This post started from a point of curiosity. I was sent an email recommending a talented illustrator and after I agreed with the lady sender about the guy’s credentials I had a look at her company’s website. It deals with new technology that gives a 3-D dimension to TVs and lets people interact with them directly – without using remote controls.
What’s this all about?
However that’s not the message I got when I visited her Home Page. The opening sequence of the Flash film, together with the content below that (headings like ‘Best Technology’ together with tiny body text) was very technical and went completely over my head! I couldn’t figure out what this company was trying to sell me. So I decided to investigate.
I sat through the whole of the Flash film. I read the body copy below that. I visited the inside links and YES, I DID find out what the company was now offering me. But the question is: “Why should I have bothered”? Why should I have made the effort? A regular visitor would not have done that. He or she would have decided that all this was in the ‘TOO HARD’ department and moved off to another Internet place. What a shame for all the collective corporate effort that was invested! So where’s the problem?
The wood and the trees
Often when you’ve been working inside a company for a long time or been a long-term supplier, you tend to see the wood rather that the individual trees within it, i.e you stop looking at things from an outsider’s perspective. You should not assume that other people will know what you know and will immediately ‘catch on’ to what you intended. That’s why it’s always a good idea to show communications ideas to total strangers and ask them “Do you understand what we’re offering here”?
As a professional English copywriter, I often find myself in this situation. I have to take a body of content and keep travelling back and forth over it until I really understand what the core messages and benefits are. Once I’ve done that, I feel qualified to give the company’s essential story to a stranger in an imaginary 30-second elevator ride. Only then do I have the tools to compose a series of messages that’ll ‘get to the point’ fast for every web page.
A sense of distance
Before we can get close to something we need to get the right perspective – what I call a ‘sense of distance’. I like to hear people say “Aha, THAT’S what you’re talking about”. Good and professional Marketing Communications (MarCom) deals with this central issue: how to squeeze the essentials out of any subject and present them in the most appealing and easily-understood way. That’s also why we have websites – so that we can get the key benefits at the start and ‘drill down’ to the details later on. Yet too few of them follow this elementary discipline: they drown you with facts from the start.
Today’s world is a paradox – the more information we have, the less time we have to absorb it. So messages have to be simple and to the point, or they won’t work.