If you have worked as a content strategist, copywriter or “translator of technical jargon,” then you know that content strategist Allison Callan is spot on when she says, “It can be just as hard to convince the client as it is to write.” Any professional who is a professional communicator knows that persuasion is just as important a tool in the toolbox as is recognizing a transitive verb.
The art of persuasion comes from knowing the details. Learning the nitty gritty comes from working with different professionals across the organization and pushing them to color in the lines for you so you can translate for wider audiences. You can’t do the critical work of content, like establishing voice and tone, until you know exactly what it is you’re trying to describe and why it matters to anyone else. As Allison explains, “Clients want to say: We make servers. But, your prospect isn’t interested in that. Isn’t one server the same as the other? No, they’re not? Well talk to me about that.”
Allison also shared what it’s like to create and manage content with lawyers. Currently, Allison is a copywriter/editor at a financial institution in Seattle, WA and she has great insight into how to work within a regulated industry.
Getting Started in Content
Allison ultimately landed at a health insurance company, working primarily on the web. There, her skills on defining messaging and voice and tone were challenged because health insurers have so many audiences. Selling individual coverage is a complicated product and the subject matter was confusing and needed translating for all of those core, interested audiences.
Allison loved the challenge—she learned that she loved to take things that are complicated and confusing—“clarifying them without oversimplifying things or being condescending. I enjoyed taking the jargon out of it and, when necessary, defining it. I understood that my job was to make people feel comfortable with that topic.”
As content professionals, ultimately that is our goal—to make our customers feel comfortable enough with topics so they can make decisions and choices. To do that, we need to learn to work with the subject matter experts in our organizations, so they can give us all those juicy details that compel our target audiences to act. Allison explains, “You have to draw out that information and frame it in a way that’s understandable to your next door neighbor or your mother.”Content MUST support the customers in achieving their goals—one way to do that is to ensure that it’s as understandable to them as any other subject they enjoy and know intimately.
All of Allison’s experiences up until this point brought her to the perfect job for her—explaining complicated brokerage topics to lay audiences. She explains establishing messaging, voice and tone, as well as what it’s like to work in content in a heavily regulated industry.
Establishing Voice and Tone
Allison and her team socialized and explained the guide by explaining that tone is a subset of a voice. By putting types of media in each of those quadrants, they explained that at different times and on different channels, you can and will use different tones. For example, when the website is down and you want to use social media to communicate that, you need to be completely clear, and say “the website is down.” You don’t want to be witty about that; instead, you want to provide the information your customer wants to have at that moment. At other times on social media, it may make sense to be witty, because those types of posts are shared more often.
Creating Content in a Regulatory Environment
She also says it’s important to validate their concerns: “Express that you know where they are coming from—they have an important job to do and explain that you know that. But, there has to be an acceptable level of risk—business owners have to decide what that is and creative and compliance needs to shape their efforts around that.”
Allison also adds that you must define the exact nature of the compliance issue: “It’s good to ask, ‘What does it mean I can’t use that word? Like ever? Or in this particular case?’ ”
So, it’s a 3-step process for working with regulatory folks—
- State the problem and ask them how to solve it
- Validate their concerns
- Define the exact nature of their concern
Content professionals know that working in highly regulated industries can be challenging, especially when trying to establish a consistent, comfortable tone to explain these typically jargon-filled topics to audiences. As Allison explains, “Your goal is to pull people in—tell me why I care about that before you tell me what that is. That’s why working with the product people, as well as the compliance people, is so important: I can always do a better job of weaving in the personality of our company by understanding the details. Voice and tone are not window dressing. Rather, it’s something that needs to be woven throughout.”