In the time I’ve been providing copywriting services to business, I’ve encountered some interesting myths. It seems that copywriting is still open to misinterpretation. Here are three of the most common myths going round:
Myth 1. “Copywriting is just about writing well”
This is a myth I regularly hear repeated. Despite the increasing value of marketing content, many companies still view copywriting as just the delivery of grammatically correct, pleasant sounding paragraphs. It isn’t unusual for people to see copywriting as the process of rewriting existing copy to sound better. Not so. Of course copywriting is about creating well written content – but with a much bigger purpose. Its ultimate aim is to convey a message that engages and persuades your audience. It’s also about highlighting what is unique about a particular product or service. That’s a great deal more than a cosmetic overhaul.
How to bust the myth: Make sure that you create content designed to persuade your reader about the value of the business to them.
Myth 2. “Copywriting doesn’t have a real place in strategy”
In a world where content (marketing) is king and the internet demands high quality content that is continually refreshed, it’s surprising how often copywriting is seen as something separate from a company’s overall strategy. In this all too common myth, business goals and copywriting are kept in completely separate boxes, instead of supporting each other. That’s why you still see company blogs that convey an out of date message and project bids that focus only on stating the facts, rather than selling the business. New opportunities offered by inbound marketing make this myth even more of a loser for businesses.
How to bust the myth: Plan for your content alongside your main business and sales and marketing plans to ensure that they support each other.
Myth 3. “Copywriting can be left till last”
This myth can have a serious backlash on business progress. A company is keen to get started with their new venture. They haven’t got the time to spend working on their copy or on finding a copywriter. So the business starts out with copy that fails to sell it or that misses out what makes it distinctive. The plan is to get the copywriting done once they find the time. Meanwhile, they are saying one thing to new prospects while their website copy or new brochure is saying quite another (or nothing at all).
How to bust the myth: Before you launch that website or start emailing your contacts, make the time to clarify exactly what you want to say and how you’ll make it stand out from others offering a similar product or service.
Want to chat copywriting, business or unicorns? Let me know!
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, May 2016
Image by Yosuke Muroya
The 100-word blog post: Ask for Evidence 7 days ago
Could a special pillow really improve your sleep? Can a homeopathic owl help you to heal? These and many more claims are the marketing and PR messages being assessed by Ask for Evidence. It’s “a public campaign that helps people request for themselves the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims and policies”. Launched by Sense About Science in 2011, Ask for Evidence is an important initiative and a valuable reminder of the power of marketing messages to shape and influence public perception. The art of ethical copywriting is to do that in a way which is both inspiring and honest.
Get set, go! In both copywriting and marketing, time is fast becoming an essential resource. That’s thanks to the power of targeting content to fit with seasonal events, special occasions or even changes in the weather. We’re all getting used to seeing content dedicated in this way. I think there are some clever and funny ways to do it. But the timing needs to be applied with the right marketing and copywriting strategy. So what can businesses do for more effective copywriting within this approach?
1. 0 to 60: Don’t forget who’s reading
However timely or topical your marketing content is, it still needs to be relevant to your target market. You also have to be sure your seasonal marketing message actually fits with the interests of those people you’d like to see respond.
2. Rewind: Keep you in mind
Yes, you – and your business. Coordinating your content more closely with the calendar can be powerful. But don’t just make it about a particular time of the year. Look closely into your copywriting strategy first to draw out what is relevant to your company as well as to that time of year. This could be products that are helpful for your customers over a particular public holiday, a special offer to help them out precisely when their budgets are stretched or a perfect present idea. Don’t expect your timing to do the selling for you.
3. Pause: Stay in good taste
4. Count the days, not just the season
Adapting your copywriting and marketing approach to chime in with a certain event? Great, but it isn’t the whole package. Precision timing within that is still essential. Craft your copywriting and marketing strategy so it matches impeccably with the time and tone of the event. Don’t just rush it to fit in or you could undermine your message.
5. On your marks…
So your content matches with the season or the holiday. But does it fit with your overall copywriting and marketing strategy? Customers appreciate consistency. Balancing your complete marketing strategy with an active approach to seasonal content? It’ll help you count down to greater copywriting success.
P.S. Like to talk about your own copywriting approach? Just get in touch.
Deep down, every business-owner wants to be just like the California red-backed vole…Well, it has been proven to be one of the most evolved species on the planet. And evolution is essential for all businesses, particularly at the moment.
It’s great to hear that more and more companies are responding to tough conditions with new products or fresh ways of working. Good stuff. But sometimes, this change in identity can leave a company’s copywriting approach sadly overlooked. In my experience of copywriting for businesses from sole traders to international names, I’ve seen the risks companies take when they’re looking to upgrade.
If you’re planning to evolve more efficiently than even the California red-backed vole, here are three important questions to ask about your copywriting strategy:
1. How do we bridge the gap between our old identity and our new one?
The secret of a great copywriting approach is to tell a memorable story about your business. Look at how you can tell a credible tale that helps to retain your existing clients, but also provides space for your new prospects to get excited about what you do. What can you do to relate back to your own ‘old’ identity in a way that feels consistent yet which works for your target audience? Beware the risks of the sudden rebrand in which you leap boldly into your new identity without connecting with the great stories and associations from the previous stage of your evolution!
2. What’s the best way to plan a transition from then to now?
I’ve noticed this copywriting faux pas many times over the years I’ve been writing for business. It might be that a company sends out just one email to let clients know that they have changed brands, then updates their website and…that’s it. Or worse, they focus on the change, without changing their content. Then there’s the piecemeal content approach which can create confusing inconsistencies. A stage by stage rebrand can work, but only when it’s done strategically (as with all copywriting for business).
3. Does our old tone of voice still match where we want to go next?
Your tone of voice is the core of your company’s copywriting strategy. So if your previous copywriting style no longer fits, you need to think about what you can do to adapt it so that it works for your new product/service and audience. Your new identity may also call for a move to social media or a brand new blog so you’ll need to consider how your copywriting approach will fit with these.
Like to know more about the California red-backed vole?
I can’t help you there, but I can talk through ideas about adapting your content for a new product, service or brand. Let me know if you fancy a chat.
Copywriting tone of voice: an A to Z 57 days ago
Once upon a time, tone of voice was something that people associated with a heated debate. Now when I talk with businesses about content and copywriting, I can see that tone of voice has gone mainstream. Most company-owners recognise the value of tone of voice. But what does it actually involve? And which myths and misconceptions still linger? I share some pointers in this A to Z…
A great tone of voice communicates the attitude of a company and its approach to the world. Like an example? Look no further than Innocent, an oft-quoted example thanks to its simple and easily recognisable style. Slice any way you want into a company’s marketing content and their tone of voice should speak clearly about their attitude to their business and their customers.
Bold equals tone of voice, right? Not quite. This brings us to a common misconception about tone of voice – that in order to be successful, it must be bold, brash and even bolshy! Yes, bold can work in some situations, as with my client who wanted a sarcastic tone of voice. But it shouldn’t be the default setting of every tone of voice.
C is for (what else?) copywriting, because tone of voice lies right at the very heart of content. Every copywriting strategy and project should ideally stem from a clear and concise (more C words) tone of voice.
The difference is the gap between you and other companies. Can your tone of voice be warm and light hearted where others in your industry sound formal and detached? Can your tone of voice more closely echo the style and priorities of your ideal customer? Your copywriting tone of voice could be essential to voicing the added value you offer. Just one example is the tone of voice I developed for a client in an industry traditionally associated with fear-mongering and negative stories in the press. We’ve made a conscious decision to steer his copywriting messages and tone of voice away from the fear factor and he’s seeing great results.
Empathy and emotion are big marketing buzzwords right now. But I do think that the growing recognition of the value of emotion in copywriting is a positive thing. Empathy is not automatically appropriate for every company’s tone of voice, but it is powerful when used in the right setting.
When it comes to your copywriting tone of voice, are you a follower or a leader? Are you aping one particular company’s style or mimicking the way people in your industry usually talk? Look at finding a tone of voice which helps to define you as a leader rather than a follower.
There’s a lot involved with creating and establishing a sustainable copywriting and content strategy. But don’t just view tone of voice as an additional chore. Done right, it can provide a valuable guide for your content. How? By helping you identify what it is your business stands for – its values, identity and ambitions – far beyond just finding the right words.
Don’t let yourself get into a habit of writing one way about your business. Just because it’s always been done one way doesn’t mean that a particular tone of voice is going to continue working forever! Break the habit and see what happens.
Get your tone of voice right and it will stand for your entire business identity and make it more recognisable. Stick to a bland, generic voice and your content is much more likely to be overlooked.
Anyone who visits my Twitter feed will know how strongly I feel about jargon in business copywriting. I can’t think of any memorable tone of voice where jargon makes an appearance, except perhaps when it’s used ironically. So why do so many companies still let jargon get in the way?
Not the one associated with London taxi drivers, this knowledge is the one which can make your tone of voice stand for what’s important about your business. That is, your company’s ethics, approach, history and audience – the things which make up its identity and value.
A simple list can be great starting point for your copywriting tone of voice. Put together a list of words which reflect what you are and what you’re about. Which words would sum you up? Conversely, which words would you never associate with your business?
Imagine wearing slippers with a business suit. Or coordinating a bow tie with a baseball cap. Not great, unless you’re taking part in an arty Paris fashion show. It’s this kind of mismatch that you probably don’t want in your copywriting tone of voice. Is your business all about fun, but your tone of voice all about pressure to sell? Or perhaps your company is focused on professional services of a sensitive nature, but your tone of voice is too much on the casual side? It’s time to mind the gap.
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in copywriting… one in which many companies sound nice. Just plain old nice. As I explain in this blog post, nice does not equal an effective tone of voice. Nice for the sake of it equals bland. Finding your tone of voice means going beyond just sounding friendly. You want to work out exactly what your potential audience will respond to.
A great tone of voice should open up the possibilities. A poor tone of voice will close doors by failing to establish and nurture a connection with your potential customers. Just like the difference between an open question and a closed question, a great tone of voice could help you reach out to the right people in the right way.
Ah, personality. The vital spice in great business connections. A powerful tone of voice should sum up the personality of your business. In a crowded world, personality counts for a lot. P also stands for personas – the marketing personas which will help guide the goals and the style of your tone of voice.
Question – what’s going to help you define your tone of voice? Asking the right questions, of course! Questions like – what does your business stand for? What’s different about what you do? How do your most loyal customers talk about your business?
So you’ve asked great questions about your business and that’s got you started on your tone of voice. Now it’s time to do some research. What tone of voice are your competitors using? How effective is it? Apply some carefully targeted research and you’ll be more likely to define a tone of voice which is distinctively yours and relevant to your audience.
A great tone of voice should work as a social asset. It’s much more than just words online or on paper. It’s your connector and your link with the people you want to reach. What can you do to make sure that your tone of voice builds connections instead of blocking them?
Your tone of voice is a way of setting the level of the conversation you want to have with people. That means talking and not shouting. Is your content trying too hard? Is your tone of voice overwhelmed with sales words too early on?
Do your potential clients really understand what you’re all about? Do they know why you’re the best choice ? With the right tone of voice, you can upgrade your content and make your messages even clearer.
Here’s a tip. Verbalise it. Test your tone of voice by reading your content out loud. How does it come across? Does it flow? Does it sound like something written for humans or is it robot language?
A common misconception is that copywriting tone of voice is just about words – lots and lots of nice words. As a copywriter, I’m a big fan of words. But tone of voice isn’t simply about packing a load of words together. Or getting heavy with the hyperbole. It means selecting and using exactly the right words at the right time.
I bet you were wondering which word I’d find for X! Well, this one is relevant because when a tone of voice works, it provides X-ray insight into your business and its value.
Yes, you. How does your tone of voice reflect you and your business? I’m a regular ghost blogger for the director of a successful business network and one of her biggest worries when we started working together was how I’d be able to reflect her personality. We’ve honed a tone of voice which speaks for my client and keeps her written tone of voice consistent with her character.
Zany, wacky, weird – whichever one it is, avoid the temptation to make your tone of voice deliberately strange for the sake of it. Start with what will work for your market and your audience and you’ll find that your tone of voice will strengthen rather than undermine your online and offline presence.
Got something to say about tone of voice? Add your comments below or get in touch!
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, March 2016