I spent some time today talking to our editor-in-chief, Robin Miller, about her frustration with generalists writers you find on the internet who charge per word they write. During our conversation, she kept repeating that generalist writers who write outside their skill set often default to using pretty sentences that sound good but don’t mean anything. There’s no obvious depth of understanding of their subject matter and why it’s important to readers.
That really struck a chord with me. There’s nothing worse than a person who can talk or write at length without saying anything. It’s almost an evil skill. Seven hundred-page textbooks are a good example. Do all textbooks really need to be 700 pages? Now that I think about it, there are very few business books I’ve read that needed to be as long as they were. Even books I consider high value like “Topgrading” and “Good to Great.”
I asked Robin why anyone would hire generalist writers if they produce bland copy? At first I didn’t believe her answer. She said some business people care more about good grammar and lack of typos than about missed opportunities to really connect with, and educate, their audiences. In fact, they often don’t realize what they’re giving up and that there is an alternative.
When I pressed her further, she made an interesting observation. She pointed out that some business owners and marketing managers are overwhelmed by the volume of content that must be produced. You have websites, blogs, database marketing, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn … and they all need a steady content stream. So it becomes a matter of trying to fill pages with words and nickel-a-word writers seem like a cost-effective answer. Stick those people on the content treadmill and if they can write cleanly with no spelling or grammar mistakes, that’s good enough.
The problem, of course, is that ho hum content bores readers. It doesn’t excite or interest them. I believe it even repels them and there’s certainly no place in marketing where that’s ok. When you are trying to get someone to want your product more than their money, you’d better have more than pretty sentences that sound good but don’t mean anything.
Robin brought up another problem with generalist writers that’s a pet peeve of mine: not knowing the terms and concepts that underpin marketing. It’s hard to imagine someone being able to write good marketing copy if they don’t understand things like the consumer buying process, positioning and the product life cycle. I talk about the importance of everyone on your marketing team knowing 31 basic marketing concepts in my bestseller, “The CEO’s Guide to Marketing.” If you don’t have a copy, you should order one.
As we continued to talk, Robin brought up another interesting problem with generalist writers that I hadn’t thought of. Many of them are young. She pointed out that there is an underlying significance beneath the words that only first-hand experience can provide. Older people have gone through lots of stuff: weight loss, investing, parenting, health problems, home repairs, you name it. When you’ve gone through something, you have a deeper understanding that shows in the words and phrases you choose. You’ll more easily connect with the readers.
I suppose a generalist writer is ok if you simply need to explain something. This morning, I read that Florida’s Governor DeSantis is going to enact laws that forbid businesses from demanding people show proof of being vaccinated. The article didn’t require me to do anything. It simply explained a situation.
But that type of writing is very different from marketing copy. Marketing copy’s purpose is to persuade people to take a specific action. That’s a completely different level of writing and requires a unique skill. It’s easy to explain something to someone. It’s not easy to get them to take out their wallet and purchase something.
At this point you may be wondering if the copy you have been using has enough punch. Here’s one way you can evaluate it. Use the acronym AIDA. The AIDA concept has been around for a long time and it stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.
Your copy should begin by making a statement that is so interesting that it hooks the reader and gets their attention right out of the gate. Then it should go on to build their interest to the point that they desire your product more than their money. Finally the copy needs to call the reader to action.
If what you find in your marketing content is pretty sentences that sound good but don’t mean anything, you are losing leads and sales.
I wish I could say that all you have to do is hire Robin and her team to do your writing and she’ll send your leads and sales to the moon. Wouldn’t that be nice for both of us? Reality is somewhere in the middle. The most important factor that determines a product’s success lies in its latent demand. If you found the cure for cancer you could hire the worst content writer in the world and sales would be astronomical. But for most products, success is a battle. And when you are in a battle you’d better bring your A game or don’t get in the fight to begin with.
As the CEO and owner of Media Relations Agency, I almost never get directly involved in client work. But it is my job to make sure we have the right talent and one thing I can assure you of is that Robin Miller is an amazingly talented writer and editor. I’m proud of all of our staff but no one gets more thank-you notes from clients than she does.
One thing I’m working on with Robin is to simplify our writing services to make them easier for clients to understand and purchase. We have come up with a comprehensive Media Grade Content® writing package that can be used and repurposed in many ways. It includes the following and costs $2,000 per package.
- An interview with you to gather the facts and determine the story angle
- A press release to send to the media
- A one-page story that can be used for mailings, web copy etc.
- A quarter page story that can be used for blog posts, etc.
- A paragraph story that can be used for Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
- 3 single lines to be used for Tweets and other social posts
Without getting into the weeds, we wanted this content package to be useful for all aspects of the promotional mix: ads, website, social media and publicity. Our clients love the writing we do for them, so you should buy one package and check us out.
One thing is certain for almost all companies today. You are in the publishing business whether you like it or not. Customers expect that you will have a blog. They expect to see you in the media. They expect you will have a Facebook page and that you will Tweet. And if your content stream looks like a dried up creek bed, that’s what they think of you.
I’ll share a little story with you. A business friend of mine ran on some hard times. He had a good sized company with several retail locations but a big competitor moved in and ate his lunch. One day he called me to buy some writing services for a consulting service he started. When I told him our cost he said it was too much. He could hire writers for much less. I get that he was hard up for money at the time but as a seasoned businessman he should have been aware of the saying, If you think hiring talent is expensive, try hiring people who aren’t talented.
If you want to strengthen your marketing copy you should give us a call. We’ve been in business 30 years, we’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of clients, we have a best-selling marketing book and we know how to write copy that moves people to action. Call 952-697-5269 or go online to set up an appointment.