Last week, I went to visit a very affluent client, with the help of a very, very trusted mentor. We were reviewing content that was created for the client's upcoming website, and my mentor turned to me and said something to the effect of "There's a certain voice that speaks throughout this copy that would cause ________'s target audience to tune this out." In essense, he was saying that the writing that was created thus far for the client's website was not going to attract the type of audience that the client wished to attract.
I fully agreed. As a matter of fact, on various locations of our own website - I'm sure I pepper in some silly commentary from time to time. I most certainly don't add in any toilet humor - but there's definitely room for some silly jokes...for instance what did the Buddhist Monk say when he called up Domino's Pizza? He said "One with everything, please." Surely I could go through the content one day and remove some of the material that doesn't resonate. Mentor also indicated that there are some grammar adjustments can can be made, like removing the term "etc", and removing ellipses (...) from the copy. All were great suggestions.
If I had heard the same advice about 5 years ago, I probably wouldn't have been open to it. But as we near our 10th anniversary of Rockland Web Design, I become increasingly motivated to have a voice and writing style that connects with the right type of client that we know that we can assist. And thankfully, much of that voice is still authentic - in that what I'm communicating, I know will help our client. All it takes is just a few minor adjustments here and there.
But what if your content and copy absolutely sucks? What if...in every way shape and form, there's nothing valuable that you can use to connect with your target audience when writing, blog posting, or creating marketing copy, because it is too childish, incorrect, or unfocused?
Recognizing the problem is the first step, but there's more you can do to ensure you are speaking with your authentic voice, yet speaking in a way that resonates well to the outer world. Here's a few pointers:
- Take the time to study what you have created. If you hear advice that your content is substandard, take an hour to review it in detail. Ask a few other people whose opinions you value if they also have the same opinion of the content. If you hear a pattern emerging, keep this in mind - don't take it personally, of course. You're looking to improve! Follow up by asking for some specific examples of where the content failed - for example, improper grammar, ellipses, or unnecessary salty language (or awful jokes). You can also do some research on your target demographic.
- Ask for examples of quality copy. This way, you can compare some before / after efforts. Also, remember that the copy that is provided as examples of quality by the person is copy that does indeed connect with this individual. So now you can also see what style of writing works for this person, and you can copy that style a little better.
- Conduct revision work on your content. Like a good writer, don't just write something once and post it. Go through multiple revisions to get the words, grammar and keyword content (for SEO) as close to perfect as possible. Use the example content you received to compare and contrast what works for you.
- Don't lose yourself completely. It took a long time for me to discard some of the sillier elements of my writing style. There's an old saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Many times, you simply can't rush the process. It's best to go slow and let the process work for you, provided you put in the consistent effort and commitment to improve over time.
- Don't be afraid to make mistakes. At some point, you just have to deploy what new material you've written, no matter how imperfect it may be. So given the new information you received from your colleagues and peers, put it to work, ask for feedback, make multiple adjustments - but at some point, push the button to release the new and imporved material to the world. Remember, in many cases, we can revise some more after the deployment. As long as the new material is better than the old, you're still moving ahead.
Also - very important: in the case of the work you do for a client - it's their audience you must connect with! So make sure you are looking at their target audience, and matching their needs!
It's a scary thing to lose oneself in the many needs of others in order to connect with them for mutual benefit. But it doesn't all have to happen at once. We as humans are constantly evolving and improving. We were all once children, but as we mature we put away childish things. If we can appreciate who we once were and who we are now, we can certainly be confident in ourselves to press forward to create newer and more synergistic materials for the future.