Gini Dietrich

Taking the French Out of Your Content

By: Gini Dietrich | November 21, 2011 | 
75

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.

  • What a fun way to make us think about our message. Thankfully, I was, and still am not good at speaking French.

    • ginidietrich

      @scarlettimage LOL! That’s great in so many ways. Unless, of course, you’re in France. Then it might present a problem.

      • @ginidietrich@scarlettimage in france they all know english and love speaking it with americans

  • A great message and theme. As you know, I’m looking at the whole site in the near future — so will definitely keep the “French” in mind.

    • ginidietrich

      @adamtoporek And now I don’t have to give you this tip when we talk this week!

  • Still waiting on the post about French Toast and why it is superior to Pancakes in the morning. This is a Cooking Blog right? Been waiting months for a recipe and yet never get one. Why is that? When I type French Toast in the Google I get taken here. It is ranked number one in the search results. Maybe I should head over to @Shonali ‘s blog about bacon.

    Mark Schaefer gave me a few tips on this stuff. I had blog post about how many porn links are on Facebook Major Brand Pages. Of course the headline said ‘Facebook Brand Pages are Filled with Porn’ And it showed in my news on my landing page and he said and I quote ‘Howie you don’t want the word Porn on your landing page’

    Really good to have another set of objective eyes review your website.

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM Mmmmm…I love French toast. Also, you would know this if you were on FB, but my status on Saturday was that I feel left out because I’m not getting this porn spam everyone is talking about. But at least I know better than to put it in my headline.

      • rustyspeidel

        @ginidietrich@HowieSPM I’m happy to hook you up if you really want.

        • rustyspeidel

          @ginidietrich@HowieSPM I also make a MEAN french toast.

        • ginidietrich

          @rustyspeidel@HowieSPM I’ll bet your French toast would be really good on my homemade brioche.

  • You know Gini… you always do a good job of making me turn inward to examine what we’re doing at T60. We constantly preach to our clients to focus their videos on the audience’s needs, and I think we do a pretty good job of that ourselves when it comes to our social content… but our website? I’m now going to go page-by-page and re-examine.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    –Tony Gnau

    • ginidietrich

      @T60Productions It’s funny. cristerdelacruz and I are going through this very exercise right now. It’s kind of fun, actually!

  • belllindsay

    Gini, je prends acte au présent article. Qu’est-ce que vous avez contre les Français? Vous n’avez jamais eu un café au lait dans votre vie? Une baguette? Frites françaises? Sûr, la France se pencha sur la seconde Guerre mondiale, mais qui a été il ya longtemps. Mon plaidoyer pour vous est – s’il vous plaît arrêter la propagation de ce genre de faussetés au vitriol sur les Français. Ce n’est pas tout sur NOUS. Oh, et prendre cette latine de porc! Avec amour, Lindsay

    • @belllindsay

      oh la la, je crois que tu as utilise Google Translate car c’est vraiment affreux, n’est-ce pas, @John Falchetto . ? En tout cas, ça me fait rigole. Merci. 🙂

      (I can’t find the accent for the e in utilise or la la.)

      • belllindsay

        @Lisa Gerber@John Falchetto MERDE et TABERNAC!! Z’at Lisa, she eeze too smart pour moi! hahahaha

    • ginidietrich

      @belllindsay Ma très chère Lindsay, j’aime les Français. J’aime les frites françaises, Lattes, le vin, la mode, les accents. Je ne suis pas, cependant, l’amour du oui, oui, oui les gens utilisent dans leurs sites Web. Et, vous avez raison, je suis trop intelligent pour vous. Bécote et d’amour, de Gini

      • belllindsay

        @ginidietrich D’accord. Je t’embrasse. 🙂

        • ginidietrich

          @belllindsay Is LOL in French still LOL??

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich HAHAHA!! I’ve only got grade five french (at best) so I’m saying YES! 🙂

  • I thought this was going to be about profanity and that you were going to have a good old ding-dong with Danny Brown. Ah, *shrug* bof…

    Nonetheless, a timely reminder about the importance of giving far more than we take and avoiding the broadcast first, answer questions later default. Like the practical advice at the end as well, which is another method for giving more to our audiences, communities, customers etc. Merci beaucoup…. à votre santé!

    • ginidietrich

      @Steve Birkett LOL! I’m happy to write a blog post like that so as not to disappoint you.

  • I thought this was going to be about profanity and that you were going to have a good old ding-dong with Danny Brown. Ah, *shrug* bof…

    Nonetheless, a timely reminder about the importance of giving far more than we take and avoiding the broadcast first, answer questions later default. Like the practical advice at the end as well, which is another method for giving more to our audiences, communities, customers etc. Merci beaucoup…. à votre santé!

  • I thought this was going to be about profanity and that you were going to have a good old ding-dong with Danny Brown. Ah, *shrug* bof…

    Nonetheless, a timely reminder about the importance of giving far more than we take and avoiding the broadcast first, answer questions later default. Like the practical advice at the end as well, which is another method for giving more to our audiences, communities, customers etc. Merci beaucoup…. à votre santé!

  • skooloflife

    Gini,

    Don’t get me started on the problem with company blogs. I don’t read any company blogs for the very reason you talk about. They don’t educate. The smartest thing I heard Marcus Sheridan say to me was “If I was going to build a team of content marketers, I would hire nothing but kindergarten teachers because they take complex concepts and simplify them all day long.” Granted he’s said plenty of other smart things, but that one was particularly memorable. What I’ve said is that people should tell stories about their products and stories about their customers using their products.

    • @skooloflife Oh man, you just gave me an idea for a blog post, as my daughter is an early childhood education major. Looks like I’ll be talking to her over the holiday…

    • ginidietrich

      @skooloflife Shhhhh! Don’t say that too loudly. He hangs out here, you know.

  • skooloflife

    Gini,

    Don’t get me started on the problem with company blogs. I don’t read any company blogs for the very reason you talk about. They don’t educate. The smartest thing I heard Marcus Sheridan say to me was “If I was going to build a team of content marketers, I would hire nothing but kindergarten teachers because they take complex concepts and simplify them all day long.” Granted he’s said plenty of other smart things, but that one was particularly memorable. What I’ve said is that people should tell stories about their products and stories about their customers using their products.

  • I might be showing my age but I thought of Mr. French and Uncle Bill who both would tell you that you shouldn’t take all the French out. You want to tell your prospects and customers what “we” can do together.

    • ginidietrich

      @TheJackB I agree with that. But, as a general rule, it’s interesting to see how much of your copy is written about how great you are and not about the customer or how “we” can work together.

  • This is one of those posts that you could repeat several times a year as we all need these reminders on a regular basis.

    • ginidietrich

      @KenMueller And I just might!

  • LOVE the group activity!! Totally wish I had been there to see that one Gini 🙂

    Isn’t it amazing what can happen when business owners take a true analytical look at their website and the content potential therein?!

    Much thanks,

    Marcus

    • ginidietrich

      @Marcus_Sheridan It was really fun AND they let me write on their walls. Anyone who lets me write on their walls is ultra cool in my book.

  • mdyoder

    Great headline, Gini. Love the “we, we, we…” I couldn’t agree more that the focus needs to be on our customers. Thanks for the poignant reminder!

    • ginidietrich

      @mdyoder I love to say that…it definitely sticks with people.

  • Merci Mamade, c’est tres bonne.

    • madame….. oops

      • ginidietrich

        @Nic_Cartwright De rien.

  • At first I was confused at the French headline then I laughed out loud when I got to the punchline. Thanks for making me smile and giving some great food for thought. And just in time for Thanksgiving.

    • ginidietrich

      @Anthony_Rodriguez Mmmm….Thanksgiving. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

      • @ginidietrich Homemade cranberry sauce and candied yams. Yum, yum, yum. What about you?

        • ginidietrich

          @Anthony_Rodriguez I love making homemade cranberry sauce because it makes the house smell sooooo good! How was your Thanksgiving?

        • @ginidietrich It was good. Although my family was spread across the U.S. for Thanksgiving, we were able spend time with my father in law. We ran a four-miler and had Boston Market cook dinner for us.

  • Neicolec

    Such an important point. We’re preparing for a long-overdue update of our own website, and were just talking about how the home page needs to be the place where the user sees “There, that’s what I need” and clicks. It’s about the user recognizing that, yes, this is the place/resource/info I was looking for.

    • ginidietrich

      @Neicolec Isn’t it funny how the shoemaker’s children have no shoes??

  • rustyspeidel

    Gini est une puce, une femme drôle et nous sommes chanceux de l’avoir autour. Peut-être qu’un jour elle sera une célébrité!

    • ginidietrich

      @rustyspeidel I would like to translate what you said for everyone, “Gini is a smart, funny woman and we are lucky to have him around. Maybe one day it will be a celebrity!”

      Him?!?

      • rustyspeidel

        @ginidietrich According to who?? Google FQ#*(&Q translator?? Don’t believe that POS!

      • rustyspeidel

        @ginidietrich I will admit my french is a little, well, Rusty!!

        • ginidietrich

          @rustyspeidel That, literally, made me laugh out loud

      • @ginidietrich@rustyspeidel I think he was talking about my version of “Gini”

  • Great seminar; sounds like you put everybody to work. I would have had to leave to go comb my hair or something. Didn’t you get paid for this gig?

    We do have a new website coming out in about a week; I guess I better go check it to make sure we didn’t we we all over ourselves. I just wanted to make sure they had enough pictures of me on there. That will drive traffic don’t you think……………..away………………..:).

    Do you have that turkey thawing yet?

    • ginidietrich

      @bdorman264 You know what I love to do more than anything? Get paid to make other people work. In fact, I’ll say, “This is the part where you pay me while you do the work.” Bwahahahaha!

      Are there pictures of you on the new site in a Speedo? If not, you’re safe.

      • @ginidietrich I tried but they wanted to see the pic first; unfortunately it was unanimous not to include. I couldn’t vote because it would have been a conflict of interest. I even had a spray on tan………..

        You know I bought that brand new just for your pool party and still haven’t been able to wear it in public.

        • ginidietrich

          @bdorman264 Why didn’t they let me vote??

  • Hi Gini,

    I was thinking more of “Pardon my French,” when I read the headline, but the “We we we” is so pervasive out there, isn’t it? And we don’t need any profanity here 🙂

    Actually this is a great exercise and would love to get some clients to really think this through much more than they do. Makes me think I need to refocus a bit too 😉 I spend a lot of time convincing clients how important great copy is, but now to focus less on the “We we we.” Great points here.

    Oh, I also like what Srini (well Marcus) said about building a team of kindergarten teachers. Boy do people overcomplicate things.

    Da Bears!! So, what about the Cutler fractured thumb?

    • ginidietrich

      @Craig McBreen You know, I yelled at Cutler when he went in for that tackle. But no one ever listens to me. I’m just a girl.

      • @ginidietrich I guess he didn’t want anyone to think he was a girl 🙂 You know those Bears are old school tough.

  • How is it that the exact message you need to hear appears when you most need to hear it? Next week’s priority: reconfiguring my blogsite. Great advice. Cheers! Kaarina

    • ginidietrich

      @KDillabough I’m reading your mind. Bwahahaha!

      • @ginidietrich I thought so! And hey…I even quote you and this post in my blog post today….mwahahahaha

  • Love that – we we we = French. Maybe it’s due to coming up in the Site Sell days of the web, or studying sales, but the lesson was always to be you-focused. Love love love.

    • ginidietrich

      @Tinu Websites were created as digital brochures where you could go to get more information about the company. But times…they are a changin!

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  • ryancox

    This was so darn good. I loved this idea. I’m re-writing some copy for someone right now and THIS WILL BE A HUGE value add! #highfive @ginidietrich ! I’d sum this up generally to mean this — the more you focus on your customers the more they’ll focus on you. It’s a lesson we can never stop learning.

    SIDE RANT: I changed from coxymoney to ryancox for disqus and I lost ALLLLLL of my pts! #angryface lmao

    • ginidietrich

      @ryancox Guess you shouldn’t have changed! You’ll always be Coxy moeny to me.

    • ginidietrich

      @ryancox Guess you shouldn’t have changed! You’ll always be Coxy Money to me!

  • Excusez moi? Taking the French Out of Your Content? Oh, je comprend maintenant, “we we.” Yes, people are much more interested in “you, you.” Getting to “us, us” is the real goal, and that takes “win win.” Good one, Gini.

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