We live in a world dominated by content. Articles, blogs, essays, reviews, and op-eds on every subject under the sun are part of the 2.5 quintillion bytes—that’s 18 zeroes, BTW—of digital data humans produce daily.
Given that mind-boggling statistic, have you ever wondered how brands decide on their content strategy? What exactly goes into the topic selection, the writing and interviewing process, and how it all comes together?
This month, we share a behind-the-scenes look at the Business For Good blog with BFG member Sarah Beauchemin, who writes our monthly articles. Sarah is the founder and owner of Protagonist Content, a San Diego brand messaging strategy and copywriting consultancy that partners with people and brands who want to move the needle for good.
How long have you been writing articles for Business For Good?
Sarah Beauchemin: I started in summer 2018, shortly after I joined BFG. The organization was less than a year old. At the time, Karim Bouris (our former BFG Executive Director) wanted to develop a blog series called “Things I Wish I Knew” to help establish an official BFG online voice.
Each blog post featured a BFG member and the things they literally wish they knew before launching their purpose-driven business. What would they have done differently if they could do it all over again? And what valuable lessons did they learn along the way that other BFG members would find helpful in starting their own “businesses for good”?
I loved writing the pieces. The folks I interviewed were so forthcoming and vulnerable. Starting a business is a deeply personal decision. It often happens because of a major life event, turning point, or epiphany. There is a lot to emotionally unpack there. I think telling that story is just as important as discussing the nuts and bolts of running a business.
In 2019, BFG took a hiatus from article writing to redirect our limited (and volunteer) resources to growing our membership and communications strategy.
By summer 2020, BFG had the resources for me to resume article writing, which I happily did. We shifted the content strategy to focus roughly 50/50 on local policy deep-dives and member spotlights.
The BFG brand voice is a strong blend of informative and casual. What considerations went into creating the BFG brand voice?
SB: Our BFG Member Communications Committee played a huge role in crafting the brand voice. This awesome all-volunteer committee includes about a dozen BFG members whose businesses are in marketing, branding, and comms.
A brand’s voice is how your brand would speak if it were a real person. Our BFG brand personality is knowledgeable, trustworthy, and friendly. So an informative, casual brand voice authentically reflects “the person” BFG would be.
It also resonates with our audience. Policy work is often oblique and complex. These topics can be overwhelming and off-putting to people who aren’t familiar with them. Because the BFG mission is to shape thoughtful, progressive policy that improves the lives of all San Diegans, it’s crucial that we communicate our policy agenda in a way that feels accessible to everyone.
How do you come up with questions when interviewing BFG members?
SB: Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of practice interviewing people. For four years, I wrote feature pieces on various San Diego nonprofits and mission-driven brands for Voice of San Diego’s Partner Voices program.
Every piece I write has a thesis or an angle. I’m either making a claim, analyzing an issue, or explaining a topic. Before I come up with interview questions, I start by identifying what information I’m missing to successfully present my thesis in the article. What do readers need to know to fully understand or be convinced of what I’m saying? Then I work backward to align my questions for interviewees with that.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned writing for BFG?
SB: That San Diego business owners are so committed to making positive change. Since moving here in 2005, I always knew that San Diego was a conscientious city with loads of nonprofits dedicated to driving impact.
But prior to writing for BFG, I really had no idea how many local business owners also operate with that same ideology. It was very refreshing to learn.
What inspired you to start Protagonist?
SB: I’ve always been a writer. But I’d never worked professionally in that capacity. My undergrad was actually in Business. I spent nearly the first decade of my career working in Finance and HR. Although I was good at it, the work was far from invigorating. I also felt like what I was doing wasn’t making much of a meaningful impact, which bothered me terribly.
Finally, I decided to go back to school for English. In 2013, I graduated with my MA from SDSU. It became very clear to me that this was my second chance. I could now forge a career doing what I love.
The idea of starting my own business was thrilling. I imagined all the ways I could help people create the exact messaging and words their mission needs to really take off.
But I was also terrified. And I have to be honest: I don’t believe I would’ve had the courage to start Protagonist without the incredible support and guidance of my husband, Jay. He has operated Visceral, a successful, purpose-driven B Corp digital agency for over 15 years. I’m very privileged to have had a skilled business mentor right from the start!
Who is your ideal client?
SB: People and brands who want to add more beauty, compassion, or positive impact to the world in some way.
“In some way” is the key phrase here. We don’t need to up-end entire infrastructures in one fell swoop (though it would be nice) to make meaningful change. Every intentional action we take as business owners pokes more holes for sunlight in the stormy clouds overhead.
What is your process when working with a new client?
SB: I start by having an open conversation about what they do, why they do it, and what problem they’re trying to solve. Once I understand those three points, it’s far easier for me to “diagnose” the true issue with their content and messaging and make clear recommendations for fixing it.
Oftentimes, what my clients need and what they think they need are two different things. For example, people come to me all the time saying, “The problem is our web copy. It all needs to be rewritten.”
But when we dive in, I find the issue is actually the confusing way that information is organized on the website. Or, the copy is written in five different voices because there’s no established brand voice. Sometimes a solid messaging framework is absent: key messaging points, target audience breakdown, tone-of-voice, and website communications goals and objectives have never been identified.
Clients rely on me as the messaging expert to steer them in the right direction. It may not always be what they want to hear, but I refuse to waste people’s time and money. I stake my professional reputation on providing straightforward, clear advice and then delivering the highest-quality product on time and on budget.
Why did you join Business For Good?
SB: I actually spoke about this in a 2021 BFG article. People join Business For Good for three main reasons: to make a sale, make a connection, and/or make a difference.
For me, it was for sure all three. I’ve already mentioned how I wanted to do meaningful work that made a difference. BFG unequivocally checked that box.
I wanted to make good connections. As a solopreneur, work life can get lonely. I wanted to join a business group with real, cool, like-minded people. BFG was exactly that.
But I also joined BFG to make a sale. It was my dream to work with folks whose mission is to make the world a better place—B Corporations, sustainable brands, social entrepreneurs, and nonprofits. At BFG, I hoped to partner with other purpose-driven business owners who were actively seeking messaging strategy and content support for themselves or their own clients.
Since 2018, I’ve worked with seven other BFG members as clients. And those have led to five other clients outside of BFG. I am so grateful for the amazing professional and personal connections I’ve made here.