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Content vs. communications, or the importance of the B2B audience

Given we’re a B2B content marketing agency, it probably won’t be a huge surprise to learn that we always put the audience at the heart of the content we write. After all, that content needs to persuade someone to take an action — be it to download a white paper, or call a salesperson. And if that person can’t see themselves in the content we write, they’re unlikely to take the action we want them to take. There is a useful trick you can deploy to keep B2B audiences at the centre of your content marketing efforts though, and that is to draw a distinction between content and communications.

What’s the difference?
We’ve heard it said that content and communications are one and the same. But while there might be a considerable overlap, we believe the subtle semantic differences are important — again, we’re a B2B content marketing agency; an obsession with words comes with the territory!

The difference between content and communications is that the word ‘communications’ carries with it the idea of an audience, while ‘content’ doesn’t. ‘Content’ is something you produce; ‘communications’ are something you have with someone else. Once you start thinking of what you’re producing as ‘communications’, then other questions come up:

  • Who are you communicating with?
  • What do you want to say to them?
  • What will they think of what you have to say?

The importance of the B2B audience
That last question is crucial; as marketers (and sales people), we should always be conscious of what our audience thinks of our message and, by extension, us. Even in 2017, it’s easy to find examples of marketing that start not with the audience, but with the company doing the selling. Will an audience respond positively to that? Not likely — you can produce the most beautiful content in the world, but it will just sit in a (virtual) dusty box, unloved and unwanted.

So how do we make sure not just smothering our clients with well-intended yet irrelevant content? Well, one very good way to keep your audience at the heart of your content marketing, is to keep asking yourself, “So what?” When you can no longer ask the question because you’ve answered it fully, you’ve found the holy grail of content marketing — a message your audience actually wants to receive.

Let us know what you think in the comments below and if you’d like some more advice on content that communicates, come and have a chat with us.

Word origins: when Latin just won’t do

Having battled with English, German, French and Latin at school, learning Spanish as an adult was an absolute joy. It’s one of the Romanic languages, with strong Latin roots but also a heavy Arabic influence. It’s incredibly logical and almost 100% phonetic which means that once you learn the rules, you can get reading straight away.

English is described as Germanic but it’s fair to say it’s a melting pot of many other languages due to successive invasions from abroad and our more recent imperialistic history. Although this makes English more irregular and more challenging to learn, it also makes it a language rich with meaning and nuance. Half the fun of writing can be choosing which word out of ten possibilities is most appropriate for your audience. The tricky part is to rein in your creative tendencies when plain speaking (or typing) is required. And it’s often said that when this is the case, Germanic and/or Old English words are most appropriate.

When to rein in your creative tendencies

For example, one expression that often falls foul of the editor’s pen is “prior to” with its origins in the Latin “prae” meaning “before”. And there we have the reason that “prior to” often has to go—the Germanic “before” (vor) is more widely understood and is just one word.

Of course, it all depends on your audience. If you’re writing a white paper, opinion piece or article, “prior to” may be fine. If you’re writing a safety manual, however, it needs to be understood by as many readers as possible. In that case, I would opt for “before” every time.

Sometimes, the Latin word is just too… well… grandiose (Latin, grandis). When was the last time you traversed the road for example? The word “traverse” comes from the French “travers”, which itself comes from the Latin “transversum” meaning to lie across. Interestingly, the word “cross” also came from Latin (crux), but long before the Normans brought “traverse”.

Choosing the best alternatives

As someone who loves the richness of our language I’m certainly not advocating ridding ourselves of those more elaborate words; that would be a tragedy. But when I write for business and consumer audiences, I always ask myself, “Which alternative would be understood and appreciated by the greater number of readers?”

As the Plain English Campaign says, “It’s not about banning new words, killing off long words or promoting completely perfect grammar.” It’s about reaching your audience using language they will understand.