The other day, someone asked me about a new copywriting project.
It was brand-new. I’d only had two discussions with the client, about what content they needed and how we’d work together.
We hadn’t fleshed out the content’s message yet. I had written no drafts.
I had some marketing material, but hadn’t read all of it. Their current site was very much ‘Confusing Content’ – choppy, stiff, marketing-speak.
Obviously, I was not prepared when my friend asked me about the project.
And of course, what did they ask?
“What does the company do?”
My tongue flip-flopped around. Not wanting to vocalize.
No central idea came to mind. Quick, spew out something from what I DID read!
…Which resulted in a short, but very formal-sounding explanation.
Why did this happen?
Lack of Message = Others Can’t Share What You Do
I didn’t convey a good picture of the client’s product—and I knew it. I wasn’t paraphrasing the message well – because, of course, said message didn’t exist yet. (That’s why they hired me!)
But what if they did have a message, and I just didn’t know it?
That thought prompted this post. All to convey one powerful idea.
If your content can’t be easily paraphrased, it will not be repeated.
When creating content (or having a pro like me create it for me), make sure readers could turn to a friend or colleague and repeat your message.
Basic usability: Don’t Make Them (Your Readers) Think. Your content should convey a clear message that can be plucked from the webpage, stored in a reader’s brain, and retrieved in a conversation.
Simple, Clear Content = Readers Remember and Repeat the Message
Show us an example, you say? Why certainly!
I pulled these lines from promotions at CloudConnect Expo 2012. They’re catchphrases. Bite-sized chunks of content intended to convey a message.
(That doesn’t mean they always succeed.)
“Get Private Control with Public Power.”
…Huh? I’m lost already. No idea what the company who uses this does, or how I could use their message in a conversation.
“Build large-scale distributed applications with less cost, complexity and risk.”
Much clearer. I could repeat that in a conversation easily.
(It’d have to be a conversation with other technical people, but still!)
Give Readers Content They Can Paraphrase to Friends & Colleagues
The message can be one sentence or 5. The only thing that matters is, are readers able to take your message and paraphrase it in their own conversations?
If it is, they will.
If not, they won’t.