"We have appointed Peter "Craze" Sheridan, a world-class berserker, as the advance man for the crew. This is a truly deranged idea, but fun! You never can tell what might happen when you let a gin-soaked, acid-addled yahoo from Chevy Chase, Virgini, loose on an unsuspecting world, but you know it's going to be interesting."
Living With The Dead, by Rock Scully and David Dalton
A lot of professional services people, particularly attorneys, are incredibly boring. Granted, I'm pretty easily bored, but if your profession, temperament and circumstances result in a career in, say, administrative law, you're not going to put a lot of importance on being entertaining. Professionally this makes lots of sense, but when it comes to marketing and business development, it can be the kiss of death.
Unlike in law, in marketing, people do not have to read your writing or listen to you speak. This is a seemingly obvious point, but it often goes directly against the basic nature of a lot of my clients. If you write and file a brief in a legal case, the other side has to read it and respond to it, even if it's 900 pages long and the written equivalent of 20 milligrams of Ambien.
In marketing, it's just the opposite. The vast majority of people exposed to what you have to say will simply ignore it. Unfortunate, a little hard to take, perhaps, but absolutely true. Consumer advertisers know this, of course, and hire armies of creative to figure out what will capture people's interest. Sometimes the results can be fascinatingly silly and seemingly completely pointless-- consider Burger King's "Subservient Chicken" website, featuring an obedient life-sized chicken in a sleazy-looking hotel room. It's not easy to understand what the point is, but it's definitely not boring.
A nice post in yesterday's Copyblogger (my new favorite blog) does a great job of addressing this problem. First, it refers to a recent post by the mighty Seth Godin about how being boring can completely wreck a marketing program, and second, it also refers to another Copyblogger post with the unsubtle title "How To Be Interesting". Although the post is specifically written to help people write better blog posts, its recommendations are also applicable to any kind of marketing writing. As example:
14) Be irreverent: Want to stir people up? Make fun of their god, their politics, their family — anything they hold dear. Yes, they’ll be offended, but lots of other people will think it’s hilarious. If you can’t stomach being hated by a portion of the world and loved by another, then you don’t deserve to have a blog.
All of this advice should be applied judiciously (i.e., one recommended way to be interesting is "show a (half) naked woman." Uh, maybe not. Still, if y ou thin you might need some tips on how to zip up your marketing, especially your writing, take a look.