Friday, May 2, 2008

It's All About We

I was looking at a trade journal the other day, and started taking note of some the ads that stood out. There was one in particular for a law firm that stopped me with a compelling image. Unfortunately the rest was a disappointment. Reading it reminded me of listening to the person who corners you at a party and bores you to death talking about himself. The copy was riddled with "Our firm does this" and "this is what is important to us . . . blah blah blah." So what. In a message supposedly to engage potential customers, they used "we" seven times within a three sentence paragraph. This was the case with most of the professional services ads in the publication.

One breath of fresh air was an ad for a company marketing its services to the same audience. It didn't use the "we" word once. Interestingly they used "you" and "your"six times.

One of my favorite expressions is from a copywriter friend who always advised clients not to "we all over the page." He was referring to the use of "we" and other pronouns (like "our" and "us") when writing marketing copy. It's an easy trap to fall into. It's a challenge to avoid the "we" word when writing about your business. His advice was to try frame the message as a benefit. People care about what's in it for them. When you start a sentence with "you" or "your", it's a lot easier to focus on what is of value to the reader. And you've already primed readers with their most interesting subject: themselves.

If you were a homeowner concerned with maintenance, which of the following sentences would be more engaging? "We are specialists in painted ceilings." Or, "You can extend the life of your porch with the right ceiling treatment."

It's easy to talk about yourself. And it's essential to do so when you're trying to promote yourself and your business. The hard part is to talk about you in a way that makes people want to listen. Replacing "we" with "you" is a good start.

Copyright 2008, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

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