The B2B writer’s #1 imperative: honor your audience.

I have mixed feelings when people refer to ‘the Velocity voice’.

I love that we have a distinctive, even recognisable way of writing and that people seem to respond to it.

But I wouldn’t want people to think that the way we write for ourselves is the same as the way we write for any (or, God forbid, every) client.

The last thing we want to do is make every client sound the same.

But there are some things that are shared by all our writing across all clients and all circumstances. And one of the most important of these is having respect for the audience. (Harry wrote about this in his post Only Fools and Prospects and I touch on it in The 15 B2B Copywriters I Don’t Want To Be).

Lazy, cliché-studded, patronising or paper-thin writing insults the audience. Audiences don’t like that.

Two of our writers posted videos about this on our #copy channel on Slack last week.

Instead of paraphrasing two of the world’s greatest writers (or giving you all a log-in to our Slack), I thought I’d just share them here.

First, Harry posted this interview with Christopher Hitchens (I grieved when he died in 2011 but I feel it even more today, when we so desperately need his voice). Here he is on respecting his readers (the first two-ish minutes are relevant here — but if you want to keep on watching, don’t let me stop you):

“Talk to everybody as you would talk to your smartest or wittiest pal. And the great discovery you make is that that’s how people quite like to be talked to.”

Boom.

Then Adam posted this one by George Saunders (also one of my favourite writers — check out Tenth of December for some absolutely wonderful short stories):

“Err on the side of honouring the reader’s intelligence.”

Bam.

If you commission writers for B2B audiences, you could do worse than asking them to watch these two videos as a standard part of your brief.

Comments

Totally agree, mainly with regards to the need of making the difference between writing for ourselves and writing for our audience. It takes a real involvement with their needs and problems.

    Thanks Mario — that does feel like the essence of the issue!

OK, I’ll bite 🙂 You asked in your newsletter why this blog (which makes a very important point about writing) only got 114 clicks. I’m going to suggest it’s because there’s a present participle in the headline, which (for reasons I blogged about once here: https://radix-communications.com/no-present-participle-headlines/) makes it sound not-urgent. Plus it’s aimed at B2B writers but they’re secondary in the headline, whereas we know that people like to read things that are about them. So I might re-arrange it as: The B2B writer’s #1 imperative: Honour the audience

    Great points, Fiona. I’m going to do that.
    (After checking won’t ruin the SEO juice).

    THANKS.
    If I knew it was that easy to get free advice from one of the best writers in B2B, I’d have done this long ago. (Um… it is free isn’t it?)

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