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Avoid Fake Intimacy

If you write a blog, a newsletter, or both, you work to develop valuable content that appeals to readers. You build a relationship of trust with your readers that encourages them to return to your site.

But you don't want to take such relationships for granted, as my marketing mentor, Marcia Yudkin, warned in her recent weekly "Marketing Minute," which I share with her permission:

Whether it's your blog or your weekly/monthly newsletter, avoid relating to your readers as if they've known you for years. Why? When your business has healthy growth, each post or ezine has some readers who know little or nothing about you.

I hate it when I start receiving emails that refer to the sender only as "Carol" or "Jason." With just a first name to go on, I cannot connect the email to what made me want to hear from that person. It's like reading a random note that washed up in a bottle.

Likewise, some marketers write as if you know that "George" is their pet guinea pig. Or they'll refer to their cramped living space as if you undoubtedly remember that they live and work in an RV.

Your readers are not necessarily best buddies who have known you forever. So don't write as if each message is an installment in an ongoing conversation. Instead, always provide enough context so whether it's a first contact or the thousandth, it makes sense and connects to your relevant business identity.

My favorite part of Marcia's advice is her reminder that healthy growth brings readers who don't know you. Those strangers deserve content that is fleshed out enough to make them feel at home with you and the knowledge and services you offer.

The advice applies beyond blogs and newsletters. Your home page (and other pages readers land on) must offer more than obscure, changing images and cryptic phrases. Don't make readers click, click, click to figure out who you are. 

Likewise, be sure your emails supply what readers need, especially those readers who may not know you well. I recently received this message: 

Subject: Lynn, Quick Question

Forgive me for reaching out to you again, just wanted to check in to see if you think our infographic is a fit for your audience.

Thanks again for taking the time out.

Annie πŸ™‚

PS: Any and all feedback is welcome.

I would love to respond and possibly provide feedback when I have extra time. But WHICH infographic? Why should I remember it? Unless we know each other well, I need information and the infographic again to help me respond this time. 

Checking old emails, I realize that Annie wrote to me in April and was following up this month. Too much time has passed for me to remember her earlier request. 

With your family, yes, you can expect an intimate knowledge of your life. But with the rest of us, as Marcia Yudkin says, avoid fake intimacy. 

Subscribe to receive Marcia's free weekly "Marketing Minute" by email. It takes just a minute to read. 

Does this advice on fake intimacy ring true for you? Please share your thoughts. 

Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

6 comments on “Avoid Fake Intimacy”

  • I admit at first I resisted the advice until I read the entire post. I think what I was resisting was the labeling of it as “fake intimacy”.

    When you build a community of followers, that “intimacy” is not fake. However, I agree that feeling of community without the face-to-face meetings can have us forgetting there are new individuals to our group. Forgetting we have someone new in the community can result in an almost cliquish environment.

    It reminds me (on a smaller scale) of using acronyms and assuming everyone knows what they mean. Frustrating for those who don’t.

    So, point taken and appreciated. πŸ™‚

  • Hi Cathy,

    If I subscribe to an ezine, I do not ever feel part of a community. For me, it is a communication from one person to me. Ditto when I visit a blog, even if I visit it regularly and participate occasionally in the comments. I’m curious, what makes you feel part of a community or a group in those situations?

    People who write newsletters and blog posts often overrate the avidity with which people follow them. Writing as if everyone who follows them loves them and remembers the details of their lives presumes an intimacy that exists mainly in their own minds and just a few others’, I believe.

    Thanks for responding!

    Marcia Yudkin

  • Hi Cathy and Marcia,

    Thanks for starting the conversation. I have been teaching and traveling in Pennsylvania, and my Internet access has been limited. I have tried to post this comment twice and lost it; I am hoping I succeed this third time!

    The conversation led me to think about my ezine subscribers. Some have been with me for more than 10 years, but about 15 percent subscribed in the past year. Some might remember the deaths of both my parents, and many would recognize Michael as my husband and business partner. But allusions to those events and people would lose the newer members of my audience.

    Marcia, you mentioned to me that good radio commentators regularly restate their topic and the names of their guests, so listeners who join at any time will know what’s going on. We need to do something similar to communicate with all members of our audiences.

    Cathy, I understand why you resist the phrase “fake intimacy.” It does not describe how you operate. You work hard to make readers feel welcome. Your comment about acronyms made me think of an abbreviation I saw last night. I was in a small town where most of the restaurants had “BYOB” in the window. Anyone new to that abbreviation would be curious about the byobs all the restaurants seemed to be featuring. Of course, the signs meant “Bring your own bottle” if you want alcohol with your meal.

    Thanks again, Cathy and Marcia. I have enjoyed thinking about this topic with you. And that’s not fake intimacy!

  • Marcia, I would agree for the most part. Few subscriptions to an ezine result in the feeling of being part of a community.

    However, as a professional writer who began freelancing seven years ago, my subscriptions to a select number of blogs have definitely resulted in me feeling like I’m part of a community. I have developed a small circle of freelancing friends from that experience – some I’ve met in person – others I’ve never met. That doesn’t make the relationship any less of a community (in my humble opinion).

    I agree that there is the danger in believing your own press and an intimacy that does not exist. However, like most things in life, never say never. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for allowing me to share my point of view. πŸ˜‰

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