How not to write web copy: a home page critique

A screenshot of the home page of CRPZ Ltd


Following my email copy critique, I decided to review corporate web copy. Thanks to a tweet from Jonathan Norris, web editor of Freelance Advisor, I discovered the perfect website to critique. Let’s begin!

The who, the what, the why

I’m going to refer to this company as CRPZ Ltd. That’s not their real name, but their actual name is another meaningless acronym, one that offers no clues about what they do.

Their company name is supported by a mysterious tagline, ‘International Media Ventures’. ‘Ventures’ makes me think of venture capitalists – people who invest in businesses. So do they invest in media projects?

The main image is of construction workers in sillouette. So the image doesn’t make any sense in relation to the tagline. And a caption, ‘Nothing is permanent except change’ only adds to the mystery. But that’s okay. Let’s read some copy and make sense of this business!

The web copy

Here’s the first paragraph:

CRPZ Ltd is an independent, full-service Organisation Design and Project Development firm serving public institutions and companies as well as their stakeholders globally.

So CRPZ Ltd design organisations? Interesting. And they develop projects. I wonder if CRPZ Ltd specialise in an industry. Oh yes – media! So they must design media businesses and develop media projects. Okay – I feel like a detective  but perhaps we’re getting somewhere.

Paragraph two:

Clients have since 2002 relied on a wide range of growth capabilities and resources as well as innovative management strategies.

This is badly written, but I can assume they mean that clients go nuts over CRPZ’s ‘growth capabilities’ and ‘innovative management strategies’.

I honestly don’t know what all this means, but it sounds like CRPZ have made the very common mistake of airing their internal workings and presenting them as benefits. Having innnovative management strategies is just wonderful, but it only matters to your clients if there is a direct benefit to them. And ‘growth capabilities’ is supremely vague. If you can help me grow my business, tell me how!

It goes on…

CRPZ is unrelenting in the pursuit of our clients’ objectives and we treat every challenge as unique – you’ll find no cookie-cutter approach to solutions here.

I like the idea of them being unrelenting, but in what will they not relent? You’d think it was some kind of secret thing that they don’t want to talk about. Why so coy? Just tell me what you do!

CRPZ has the relationships, partnerships and experience required to fully support public institutions and companies – we seek to leverage our network and impressive track record of solutions to help you achieve your objectives.

I’m disappointed (and pained by) the density of management-speak (‘leverage’, ‘solutions’), and still clueless about what they do.

Our track record covers the spectrum across many industries.

What spectrum? Which industries? How can I engage with this when I know nothing about it? What are they trying to hide?

We usually begin with the end in mind – aligning all components of an enterprise with the operating context to achieve successful outcomes.

Desperately lacking details. No evidence of actual work being done by this company, so it’s impossible to be interested in it.

Establishing leading edge and truly international communications capabilities we do particularly well.

A slightly Yoda-like flourish at the end, but still no clear picture of what they do. How many meaningless words can you put in a row before you absolutely must insert something factual?

CRPZ maintains associated offices in Washington DC, Kabul and Karachi.

Interesting. Offices in USA, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Still no clues about what the people in those offices actually do, but I’m glad the office locations are not as secret as their services (or products!).

The verdict

To be generous to the business that owns this website, we could argue that what seems to be meaningless jargon might actually be perfectly obvious to the right people (such as their ideal client). But I believe that every website’s home page should be clear to all – even to the uninitiated.

All of the problems with this copy stem from a lack of clarity. An over-reliance on smart-sounding but materially vacant business-speak leaves the copy with little meat. It’s a big cream-puff of nothing that leaves you feeling cheated.

Jargon and words that sound clever are appealing to a certain breed of business person – probably because they believe that big words connote big things. It’s a copywriter’s job to help these people see the light.

Copy review: a marketing email

spam gmail

I received an email from someone selling speed networking events. Noticing a few flaws in the copy, I thought it would be a useful exercise to publicly review the content, and suggest improvements. I’m not an email marketing expert, nor do I know much about speed networking events, but there are a few universal principles for writing effective copy, so here are my thoughts on this particular copywriting challenge…

The email subject


Giving an email such a short, uncommunicative and unpunctuated subject isn’t wise. You need to give people reasons to open an email, not confuse them with a single, meaningless word. What does ‘maximiser’ even mean? It’s not a well known brand, nor is it a key feature of their service – and it definitely doesn’t explain what the email is offering. Why the hell did I even open this email?

A better alternative?

Speed networking for faster business – join the crowd next week

The opening gambit

Speed Networking xxxx bring Business People together, our events are an extremely cost efficient use of your time, energy and money.

Companies constantly cry out for quick and easy ways to find and develop new customers, so If you like meeting people, want to develop more business, also wish to build a large network of important business contacts and connections, then this is the perfect meeting forum for you.

This paragraph contains all kinds of little problems, including run-on sentences, errant capitals and a list that might do better with bullet points, but the main problem is that this email begins without any clear message. No headline. No title. No focal point.

A better alternative?

Speed networking is back in your town: join the crowds of people benefitting from lively, friendly networking that works.

The middle eight

Why should you attend?

  • Just imagine pitching your business to a different person every 3minutes.
  • We give you the opportunity to explore the possibilities of doing business with other similar minded business people in a positive business working  environment.
  • You can expect to have a one2one mini business meeting with everyone in the room.
  • In business there is no substitute for meeting people face2face, there’s a much greater chance of creating new business than relying on cold calling.

The first point fails because to some it might sound more like a drawback than a benefit. Yes, just imaging pitching your business to a different person every 3 minutes! Does that sound like fun? Or does it sound like some kind of corporate torture? This point is insensitive to many people’s feelings about networking – it’s unlikely to persuade the doubters (assuming they ever opened the email).

The second point is a big tangle of a sentence, and needs editing.

The third point includes the peculiar construction “one2one” – which is not hip, or professional.

The fourth point includes another oddity: “face2face”. It feels like this email was temporarily hijacked by a teenager using SMS.

A better alternative?

Why are people flocking to speed networking?

  • You get to meet lots of interesting people in a short space of time
  • You’re guaranteed an effective business opportunity
  • Everyone is welcomed in a friendly, low-pressure environment

The closing

* I won’t reveal the close of this email because it reveals too much information about the sender, and my purpose is to help people trying to write better emails, not chastise a business for trying. 😉

But here, in the dying embers of the email, we discover the meaning of the mysterious ‘maximiser’! Now, at long last, we learn that the ‘maximiser’ is an option to lower the cost of speed networking by paying for several sessions at once. Was the email marketer so wrapped up in their own business that they forgot that, while this maximiser deal is important to them, nobody else knows about it? The email drips to an ending, offering a link to book your desired speed networking sessions – a link which probably should have come a little bit sooner.

Lessons to take away

  1. Give your marketing emails clear, compelling headlines. What are you offering? Make it obvious, and interesting.
  2. Choose your words carefully. Step into your reader’s shoes. Who are they, what do they want, and how can you help them? Address their potential fears.
  3. Check your grammar and spelling. Get a friend to review your copy. It’s fine to use colloquilisms, providing it’s appropriate to use them (e.g. it’s okay to be flippant if you’re selling trainers to brats, not so good if you’re selling networking events to business people).
  4. Remember that your reader is not as familiar with your business as you are. Explain your jargon and use ordinary language that everyone understands.

Picture courtesy of notoriousxl

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