Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Let's Try This Again: Revising Your Marketing Content

If you don't get a thrill out of creating marketing content for your business, you may feel that the only thing less pleasant than writing the stuff is writing it again. Even experienced professional writers sometimes cringe at the thought of going over their masterwork with a red pen. And of course there's nothing fun about acknowledging weaknesses in that draft you toiled over for hours. But revision doesn't have to be a horrible experience. Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you have to repair a draft:

Little things mean a lot. You'd be amazed at how effective even the most minimal fixes can be. This is especially true for the kind of short-form writing found in so much marketing content. The fewer words you put into your work, the more weight and power each individual word must sustain. On the one hand, this means you're tasked with selecting the most effective words possible from beginning to end, which can seem an intimidating chore. On the other hand, it also means that swapping out even a single word here and there can completely transform the piece into something great. Just the other day I received what looked like an imposing list of revision requests on a print marketing piece; once I got started, however, it became obvious that just a few changes here and there would satisfy the client's concerns completely. So take heart -- that "big rewrite" may not be as big as you think.

There's no "right" way to write (or rewrite). One of my writing teachers was fond of saying that there's no such thing as good writing or bad writing -- there are only stronger or weaker choices. There may be an infinite number of ways you can express a given point in your marketing content, and many of them could easily hit a home run for you. If you want to give yourself the world's worst case of writer's block, keep telling yourself, "I've got to get this content right." There is no "right." Your only objective is to make your point clearly, in a way that impacts the emotions of your specific audience so that they'll do what you want them to do. If your revision (or even your first draft) achieves that, then congratulations -- you're done!

More isn't necessarily better. "One more thing" syndrome is an easy trap to fall into, especially if you're writing about a complicated product or service. What about those 47 additional features you forgot to mention? What about this specification or that disclaimer? Well, all those tidbits may be legitimate concerns for an owner's manual for a major business proposal -- but for your basic web page, press release, sales letter or blog article they can lead to a massive case of overkill. Your reader doesn't want to read every single detail you can dream up, nor do you want to add all that extra labor to your revision. In fact, the most successful revisions frequently involve cutting, not expanding. Cutting is as easy as hitting the Delete or Cut buttons on your keyboard, though it may not seem so painless when your favorite turns of phrase go on the chopping block. It certainly beats churning out more text!

So if you have to revise your marketing content, don't fret. Take my little reassurances to heart, relax, breathe deeply, and take a good look at just what needs to be done. If you feel too close to the material to be objective, get a second opinion from a pro. That's what we're here for!