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“It was more of a put-down magazine, than something you’d actually pick up and read…”

That was one of the more insightful comments I heard at Content Marketing World in Sydney – from the refreshingly honest Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA). They were talking about their professional membership mag before they transformed it into something people actually wanted to read (and transformed their membership reach as a result).

We’ve talked about what makes copy boring before (passive language, buzzwords and jargon, for starters). But sometimes it’s not just the writing, but the entire process, message and positioning. And that’s harder to fix if it’s not working.

So here are three classic fails I learned about at the conference.

1. You forget your audience is human

Even if you sell, for example, Cloud software to other businesses, it’s not a business or a computer – or even the Google search monkey – making the decision about whether to get in touch or consider buying. It’s a real person. And B2B content can still tap into emotions – it doesn’t have to be dry and factual to get your message across.

Tim Washer from Cisco shared one unusually humourous way to get people to consider buying a $250,000 server just before Valentines Day. Watch it on YouTube, and then re-think whether you could tickle someone’s funny bone to make your message cut through.

2. You let committees write (or butcher) the content

Too many stakeholders spoil the broth. Inconsistent styles can make copy much harder to understand, so let one person take ownership for the content. If someone else has to sign off, make sure their terms are clear (for example: you’re signing off on legal, not grammar or style).

3. You don’t actually understand your own message

If it sounds overly complex, it might be because you’re not really sure how to explain what you’re talking about. That’s when long words and long-winded paragraphs start to creep into copy. So start again. Pretend you’re explaining it to a 10-year old, or your mum. Say it out loud. If you’re still not sure, ask someone else to explain it to you like you’re 10, and write that down.

We’re all busy, and boring content quite simply won’t get read – which means all your time and resources could be wasted. So it might be worth re-thinking your whole approach to content before you ask a writer to take a “quick look at it… and make it more engaging.”

What makes content boring for you? Let us know!

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