By Luc Wade, Marketing Director at Hive Business.
A few of my clients mentioned in passing that they were asked by the people who built their websites — some of the sector’s most prominent designers — to supply the content. I find this gobsmacking. It seems self evident to me this is a bad idea, but if it’s not obvious to these suppliers I’ll explain why. I don’t blame dentists for doing what they’re asked to do by their suppliers.
Firstly, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding about the purpose of a website. Perhaps dentists are being encouraged to put a lot of value in website technology but not content, yet all the technical stuff is doing is giving you a platform to share your ideas. And if websites are being sold as GDC compliant it’s a red herring if you’re being asked to write the copy yourself.
If you read that and thought “I am putting value in my content, that’s why I’m writing it” you’re right, you’re paying a lot in lost earnings and lost sleep, way more than a professional writer would charge. And yet doing it yourself won’t just not necessarily translate into success, success is extremely unlikely. We’re talking about writing 10,000 words with no errors of any kind. That’s close to impossible for someone who doesn’t write professionally.
If you’re thinking “a few typos never hurt anyone” I’m afraid you’re mistaken. A few typos did and do hurt people. Typos are never a good thing, but especially not across your shop window. I know literacy standards are getting mushy to the point of total collapse, but there’s a reason that serious businesses go to great lengths to avoid errors in their messaging. To be seen to make errors is no joke; you can bet the reader loses faith each time they read their instead of there or sees another grocer’s apostrophe.
Much more than that can go wrong. Think about what good writing does. It gives you, the reader, a sense of something effortlessly, without you having to try. That’s because the writer has crafted her words and re-crafted them, taking a scalpel to anything that gets in the way. She compresses and clarifies again and again. Hopefully she’s doing something along the lines of George Orwell’s six rules for writing:
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
People who write professionally break these rules, as Orwell did himself, because writing well is so very hard. They make lots of other mistakes too, which is why they have sub-editors and editors, who also make mistakes. What you get with professional writers however is well crafted language with very few mistakes. If it wasn’t already obvious, research by the global marketing agency Wunderman in January found that the language a brand uses to describe its offer has a huge impact on whether consumers view them as the ‘best’ in their category.
If being viewed as the best is desirable to you you’re going to have to compress a lot of technical jargon into copy that the layman can read easily and feel informed, while getting a sense of your brand. So no grammatical errors, no straying off brand, and no jargon. You’ll need just the right touch of emotion, accuracy and effect.
Nearly all dental websites say “Quality, caring, affordable cosmetic and family dentist”. This isn’t what people want to see, they want to know why you’re special. If you understand what you’re selling there’s a huge opportunity in dentistry to grow by communicating an experience that’s unique compared to competitors in your area. That fundamentally involves the messaging you put on your website. Please don’t parrot what you’ve seen and heard, and please don’t write it yourself — your best effort will fall short. I’m not saying you’re a bad writer, I’m saying you’re not a writer.
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