Website Copy Case Study: Who Wants to Be a PBS Insider?

Look what I found at PBS.org.  This is an example of Web site copy that serves neither its brand nor its purpose.  It is, in fact, bad copy.  Not because it is poorly written, but because it doesn’t understand the user.

example of a "join the club message"

First of all, the message “Become a PBS Insider” is off-brand for the public supported broadcaster.  The very point of PBS is that it’s free, quality programming for everyone without commercials.  It’s the antithesis of exclusive.  I get that they are going for an aspirational, emotional message, which I would applaud, except that it’s not right for the audience.

Secondly, the offer needlessly over-promises.   Consider the descriptive text “Get the inside scoop on what’s happening at PBS.  Receive monthly updates, gain access to PBS exclusives and more!” This copy oversells something that does not need to be oversold.  I bet people who go to PBS.org would be delighted to receive a free monthly email reminding them of new series, favorite shows and schedules, without some promise of “PBS exclusives,” which if experience serves me correctly, is something completely meaningless.  I would argue that even offering all this might turn people away, particularly PBS viewers as it reeks of such a strong sales message.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the header confuses the user.  As we know, people scan websites, meaning that all headers need to be clear and concise in order to register.  “Become a PBS Insider” doesn’t tell me enough to read further.   A more appropriate title would be” “Sign Up for Monthly Email”

Copywriters, marketing directors and content managers please pay more attention to your copy.  Your users will thank you.