gather inspiration to write The List.
Who would be the first recipient of his holiday cheer?
With his festive cap snugged upon his head, our elf-in-training settled into his task, concentration creasing his brow.
While other elves totted up good little boys and girls, his assignment was more specific.
You see, Santa hated content with no value. When he needed “10 Great Gifts for Millennial Moms” or “7 Toys Your Dog Will Love,” he didn’t have time to sift through irrelevant data.
He needed targeted, high-quality information he could count on — all year long. And that’s the list our hero was handling — what sources were good content, and which were, well — not so nice.
Names spun in his head like a whirling of snowflakes, but none were quite right to hold that coveted number one position.
Until . . .
Like a dream of sugarplums, the answer danced into his head. The first name on the list?
As fate would have it, the answer to his problems had been right in front of him all along. Right at the top of The List provided by Santa himself. Only he had been so caught up in the excitement to even notice.
Where else could he get assistance with the high-quality content he needed than from the greatest content writing elves in the industry? Julia and her jolly writing team could help him get his task completed quickly and efficiently. And he would still have time to spend the holidays with his family.
The man knew that the task at hand was huge and a lot to ask on such short notice. But the Express Writers elves are always up for a challenge. Plus they would never turn away a request from a client hand-picked by the big guy himself.
Within minutes, the man submitted his order in the content shop and anxiously awaited confirmation.
It didn’t take long. His order had been placed. Now to offer them some direction… he needed a title.
Santa Claus’ instructions had been very specific: with more content marketers out there than ever before, he needed help deciding who would make the naughty list and who would be deemed nice.
With a crack of his knuckles, our Santa-assisting friend wrote, “10 Ways to Tell if Your Content Marketer Is on the Naughty or Nice List.”
Before he knew it, our young hero had multiplied his copywriting strengths a hundredfold – literally. If two heads are better than one, four typing hands are certainly better than two, and throwing a couple zeroes behind the whole equation certainly couldn’t hurt.
It was only four days before Christmas, and Express Writers was on the job.
Now, the marketer could rest assured that he could finish Saint Nick’s major project, keep his regular boss happy, and still get to enjoy the Christmas holidays with his family.
But he wasn’t out of the woods yet.
What our hero didn’t know was that somewhere out there, on a dark and snowy yuletide night, there was something sinister trying to throw a wrench into his Christmas gears…
Something sinister threw a wrench into the marketer's plans. Yes, a wrench! And it came flying in to hit his computer with a single blow! Would the copywriter ever make his deadline? #holiday #infographic #story Click To Tweet
Without warning, the wrench flew through the window and fell the copywriter’s computer with a single blow.
With his deadline now clearly visible in the distance, draped in a black robe and running its thumb across its neck, dread consumed the copywriter. He pried the wrench from the computer, but there was no saving his progress.
In fact, a small note was attached to the wrench. The writer read it aloud.
“The Grinch says hello.”
Disheartened, but not defeated, the writer began pacing the room – the age-old mating call for inspiration.
Sure enough, she answered.
He remembered the Christmas gift he received when he was 15. He dove into the junk pile of his closet and pulled out a heavy, grey suitcase. He plopped it down, shoving aside the late computer, which now sported the exact opposite of a “screen saver.”
He undid both latches and opened it slowly.
There it was.
His grandfather’s portable typewriter.
It was a bit dusty and perhaps a little outdated, but our hero reminded himself, “It still beats a PC.”
As he sat at his desk catching his breath, our hero lamented how this was just one of a long list of struggles he had had to contend with this evening.
Our marketer’s bleary eyes went in and out of focus, and his head started to nod as his fingers flew across unfamiliar, old-fashioned keys. He did his best and wrote his heart out for his boss. But, the content just wouldn’t click.
Frustrated, he reached for his mug of coffee and, realizing that it was empty, decided to take a short break as he shuffled off to make a fresh batch.
As his coffee pot went to work creating the magical brew, his eyes closed involuntarily. “Just a little nap, and I’ll be good as new.” Whispered our hero to himself as he quickly drifted off.
He was stressed to the max. The marketer’s only hope was that the team at Express Writers would come through for him as they had done before.
And, while his own topic was a good one, would it really do? Was it good enough for the jolly man in red? These anxious thoughts swirled through his head as he entered a fitful sleep.
He woke to hear what he thought were little hooves on his rooftop. Next, there was a soft bumping sound at his front door.
How long had he slept? Was Santa back for the list already? It wasn’t done!
Confused, and nervous, he hesitantly went to answer the knock.
There at his door was a young reindeer, much too small to help pull a sleigh. But, she had a special job to do anyway. She blinked her beautiful, large brown eyes at him softly, and gave him a friendly huff – creating a sparkling cloud in the ice-cold air – as she showed him a mail pack slung over her back.
He admired her collar full of beautiful bells, then gave her velvety-soft nose and silvery fur a loving pat. Next, taking a deep breath, he reached deep into the berry-red sack.
The marketer pulled out a package addressed to him from the North Pole
“What could it be?” he thought. His heart beating fast, he opened the box and found a shiny new computer!
His feet flew up the stairs as he raced to plug in his brand new machine. He logged into his Express Writers account, and there, waiting for him was his completed content, ready to download.
His heart was aflutter as he began to read.
“10 Ways to Tell if Your Content Marketer is on the Naughty or Nice List”:
1. The Word Count Is Right
2. The Content Is Fresh
3. Formatting Is Consistent
4. The Images Are the Best
5. Words Are Spelled Correctly
6. SEO Info Is New
7. Metadata Is Complete
8. On-Time Delivery from Them to You
9. The Price Fits Your Budget
10. It’s Everything You Wanted? Woohoo!
It was done! And it was everything he had hoped it would be. And do you know what the best part was? He now knew that Express Writers was the nicest of them all without a single copywriter or marketer on the naughty list.
Our brave marketer knew that Express Writers had saved Christmas – with his help and the help of the crafty elves at the North Pole.
He could relax. He could switch to decaf, snuggle into his toasty bed, and wake up bright and ready for the days of merriment ahead.
Except for one thing. He knew that he needed to spread the word of the way he and the host of writers had helped Santa save Christmas.
With his phone, he posted a simple phrase.
“Santa saved the day! And I did my part too, thanks to the Express Writers team! Whew! Finally, I can rest for the holiday.”
Or so he thought.
Oblivious of everything going on and still in a state of ecstasy for having received the package from the North Pole, he placed his new computer on the table top while busily making himself a cup of hot chocolate to celebrate.
Slowly… slowly… step by step… inch by inch… the door opened behind him with the slightest squeak. A moving shadow with only the vicious sound of his breath to be heard, the Grinch was headed for that list!
What was he thinking this time?
A marmalade streak suddenly appeared and attached itself to the Grinch’s arm.
“Ouch! Ouch! Get off my arm, you rabid beast!
The Grinch flailed around, kicking and sputtering, but Mac, the content marketer’s orange tabby cat, held on. He rarely strayed from his gingham bed, but this time was different. He knew he had to save his hooman from this ugly green meanie.
The attack lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to give the content marketer time to save his list from this Anti-Christmas Terrorist.
It wasn’t long before the Grinch was running for the hills, but the marketer knew he hadn’t seen the last of the algae-covered meanie.
He took out his phone again and immediately sent a message to Express Writers. He had just one revision request. This content needed a CTA that would convince the world to learn the list by heart.
Ideas are bulletproof. And once an idea takes root in the collective consciousness, the Grinch would never be able to destroy Christmas – and content marketing – again.
Once again, he knew the day had been saved! It was time for all of the holiday festivities to begin.
Now fast-forward to the most awaited night, Christmas Eve! Family and friends were at the door, and the table was set. They greeted each other with cheers and laughter.
“So, how are you?” a friend asked the content marketer.
“Me? Well…” he gathered his thoughts.
Flashbacks of Santa Claus, the reindeer, the Grinch, the deadline all crossed his mind. He chuckled and decided to keep the details of that story to himself, for now.
“Well?” the friend asked to make sure that the content marketer was still with him.
“Well, I almost missed a deadline. Good thing I have my own team of content elves.”
“Sounds too good to be true. Who are they?” His friend was all ears.
As he told his friend about Julia McCoy and her team at Express Writers, he couldn’t help but look out the window into the night and wonder when Santa would be stopping by.
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