Painting With Words: Content Writing Tips Inspired By Bob Ross

When Bob Ross first appeared on our screens back in 1983, ‘The Joy of Painting’ quickly grew into a cultural phenomenon that still has us reaching for a tube of Phthalo Blue nearly forty years after the pilot episode.

Of course, Ross’ smiling face and penchant for painting ‘happy little trees’ is probably not the first person you think of when considering a good piece of content. But I’d argue that his way with words might instate him as one of the industry’s lesser-known saints. The internet has already got him a prayer candle, so he’s halfway there.

Putting technical terms in your paintbox

Since starting at Embryo, I’ve had the ultimate crash course in what makes quality content with plenty of opportunities to tackle complex topics, helmed by an absolutely stellar team. 

So after a busy day, there’s no better way to unwind than watching a bit of Bob. His wet-on-wet oil painting skills are only matched in making the most complicated techniques seem simple – and by extension, enjoyable – to a unique audience of 5.6 million people. Which leads us to the big question: how do paintings of the Alaskan Wilderness inspire content writing, exactly?

At our agency, we are often tasked with creating killer content for a variety of industries, that not only prompts customer engagements but further establishes our clients as authoritative sources in their sector. Through the implementation of a stellar content strategy that includes plenty of keyword research, we can determine the best format to get even the most technical concepts across to our target audience – much like Bob Ross, whose instruction of the ancient art of ‘alla prima’ could bring out the everyman’s inner Renaissance painter.

By presenting practical, insider knowledge in a straightforward format – here’s an example of how we structured tricky estate agent jargon into an easy-peasy glossary blog post – we are able to please clients, search engines and our readers.

Getting to know your audience

One of Bob Ross’ most prominent qualities was his ability to seemingly connect with anyone. Even separated by a screen, his easy-going and calming manner was enough to make his audience feel a real kinship, which is remarkable considering 90% of viewers never actually picked up a brush. 

They were content to just listen and retain information, which is exactly what content writers strive for when we pen the ideal post for potential customers. When we first talk to clients during an Embryo kick-off meeting, we usually craft an action plan that involves a bit of thinking about our multi-faceted target audiences, considering what would prompt user action and what sort of lives they might lead. With the help of our whizz SEO department we can also carry out in-depth keyword research to optimise content for search engines, so compelling pieces appear in front of the people we are hoping to convert.

Audiences vary, so the trick is to keep creating high-quality content that speaks directly to readers and tries to address any problems they might be having. You must deliver on your marketing goals, but the work itself has to be useful and keep the audience in mind. One famous example of Bob’s ability to understand people and tailor his work was when a colour-blind fan approached him during a painting demonstration. His condition meant that he saw the world through grey tones and as a result, “could never paint”.

Quick to address this issue, in The Joy of Painting (Season 4, Episode 2 to be precise) Bob got to work on creating a sweeping mountain scene entirely in grey.

Our ultimate goal is to create engaging, evergreen content that draws ideal customers, combining clever through keyword phrases and compelling calls to action – but also understands what drives the audience to click in the first place. Sometimes that might mean painting in greyscale rather than your usual box of brights.

Mastering tone and word economy

Bob Ross’ voice itself is an ASMR goldmine (he’s cited as one of the first artists to master the ‘tingles’ on mainstream TV) – but his use of word economy was what inspired me to write this blog in the first place. “But Lauren,” you cry, “aren’t Embryo specialists in crafting innovative long-form content? What gives?”

Well, my astute reader, even while writing original long-form content, we still need to make sure that every word makes an impact. Bob is an expert at picking and choosing his words while painting, ensuring that any complex sentences are worth the viewer’s attention and make complete sense. Word economy is mostly considered a writer’s art rather than a painterly pursuit, but Ross’ delivery still serves as a reminder to mind your keyword stuffing and not over-egg your content. People can spot it in digital content from miles away, as ill-placed terms can often cause problems in flow and make things sound clunky.

But even using traditional methods such as sentence structure and different content formats can make your information go the extra mile, allowing you to talk at length about a broad topic without going on a yarn. Although Bob Ross emphasised the importance of creativity as a relaxing experience, we don’t want to send our customer base to sleep!

His use of the active voice throughout his tutorials also invigorates the audience to act, a trick that we use in content creation to get our readers engaged with the concepts and actions we’re presenting in a piece. As opposed to a passive voice – which causes similar issues with bulking up sentences – we can use this alongside an established tone to mark the piece as a resource, guide… or just something you’ve really got to read.

See? Bob Ross really can teach us more about writing if we just look a bit deeper. Happy little trees and all.

If you’re thinking about flexing your content writer skills and joining our fab team, check out Embryo’s vacancies here.


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