Falling off the fence
I’ve written a couple of blogs for different organisations this month. They all had one thing in common; they wanted to give their opinion on something relevant to their industry or area of expertise without offending or alienating customers and service users. Which isn’t that simple, because it’s very easy to offend when you critique. Not because you’re being aggressive, but because others may be defensive.
To really withdraw from this risk, you need to sit on the fence. In this position, you can balance the view from both fields. Which is fine when you want to produce bland copy that helps people explore both sides of a coin. But, when you’re looking for something attention-grabbing, sitting on the fence – as the saying goes – gives you splinters. Personally, I don’t get on with opinion ‘from the fence’. Not just because I don’t want to spend my evening removing splinters, but because I don’t trust it.
So, what do you do? You take a clear position. Here are the benefits:
1. Your readers will be much clearer about what you’re offering / what your point is.
2. The copy will be far more focussed and therefore less frustrating to follow.
3. You will engage your readers quicker when you make a point rather than bounce around the views of others.
4. You will engender trust among your service users if they feel you’re being clear rather than woolly.
When I started this blog, I wrote about the word commitment and how I loathed it. I think you’ll find I was well and truly off the fence on that subject, but the sentiment is relevant here too. Don’t say something if you don’t mean it. Don’t be woolly, be clear. And don’t churn over existing thought if you have something new to say.
It’s very rare that any of us – as consumers – really need constant balanced views. We are decisive creatures. We choose between brands in nano-seconds, we know what TV programme we want to watch and most of us can pick out a pair of knickers without unbiased background guidance. The only time where opposing views have to be presented is in a court of law. From a judge. When you’re on the jury. The rest of the time we make decisions based on a whole host of social, economic and personal factors. And that’s your key. Understand the factors that determine your customer behaviour and you’ll be pretty clear which line you should take when talking to them.