Recently we’ve been asked by NGOs (that’s non-government organisations) to redesign their websites.
NGOs are in a tricky place. They’re not business entities BUT they do a lot of work which benefits the community.
But most NGOs I know think and act like NGOs.
NGOs have a role in our community. They address issues that the Government doesn’t, or have no resources for.
You’d think with all that passion and enthusiasm for their work and the good that they do for the world, they’d have a lot more sassiness in their writing!
But most NGOs write stuff that won’t even raise a dead gold fish!
Here’s an example:
This place celebrates the humble sand and its place in modern technology. Integrated circuits together with other electronic components are now a cornerstone of modern day devices and appliances. Exhibits will show the insides of everyday devices like smartphones, computers and cars. Visitors will learn how electronic components are made and how they “talk” with each other to perform functions in our electronic devices.
What’s wrong with the above paragraph?
It reads like a cold, impersonal essay. Where’s the enthusiasm for this place which is supposed to be a state-of-the-art science park? Who writes stuff like this anyway? Where’s the soul of this piece?
Where is the “marketing” in this paragraph? What’s that thing that gets me excited about this science park?
So how can this piece be improved?
Sand is what you see on the beach and it is also the stuff that drives technology! The chips in your smartphone, computer and car are made from silicon, the main ingredient in sand. Sand makes ultra-pure silicon and in turn these become wafers which transform into the chips for your technology devices. Get smart and learn how everyday stuff and more are made when you visit our science park today!
So what changed?
First, write for one person, one reader, one website visitor. Notice how I got closer to you simply by using words like “your” and “our”. I am no longer addressing the air around me – I am addressing you.
Second, write as if you’re explaining something to a 6 year old. If you can explain something complex to a 6 year old, know that you have made your point.
If your words are a convoluted mess, there’s really no point in writing. If you don’t write to be understood, then what are you writing for?
Words like “perform”, “exhibits”, “components”, “cornerstone” and more read like an academic thesis.
Who uses such words in everyday language? Many people believe they will sound more sophisticated if they use complex words in their writing.
Sophistication comes from the ability to explain complex matters in simple daily language.
If you can’t explain it simply enough, you don’t know it enough.
Go back to the proverbial drawing board and do more research.
Read until you get it.
Once you get it, you can write it. If you can’t write it, it shows you haven’t gotten it!
Third, write like you speak. When you write like you speak, you tend to use simpler words and shorter sentences.
Conversations are fun because sentences are short.
You don’t go on and on in conversations, do you?
And here’s the final reason: feed into the reader’s question: “Why should I visit the science park?”
Everyone loves to get smart and wow their friends. Watch your friend’s smile widen when you compliment her on how smart she is! People love the idea that they’re smarter than the rest of their friends.
This is a short primer on how to sass up your writing especially if you’re a copywriter.
Copywriters need to get into the shoes of their reader when they craft content for websites. You really need to walk a mile in their shoes and anticipate their needs and wants.
Most NGOs (and most businesses too) don’t give a damn about the words that are on their websites.
If the content (words and images) on the NGO website doesn’t move me, I wouldn’t donate or support their work. It’s as simple as that.
If the NGO website doesn’t look professional, I wouldn’t have much confidence in the NGO’s work even though the NGO might be doing great stuff offline.
If the NGO website doesn’t speak to me in words I can understand, I mentally “switch off” and refuse to read the rest of the website.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – NGOs are exactly like businesses.
All of us have a message that we want to persuade with.
If your website doesn’t have the right ingredients to persuade with, it’s time you figured out why.
If you’re not getting donors and supporters, how do you continue doing all that you do? If you want to continue doing what you do, pay attention to your overall brand communications and aesthetics.
Start with something as simple as the words on your website.
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