Sunday, 2 December 2018

Are your communications creating a barrier between you and your target audience?

This may seem a ridiculous question, but it’s a mistake businesses make every day.

They create communications that alienate and disengage their audience — and they don’t even know they’re doing it.

Here are three common examples of things businesses do in their communications that they really need to stop.

1. Using unfamiliar jargon and acronyms

Imagine trying to read something and constantly having to break off to look up terms and acronyms you’ve never heard of before.

Then, trying to determine the context and meaning of those words and acronyms as they were meant in the text you were reading.

Does that sound like fun?

Didn't think so.

But this is what your reader has to do when you use industry jargon and unexplained acronyms in your copy.

What makes perfect sense to you doesn't necessarily make sense to someone who has never been around those terms before.

Think of it this way: Every time you cause your readers to break away from reading your copy, you risk losing them altogether.

Avoid using jargon wherever possible and explain your points in layman's terms, so the average person can understand them.

If you have to use industry terms, make sure you explain them the first time you use them, so your reader comes to understand what they mean.

2. Using highfalutin language

Everyone wants their business to sound professional.

But if you think that means you have to use big words and fancy language, you're wrong.

When businesses use highfalutin language, at least one of these things usually happens:

  • They sound pompous and pretentious
  • They make errors because they don't understand the meaning of the words they’re using — or how to use them correctly
  • They end up alienating their readers
According to the speaker at a seminar I recently attended, the average reading age in the UK is 9. This is the age tabloid newspapers, like The Sun, are writing for.

The average age of a broadsheet newspaper reader is just 14.

It’s worth remembering this when you’re writing your copy.

Communicating professionally is about more than just the words and language you use. It’s about knowing and understanding your audience and using language that is appropriate for them.

3. Using language that doesn’t align with your brand

In today’s competitive market, a strong brand can set your business apart from its competitors.

Customers buy into brands where they feel an attachment. For example, if the brand’s core values align with their own.

A strong brand is made up of six main components:
  1. A clear target market
  2. Its reason for being
  3. Its values and culture
  4. Its personality
  5. Its promise to its customers
  6. Its voice and the way it communicates
All of these elements must be aligned and working harmoniously together — including your copy.

If you run a high end restaurant, but sound like a back street café, your customers will find that difficult to buy into.

If you run a pound shop and constantly talk about ‘quality’ and ‘excellence’, you’re also going to be way off the mark.

Think about your product/service and your market when you write. Use appropriate language that embodies your brand and helps your customers find an affinity.

Do you need some help to avoid these mistakes?

If you’re struggling to write copy that connects with your audience, the chances are you’re too close to it. You need someone who can look at it objectively and tell you where you’re going wrong.

This is where I can help.

If you need someone to make sense of all the jargon and present it in a more user-friendly way — I can do that.

If you need someone to make your brand sound more professional, without alienating your audience — I can do that.

If you need someone to establish a tone of voice that aligns with the rest of your brand — I can do that too.

My name is Jenny Lucas. I’m a freelance copywriter, content writer and copy editor based in Leicester, UK. 

I specialise in writing clear, benefits focused copy that speaks to your audience using language they can understand.

To find out more about how I could help you improve your business communications, please visit my website.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Are your communications a little bit woolly?

Are they a tad vague? 

Somewhat fuzzy on the details? 

Lacking a certain something?

Imprecise? Indefinite? Unclear?

Take a look at this paragraph:

According to research, quite a lot of people shop frequently. This is more or less the same as it was a few years ago. Nowadays more people tend to shop online, perhaps because it's more convenient. Nevertheless, high street stores are still reporting increased sales at prime times, like Christmas.

The highlighted words and phrases are vague, meaningless and leave the reader with more questions.

What research?
How many people?
How frequently?

You want to be an authority in your field.

If you're talking about your business, industry or specialist subject, you want to inspire confidence and promote your expertise.

It's difficult to achieve that if your communications are woolly, wordy or lacking the attention to detail your audience would expect from an authority.

People need tangible facts and figures.

When information is collated and presented properly, it's helpful. It shows you did your homework and have taken the time to understand what your audience needs to know.

If it's vague or fuzzy, it raises more questions than it answers and reads as though you wrote it off the top of your head. 

Even worse, it could make you seem lazy, non-committal or evasive.

Be specific and precise.

  • If you're referring to research, state the source and include a link to it if you're publishing online
  • Avoid imprecise quantities, like plenty, a bit, a lot and a few — use proper numbers and percentages wherever you can
  • If possible, avoid speculative words, like perhaps, maybe and possibly — try to be more definite
  • Avoid vague words, like stuff, things and etc — specify exactly what you mean.
If you're selling something or running an offer, be clear about exactly what's included. A company I worked with lost out when they failed to specify which brands of crisps were included in their promotion. 

Be current and relevant.

  • In our technological, fast-moving world, things are always changing, so make sure you're citing the most current research, facts and figures available
  • Make sure your communication has a clear point — what is it about and what are your readers going to learn from it?
  • Avoid going off topic or including extraneous details — make sure everything you include in the communication is supporting the point you're trying to make so you set out a clear, logical case.

Be positive and definite.

  • Avoid filler words, like very, reallyrather, quite, fairly, somewhatrelatively and slightly — your copy will sound much more authoritative and certain without them 
  • If you're selling a scenario to a customer, rather than saying If you buy, say When you buy, which is much stronger
  • Wherever possible, replace weak words like could, may, might and should with will or do which are positive and confident.
Note: It's not always possible to use will or do, as we can't always make that guarantee. For example, some outcomes are dependent on criteria beyond our control.

Do you want to sound more expert and authoritative?

If your copy doesn't sound as confident or assertive as you would like it to, I can help.

I am a professional copywriter with more than 18 years' professional writing experience.

My words have made a real difference to the businesses I have worked with — and they could do the same for you.

To find out more, or get in touch about a project, please visit my website.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Down with pop-ups!

This week I want to talk about something that constantly irritates me.

Is that allowed?

If I promise there will be some value in it?

I want you to imagine something.

Imagine you're about to walk into a shop for the first time.

The shop looks great and you want to have a browse, but there are all these people standing in front of the door.

You’re already feeling frustrated.

As you walk towards the door, the first person accosts you.

"Do you accept our policy?"

"What policy?" you ask.

He turns his clipboard over to reveal several pages of a policy document.

You try to walk past him, but he blocks you.

"But you have to accept our policy before you can come in."

Begrudgingly you tick the box without reading the policy. After all, you only came to browse.

As the man moves away, a woman steps forward and presents you with another clipboard.

"This is what you've agreed to," she says, "are you happy to proceed?"

Feeling irritated, you move past her too.

You thought you were getting closer.

As you take another step towards the door, another man steps in front of you.

"You should sign up to our mailing list," he says.

"Why?" you ask.

"If you're interested in what's inside the shop, you'll love our newsletters. Now if you'll just give me your name and email address..."

"But I haven't even seen what's in the shop yet," you say. "How can I know if what you're selling is what I want, when I can't get to see it?"

"Oh, so you're too good for our newsletter, are you?" the man sneers.

You push past him, moving closer to the door.

You get stopped again.

As you get in front of the door, a woman pops up out of nowhere.

"Hello. How can I help you today?" she asks.

"Look," you say, "I just want to go inside? Is that okay? I thought that's what the shop was here for."

"Here are some things you can ask me..."

"Why would I want to ask you anything? I don't know what you're selling yet."

And again.

As you put your hand on the door plate, another huge man steps in front of you.

"Why don't you get this FREE catalogue?" he asks. "All I need is your name and email address."

You sigh and scowl and try to move him out of the way, but he won't budge. He sits down in front of the door so you can't open it and you're forced to leave, without having done the one thing you wanted.

Does any of this sound familiar?

This actually happened to me this week.

Not in a physical shop, but on a website.

I had gone onto the website to read an article, but I was bombarded from the moment I arrived.

There was the privacy policy, which I accepted. The note after accepting the privacy policy to tell me what I just agreed to, which I then had to close down. The email marketing pop-up, where I had to click on its passive aggressive 'no, thank you'. The 'helpful' chatbot that covered half of the screen and I struggled to find the button to close it down. Then, finally, the free ebook pop-up. This was actually broken, with no opt-out and no button to close it down either.

So, after all that, I ended up not being able to read the article.

Pop-ups are annoying.

People keep telling me pop-ups work. I don't dispute this, but the problem is, they don't provide a good user experience for all your visitors.

As someone who uses the internet predominantly for research, I find them intensely annoying. And when I see people discussing them online, it's rare that anyone has anything positive to say.

Let customers see what you have to offer.

A shop wouldn't ask you to sign over all your details before you were allowed inside. A website is not that different.

Before you ask me to sign up for your newsletter, free books or paid-for articles, let me see what you're about. Let me get a feel for the quality, see if we're a good match and decide if what you're offering is actually going to help me.

I think it's only fair and you might just win me over.

About the author.

Jenny Lucas is a freelance copywriter, content writer and copy editor based in Leicestershire, UK.

To find out more about Jenny, her work and the services she offers, visit her website