When my sister and I were kids, we were forbidden to swear. So, being resourceful young sprites, we developed a new word for those special moments when mild profanity was really the only thing that would do the trick. The word was bulltwang.
Bulltwang was the go-to label we applied in situations where we knew that someone was spinning us a story. When we were being told something that was…not exactly lies, but certainly not the truth. Kindly uncles with long stories about their youthful acts of heroism were the worst culprits. Even as eight and eleven year-olds, our bulltwang detectors were finely tuned.
Decades have now passed, but the bulltwang is still out there. As a writer and editor, I spend a lot of time immersed in business websites, and often I’m up to my watering eyeballs in the stuff.
Your website is your opportunity to tell the world who you are, what you do and why someone should part with their hard earned spondoolies to experience it. When it’s done well, it can be an immensely powerful tool.
The problem is of course, that writing about yourself or your own business is often deeply challenging. We feel enormous pressure to make a spectacular first impression that will convince people to support us, buy our product or use our service. Unfortunately, that pressure can get in the way of telling the story that really needs to be told. It can be terrifying, and sometimes, it can go a little pear shaped.
Here are some of the more common mistakes I encounter in websites:
The real trick is to know your story, tell it well, keep it honest but infuse it with all the passion you feel for what you do.
So how do you do that?
The first thing to remember is that you don't have to write your website content, perfectly, all by yourself. There are plenty of talented copywriters and editors out there who can sculpt your ideas into beautiful copy. But you are the person who knows your business best, so only you can really know what that story is.
You’ll need to go a little analog here. Uncovering the heart of your story is a creative exercise and you need to engage the correct part of your brain to do it well. So, move away from your desk, your screen, your phone, the umbilical cord of the internet and find a pencil and paper—or coloured markers, or charcoal or whatever you fancy, but make sure it’s something tactile. It’s important that you physically write things down in this exercise.
At this point it might be really helpful to engage some other people in your process. Close, trusted friends or colleagues can reflect what they think your business is about and what is special about your offering. Brand and marketing specialists can cut to the core of your story or help you to tease out your ideas and identify what lies at the heart of your business. The insights of others can be revelatory.
I do most of my creative thinking on the beach (except for the bit that I do in the shower—waterproof crayons have become an essential stationery item for my business). It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty about leaving my office to go and get the sand between my toes for an hour or so, but the difference that hour makes to my writing, my thinking and my productivity is huge. I always return with clarity and direction. So the beach has now legitimately become an extension to my office. Yes, lucky me.
Writing about yourself or your business can be difficult, and it does require a shift in thinking. But finding the essence of your story is a crucial first step to building successful marketing communications and online content. Without the bulltwang.
And so, onward!