Website content with a destination in mind
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” (Lao Tzu)
What direction is your civic website taking you? Will it get you where you want to go? Or close to it? What is it they say about getting “close” to the mark? It only works for horseshoes and hand grenades? What if your website could help take you exactly where you want to go? We believe that with careful planning and a clear end-goal, it can do just that.
Civic Website Copy Writing Tips
How can your civic website help you reach your community goals?
The answer: Great website content. The best website copy writing has a destination in mind.
- Does your website tell your story in a way that’s friendly and easy to read?
- You know what your area has a lot to offer, but do others know it too?
- Do people arrive at your website and get sidetracked right onto another community’s path or even run the other way because it’s confusing or overwhelming?
With over 15 years of experience, we’ve learned a few important lessons about writing user-friendly websites that we’re happy to share with you.
Why does it matter?
In our world full of choices, marketing your town, city, county, or municipality is now not only desirable but imperative. Your website must help you get the word out about the great things going on in your community. To do this, you must:
- Differentiate your area from the competition by giving visitors reasons to believe in your story.
- Reach the right audiences with the right messages at the right time.
- Claim your local attractions, personality, and offerings with confidence.
- Persuade audiences to believe you are the best choice for them.
When your website copy accomplishes these things, whether it’s making that decision to move to your area or to make your town their favorite place to visit, you will direct your audience along the correct pathways to arrive at their (and your) end-goal. Synergy is a beautiful thing!
Where do you begin?
Just as Tao suggests, make sure you’re heading in the right direction. You can begin by identifying your audience and refining your goals. Knowing what you want to accomplish with your website is paramount. Ask yourself a few questions such as:
- What are our goals?
- What issues do we want to address?
- Who are our audiences?
- What are our strengths?
- Knowing who you are puts you in a position to bring your brand to life.
- If you have amazing cultural attractions or you hold great family-friendly activities (whatever your sweet spot is), say it.
- Defining where you have the most authority—where you have experienced the most success—is the “sweet spot” you’ll use to direct the writing throughout your website.
- What is our style?
- Caring and compassionate?
- Proud and strong?
- Laid back and easy going?
- Educated and professional?
- Fun and enthusiastic?
Once you have a plan, you’re on your way.
Use well-thought-out headlines and subheadings.
When your eyes first hit this page, you probably skimmed the heading and subheadings to find out what we were going to address in this post.
Well-thought-out headlines and subheadings will present information quickly and allow readers to decide if they want to continue. Think of them as signposts to guide your audience toward an end-goal.
Summarize key points.
Get to the point quickly. It only takes a few sentences. In our fast-paced world, less is often more. Include focus keywords. Be specific about what you have to offer. Be clear. Don’t try too hard to be creative—choose clear over clever. Emotionally hook your reader from the beginning by letting them know what’s in it for them.
I’ll bet the next thing you saw were the bullets at the top of the page. See how dividing the information into easy-to-scan snippets makes for a fast read? We live in a get-it-now society, and unless we’re truly invested and interested in what we’re reading, after a few seconds, we’ll move on.
- Use bullets instead of long text paragraphs to make your points, and move on.
- Make the information easy to scan and find.
Educating the next generation takes a group effort—community members, business owners, educators, parents, students, etc.—so be sure your language is inclusive and friendly—not cold and uninviting. Unless you intend to convey an air of superiority, it’s preferable to write in the more friendly, active voice instead of the passive.
Let’s make some comparisons. If you were on the receiving end, which of the following statements would you prefer?
- All citizens are expected to adhere to city curfew laws.
- For the safety of all our citizens, we strictly enforce our city’s curfew laws.
Yet subtle and simple, there is a difference. My mother used to tell me, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” When you write, consider your intentions toward your audiences. Making the effort to be friendly in your website writing will go a long way (unless you mean to be extremely stern, which might sometimes be the case).
Include a call to action.
Remember, you’re trying to lead your audience along the path to arrive at the desired destination, but including every bit of information on your website that a serious inquirer might need is not possible, nor is it necessary or desirable. Your website is the “hello,” not the conversation. An informative yet friendly and simple website will whet the reader’s appetite, and a good call to action—inquire, call us, sign up, etc.—will allow you to connect with those who are seriously interested in what you have to offer.
Again, why is it important?
You have a hard-working, supportive, and involved community. Your civic leaders dedicate long hours to make sure your agency runs smoothly and efficiently. You spend serious resources to maintain your standard of living. You are amazing, and the competition to receive necessary funding is unprecedented. And sure, close will get you some points, but a ringer wins the game!
It’s time to get the word out—effectively.
Effective, friendly, goal-oriented website copy writing is the best way to tell your story clearly and concisely. It helps you not only market your area but successfully lead your audience on a pleasant journey through all your community has to offer.
We can help.
Follow these rules on every page of your website, and you’ll have well-written content for your civic website that will be one of your most effective marketing tools. Of course, if you’re still uncomfortable with it, hiring a professional civic website copywriter is another option. Civic Webmasters provides professional copy writing services to counties, cities, towns, and municipalities, so let us help you out. Just give us a call.
Posted by Judy Bittner, Lead Copywriter