Gini Dietrich

Taking the French Out of Your Content

By: Gini Dietrich | November 21, 2011 | 
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Earlier this month, I conducted a workshop for a small group of business leaders.

It’s one of my most favorite things to do because the groups are typically 20-25 people so we can really dig into their business strategies, look at their web properties, and diagnose a few things that can be changed quickly for immediate success.

During this particular session, I put a slide up on the screen that had the following four content ideas (thanks to Marcus Sheridan for a couple of these ideas): Questions people ask, challenges/issues, versus, or pricing.

I asked each of them to choose one of the four topics and to write down five headlines that fit.

For instance, for “questions people ask,” one business leader took it from the stance of a candidate interviewing for a job and the types of things they’d want to know before they interviewed. Another chose “vs.” and wrote some really great headlines that were very specific to his industry, such as “the cloud vs. a server” and “online privacy vs. social networks.”

At the end of that exercise, we opened their websites, on the screen, and I asked them to count how much French was on their home pages (the we, we, we).

They each reluctantly admitted their sites were all about them and not about the customer. One business leader even went so far as to say his website doesn’t tell anyone what they do and that it’s confusing.

I recount this story because nearly every business has these issues. Our websites, our blogs, our content, and our social media is all about us. We forget we’re not the audience and we also forget that no one likes our businesses as much as we do. People care about our businesses only when they are successful because they work with us.

We’re approaching the holiday season and 2012 planning. Now is a great time to gather a team of people together for a day, spread all of your content (brochures, print out of your website, sales materials, ads, white papers, newsletters, etc.) on the conference room table and, using a red pen, begin removing the French. But you won’t just remove the we, we, we…you’ll also remove the “us” and any other words that make it focused on you.

Then, take an hour, and conduct the exercise I describe above by asking each person to choose one of the four topics and write five to 10 headlines.

By the end of that meeting, you’ll have a new focus for all of your materials, as well as the start to some new content. And, suddenly, you’ll have a business focused on the customer and not on you.

This first appeared in my weekly Crain’s column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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