From my recent dealings with small businesses, I’ve come to see that there’s often a huge gulf between the passion that many business owners have for their businesses and their ability to communicate that passion through the various media available to them.
Once upon a time, when a business had a good story to tell, they drafted in a PR professional to write some press releases or maybe set up a glitzy event in order to get the traditional media outlets (newspapers, TV, radio) to give them some coverage. It was a system that worked fine – especially for the PR professionals themselves!
Now all that has changed. As everyone knows, the traditional media outlets have lost much of their stranglehold over the distribution of news. The massive variety of channels now available to businesses – and individuals – means that we longer need to rely solely on a newspaper or radio station to cover our event or story. From Twitter to Facebook to Youtube, there are now myriad ways in which businesses can get their message out. Essentially we are all now our own PR people.
While that clearly represents a real opportunity for businesses to tell their stories, it does leave them with one major problem: how to do it effectively.
And that goes to the heart of the problem that this blog is trying to address, namely the widespread inability to write clearly and effectively.
No matter how passionate you are about your business, if you can’t communicate that passion effectively then your audience simply won’t get it.
What has struck me about small business owners is that when asked to speak about what they do and why their business is so fantastic and amazing and wonderful, they have no problem doing so.
So why then do so many of them fall down so badly when it comes to writing about their businesses?
You can see it everywhere – on company websites, in press releases, even in brochures and ads – incorrect spelling, bad grammar, nonsensical jargon. Where is the fluency with which they can talk about their business and why doesn’t it translate into writing?
I think it goes back to a common problem that arises whenever someone is presented with a pen and paper (or keyboard): they switch into Writing (with a capital W!) mode. This manifests itself in various ways: using words and phrases that they don’t fully understand and often don’t make any sense; cluttering up their sentences with meaningless jargon; writing in a bland, official style that completely obscures their passion.
And as for the incorrect spelling, well there’s simply no excuse for that! Use the spell check or, failing that, BUY A DICTIONARY.
If small business owners are to take control of their own PR, then they need to put aside all the gobbledygook and start thinking about one simple thing – the story they’re trying to tell.
Steve Jobs was a master at this. He may have been selling machines (admittedly some pretty cool machines, but machines none the less), but in order to do so, he created brilliant stories, compelling narratives that customers in their millions bought into. When you buy an Apple product, you’re not buying a machine for playing music or a glorified laptop, you’re joining a club of cool, hip, in-the-know people throughout the world who share an appreciation of style and functionality and performance etc.
You’re not buying a machine, you’re buying a lifestyle. You’re buying a dream!
Or so Apple would like us to believe…
That’s the message that small business owners need to take on board when it comes to writing about their businesses. Remember, you’re telling a story – a story you believe in passionately and one you want to share with anyone who’ll listen. Drop the jargon, keep it simple, let that passion shine through and soon you’ll be putting the PR professionals to shame.