01.05.2015

How I Got Where I Wanted to Go, Every Time – Through Words

Verity Campbell talks about the power of words in your marketing activities

I received a phone call from a friend recently. She had finished a demanding course and had started job hunting. From 12 job applications, she’d had one interview. (Unsuccessful.)

After listening to her trials, I told her a story about my own job-hunting days, and what I learnt that changed my luck for the better. I think this story can help you too.

I wanted to move into publishing. I’d been a Lonely Planet travel writer for some years, but a baby was on the way and it was time to switch jobs. I started work on a standard resume. My blurb in the ‘skills‘ section read something like this:

‘Authored Lonely Planet Turkey guide. Research and wrote guide, managing a team of authors.’

But then an article I’d read sparked a rewrite of that blurb to:

‘Wrote 180,000 words in six weeks, to deadline. Led and mentored a team of five co-authors, from five separate geographic locations, through briefing, research and write-up to submission. 50,000 copies of Lonely Planet Turkey sold in over 20,000 bookstores, from Sorrento, to Nairobi, to New York. Sales up 25%.’

It made me a little uncomfortable to be so ‘out there’ but I decided to push through that fear. With my new approach, every job I went for I was interviewed for, and it wasn’t long before I had a great new job.

So what was the difference? The new blurb:

  • Spells out what it takes to get a project like this completed: the demands of the role.
  • Assumes, without being patronising, that the reader knows little about the subject matter. It outlines the process and makes it comprehensible.
  • Uses figures to show scope, length and impact. These are proof: measureable and comparable metrics.

I think the most important takeout here is that we often assume people know what we know (the ‘curse of knowledge’). We don’t think to share our design or business processes or our stats as a way to connect with our readers – who could be prospective clients or employers.

Instead, we talk about being a ‘multi-disciplinary design practice specialising in contemporary custom design’. The reader’s eyes glaze over – the language is jargon, the process is hidden, the passion and proof is absent.

From your site signage, to your ‘About Us’, to your fee proposals and Facebook posts, I encourage you to think about how your business’s communications can make your readers take notice. It’s not about being louder, it’s about being more approachable, more engaging and more honest. To help you with this, the next time you sit down to write something for your business, you might find these steps useful:

1. Assume your clients know nothing about what it takes to do your job;

2. Use facts and figures to support your case;

3. Share your passion: the challenges you faced, the ideas you came up with to resolve them, and the results.

Writing, marketing and communications for design businesses. Join Verity Campbell’s weekly newsletter for new ideas, tips and advice for your building design practice. Sign up at www.veritycampbell.com.au/newsletter

Verity Campbell Communications: www.veritycampbell.com.au