One of the most difficult tasks for a small business or non-profit owner/operator is to put their great passion and expertise into words that a total outsider can understand. This is the process of writing copy for brochures and web pages that provides an open door for new customers, member and donors to join the community of informed insiders that you communicate with on a regular basis.
Here are a few tips to get you started writing content for a new audience:
1. Provide Context for Your Reader
Know where your readers are coming from. Are they researching your product or service? Are they considering a financial contribution to your organization? Were they handed this literature by a stranger or a trusted friend? Acknowledge what you DO know about the context from which this reader will be accessing your content. For more general setting, like a google search referral, you will need to create context for your read. “You may be reading this because…”
Once context is established, you can elad your reader through a discovery process as you present them with more in-depth information.
2. Answer, “How does my product or service solve a problem?”
Basic marketing theory suggests customers (or readers in this case) are only interested in what your product or service can do to solve a problem they have. When providing services or non-profit activities, the same truth remains – you must figure out what problem you are solving or what question you are answering. This may not be immediately obvious to you as an insider, but it is a good exercise to communicate clearly about why your organization exists.
If you are stuck, this question can sometime be prompted by working back to the question of context (i.e. “I found your website by searching for companies that provide education consulting for overworked school administrators.”)
3. Take Readers on a Journey
As your reader progresses through your brochure or website, they will be learning and discovering more about your organization. Hold readers hand through this process by leading them from more general to more specific content and providing a road map. Suggest where readers can skip to more specific content, refer to an index for specific topics or turn back for an overview. Also consider using phrases that suggest a mutual discovery process where appropriate (i.e. “In this next section we will discover how Company A makes this magic happen.”)
4. Tell a Compelling Story
What sets your company apart from similar service and product providers is how you tell the story of the customer’s problem (see point #2 above) being solved. If you simply list your qualifications, product features and accomplishments, you leave readers out of the story. Don’t over dramatize the effects of your product or service, but use testimonials and case studies to illustrate what you have been trying to tell your audience.
5. Translate Insider Language
Many business owners are experts in their field and can’t help communicating in technical language. When writing for a new audience, try to avoid acronyms, program titles, division names and industry buzzwords where they do not directly apply to your audience’s understanding of your organization. (i.e. “Our Compliance Application Efficiency Department (CAED) professionals ensure Project Initialization Readiness (PIR) standards are met in a timely fashion.” -> “Our people work hard to make sure your project meets industry requirements on schedule, the first time.”)
These points will help you get started writing the raw content for a new brochure, report or website. The next step is to break content up into approriate sections for the various venues you will need to publish to. More tips to come!