Writing Content to Make Users Feel Welcome

Back when I used to sass off to my parents, they’d often say, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Web content providers have to keep that in mind all the time. When you’re writing content about a dull or unpleasant subject, you need to deliver medicine with a healthy spoonful of sugar.

Unless you’re the DMV. At least that’s the message that seems to be coming across on a new podcast posted on the website for the Virginia DMV. I’ll admit the title got me curious: “Five Reasons to Avoid the DMV.”

I mean, does anyone NEED another reason to avoid the DMV? I don’t think so. Maybe this was a cheeky PR move to counter the institution’s bad rep. They’re in on the joke, right?

Not so much. Instead, the “podcast” is simply the audio file of a PSA, reminding Virginia residents that, although online renewal for vehicle registration is free, an in-person renewal will cost you $5. Huh?

Did they have a contest at the DMV to come up with the most off-putting way to address this topic? I mean, why not frame the announcement as “How to Save Time and Money at the DMV”? Or better yet “Five Ways to Avoid the DMV”? They could have easily profiled five transactions that Virginia drivers can do from the comfort of their own laptops, without schlepping all the way to the DMV.

With just a slight change of tone — Presto! The five dollars of savings now looks like a nice little cherry on top of the delectable sundae that is the DMV website.

Come on, DMV — we know we have to deal with you, but couldn’t you at least try to make us feel warmer and fuzzier about the whole thing?

When’s the last time you encountered online tone-deafness?

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