Imagine a friend has set you up on a blind date with a person your friend just raves will be the person of your dreams (can you see disaster coming?), and after much cajoling, you finally agree to meet this “wonderful” person for dinner.
Now imagine this person spends the entire evening talking about himself or herself. About his/her career, hobbies, dog, exploits, travels, etc. On and on this evening goes as you mentally plot the ideal way to murder your now ex-friend.
Unfortunately, most websites, advertisements and company brochures I see take the same approach as this obnoxious date. These ads/websites/marketing materials talk about the company, the product, the service, how long the company has been in business, vain and unsubstantiated claims, pictures of top executives’ smiling faces, or laundry lists of services offered. Blah, blah, blah.
I call this approach to copywriting, “push communication,” because these writers feel compelled to thrust their agendas on the hapless readers. The one glaring difference between culprits of push communication and the obnoxious date, is that it’s hard to gracefully escape the obnoxious date, whereas the reader can flip the page away from a self-centered ad, click away from a boring web site or throw a useless brochure into the trash.
Now let’s contrast this to what I call “pull communication.”
“Pull communication” is dictated by what the reader wants and what interests the reader. The reader’s interests “pull” the dialogue forward. Every word written on an ad, website or marketing materials is written with the intent to solve the reader’s problems or help the reader achieve a goal.
I am reading a very interesting book called, “Your Attention Please” written by Paul B. Brown (no relation to me) and Alison Davis, that talks about this very point. To cure the problem of “me” focused communications, Brown and Davis suggest taking a close look at an industry that does a remarkably good job of writing to address readers’ needs and wants: service magazines.
These magazines, like Better Homes and Gardens, Men’s Health, Money, Self, Family Circle or Prevention, craft every single article to show readers what they want to learn. Articles in these magazines are on topics like how to lose weight, how to raise emotionally secure kids, how to get the most out of a fifteen minute workout, how to grow a flower garden, how to attract the ideal mate, or how to prevent a serious illness.
All these topics are examples of “pull communication,” because the spotlight is on the reader and it is what the reader wants. The reader dictates what is said, not what the writer wants to say.
So if you find your website, advertisements or marketing materials are starting to take on a, “Hello, this is who we are and this is what we do,” character, pick up a stack of magazines and see if they will give you ideas that will improve your “pull communications” skills.
And also, pick up a copy of “Your Attention Please.” It will be money well spent.
COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown