One of the golden rules for any kind of writing is asking yourself whether what you want to say is what anyone really wants to hear. A good copywriter has to ask this question continuously of his or her own writing – and of what clients all too often seem determined to bore their audiences with…
Harsh, maybe. But fair. It’s our job to put ourselves in the reader’s shoes, and cut to the chase with the key messages before people are distracted by something more interesting or urgent, or simply switch off. So do they really want to know when a company was founded and how many staff there were, when it outgrew its humble beginnings, took over a smaller business, moved offices and changed its name? Who the chairman was in 1978, or who succeeded him or her? Or about the finer details of its brand values and how they ‘underpin the customer journey’. Are you still with us? Hello?
The ‘About us’ section is a staple of most company websites. And yes – in many cases, visitors will have a quick peek for insights into longevity, stability and so on, even if it’s just to develop a sense of whether it’s run by people who seem capable and pleasant enough to deal with. Often, though – and especially when the long-winded self-presentation is in brochures and other customer-facing literature – it can come across as corporate narcissism. Somewhere for senior management to bore us with how impressed they are with themselves. Which is pretty counter-productive, and can turn readers away in their droves. So what’s the remedy?
Ultimately, ask a copywriter. It might not be easy to discard most or all of the stuff the senior managers want to see, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider who it’s actually for (that’s right, the customers) and put yourself in their shoes. All people really want to know are the basics: Have these guys been around long enough to know their stuff? Do they seem like a responsible, reasonable bunch to work with? Do they care more about me than how great they think their company is?
If it answers ‘yes’ to one or all of these questions – assuming people will even read the ‘about us’ bits – in print or online – it’s worth doing. Otherwise, it’s not… so don’t!