Monday, September 23, 2013

Can You Cash That Check?

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I was proofing some copy written for my association's blog the other day and I came across the word "awe-inspiring."

Now, in defense of the person who wrote it, we use our blog to talk about things that are new and exciting about the industry our association represents. Our target audience is not our members, but the engineers and technicians that may choose to use our members' products in their designs. Describing some technical advancements that have been going on in our industry, the author used the word "awe-inspiring."

It stopped me in my tracks. Awe-inspiring. As in "instilling a sense of wonder." Is that really the word we want to use?

Can we cash that check?

Don't get me wrong. I think the things going on in our industry are pretty neat.

But are they awe-inspiring? More importantly, are they awe-inspiring to the technically-educated people we're trying to appeal to, and what if they aren't?

One thing I feel pretty strongly about when it comes to blogging is that you need to be honest. No one reads blogs because they want to be sold to. They read because they find the content interesting or they like the person writing it.

And they can smell inauthenticity a mile away. Yes, we have to write about the most exciting and interesting things going on in our industry, but we have to do it in a way that respects the knowledge of the reader.

Our situation may be atypical. We're a group of association and marketing professionals trying to write things that appeal to engineers and technicians. We are not our audience, and what we think is awe-inspiring may be surprisingly less so to our audience.

In this environment I see two things we must do to succeed.

1. Learn all we possibly can about the technology we're writing about. We'll never be engineers, but we need to have a working knowledge of the technology our industry produces--including what is viewed as run-of-the-mill, what is cutting-edge, and what the barriers to true innovation really are.

2. Honestly share that learning journey with our audience. There is a vast difference between trying to brand content as awe-inspiring when we lack the context to make such a detetmination, and sharing what we personally find awe-inspiring--and why--as we discover the inner workings of a technical subject. To an informed audience, the former risks seeming disingenuous. But the latter may just remind them of the things that got them excited about technology and engineering in the first place. That sense of wonder that comes with learning how things work.

If we do that, then we'll start writing checks we can actually cash.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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