I was born in Austria. English is my second language. Yes, I write a lot, but I do it because I want to share my expertise, not because I believe that I am a great writer. Yet today I set out to blur the lines of copy writing, branding, enthusiasm, content strategy, your target audience and content overload. Launching your brand puts an emphasis on the About section of your web site, no doubt about it. Even if you have a video and to-the-point messaging on the Landing Page(s), the About page will be sought-after. It needs to explain the following in a swift manner:
That’s a lot to convey on a single page and therein lies the problem for an enthusiastic entrepreneur who writes this important piece of content in a stream of consciousness (it is after all the subject you know best), then quickly proofs it, and by the push of a button publishes it. Rarely do they look back. Yet another item checked off the busy to-do list. Then the journey of marketing and metrics hits in and the About page, long forgotten, is like ‘a ghost employee’ in a well functioning company; it lives on yet it should have been let go and replaced a long time ago.
I know this feeling well. I see it on a nearly daily basis with our new clients, but I also fell victim to it myself. Here are my top 4 tips on how to go about deriving your About copy:
It has to be right. You can’t just block off an hour on your busy calendar. It has to be more like that moment when you drive to the beach to just sit and breathe and think big thoughts. Make the time for that moment and don’t put a time limit on it. For myself that moment arrived during a 12 hour flight after I have answered ‘all’ E-Mails and there was no WI-FI for new ones to trickle in. I watched the Steve Jobs movie (Inspiration 1), had a glass of wine (Inspiration 2), the cabin lights went out so everyone could sleep (I was in Coach – Inspiration 3), and I knew if I started writing now that I had hours and hours to fine tune and contemplate. And so I did – the time and place were right. Best of all, even if I wanted to, I could not just push it live as I did not have WI-FI, so it forced me to sleep over it and make even more tiny edits when ‘back on the ground.’ It took me 3 hours to write.
Words should not come easy (Ask F.R. David, he knew). If they do, consider it a brainstorm exercise, then work on a synopsis of that copy. Don’t cut paragraphs, don’t review sentences, dive deeper and focus on it word-by-word. In the end your About copy should be thought of as a lineup of tag lines, because in a tag line every word counts, has meaning, adds to your brand story. Think of each word as a strategic component to the whole.
Once you feel you phrased it in just the right way, make sure it will resonate with them. Sounds logical, hence easy, but it is one tough role play: Write in an emotional and enthusiastic manner that conveys your brand’s soul, but then read it from the perspective of your target audience. It helps when you created target personas, that way you can read pretending you are that specific person. If time allows, run it by your target audience and conduct a mini focus group, or even A/B testing of different About pages, to see what sticks.
Make it as simple as possible. Make it as short as possible. If you need to, add links to further content below your CTA (Call To Action). No one reads a long About section. No one. Rather go through steps 1-3 and then edit it down again and have something your audience will actually be compelled to read, because it is short and approachable. This is about getting them excited to keep going further, to click deeper, it is not the page that needs to convey everything, but ensure it has the 5 components listed above embodied.
In a study of user tests it was discovered that users with higher literacy levels also fared better on web sites written for a lower level literacy audience. So keep it brief and keep it simple. I guess I should go back and edit this post, but I don’t feel too bad keeping it this length as someone just released the book ‘Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less;’ it spans 256 pages.
I have a ritual where I take a bath Wednesday nights (there may be a glass of wine involved, yes) to ponder what I will write about in the New Brand Post the following day. I have a flexible editorial calendar I work with, but it has holes and can be arranged to my liking or to encompass spontaneous thoughts. Last night I realized how insane and equally wonderful it is to write what hundreds of people expect in their mailboxes every Friday morning (sign up if you haven’t) just the day before. As daring as it may sound, strangely I never encounter “writer’s block.”
When a dear friend of mine first convinced me to start using Twitter, I told him that I was not sure I had enough brand-related content to share with the world. 3,654 tweets later (follow our new account) I realize I have a lot to share. If you create a brand that has soul, it will have a voice. If you are passionate about the subject, you will always have something to say. If you create a new brand and feel like you might not have enough content, analyze your Brand Platform and go soul searching again. If you can not find the soul of your new brand, don’t launch it. It’s that simple. Today’s consumer listens, absorbs, and responds. You will be part of an open conversation and as a new brand you need to be the one starting it.
Arrogant Bastard Ale found its soul, reflected it in its name and hence has no problem voicing and monetizing on it. The highly controversial cover design of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine is a timely example of the power of brand and consumer voice. You can sometimes push it and might at times abuse it (as I see it being the case in RS magazine). As a new brand you need to clearly establish what you will focus your conversation on and how you will speak not only to, but more importantly with your audience. Use your Brand Platform as your brand launch manifesto and brand voice guide. Share a synopsis of it with your extended team, and refer back to it religiously. Pin it to your wall and stare at it every time you (or your content manager) start writing content or engaging with your audience. As much as consumers will buy into your new product or service, they will just as much buy into your brand voice. If Arrogant Bastard suddenly writes a cute statement or Rolling Stone Magazine publishes a boring cover, the brand voice fails the brand’s soul and the brand as a whole will subsequently, over time, lose its power. Make sure your new brand’s voice is consistent. Consistent with your brand’s soul, and hopefully consistently engaging.