Creating eye-catching and relevant web content in 2016 is astronomically difficult. Yet, digital presence is everything. You can have all the shiny brochures in the world, but if your website looks like a MySpace page from 2002, no one will dare click beyond your homepage.
And, when it comes to digital content, the tide is relentlessly turning, evolving beyond the traditional corporate-speak. That said, most companies are hesitant to alter the tone of their content. While it’s easy to embrace edgy graphic design, content tends to remain stunted, muddled and dry.
But… Does this really matter? If a business has a flashy-looking website, isn’t that enough? Do the words really matter?
Imagine going to a New York Fashion Show. Sitting there, sipping champagne, you anticipate the breathtaking designs. The first model walks out onto the stage. Everyone is gasping with delight. You are completely engaged as your eyes take in the details. And then, someone picks up a mic and starts speaking gibberish, loudly. You assume they are explaining the designs, but it’s so distracting you get up and leave.
That’s what bad content does.
Business leaders are aware of the importance of digital marketing. However, it’s still quite common to see execs dig in their heels when it comes to updating content. I’m not sure why. Maybe a desperate attempt to cling to 1995?
The reality: People have changed the way they consume information. In this century, we read differently. It doesn’t matter if you’re an academic, lawyer, plumber, accountant or bus driver. Everyone reads Facebook posts, Twitter posts and LinkedIn blogs. They scan articles for links every day and all day long. They want their information quick and straightforward. They want to form an opinion before they finish the sentence.
Despite this, many business leaders believe their audience is so sophisticated that their main web content (home pages and business overview sections) needs to exude “thought leadership” and heavy technical language.
While some web-traffic may include such brilliant readers, I have one question: Who says this expert audience wants to spend their free time reading heavy, convoluted web content? Besides that, these websites can be accessed by anyone, including assistants and marketers (who usually do the legwork when it comes to researching businesses online).
Here’s another way to think about it: Creating content that only experts can access is like opening a store but locking the front door.
Just something to consider when creating content. People are busy. Do us all a favor and make understanding your business as simple and painless as possible!
The Relationship We Create With Our Words
Everybody can write, right?
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve run into as a professional writer is working with people who also love to write, but don’t do it professionally. Some of these people are naturally talented writers, while others are, well, not so much.
There are a many reasons why businesses hire professional writers, but few will say they need a professional writer because they themselves lack the ability to write. If anything, most business execs will claim a shortage of time, resources or material when justifying the need for a freelance writer. They hardly ever say it’s because of an absence of talent.
This is mostly due to the lack of faith, respect and confidence people have towards the profession of writing. In many ways, this is completely understandable considering the saturated pool of ‘talent’ that makes up the writing industry. There are more than a few who claim themselves writers, when in fact, they are anything but. These are usually the same writers who are selling pieces at $.04/word and offering blogs for $5.00. And the content matches the price. One can hardly blame companies for approaching the whole freelance writing idea with a little skepticism.
What I find odd? That the issue of a poorly saturated talent pool isn’t the end of the problem, but just the beginning. The problem: Everyone thinks they’re a writer.
Enter the Red Pen
Even the most experienced writers will submit their work with confidence, only to be shocked to find their work has been rewritten entirely, marred with edits or flagged with a request for the dreaded rewrite. What happens? Well, for one it could be really bad copy. But most likely it’s one of two things or a combination of the two:
- Lack of communication from the get-go
- The person editing is secretly someone who loves to write but doesn’t have the time
The former is pretty common and usually can be resolved with time and effort. The latter is more difficult to combat. I’ve made the mistake of fighting the development of a “surprise-I-like-to-write-too” client. A kind warning to other aspiring writers: Fighting this never works. I instead suggest establishing a better understanding of the editorial process before it begins. Ultimately, you want a client relationship built on trust – and that usually means letting go of the “I’m a writer, you’re not” attitude.
I am the writer, but if the client insists on a 100-word title with commas, explanation points and a smiley face, I’m hardly going to get into a blow-out argument with them about it.
I consult, I write. I let the rest roll off the page.