Wednesday October 22, 2014

A makeover you can live with

Copywriting that's made to measure

Shocked young woman having a bad haircut at the salon

First off, this blog post is inspired by some principles close to my heart:-

– write for your audience

– answer that audience’s questions

– dispel their doubts, (possibly the same doubts that I created in “Doubt: a guide for marketers”)

– tell stories to get a message across

So in that spirit, here goes…

Hiring a copywriter

I was talking to a prospective client last week about how I could help his business. He’d admitted that he couldn’t handle all his copywriting himself but seemed to be resistant to taking the copywriting plunge itself.

As we talked, he was able to articulate the fear that I would make him sound…well, not like himself. He’s the frontman for a growing family business and, as such, very much its personality, its beating heart.


What he was trying to convey was that thing where you come out of the hairdressers with shiny, perfect, poker-straight hair not quite feeling right. The hair’s great in itself but it’s not really you. And, just so you can carry on with your day, you muss it up to make yourself ‘you’ again.

It’s your best friends’ wedding photos when you don’t recognise the bride and groom: Sunday-best and styled to perfection they’re not the people you’ve known forever.

I had to explain why I wouldn’t be applying the latest, directional copywriting “haircut” on him and his business, and that doing so isn’t what good copywriting is about.

All words are equal, but some are more equal than others

Copywriting is about putting together words to bring about an intended reaction from the reader.

From an arresting headline that makes your audience read on, through to benefit-driven information and a call to action that prompts a click, a subscription, donation or sale; it’s all about writing words that sell.

Effective copywriting makes a difference to a client’s bottom line. It maximises the value a good-looking, easy-to-navigate website can bring. Working towards client objectives, copywriters steer a course where they view their copy from an insider, outsider, customer, address-the-doubter, legal and every-which-way perspective.

Being good with words

In the spirit of being all-seeing and very knowing, a copywriter shouldn’t impose their personality on a client’s words, nor go for one-size-fits-all or follow the latest trend. The copy we come up with should speak in the client’s own voice, but one optimised to fulfil their goals.

Method acting or something like it

I like to think of it as method acting, i.e. “using imagination, senses and emotions to create performances grounded in the human truth.” (Lee Strasberg Institute). The human truth in this case is the client’s values, beliefs and of course, their product or service.

It’s why a thorough briefing session is a must. It’s when we tease out not just the project essentials and advise on strategy but also get a feel for the culture of the client we’re writing for – what motivates, moves and excites them.

This is so that the end product – the copy, whether it’s in the form of a sales email, letter, brochure or website gives a prospect or customer, a taste of how it feels to do business with you in real life.

Words with a whole lot more

Good copy that delivers a client’s objectives is a bespoke suit that fits like it’s belonged forever and yet is makeoverishly fresh.

And there’s other things it should do too:

– help your prospects and customers get to know you

– connect with them

– build trust

– establish a reputation

Not forgetting the non-negotiables of correct, or rather, appropriate usage. Spelling, grammar and punctuation that make the words easy to read and understand.

New business

And the prospect who inspired this post?

Dear reader, I’m writing for him.

Image: iStock

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