Somewhere along the way in your professional development someone has probably suggested the value of an elevator pitch to accomplishing your goals. The idea is that you should be able to explain what you or your company do, and your passion for doing it, to someone you just met in the amount of time it might take to ride a few floors on an elevator.
Developing the skills to impress someone in such a short amount of time is no easy task. You can only share the most important information. The slightest tangent can be confusing, and straying from your main points can make even the fastest elevator seem slower and more uncomfortable than a ride to the third floor of Phipps.
Writing for the web isn’t much different. The content on your web site needs to be easy to comprehend. Every bit of it – words, images, videos, the whole kit and kaboodle – should serve a purpose. Because the bits that don’t might only wind up getting in the way for people who are trying to understand the most important information.
Let us meditate for a moment on James Bond. Clever and tough as he is, he’d be mincemeat a hundred times over if not for the hyper-competent support team that stands behind him. When he needs to chase a villain, the team summons an Aston Martin DB5. When he’s poisoned by a beautiful woman with dubious connections, the team offers the antidote in a spring-loaded, space-age infusion device. When he emerges from a swamp overrun with trained alligators, it offers a shower, a shave, and a perfectly tailored suit. It does not talk down to him or waste his time. It anticipates his needs, but does not offer him everything he might ever need, all the time.
Your Elevator Pitch
On hopkinsmedicine.org, it’s not uncommon for our smallest sites to have 30 or more pages. And many have hundreds. That’s a lot of information. And while much of it may be important in the right context, it’s more likely that it’s disruptive to the content on your site that could be more effective with a little less distraction.
If you think of your web site as your elevator pitch, how could you cut it down to its essence? If you had to convey what you do and why you are passionate to do it, how could you share it as quickly as possible? And how could you let people know what to do to get involved?
Consider trying to tell your story with a handful of pages. And consider how to clearly indicate the best way to follow up with you in those same few pages. Yes, you can still have a larger site, and one that presents more complex information. After all, a good pitch is going to make people want more.
It’s just that usually the elevator door opens sooner than that, and the people step off. Very often, a few pages are all that most visitors are going to review before they’re gone. That’s all they need to decide if you, and if Johns Hopkins Medicine, are what they're looking for.
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Learn more about content strategy: A List Apart, A Checklist for Content Work