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Texts as Tools for Sorting What Matters to Your Firm

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Your words make me so mad—and that’s good

words can wake us to the believable center of our purpose

I spend my days poring over texts. Reading internal notes and documents. Rereading interviews and meeting notes. Writing questions, asking those questions and writing the answers. And sometimes rereading the answers. Then I start making texts: mind-maps and cartoons and diagrams for starters. Then the short (or sometimes long) text that will go back to my client—ordered arguments and assertions. Emotive elements. Narrative. Jokes and anecdotes—whatever it takes to communicate the essence of what I take as my client’s central point.

And then I send it to them.

And they react.

Reactions vary from “you are right except for this point” to “that’s fine” (the worst possible reaction, it means my copy was so bland it stirred exactly nothing) to “you nailed what we’ve not been able to say” (my favorite reaction) to “We are deeply offended by this.” That last is my second favorite reaction—it means I got under their skin, though not in a good way.

And then we trim the right copy as a text for the target audience.

What’s remarkable is how the process of sorting through all the internal dialogue and the organization’s unexamined thought actually helps in finding the believable center of the organization’s identity. It’s got to be believable because if you can’t imagine an employee saying it with a straight face, you’ve not hit it. It’s got to believable or the promise won’t match reality—and that never gains traction with the target publics.

But the words themselves—right there on the page—can stir such a reaction from the client that they can sometimes catch a quick vision of what they aren’t. Or what they are. And that glimpse carries forward to what a team does next. And that glimpse can fold backwards into how an organization thinks about and treats itself.

That’s why copywriting is fun.

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Image via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

November 2, 2012 at 9:52 am

We may play the text, but it is also playing us.

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“Another model, which undermined the designer’s new claim to power surfaced at the end of the 1990s, borrowed not from literary criticism but from human-computer interaction (HCI) studies and the field of interface and usability design. The dominant subject of our age has become neither reader nor writer but user, a figure conceived as a bundle of needs and impairments—cognitive, physical, emotional. Like a patient or child, the user is a figure to be protected and cared for but also scrutinized and controlled, submitted to research and testing.

How texts are used becomes more important than what they mean. Someone clicked here to get over there. Someone who bought this also bought that. The interactive environment not only provides users with a degree of control and self-direction but also, more quietly and insidiously, it gathers data about its audiences. Barthes’s image of the text as a game to be played still hold, as the user respond[s] to signals from the system. We may play the text, but it is also playing us.”

Ellen Lupton, Thinking with Type, (NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004) p. 73

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Image Credit: this isn’t happiness

Written by kirkistan

June 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm

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