There’s a cliché that denigrates ‘style over substance’. While I agree that style should not be a substitute for substance, style is important.
Your brand is about style – it tells people something about the kind of company you are, your approach to business and represents what you stand for (your values).
The way you talk to people, whether they are customers, potential customers, networking contacts or just people you come into contact with in the course of your day, give them an idea of what to expect from you. This is especially important when you’re a sole trader or a small business where you are the primary deliverer.
Style is particularly important when you are creating content. Whether that’s for your website, a blog post or your newsletter people hear the ‘voice’ of your copy and get an impression of who you are.
Content style can vary enormously from conservative and corporate to quirky and cute and the most frequent influencers are social media and your newsletters (or email campaigns).
Even when you write your own copy, you may find that it doesn’t reflect your real style. I blame English teachers who emphasis the need for correct – and often pompous – grammar and formally parsed sentences! As a words geek I’m all for knowing the rules of grammar, punctuation (don’t get me started on apostrophes) and correct spelling, but style sometimes requires breaking the occasional rule!
Your newsletter is probably how your followers most often experience your take on your area of specialism. It shouldn’t read like a text book; it should read as though you are talking to a friend or a business contact who has asked for enlightenment.
This is where the challenge occurs – and where the skill of a copywriter can achieve results that people who haven’t had that kind of writing training run into trouble.
I know of people who don’t like writing, instead they’ve recorded their thoughts verbally and had them transcribed. Then they’ve simply published that transcription on their blog or as the value item in their newsletter (or both).
While your written content should sound like you talking, when you actually talk you don’t speak succinctly – none of us do! We change direction mid-sentence, several ideas or thoughts can run together, we ‘um’ and ‘er’ – and most of us have some repetitive verbal idiosyncrasies (‘you know’ at the end of sentences or an often repeated word ‘absolutely’, ‘OK’, ‘right’, ‘basically’ are some of the frequent offenders.) When you speak you have tone of voice to help people to understand what you’re saying – when you write that’s missing and, therefore, your written content needs to be much clearer.
Regardless of how you create your copy, my top tip is to then read it aloud and you’ll soon discover where the problems occur. It might be a sentence that is far too long and leaves you gasping for breath or a phrase that you actually would never say. Edit until it reads fluently – or work with someone who can capture your voice and generate content that sounds just like you.