• A second set of eyes: Even the stars of business and social media need good copy

    A second set of eyes: Even the stars of business and social media need good copy

    Typos, misspellings, poor wording, badly phrased ideas: all of them are coming from the social accounts of brands, business personalities and other people who want your money.

    Have you ever noticed how much bad copy is around on the internet?

    This idea is never far from my mind but it hit me anew as I was reading the sample chapter of a book I had been anticipating. The author is a well-known commentator on innovation and technology who has a popular and engaging social media presence, so I was excited to see how he came across in long-form.

    However, as I started to read it, I got a sinking feeling. Although the interesting ideas I was expecting were there, the prose…was static. Like someone had transcribed it from a speech. As any good journalist knows, speech is a fickle thing: sometimes the transcription can make a person sound foolish when in fact he is an erudite and articulate speaker. Written communication is a different beast.

    Then I encountered a typo. Then another. A misplaced inverted comma. A double spacing.

    Small things, really, but something that can and should be easily fixed.

    (I am very aware that I’m setting myself up for ridicule should this article itself have any of the above. Such is life.)

    In fact, what the sample chapter most looked like to me was a pitch document. ‘This chapter is where I’ll do this’ and ‘from there I’ll move into that’. There was no finesse, no building of arguments.

    I then noticed that some basic, checkable facts were wrong.

    Next came a laboured, extended metaphor. Then a mixed metaphor within that first one. And it just kept going. At least put some self-effacing references to the fact that your metaphor is cumbersome! That might at least buy some time from your readers before they give up.

    I thought to myself, “Surely somebody should have picked up on this when it was being edited”.

    If I didn’t know any better I’d think this business guru had gone the self-publishing route. Maybe he dealt with a publisher who exercised no editorial oversight. What might have been a fun, insightful read became a slog because of something relatively basic: communication skills.

    Bad communication is everywhere

    But these kinds of communication errors are everywhere and often from the leaders in their respective fields.

    I remember being similarly disheartened when I followed some of the ‘sharks’ from the TV show Shark Tank and saw how poor some of their writing skills are. Sure, that’s not what they’re best at — they’re business experts after all, not copywriters — but for a crop of people constantly telling people to always be at your best and work hard, some have had trouble grasping the basics.

    In my previous role as a magazine editor, I would often encounter a similar habit in fitness professionals. These Adonises would post on social media admonishing others for not working hard enough and just ‘hardening up’, ‘put it in the work’ and getting things done. But ask them to fill out a questionnaire, tee up a phone interview or write an article and suddenly they had ‘no time’.

    So, sometimes ‘hard work’ is really just a matter of prioritising what’s important to a person.

    This is all fine! But it might be time to bring in the experts if you need some professional communication.

    Good communication skills are important

    When you’re in the business of communication, bad or incorrect copy shows up everywhere.

    I recently received an email from SBSOnDemand: ‘The Handmaiden’s are back’ (sic) said its subject line. How did this slip through?

    You begin to appreciate how special good communication skills actually are. We should all learn them from a young age but with recent news that one of the world’s leading education experts thinks the NAPLAN is teaching kids to be poor writers, it doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

    Business gurus talk a big game. Gary Vee can say you should just get your product out there, no matter how rough around the edges it is. And maybe that’s true — as long as your business isn’t professional communication.

    ‘Just do it’ is all well and good when what you’ve just done isn’t your core business. But for us media professionals, journalists and copywriters, it’s the equivalent of Gary Vee shipping off wine in a plastic bottle.

    If your business is communication, you better make damn sure you know how to communicate.

    We can help

    One thing we offer at Hook Media is a copywriting and editing service, be it subbing your e-book, creating copy for your website or helping you create your own branded publication. With experienced journalists on our team, we’re ideally placed to help our clients make sure they are always communicating well.

    After all, first impressions matter. Your brand might only get one chance to make sure it looks professional. That could be the difference between getting a customer and not.

    And for those gurus posting all manner of bad copy on their LinkedIn accounts, if you do ever get self-conscious about it, give us a call. We just might be able to help.

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