Marketing communication writers need more than features and benefits to write effectively. Ask these three questions early and often in the writing process.
It takes 21 days to form a habit. Let’s hope it doesn’t take you 21 clients to remember to ask a few important questions at the beginning of each marketing communications writing project.
- Who is the audience? This is the most commonly unanswered question in marketing writing. Marketing managers know tacitly whom they want the piece to move, but they rarely emphasize it enough. It’s important to flesh out the answer to this question as exhaustively as the answer to the questions, “What does our product do?” and “How does this service save you time and money?” It’s just as crucial – maybe even more so – for the writer to know what keeps readers up at night and what has their hair on fire.
- What do you plan to do with the piece? If this is for the home page or a printed brochure, it had better keep a human reader engaged. If it’s for a deep SEO page that search engines will see more often than humans will, focus more on text that is long on bullets with target keywords and medium on reader engagement. If it’s a PDF for print, then hyperlinks won’t help much, will they? But if it’s a PDF for Web download, then writers can put hyperlinks, Flash video, and social media links in it.
- What else do you need me to do for you besides write? There’s more to this question than shameless self-promotion. You know that the longer you’ve been writing and the more you see what you can do for different clients, the greater the value your services can add. The folks at the Content Marketing Institute, most of whom have been writing for a long time, take writing far beyond the pale and advise clients on using writing strategically. Colleague and advertising copywriter John Kuraoka also consults on marketing and branding because his clients have seen that he does much more than take a briefing and send back 250 words for a magazine ad. Not every writer knows how to do these things, and not every client needs them, but they demonstrate how cumulative the writing process can be, and how much information writers accumulate.
Of course, you can ask these questions and get answers and write according to the answers, but you can still hit a snag in mid-paper that sends you back to these questions.
So these are questions that marketing communications writers should never stop asking. I know I never do.
To which questions do you keep coming back?
photo credit: Aplomb