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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.

64 comments
AstroGremlin
AstroGremlin

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.

ryancox
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

Tinu
Tinu

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.

Latest blog post: quote bucket

KDillabough
KDillabough

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

Craig McBreen
Craig McBreen

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?

bdorman264
bdorman264

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?

rustyspeidel
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!

Neicolec
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.

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

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.

mdyoder
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!

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

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

TheJackB
TheJackB

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.

Latest blog post: A Letter To The Universe

skooloflife
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.

Steve Birkett
Steve Birkett

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!

belllindsay
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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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
ginidietrich moderator

@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
ginidietrich moderator

@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?!?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@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.)

KDillabough
KDillabough

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

Craig McBreen
Craig McBreen

@ginidietrich I guess he didn't want anyone to think he was a girl :) You know those Bears are old school tough.

bdorman264
bdorman264

@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.

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

@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.

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