The sobering truth about how your “readers” really see you

Cartoon about engaging readers

At the Professional Copywriter’s Network Conference, leading direct mail writer Andy Maslen revealed he’d never written a piece of direct mail in his life.

Nope, he was proud to say he wrote junk mail for a living.

Why would an expert in his field describe his work in such derogatory terms?

Doesn’t exactly sound impressive on your CV, does it? Not really something to include in your elevator pitch, perhaps.

But the phrase “direct mail”, Andy pointed out, reflects an incredibly writer-centric view of the world.

Most of his letters end up in the bin. And every one of their recipients would call it junk mail.

(Note the use of the word “recipients” there. Calling them “readers”, as though you could count on their attention, is also wildly, arrogantly writer-centric.)

The same applies to email marketing (= “spam”).

And what, according to Andy, do ordinary people call the kind of corp comms work I help many of my clients with?

Marketing bollocks.

And to these we might add:

PR = spin

Advertising = wallpaper (as ad man Dave Trott pointed out at the same conference, most adverts don’t even register with most people)

Internal comms = management spin/HR spam/strategic bollocks/creating wallpaper (aka “key messages”)

Sobering and humbling, isn’t it, to really see yourself through other people’s eyes?

Makes you realise how hard you have to work to get their attention, let alone persuade them to do what you want them to do.

(You do want them to do something after reading, don’t you?)

5 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. Powerful way of looking at it. Andy is a smart guy.

    It’s almost like you have to look past yourself and look at your neighbor’s point of view.

  2. When I worked for a big plc, the finance team used to refer to the part of the annual report I wrote as ‘the fluff’. It’s a sad fact that very few people are as interested in what you do or say as you are.

  3. Kevin Mills says:

    For many years, until someone scraped it off, a sign on my letterbox read ‘NO JUNK MAIL PLEASE, JUST CAREFULLY TARGETED, ELEGANTLY EXPRESSED PIECES OF ONE-TO-ONE COMMUNICATION’.

  4. Chris Smithers says:

    Aside from the questions of professional capability implicit in this, it raises the question of how seriously you take yourself. It goes to show the ancient truth that nobody else does – so why should you? So I’m happy to confess I’ve written corporate bollocks and junk mail. It’s just a game. Everyone plays it. Few admit it.

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