Writing Towards Relationships: Amenable’s Approach

“Writing is a balancing act, and it’s one that must begin and end with relationship.”
Brice Montgomery

At Amenable, writing is our bread and butter. 

It is, of course, one of the main ways we secure clients, which translates into our paychecks, but it’s so much deeper than that because of what we believe it actually does. Before I explain how, though, I need to set the stage with a brief look into some of our recent history. 

Collecting Field Notes: A Prologue

Last month, we hired another content strategist, which is the fancy Amenable name for “a writer.”

As part of the application process, I requested a portfolio of any writing that applicants were proud of, whether that comprised academic work, marketing campaigns, poems, or Instagram captions. While some applicants focused on technical competence, others branched into some truly incredible submissions. If it weren’t a gross violation of privacy, I would include them here so you could read them as well. It’s now been weeks, and I still have certain pieces stuck in my head. 

Throughout the process, I realized that the distinction between an ineffective portfolio and an effective one was whether the writer approached their work with something to prove or something to share. 

It’s a gamble to share a poem or short story in an application—you risk embarrassment or misunderstanding, but that risk is the space where good writing happens. You have to anticipate the questions or judgments that a reader might bring to your work, find a way to graciously accommodate them, and somehow still make the reader feel like they are invited into your writing. I read so many applications where I thought, “I can’t believe I get to participate in this.” Part of the excitement of this application process was seeing people effortlessly do what our work aspires to at Amenable.    

Writing is a balancing act, and it’s one that must begin and end with relationship.

Penning Praxis: Writing in Action

And this brings us back to bread. (You thought I forgot, didn’t you?)

Writing is our bread and butter in the sense that it sustains our relationships like a good meal. Across all of our web work, design, branding, and social media support, we want to communicate with the goal of ongoing, deepening connection.

I’ve written elsewhere about approaching our work through the lens of essentialism, eliminating everything unnecessary or distracting, but as an organization, we view our roles primarily as relationally motivated curators. 

To give you a peek behind the curtain, away from all of our polished jargon about “discovery meetings” and the like, allow me to walk you through, say, a typical website project:

Clients usually come to us because they are very excited or very frustrated about their work, so our initial conversations often feel like the bubbling over of those emotions. We hear years of aspirations and goals shapelessly crammed into an hour—the resulting content document can be downright chaotic. (Nota Bene to past and future clients: This isn’t about you, and even if it were, it’s an important part of the process. Own it.)

Now, it may seem like the goal at that point is to organize the information, clean up the grammar, and throw it onto a website. Would that it t’were so simple.

It sounds odd, but the reality is that we spend even more time listening after the conversation than we do during it. We pore over the notes and think about what was said, what wasn’t, and what was in the spaces between. We listen past what was communicated and listen towards what was intended. 

And that’s where our writing begins. 

Since we’re behind the curtain already, I’ll mention that this is the point in the process where I often think, “Oh my. Will this work? What if this all falls apart?” I should probably insert a LinkedIn-style simplification here to sound more impressive, but I think that relational urgency is important. I want writing to work because I want relationships to work, and they often feel the same—communication with, not communication at.

With this approach, our working paradigm shifts away from content and information and towards finding ways to connect graciously with readers. Truthfully, much of the information that clients give us for a project ends up being irrelevant. It feels important to them because of their proximity to it, but it often gets in the way for people who might want to approach a business. Our job as writers is to listen to the client and on behalf of the people with whom they’ll interact. Often, an organization’s key talking points are more for them than an audience, and our goal is to invert that. In that sense, all writing is subtle relational guidance—we may literally write the copy for your website, but the purpose of it is to help you be better equipped to talk to people. The same is true for our design and our user interfaces. 

This kind of writing can help change a website from a destination to a conversation, and that is our goal in everything we do. Even in this blogpost, my hope is that it feels like there is space for you to interact rather than consume—maybe you fundamentally disagree with my philosophy of writing, but I want this to be writing that invites response. It might sound odd, but I want this to be writing that listens well.

But enough about us—what’s your (or your organization’s) philosophy of writing?

If you’re interested in talking more about a project (or you want to share your thoughts on writing), email brice@weareamenable.com

Brice Montgomery
Creative Director
Brice likes to think through how messages are best translated for different audiences and purposes. He also makes baked goods.


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