Being “on-message” is the worst thing you can do.

rob ford on messageIf you want to engage your readers, earn their trust and turn them into customers, the worst thing you can do is write content and sales copy that is “on-message”.

Online content and copy that is on-message has about as much power as a politician who has been overly trained by his or her media trainers and speech writers.

The outcome lacks all authenticity. It’s BS, and we know it.

I recently returned from a trip to the UK where the country had just voted to choose their representatives for the European parliament.

What usually happens is a win by the Conservatives or the Labour Party, with the Lib Dems taking third place.

This time, the winner was a new, upstart party called Ukip.

The leader of Ukip is a fellow called Nigel Farage.

What separates him from the other party leaders is that he comes across as being 100% authentic. He isn’t “smooth”. He occasionally says things in public he probably regrets a few minutes later. And some of his Ukip candidates seem to be total nutjobs.

But none of this matters. Because when you behave in a way that is truly authentic – not carefully crafted faux-authentic – people will forgive you almost anything.

Farage swept the floor with his opponents not because his policies were overwhelmingly better, but because he was the only leader in the race who came across as a real person. The others were too careful to stay on-message, too worried about putting a foot wrong, too slick, too well trained by their media handlers.

In other words, nobody believed them or trusted them.

You can see the same dynamic playing out with Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford. Most politicians fail to survive even one minor scandal. He has survived numerous, serious scandals because he is real.

Rob Ford is never “on-message”. If he ever had any media handlers or trainers, they probably threw up their hands and gave up years ago.

The point being that people love true authenticity. They love real people, warts and all.

The same goes for your web content and your sales copy.

It works best when it is real, imperfect, flawed and human.

It bombs when it is too carefully crafted, edited to be on-message by the marketing suits, and scrubbed clean by the legal department.

We don’t trust politicians who are too slick and polished.

And we don’t trust content and copy that is too slick and polished.

No…I don’t want you to spend an extra hour on your copy, making sure it has the “feel” of authenticity. That’s BS and will fool nobody.

If you want to win the hearts and minds of your readers and prospects, your writing has to BE authentic.

Easier said than done, of course. You’ll have to fight everyone in the company to make this happen.

But as we see in politics, the rewards for being true, authentic and “off message” are considerable.

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

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2 thoughts on “Being “on-message” is the worst thing you can do.”

  1. Good day Nick. Thanks for this article. It would seem that is one of the reasons for the popularity of blogs. Grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes, whatever, the bloggers are considered real and worth following. Even on e-commerce sites selling one product it is important to have a negative or at least less than positive review otherwise people don’t trust the product.

  2. When I studied advertising this newspaper ad placed by Shackleton for one of his expeditions was considered one of the greatest at producing results. Thousands responded.

    “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

    Hard to get more real.


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