Writing Content for a Procurement Audience – But Will Anyone Read It? (Part 2)
In part 1 we described how many more business people are writing for a procurement audience these days – blogs, articles, web material – and how the quality of it is highly variable, to say the least! We described our first two commandments – don’t bite off more than you can chew, and be credible. Today we’ll have our final two bits of advice.
Point 3 – Be interesting!
We are all bombarded by so many different sources of information. If you want me to spend ten minutes – or even two minutes – reading your site, blog or article, it needs to be interesting and grab my attention, even if its underlying purpose is education / information. Consider it a privilege if anyone gives up even a few minutes of their busy day to read what you have written – that is honestly how I think about everything we write for Spend Matters. If you only write occasionally, it is even more important you get into that mindset.
And think carefully about the length and design of it. Readers will download and read a long paper if the topic and content really grabs them. But they don’t tend to read 5,000 word essays on the screen – and that is getting more of an issue with the growth of mobile devices. I saw a good article on a website recently, based on a CPO round table discussion, but when I scrolled down the page and saw that it went on and on and on, I admit, I didn’t even start reading it. If necessary, break it up into several parts.
One way to avoid being boring is to offer opinion. That’s certainly a secret of success for Spend Matters and many other well-read blogs and websites. You might want to avoid the most controversial topics – nobody expects to read a polemic about immigration in the middle of an article on sourcing software. But some considered opinion in the midst of straightforward facts and information breaks up the material.
One personal bête noire is surveys. Not the idea in itself; some firms, from A.T. Kearney to State of Flux and Future Purchasing, do good surveys and present interesting results. But it is when the data is played back to me without analysis or interpretation that things get truly dull.
“48% of CPOs think supply chain risk is a very important factor. 33% think it is quite important.”
SO WHAT?! What are you trying to tell me? What do you think I should do about it? What are the smartest people in procurement doing in the field of risk management? The survey results in themselves are nothing. Whatever you’re writing, the basic rule is the same – if it is boring, people will stop reading.
Point 4 – Don’t be condescending
Pitching the material at the right level to a professional audience is another tough one. Getting into too much or lapsing into techno-babble is likely to leave many readers, even procurement professionals, behind. Many software providers still make the mistake of selling the features of the products, rather than the benefits, in their writing.
But at the same time, if you’re going to write an article that says “procurement is jolly important” and not a lot more, then readers may assume you don’t know much yourself, (see point 2 – “Be Credible”.) Or, and this is just as dangerous for the writer, the reader will assume that you think they are stupid. So being seen as condescending is another danger.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for pretty basic “how to” educational material – or a beginner’s guide to eProcurement or supply chain risk, for example (which I might read myself). But I would position it very carefully. If your newsletter is aimed at CPOs, a beginner’s guide is not suitable content. If you’re blogging on topics like that, then explain – “this week’s blog is aimed at new entrants to the profession – we thought it might be useful to describe the basics of category management”. Fine, I can now choose whether I read on or not.
Equally, if you are going to get into the innermost workings of the new e-Invoicing and collaborative supplier management platform, including the intricacies of platform design and integration options, then you don’t want to publish it on a news-based website or in a usually chatty blog. So understand your audience, don’t be condescending, and target what you’re writing about at the particular platform and who you want / might expect to read it.
We hope this guide has been useful – and I would stress that I don’t want to discourage anyone from writing. The more people we have adding to the body of procurement knowledge, opinion and analysis, the better. But it’s worth putting a bit of effort into how you go about it, to make sure it is benefiting your organisation, and not having a negative impact.
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