Make your content personal

Does your content feel sterile? You want something more conversational and more engaging.  At the same time, you’re wary of sounding forced or hyped-up, like so much marketing can.

There are two words that will transform text of corporate beige into readable, relatable content.

Those words are ‘you’ and ‘we.’

We could stop there, but if you’re anything like me, you’re not satisfied with being told what to do.  You want to know why.


1. Become a brand that people can relate to

Using relational words like ‘you’ and ‘we’ turns one-directional broadcasts into conversations. Your audience feels like you’re talking to them, not at them. And when you create that sense of a conversation, you lay the ground-work for building a relationship.

Why does any of this fluffy relationship stuff matter? It matters because your audience prefers to do business with people that they like.  There’s an opportunity here for you to stand out. So much corporate content tries to extinguish any trace of anyone having ever actually written the words.

When we write for an organisation, we tend to stand one step removed from the organisation. We see our organisation as something separate from ourselves, and that mindset dictates how we write. That’s why you get such turgid prose as:

“Apex Financial Services draws on a wealth of experience in asset management delivered to clients across a range of sectors…”

This content settles like fine grey soot on the reader, leaving everything a shade drabber than it was before.

So here’s what I’m asking you to do:  write as if you are part of your organisation. With this simple technique, Apex’s sentence becomes:

“We offer you access to a wealth of experience in asset management across a range of sectors.”

Here, the organisation is an active participant in the conversation, not its subject. To have rapport, first you need relationship. This simple technique creates an exchange between two people. You put your organisation’s identity back in play.


2. Make more sense

Once you start talking directly to your readers, magical things happen to the clarity of your text.

We’ll start with a ‘Before’ sample, part of a non-compete agreement I found online:

“In view of the significant  and  material  value  to  Employer  of  the  services  of  Employee  for  which  Employer  has employed  Employee;  and  the  confidential  information  obtained  by  or  disclosed  to  Employee  as  an employee of Employer….”

Please do not try to stand on one leg after reading this text, as you are liable to fall over.

We all know intuitively that the text is hard to read — but why?

Convoluted sentence structure aside, a major difficulty lies in the terms used for who’s doing what to who. Most people will need to translate the key terms to work out which parts apply to them (‘ah – employee – that’s me.’).  It’s as if we have a mental dictionary we need to flick through every time the word comes up.  That slows us down. This particular sample is even harder to read because two crucial terms – employee and employer – differ by only one letter.

Now here’s the ‘After.’

“The services that we have employed you for are significantly and materially valuable. While you are employed with us, you will gain access to confidential information…”

In this version, the roles of the employer and employee are immediately clear.  When barriers to comprehension come down, we can concentrate on absorbing the message.


Use it anywhere

One of the reasons I love this technique is that it can be used in almost any sector.  Most of the time, writing advice depends very much on the context and audience.  A tiny tweak, such as changing ‘don’t’ to ‘do not’ can make or break the tone.  This technique is different.  I’ve used it for for enterprise-level IT firmsimage consultants and bathroom renovators.

Very different audiences, but it works every time.

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