Monday, March 29, 2010

Avoiding Repetitive, Nonspecific Verbiage in Copy

by Janae Cummings, PR Associate

When creating marketing communications for multiple clients in the same industry, it’s hard to avoid repetitive verbiage. It’s not for lack of trying, mind you, or an inability to locate a thesaurus (I own two). The problem is that companies in the same niche often develop products that are best described by a few generic but somewhat enticing words. You’ll know them if you see them. They are terms such as clean, modern and, my favorite – bold – the ubiquitous word of the moment for beer manufacturers.

For the machine tool manufacturing industry, marketing communications seem to center around these four terms: dynamic, robust, versatile and precise. I don’t care what the product is or what it can do; one of the following will always be true:

1) It is so dynamic, robust, versatile and precise that the owner will increase productivity and profitability
2) It is so dynamic, robust and precise that the owner will increase versatility, and, thusly, boost productivity and profitability.

Persuasive stuff, right? I’m sure it was – the first time around. But when you are writing copy for companies seeking to stand out amongst a sea of competitors who always use variations on the above language to communicate, you have to find more compelling ways to get your points across.

The first step is recognizing that terms like these are little more than all-encompassing buzzwords. Are they accurate? Sure – to one degree or another. Do you have to use them? I don’t think so. They may sound good but, in the end, they fail at the mission, which is piquing a reader’s interest and motivating them either to seek out more information or make a purchase.

If I say that a machine tool has dynamic features, what does that really mean? Compared to an ’83 Yugo, my ’03 Jeep Wrangler may be dynamic, but next to a Ford Mustang? Not so much. But what if dynamic is actually referring to design or even the behavior of specific parts and not the overall performance. Who’s to say?

That is why the second and most important step is returning to the technical information to see what more you can learn. While gaining a better understanding of a product’s various features and benefits, you will also figure out which elements separate it from the competition. Maybe it offers higher power or faster acceleration speeds. Perhaps it’s better for the environment. Whatever the advantages, they should be your primary source for developing enticing, persuasive copy. If you can find a way to communicate that information in a concise and compelling manner, concerns about repetitive, nonspecific verbiage will be a thing of the past.

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