“Read it again,” my coworker emailed me about some email campaign copy I was particularly pleased with.

“I did. I love it!”

“Read it out loud this time,” she said.

So I read it out loud, right up to the powerful payoff:

“We’re not going ANYWHERE!”

Huh. Maybe not the story we wanted to tell.

When working at S1 years ago, we sought to emphasize our size and stability. We were the first to market with internet banking, had a lot of cash in the bank, and wanted to be recognized as a strong bet against smaller technology upstarts.

So I crafted a message that invited community and mid-sized banks to latch onto the rising star of innovation in front-end banking delivery. The one that wasn’t. Going. Anywhere.

We were able to correct it for that campaign and laugh it off, even crafting some similar new taglines:

  • Stand Still With Us
  • Your Partner in Inertia
  • S1. Because Tomorrow is Scary.

Goofing aside, it provided a lasting reminder for me that all of our marketing words matter. In every form, your marketing content should show your market that you understand their needs and challenges and have answers worth discussing. A few quick tips to help make sure your words say what you want them to:

Read It Out Loud: My S1 colleague spared me some embarrassment by having me read the words aloud. I had read and re-read the words so many times that it locked in my perception of them. As soon as I said “We’re not going anywhere!” out loud, it was clear that made us sound stagnant, not stable.

And reading your marketing content out loud improves your writing beyond just preventing gaffes. Here Fast Company founder and editor Bill Taylor explains how reading the words aloud can make important content stronger and more memorable–our constant mission in marketing.

Build From Your Core Messaging: The S1 stability message had emerged from buying barriers we were seeing. It was a strong position, legitimate and unique among competitors. But we were introducing in on the fly, in a campaign that was also hastily constructed. 

Write for Your Audience, with Purpose: We constantly respond to urgent demands for marketing content. Even in a rush, even if it’s just a short email or digital ad copy,