If you think writing compelling online copy and communication is someone else’s responsibility in your organization, think again.
The fastest way to alienate your clients, employees and business partners is to write poorly–and defend your position. Here are some “communication dead ends” that could make or break your relationships and business goals.
It all started when I received a most disturbing ezine from a highly respected marketing strategist and author…
As I read his monthly newsletter and finished reading the first paragraph, I was ready to delete the message…
Then, suddenly, a lesson for my readers flashed in front of me.
This was a perfect example of good online copy run amok! If I could learn from this, so could you. Here are four surefire signs you are losing your audience…
1. The message is just too wordy.
The strategy e-newsletter contained over 3,000 words and occupied 7 pages!
Name one person in your client base who has the interest- let alone the time– to read a 7-page document.
If you have that much to say, consider you have a multi-part article or a book in the making. World-renown copyrighter Ted Nicholas suggests that good sales copy starts with 10 words, then narrows to five, and to one – all within the first paragraph. His insight translates into dollars – his word mastery has helped his clients generate over $1B in sales.
Let’s face it…your newsletter, employee communication, phone messages, and memos are usually intended to educate or persuade. Ted’s rules can apply in these scenarios as well.
Do your readers a favor. Find a way to divide your newsletter into a multi-part series of 500-700 word articles.
2. The writing style models a history book more than a business communiqué.
In this ezine, each paragraph contained at least 250 words. Most sentences contained at least 35 words and many parenthetical phrases. Who has the time and interest to read this level of insight in a business newsletter? Even though this strategy expert has many great insights to share, he lost me after the first paragraph.
3. The article lacks any real life stories.
I just returned from a conference in Cancun, Mexico and learned this straight from master movie producers and story consultants. When I met Chris Vogler, the author of “The Writer’s Journey” and story consultant to movies such as “The Lion King” and “Superman,” he explained that “legendary storyteller and noted mythologist Joseph Campbell taught us that writers win the hearts and minds of their audience when they share a story. We look for the heroes and success stories to suspend our disbelief.”
4. Your deep knowledge and original intent is undermined by frequent use of very negative words.
I experienced a sense of doom and gloom as the ezine author described the poor execution strategies within today’s software companies. I counted dozens of repeated uses of words such as “survival,” “desperate,” and “fail.”
We can gain great insights from the deep impact of language from Dr. Masaru Emoto, author of “The Hidden Messages in Water.” Dr. Emoto photographed various water crystals in a body of water after exposing them to various words he wrote on a piece of paper, such as “love,” “gratitude,” and “you fool.” Over the last decade, Emoto photographed stark contrasts between the beauty of the water crystals exposed to positive words and those exposed to negative words. If words have that impact on water, what impact do they have on people (we are 70% water?)!
Bob Scheinfeld, President of The Ultimate Lifestyle Academy, says it best. “Leaders and marketers actually communicate at two levels simultaneously when they interact with others: the surface level (the face value words) and the energetic level (what they’re truly thinking and feeling about the words they’re speaking). When the two levels of communication don’t match, ‘speed bumps’ are created. Others respond to these — and generally *not* in the way we’d prefer for them to respond. As communicators, what we really want to do is ‘carve energy,’ which means making sure our surface and energetic messages match and align perfectly.”
How do you avoid these persuasive writing traps and energetic word vampires? Consider these guidelines:
· Get clear on your intent before you begin writing. Do you want to share an insight, provide resources, or announce a major issue or trend?
· Picture your email, your newsletter, or your memos as water crystals. How can you make these messages symmetrical, attractive, and clean? How can you remove your ego and unmet need to be the expert — and invite the readers to think for themselves? (hint: if you are using words and phrases such as “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon,” “obviously,” or “any 5 year-old could do this,” then your intention may need re-visiting.)
· Examine how your company uses stories. How effectively do those stories suspend disbelief, touch and inspire people, invite them to think differently, and encourage them to take action?
· Assess your personal reaction to your clients’ and business partners’ online marketing copy that’s designed to “sell something. ” Scan your feelings as you’re reading the copy. Energy mismatches tend to shout off the page. Write down the mismatches. Then tell yourself how you will avoid committing those mismatches in your own copy.
Clean, non-manipulative persuasive communication happen at levels we, as leaders, are just beginning to understand. Each of us is responsible for defining our role in carving powerful messages that invite collaboration and conversation.