Persona(lity) non grata

This post was written by John White on Thu, 11 Sep 2008 16:17:43 +0000
Posted Under: creative brief,marketing manager,personality,rapport with writer,subject matter experts

Creative brief checklist item #8: Put some ketchup on those fries.

“Ketchup on fries” is the fast-food equivalent of putting personality in your writing. Does your company want that or not? On which pieces?

White papers and position papers are notoriously devoid of personality. “Get the facts down, persuade the reader to see things in a new way, make him or her pick up the phone.” Not much room for personality in that recipe.

Direct mail letters do roughly the same thing, but they’re absolutely dripping with personality. Robert Gilgamesh (“You can call me Bob”) writes an effusive direct mail letter telling you everything about his boyhood, if only you’ll download the demo from the Web site, or send in your $19.99 for the set of knives.

Long-time marketing managers may know to tell the writer how much or how little personality they want in a given piece, but if they don’t think of it in advance, the writer may invest a lot of time in a piece that will be completely off-target.

We’re launching a new software product (development platform, really) with a stem-to-stern overhaul of user manuals, technical guides, references and knowledgebase. I forgot to tell the writer whether I wanted personality in the writing, but she came back with a well paced piece capped with a pretty good title: “Who Let the Docs Out?” People will read that. Maybe even engineers.

One writer told me that in her work for a financial services software provider, they love it when she puts personality into her writing. She also does work for an unnamed maker of personal computers (that are not PCs) and personal electronic devices over which consumers are positively gaga, and they make it clear that she can leave personality at the door, thank you very much.

So as you’re whipping up a creative brief for your next set of content (I’m sure you all do that, the same as I do), remember item #8 and tell your writers whether you want ketchup on the fries or not.

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