At #TCMA2016 conference, Ann Handley – a writing, marketing and content expert – explained her tongue-in-cheek acronym FIWTSBS – or Find Interesting Ways To Say Boring Stuff.
In a nutshell, this concept urges you to see everything as content, and make the most of the calls to action on your website, like email opt-in forms and 404 pages. Instead of ‘sign up to our email’ brands are making things fun and more engaging, with links like ‘Get our weekly email of awesomeness!’
That’s all well and good if you are in a brand with a vibrant, quirky personality. If your brand delivers fun in its marketing emails, you should make sure people know that they are great to read. But how could this be used for construction?
Construction industry examples
I was sceptical about whether this would be appropriate in the dry and technical constuction industry. Empire Cat, an Arizona machinery dealership have a fun 404 page (the web page that is returned when you follow an out-of-date link). Although the image is fun, showing a mechanic or assembly line employee searching in boxes, the key point for me is that it’s useful – the 404 page points the user back to the core links. via socialfresh and Empire Cat
Things take a sillier turn with this Russian construction company. The animated ‘under construction’ scene is relevant to what they do, but with the oddly captivating dancing stick man and cheesy Russian pop, you could actually linger and spend some time on this page. There is only one link back to the home page though, and it isn’t very obvious. via Gizmodo and kvartirakrasivo.ru
Lets take a step back. There are a minority of construction companies and product manufacturers doing these sorts of things. Very few are even capturing opt-in email addresses to build their own list, or using 404 pages to redirect people, let alone add a bit of humour to the mix. Do you have any examples? Let me know in the comments.
Further reading on FIWTSBS (Find Interesting Ways To Say Boring Stuff), and more highlights from Ann’s keynote presentation at: Ann Handley’s Fight For Good Content vs. Good Enough Content.
Making construction industry writing interesting
Over the years I have written about some pretty boring stuff. Cast iron bollards, hardwood benches and stainless steel drainage channel covers. It became a running joke that my colleagues and I were ‘street furniture nerds’. When out and about, you’d point out elements of the urban environment, to the bemusement of your friends.
However, the audience we write for, as construction industry marketers, aren’t interesting in ‘sexed up’ content – they just want the technical information. This is a phrase I’ve heard time and again, in different forms and from different angles, over the years.
In fact, the seemingly boring aspects of a product are often the most important. Is it 304 or 316 stainless steel? The answer is vitally important if the project is the renovation of a seaside promenade.
Companies often struggle to tell a compelling story in their case studies. Here’s another example – the you are selling tens of thousands of tons of gravel, how can you make it interesting? Your quarry has an on-site technical lab, testing the stone to ensure the material is of the necessary hardness – pretty nerdy, who is going to care about that? But this lab, and the fact that vast quantities of the material are held in stock at the yard and are dispatched daily via a fleet of loyal local hauliers becomes the critical element. The contractor had the guaranteed supply they needed to complete an important road infrastructure project.
These seemingly boring details could be the difference between a multi-million pound project finishing on time and on budget, or becoming a public relations fiasco, eroding the trust of investors or local people.
So for construction, I say don’t strive to make the writing overly interesting. Focus on the boring details – these are what keep the construction industry moving, they are what specifiers need. They just want the technical information.