Posted Under: Hiring writers,ideal reader,rapport with writer
With its 2010 Trust Barometer, the public relations firm Edelman reports that 83% of U.S. consumers value
transparent and honest practices, and a company being a “company I can trust” as extremely important
and rate these their first and second priorities.
A company’s strong financial performance, which was consumers’ third priority in 2006, is their tenth priority now, far below treating employees well and pricing goods and services fairly.
So as a marketing manager, you’re thinking, “Hmm. We should do what we can to earn trust and convey trustworthiness in our communications, shouldn’t we?” Well, if you haven’t been doing it up to now, this would be a good time to start.
Does Your Writer Keep You Honest?
Who drafts all of those communications you put out, all of the vehicles on which your customers will evaluate your trustworthiness?
Your writers, of course.
Do you pay them to make you toe the line? When you engage them, do you say, “If you catch us trying to say something that sounds fishy or unreliable, let us know”? If they call you on a dodgy statistic, or doubt the veracity of your sources, do you thank them and agree to find more solid ones?
I thought not.
You could do that, but here are some reasons why it probably won’t happen:
- This kind of purity may pit you against others in your organization. “It holds 985 megabytes of data,” says your Engineering team. “Call it a gigabyte and be done with it.” Your writer points out that there are 1 billion bytes in a gigabyte, so you’re stuck in the middle between the writer and Engineering.
- You need to beat a deadline. Is your time more important than your customers’ trust? How much back-and-forth with the writer can you afford to boost the veracity of the piece?
- Your writer doesn’t want to antagonize you. A common bit of professional camouflage goes, “Well, Bill, you know your readers and customers a lot better than I do, so I’ll take your lead on leaving that detail in the paper.” The writer wants to get paid and get hired again, so probably won’t go to the mat with you on a disagreement over your facts.
- There is ALWAYS a fib somewhere, and the only way to avoid them completely is to say nothing to your customers. You may just find out this out if you empower your writer to grill you on your evidence. It’s a marketing piece, not a New York Times investigation.
Rude Questions from Your Writer
Jason Cohen, of A Smart Bear fame, posted recently on Rude Q&A. Pardon the unnecessarily rude first sentence of the post – bloggers often pride themselves on shock value – but Jason offers a valuable lesson in tough questions that come from investors, for which businesspeople should have ready, defensible answers.
If you hire professional, diplomatic writers, you should be able to go through at least some of Jason’s questions peacefully:
- What are the top three features your competitor has that you lack? How do you address that today, and what are you doing about it in the next six months?
- What are three tangible, undeniable ways in which your product/company saves more money than you cost, and saves more time than you consume?
- There are thousands of companies who make the same basic claims you make: high-quality, on-time, on-budget, good service, happy customers. What makes you any different?
You should already have gone through these questions internally before starting your project, and you should ask your writers whether they are up to posing them of you as well.
John White of venTAJA Marketing posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.