The promise of words

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It started in March this year. The emails with the words.   

‘We live in unprecedented times.’ ‘These are unchartered territories.’ A flood of emails from every company you might ever have encountered online, trying to reassure you that they had everything under control – even in these difficult times. The word unprecedented was bounded about as if it was the only word that could sum up this terrible situation – used so much that it stopped meaning anything at all. 

Covid-19. Coronavirus. Pandemic. Lockdown. Words rarely mentioned in daily life have quickly become part of our lives in a way no one could have imagined when we toasted friends and family on New Years Eve a few measly months ago.  

Language has a funny way of evolving, especially in our day and age filled with social mediatexting and the barrage of online content. There’s a whole language out there based on tiny little smiley faces that may, or may not, mean what you think they mean. It has become totally normal to talk about zooming people, both in business and at home. Our language is being stretched and pulled in every direction, the rules of grammar and punctuation dismissed by adding newly created, foreign or bastardised words to an already elaborate language. The book I am currently reading has no full stops at all. None. It’s strangely noncompliant.  

It is the same in business. Buzz words quickly become part of our daily language once bounded around by straight talking professionals on the many webinars, blogs, vlogs and articles shared to guide us through this pandemic. We are now encouraged to be agile in the way we approach business. We should all be transformative in the way we look at our current product portfolio. Yesterday someone talked about how their company had been mothballed, as if that was a completely normal term to describe closure. And then, of course, there is the lockdown fatigue we are all feelingand the importance of feeling reassured, reconsidered, reignited.  And whatever we do, we must not forget to pivot. 

Words can mean everything. And sometimes nothing at all. It’s a fine art. An overused word can sometimes be the most dangerous word of all, because it loses its meaning when it is cavorted around.  Many businesses are battling to find the right words to use to communicate with customers and staff at this time. They fear sounding insensitive or flippant, not mirroring the current situation. Words carry weight, and the written word can be duplicitous as there’s no body language or tone to make intentions crystal clear. 

There are a few key things to consider when trying to reach an audience through copywriting: 

Write for your audience, not for yourself 

Remember who is reading your communication, and tailor it accordingly. Use language your audience understands. Do some research into your customer demographics and shape your words accordingly. If you have many different audiences and cannot find a middle ground that suits everyone, it might be better to do different versions.  

Don’t jump on the bandwagon 

Use words and phrases that are appropriate for your business and your message and stay clear of using certain words just because everyone else is. A message will have more impact if it is personal and specific to your brand, so make sure your brand essence shines through in everything you write. 

Be concise 

Less is usually more when it comes to copy. Storytelling has its place, but no one wants to read pages and pages of copy in order to decipher your message. Shorter, punchy paragraphs that guide the reader to your key messages is, well, key. 

Create a connection 

By using appropriate language and tone for your audience, you are halfway there to create a connection between you and the reader. But you also need to understand what they are looking for from your communication. Do they need help? Reassurance? Or do they want knowledge so they can compare your product to your competitors? If your writing offers valuable solutions to your reader, you are hitting the mark. And if your communication is helpful to them, even better. 

Highlight differences, not similarities 

Don’t tell your reader what you are doing that is similar to everyone else – tell them what makes your company unique. This could be the USP of your product, the way you have handled a situation or simple honesty about what you stand for. Your main message should be what makes you unique – and you can include more basic information further down the list. 

Avoid mistakes with grammar 

well known author might get away with writing a book without any punctuation, but it is not recommended in business communications. Pay attention to the way you use language to make it easier and more pleasurable for your reader. A missing apostrophe could lose you a sale from a stickler to the rules. A misplaced comma could change the entire meaning of your main message. And there is no excuse at all for misspelled words in business communications. If you are in doubt, get someone to check your work or use a resource like Grammarly to guide you. 

At Custard we utilise our vast marketing expertise and dedicate time to developing messaging and language for our clients that is appropriate for their brand and reaching their target audience. If you are looking at building your brand engagement within the hospitality industry, contact our team