In an age where brands and corporations are spending millions of dollars on managing their digital communication channels, they’re often forgetting the simplest, but most important part of it. When it comes down to it, it’s all about the words.
Although video might be more engaging and images easier to understand, the majority of all content marketing is made up of the written (well…typed) word. And yet, so many companies get it wrong. From obscure jargon in whitepapers to inadvertently offensive tweets, there’s plenty of ways poor writing can hurt a brand.
Anelia Varela is the US director of The Writer, a service that helps corporations improve both their internal and external written communication. Varela’s team, which includes former journalists, advertisers and copywriters, offers several services for companies including writing, consulting, and naming products or campaigns. She shared five big mistakes most companies (especially B2B firms) make when it comes to writing content.
1) Their writing has no personality
B2B marketers are especially prone to writing copy without any heart. “Being in business, it’s like people check their personalities at the door,” says Varela. “They forget they’re still talking to people.” While not every brand has to be as funny or irreverent as Ben & Jerry’s, they can at least take some steps to sound more human.
2) Their content marketing ends with the campaign
It’s important to be consistently engaging in all forms of communication with the customer, not just the initial marketing push. “Brands put all their personality into big flashy campaigns, and when someone signs up for the account, the day to day communication becomes the same corporate drivel as everyone else,” says Varela. So if your lead generation emails are fun and engaging, make sure all your follow up emails stay that way, even if after you get the customer.
3) They don’t use the customer’s language
Software and B2B tech companies are repeat offenders in this category. Since they’re often selling something very technical, they forget to explain its advantages in a way the end user will understand. None of the great advancements in product engineering will matter if the person who’s using it can’t understand how it will help them. “There’s often a big disconnect from what you would say in-person to what you would write on a computer,” says Varela. “Write like your customer speaks, or how you would speak if you were sitting across from them.”
4) They only focus on the marketing and sales team
Since they are the ones doing most of the writing for customers, the marketing and sales teams get the attention when it comes to producing content. But in reality, every employee in the company is a potential marketer, whether it’s through their own social media channels, outside events or personal writing. Varela says it’s important to make sure the entire company is using the same authentic tone and language not just for external communications, but internally as well. That means making communication style consistent across HR, engineering or even accounting departments.”You really do need to make it part of the culture of the whole organization to write and speak in a certain way,” says Varela. “Because if you think about it, everybody is producing content.”
5) The writing is just plain, unreadable
It’s surprising how so many marketers ignore the basic rules of writing good, legible copy. Marketing content such as whitepapers and blog posts are rife with run-on sentences, passive voice, and tons of jargon. Varela recommends using the Flesch-Kincaid readability index to see just how easy it is to read your writing. In case that sounds too terrifying, here’s how you can activate the Flesch-Kincaid readability test within Microsoft Word. If all else fails, read your copy out loud to yourself. It’s amazing how different things can sound when they’re actually spoken instead of read.