Charity street fundraisers. Charity muggers. Chuggers. Say what you want about them. They are exceptional communicators. Or are they?

Some people find chuggers so annoying that they go to great lengths to avoid them. It’s not being asked for charity that raises hackles. It’s the chugger’s unrelenting perkiness. The manipulative charm offensive. The ill-judged over-familiarity. That’s what gets peoples’ goat.

Is your writing a bit chuggerish?

The received wisdom for writing online is to be informal, warm and chatty. That’s all well and good. But you might want to dial it down for the first encounter with your reader. Too much of the sweet stuff is saccharine. Your writing becomes cloying. Just like the street fundraisers, you don’t want to be perceived as too over-familiar.

So what do we mean by the first encounter with your reader?


Hot, cold or somewhere in between?

Before you begin any piece of writing, consider how warm your intended reader is to your brand, business or organisation. Have they shopped or worked with your business before? Are they familiar or unfamiliar with who you are and what you do? Picture a sliding scale from cold (completely unfamiliar) to hot (totally familiar). Pin your reader on it.

When people are familiar with your brand and receptive to your content, you can be more conversational and playful. You are talking to a friend. With newcomers it makes sense to be more direct. You are, ultimately, talking to a stranger. You can still have personality, you can still be charming. But it might be worth reeling things in a little.

For example, you can be more free and easy in your email newsletter than on your about us page.


Sell when your reader is warm

Let’s say you run an online shop. Readers who are new to your brand are going to be turned off if they feel like they are being sold to. That means avoiding copy that is overtly salesy in areas of your website that capture first time visitors – like the homepage or about us page. It’s acceptable to sell more explicitly to a captive audience: previous customers, newsletter subscribers or social media followers and so on.

Softly, softly.

To wrap up…

  • Before writing, consider how familiar your intended audience is with your business
  • You can be more chatty and informal with regular readers
  • Avoid being too chuggerish with content that is likely to be read by newcomers