September 26th, 2013

Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web is business critical.

Even allowing for the explosion in multimedia, the majority of your customers will still be drawn to read something - a Tweet, a blog post or something on Facebook.

But...

They are:

  1. Selfish

  2. Time poor

  3. Selective

And that means they aren't interested in the slightest in reading your usual, time-honoured guff.

Stand back.

Look at your website etc.

Ask yourself, if you were someone reading it for the first time what would you really want to know?

Ditto a blog post.

Don't default to the usual sales-led material.

Think useful.

Think value.

Think relevance.

Think demographic.

Oh... for heaven's sake, you get the picture.

Of course, I'm not telling you anything you don't know - you own habits tell you everything you need to know - but the 'trick' is for you to come off the fence and start doing something different. In other words, next time you sit down to pen something, think about who you are writing for and what, exactly, you are trying to say.

These days, I seem to spend more and more time critiquing content based on the notion that less is not just more, it's better. A lot, lot better. This isn't a case of getting out the dreaded red pen, but trying to show that people on the web want to know something just from a headline or two words or even a picture. I challenge you to look at your own content and ask yourself, could you say what you have to say in one line?

I don't know who carries the can for content in your organisation, but it's about time that someone was assigned a dedicated role to control the creation, curation and editorial process. Too often it's left to chance. Or, more likely, your people don't believe that it makes a jot of difference. Don't be taken in by that message. Content goes to the heart of your business. There is no hiding.

If you want to add another dimension to the content conundrum, then show the naysayers your website on a mobile, tablet or laptop. Ask them to critique it. Better still ask your customers what they think. Chances are they will be surprised with just how out-of-date everything appears. I'm not suggesting that you have to throw great gobs of cash at the problem. But if you have control over the content management then, over time, you should be able to slim down and refine what it is that your customers find helpful.

Of course, there are plenty of resources on the Web to shape your writing, but you could do worse than read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language. In that he sets out a number of rules including:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print

  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do

  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out

  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active

  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent

​I challenge you to adopt these in your writing - and not just on the web - and make sure that everyone understands the need when preparing copy to adopt a refined approach.

I'm convinced that, much like branding, brilliant writing has the power to move your audience to action in a way that even the most avid social media fanatics may have failed to understand. That's not to say that social interaction isn't important. But your message - simplicity being key - could just make the difference from being another living dead entity on the Web and one with a vibrant, engaged fan base.



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