Writing for online without sounding like an utter know it all
Ever wondered how to write about yourself online without sounding like a "complete dork" or a "know-it-all"? Finding that happy medium to sell yourself positively online can be difficult. The following steps will give you and therefore your business a strong, client-focused and cohesive online presence.
Know your business
Does your business have a mission statement? Do you know why you are spending your time in business?
If you don’t have one then this is where you need to start. These questions set the foundations of how others see your business. Here are some simple prompts to help you write your mission:
Who- who are you, are you a multi-national, family company, or sole trader? Who are your customers? Are they families, singles, seniors, small business, multi-nationals?
What- What is it that you do? What do you sell?
Why- Why do customers use your business? What is the benefit to them?
Where- Where can they find you? Are you a bricks & mortar, online, franchise?
Do you have a vision statement? Do you know where you want your business to be in one year, three years, or five years?
This is where you have to be SMARTER. Make sure your vision is:
Specific- No wishy-washy motherhood statements. Say exactly where you want to be, put a dollar figure to it.
Measurable- If it can’t be measured, then how can you look back and see if you have achieved it? It also means that it’s likely to be a motherhood statement and you are less likely to hold yourself to account.
Achievable- The goal has to be appropriate and able to be attained in the given timeframe.
Reportable- You have to make yourself accountable for the goal and the only way to do that is to make it reportable. That could be in your end of year financial report, quarterly reports, cash flow reports, stakeholder reports, or reportable to a mentor/friend.
Time-sensitive- The goal has to have a deadline. Don’t make it a moveable goal or you are less likely to set tasks to achieve the goal.
Evaluated- Is it reasonable, achievable, and how does it compare to others in your industry?
Reviewed- How often will it be reviewed so you know that you are on track?
I like the added aspects of evaluation and review. These not only speak to the quality assurer in me, they are best practice in project management. I use many aspects of project management in my own business, especially review. Many businesses underestimate the value of reviewing, especially when things don’t turn out as anticipated. I think I will write more on this in the future as I can see a whole blog post on this topic.
Know your ideal customer
Marketing experts have a number of ways to determine your ideal client. I use scripts to determine my ideal client. When you script your ideal client you write a little story about who they are. It’s like writing an online dating profile for your soul mate.
Demographics- What is their age (or age range), gender, family status, and employment status. This is all about who they are.
Preferences- What are their values, likes, and dislikes? Do they differ between the ones they hold personally, for their family, or for their business?
Daily activities- How do they spend their day? Do they work 9-5 in an office? Do they work part-time? Do they work in an office or from home? Are they running around after the kids? Are they single living a laissez-faire lifestyle? Are they retirees? Do they play sports? Write about how they fill their day/weekend.
Write up this narrative, and don’t worry you can have more than one (though it’s easiest to pitch to one client) and it can change over time. Just make sure you keep this person firmly in your sights.
Work out where these overlap
Where do your mission and visions cross? Are there any common words or themes? Where does you ideal customer meet with your mission? With your vision? List the adjectives, or find relevant adjectives, to describe these intersections. These are the words you use to drive your interactions. There’s a word of warning, they must be for your client. If you start writing about the business it becomes about you. You don’t need to sell to, or convince, you. Unless your ideal client is a competitor, don’t write about your industry either. Your customer doesn’t want to know why your industry does xyz, they have a need and want you to meet it. It’s why they are at your website/Facebook/Google+ (or other platform, more on this soon).
Go back and look at the list and where it meets your ideal client. What words help to meet their needs? What benefits are they looking for? Remember you wrote out their preferences, look to these for inspiration on how they want to be sold to and what needs you need to meet. Now, what are the benefits of your product or service and how do you meet your idea customer’s needs?
So now you have the adjectives to help describe your product or service and you have the benefits you need to include when you write those descriptions. But which tone do you use?
Finding your voice
Look at your adjectives, benefits, and your ideal customer – what language suits these best? Will they appreciate slang, a conversational tone, factual, or formal speech?
I would suggest that if your business has more than one person writing for it that you establish a style guide. While I use the Commonwealth Style Manual for proofreading, I also worked with a departmental style guide. This certainly helped when writing for different media and clients. There were guides for press releases, ministerials, client letters, and an overarching guide. Unless you are a business with a few hundred staff who communicate across many media and stakeholders, you are unlikely to need this many guides. However, a document that outlines your mission, vision, ideal client, benefits, key adjectives, and preferred tone is a great start. From here it can evolve to including which messages are distributed over particular media. You can even detail how minutes will be taken and distributed.
Style guides are beneficial for copywriters and copy editors. It allows us an insight into the back end of your business and means that we can easily support you and help you to achieve your outcomes. It also saves lengthy discussions when engaging us to undertake work for your business: saving you time and money.
Find out how to use these skills online. Learn how to customise your content for different social media platforms. Find out how to ensure your brand's profile. Hear how to instil a piece of yourself into the business and online.
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