Unique Business Writing: The John McClane, CEO / Die Hard School of Business

Unique business writing is like garage band music. Everyone wants to be good at it, but more often than not, it all starts sounding the same. Boring.

Boring business writing does not compel people to share it on social networks, does not pique potential clients’ interest to explore your content further, and will not boost your Google rankings.

In an effort to combat this epidemic, I took a popular, well-loved movie franchise and pulled out (with surprisingly little effort) fantastic marketing tips for entrepreneurs and decision-making strategies for managers.

I wrote the John McClane, CEO: ‘Die Hard’ Business School series.

Interesting subject? Check.

Funny content? I thought so.

Unique business writing? Not at first.

Ho, ho, ho…

Yippie Ki Yay Christmas

The very first post was written way back in the QLP blog’s infancy, when we were still developing our approach to social media. Basically, our blogs alternated between features of promotional products and whatever random thoughts I found to be interesting.

The very first Die Hard post was inspired by an argument with my roommate at the time over whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Although my argument is airtight, the “compelling business writing” goal was missing the word “business.”


John McClane, CEO

John McClane, CEO: What ‘Die Hard’ Taught Me About Marketing

The second blog post not only had the same interesting subject and friendly, humorous tone, but it also had a few other things going for it that were much improved over the original:

  • Better title: Describes the content and invites the reader without giving too much away.
  • Targeted content: QLP blog readers are mostly small and medium business owners (and my mom), so while we can cite stats about the shifting gender ratios in the workplace, the majority of these ideal readers are men. I am an exception to this set myself, so I know that I can rope in male readers as well as ass-kicking female readers as well with a Die Hard focus.
  • Improved readability: While both posts contain a list format, this one also has photos, rich text, and varied paragraphs sizes – all of which are more visually appealing.

The impressive social shares on Twitter, Facebook, and Digg helped confirm my feeling of success. Interesting business writing can certainly be reflected in Google search rankings, but social shares are a more distinct measure of how much someone loved your work. If they really enjoyed it, their friends will know. Yippie ki yay indeed!

The original Stirb Langsam was much better than Stirb Langsam 2.

The original Stirb Langsam was much better than Stirb Langsam 2.

John McClane, CEO: What ‘Die Hard’ Taught Me About Taking Action

Honestly, I was feeling pretty smug about my success at this point. I had written an industry-relevant post that was socially shared and commented upon by more than two “outsiders” (plus my mom).

There was still room for improvement, and I made additional headway in my third post.

How was the Taking Action post a step up from the Marketing post?

  • Broader appeal: Small and medium business owners and employees are not all marketers, but they are all in a place to take action. This also can be considered a solid source for general life motivation.
  • Internal links: By adding links to other sites on the QLP page, I was able to set readers on a course to dig deeper into our content.

Unique Business Writing Idea

‘Die Hard’ Business School: 3 Mistakes McClane Made (and How You Can Avoid Them)

Today, I add this fourth post to the series. First improvement:

  • Compelling headline: Not only did I directly address the reader to offer a solution, but I moved the word “Die Hard” closer to the front of the title. After all, if someone has only seen the movie once or twice, the name “John McClane” may not ring any bells.

What else have I improved on? Where else can I make adjustments to make my writing even more creative, compelling, relevant, shareable, and valuable to my readers? Did I backslide on any particular metric that I used before?

Read my guest post over at Firepole Marketing’s blog, and tell me what you think of it! But before you head over there, make your predictions in the comments below. Have I hit my peak, or is there more to explore?

Update: I’ve added another Die Hard article to the arsenal!

John McClane, CEO: How to Make Your Brand as Successful as the Die Hard Franchise looks at the franchise as a whole, analyzing a few factors that contribute toward its success and how you can apply it to your own business model and brand building. I do defend A Good Day to Die Hard in here, so this article is not for anyone short of superfan status (unless you really want your company to take off).

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

expand your brand

Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. Ben Jacobs

    I enjoyed reading this article (except under John McClane, CEO….Targeted content: you left me hanging at “the”). This article is so true of business posting, mainly by small-medium businesses, they mostly are boring content and hard for people to read and want to repost or link to. When it is something interesting such as what you wrote, then people are more willing to share with friends and they will keep your business in mind. Keep up the great work and Happy 4th of July to everyone at QLP!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thank you, Ben! I appreciate the head’s up about the mistake (something shiny must have caught my attention), and it should be fixed by time you get this notification. 🙂

      I agree that the vast majority of what I run across on the web is poorly written, scraped/stolen, or just not well-targeted. The more shareable, the more successful!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Hope to see you again soon!

  2. Bret Bonnet

    Does a degree in Die Hard guarantee me a high paying job?

  3. Danny @ Firepole Marketing

    Hey Jana, thanks for the excellent guest post – you did a really great job with it, and it’s a great contribution to Firepole Marketing!

    That being said, there’s ALWAYS room for growth – I can’t wait to see what the future of your Die Hard series has in store! 🙂

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks for having me! I’m already spotting some areas in my latest post that could use a little spiffing up, skills-wise. Thanks for the opportunity to get my feet wet in guest posting!

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    Just read your latest installment over at Firepole Marketing. Excellent work, as always! 🙂 I like the point that you made about remaining objective and not letting emotion take over.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! I know it’s one of the ones that I work on personally; it’s hard not to get furious when our content is stolen and fly off the handle, but rage rarely solves anything.

      That’s what DRM notices are for.

  5. Wim @ Sales Sells

    As a proud student of the Die Hard School of Business, this was a great read. I think all of you here at the QLP blog do a great job writing fun and creative content from an original perspective. Valuable business tips but easily digestible, that’s how I like it.

    Keep up the good work, going to check out your guest post now!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thank you, Wim! It’s always fun to find more “students” out there. I chose Die Hard because it was widely accessible; certainly, the appeal to men (who make up a majority of small and medium business owners) was a perk, but I have also yet to meet a woman who didn’t enjoy Die Hard (even if she does not embrace it with the same zeal I do).

      The whole team here at QLP works from that same spring of passion and then looks for business, sales, promotion, and marketing principles that are consistent. We’re glad the formula works for you!

      Thanks for dropping by, and hope to see you around these parts again soon!

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