In my youth, I was convinced I would be the next Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I was an avowed Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, and like any devoted follower, there is the inherent desire to perpetuate the life of a beloved character. Hence, the development of fan fiction.
I joined a Holmes fan society, named “The Baker Street Irregulars” (a reference to a cabal of street-smart youths who were Holmes’ eyes and ears), and shared my first finished piece of fan fiction, which I was convinced would play on the hearts and minds of the harshest critics and devotees to the canon of the character. My review? It was less-than-stellar:
Sorry, but this is muddled and uninspired. I had to sit with a dictionary the entire time I read it. A word of advice: make sure you know who you are writing about, and for whom you are writing. It’s not about you. Be true to the character and to your audience.
Indubitably, my dear Watson.
That critique was a necessary blow to my 14-year-old ego. It transformed how I write and how I view myself and others in the process. If you’re in the marketing biz like me, you’ve written an endless stream of copy. And you’ve probably noticed that the writing process never gets easier. Writing is hard, but those challenges have the potential to bring the best out of our work.
So, let’s derive some inspiration from our questions and our critics. If you find yourself stuck for ideas, doubt the message you’re sending, baffled about how to articulate an idea, or want more return on your sweat equity, I offer you five copywriting tips to help you deliver powerful, convincing content to your audience.
1. Appeal to emotions (but don’t pander to them).
This process involves a delicate balance of identifying the audience’s point of pain, but going a step further: allowing those emotions to shape your message in a tactful and effective way. Writing for only shock value or stating the obvious can and will turn people off. Let your appeal communicate to your audience that you’ve taken the time to seriously consider their needs and desires.
2. Watch for clichés and awkward phrasing.
When we’re bleary-eyed and fruitlessly searching for just the right words, it’s tempting to reach for empty jargon or clichéd expressions. Sometimes we devolve into using three-word taglines, or close-ended questions which only serve to create fatigue in our audience. Thoughtful content considers the reasoning and the psychology behind it.
3. Harness your messaging.
If you’re like me, you’re often confronted with a jumble of ideas, phrases, and emotions. You must create a singular message with unique propositions. This is particularly significant when writing ad copy. But it’s possible to inject too much information into your copy, and confuse your audience in the process. You can refine your message by starting with a core message in your headline. Your lead-in comment and body copy should harmonize.
4. Stop talking about your brand.
You’ve worked hard on developing and maintaining your brand, program, or service. Congratulations! This is where a new conversation begins, and it’s not about you. Assume your audience knows nothing about you, your history, or your ethics. Savvy conversationalists are perceived as charismatic and magnetic because they show a genuine interest in the other person. If you want to be relevant, write to engage. It makes better conversation.
5. Be honest.
Authenticity about issues and mistakes can determine your company’s success. Studies have found that organizations who admit their mistakes fare better, perhaps because they’re perceived as conscientious by consumers. Never use your copy as a device to manipulate, pass blame, or ignore issues.
Written by: Christine Johns, Account Coordinator