One of the most interesting periods of my career so far was the five years I spent writing – not exclusively, I hasten to add – about plasterboard. During that time I learnt that it is possible to make plasterboard sound sexy. It’s a valuable lesson that I use in my everyday writing – because it works in virtually every other sector, too.
A key purpose of writing in the public relations and marketing communication area is to enhance perceptions of a company and its product. This is not by puffery or outlandish claims, but rather by presenting a reasoned case in an interesting and informative manner. This should enable readers to make a sensible judgment and, one hopes, take the desired action: usually, to buy.
So how do you make two sheets of stiff paper with a filling of gypsum interesting enough for people to want to buy it? It’s pretty much a commodity item that is a mainstay of modern buildings, but in its raw state it’s not very inspiring – even when its higher-performance variants come with tinted paper. Arguably, there’s not much to choose between products from the main manufacturers.
What I did was to look beyond the dullness of a pile of boards, newly delivered to a building site, and see them instead fulfilling their real role, which is to define human space.
I wrote about plasterboard in contexts that readers – including architects, dry lining contractors, property developers and homeowners – could relate to as human applications: Houses, schools, offices, churches, theatres, hospitals and many more. These are paces where people live, learn, work, play, pray, are entertained and made healthy.
Suddenly, the boards are elevated from their bland flatness and – you’ve guessed it – they start to sound sexy.
The danger, with plasterboard and the many other products that find heir way into press releases, is that manufacturers are often too focused on shouting about their excellence in product development, manufacturing, customer service and so on. They forget that these important qualities should be balanced by human elements that make the story more appealing to readers.
The aim is to grab the attention of readers – and that’s usually achieved more easily by giving them something they want to hear, rather than something the you want to tell them.
If you have a boring product – even an interesting one – that needs brighter promotional writing, please be in touch. Let’s make it sound sexy!
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 17 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.