4 ways to sound the same as everyone else 21 days ago
When you read a business website or brochure, do you ever get the feeling you’ve read it before? Or perhaps you sometimes have a weird sense of déjà vu about a particular company’s marketing message… It’s amazing how often certain phrases come up in communications, turning potentially unique, interesting content into something more staid and over-familiar.
Here are just four of my copywriter’s bugbears, the words that just won’t go away. These may be phrases I’ve worked on replacing or renewing for clients over the years – or simply words I’d like to see the back of. Being a copywriter, I see it as my job to create a strong message with fresh content. Because who wants to sound the same as everyone else?
1) “Small enough to care, big enough to do the job.”
…or variations on this theme. Over the years, this is one that has made me turn several times from copywriter to chief negotiator. It’s an important message with a great deal of value for many different companies. But why risk sounding the same as thousands of other businesses out there? As a copywriter, can I suggest finding a fresh way to communicate this important message so that people recognise what you have to offer – and distinguish you from other businesses in your market? So your business is flexible and able to offer a great service? Great. There are ways to communicate that message without using the same familiar words. As a copywriter, I see it as my job to find alternatives to the stock phrases.
2) “Your local…”
Your local shop, your local business – you know the drill. This is another one that has transformed me from copywriter to negotiator over the years. Yes, it’s a big selling point (if your market is truly local), but it’s another example of copy in uniform. It’s a message that pops up in all sorts of places. You’ll probably see it sometime this week. But what does it actually mean? I understand why some of my clients have wanted to use it. But after discussion, we’ve come to an agreement that there are other ways to get across the value of being close nearby – ways that can be more helpful and more focused than ‘your local’. I’ve applied my copywriter’s perspective to help companies find a more special way to say they’re close by.
3) “In the comfort of your own home”
Thankfully, this is one I don’t come across very often. But I can’t help noticing it’s still very popular on TV adverts. (You know, the ones with the lovely arm chairs and the instructions to ‘pay no money now’). The reason that this one gets to me, aside from my professional angle as a copywriter, is the obviousness of the statement (of course I’m going to enjoy the armchair in the comfort of my own home! Where else would I enjoy it? In the comfort of my own garden? In the comfort of my nearest supermarket?). Rantings aside, my copywriter’s-eye view sees this phrase as a classic example of copywriting in uniform. It’s boil in the bag wording that makes the product or service sound the same as all the rest. Yes, it delivers an obvious message, but it doesn’t say anything new and fresh about the product.
4) “We’re passionate about…”
Passionate is great. But we know you’re passionate about your particular service or product. Why else would you be doing what you do? It’s a key sentiment to share, but why share it so obviously? And why state it when you can show it? As a copywriter, I look at ways to express that passion through the underlying messages of the copy and the points I make about a business. Then people can sense the passion – and why they should respond to it. Being a copywriter doesn’t simply mean I want to sum things up in words. I look for new ways to get across important messages. I could say I’m passionate about it, but I won’t. Hopefully that’s come across already.
So there they are. Just a few of my least favourite things (copy-wise, anyway). When there’s so much potential to say something distinctive, why recycle the words everyone else uses? But I’m speaking from my copywriter’s soapbox on this. What’s your view? Agree? Totally disagree? Have I trampled over one of your all-time favourite phrases? Let me know.
By Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, Nottingham, March 2017
One of my clients summed up very neatly what I’m trying to do when I’m copywriting. In a review, he said “Camilla understands what I want to say but writes it how it needs to be read!”.
In just a few words, Phil stated what I think is the essence of copywriting – the translation, that process of taking a message and transforming it into something that appeals to a specific audience. It all starts with the question – how do you leap the sometimes yawning chasm between what you want to say and how it needs to be perceived? And what’s the best way to communicate your message without losing your meaning?
Here are a few thoughts on how to stop your message getting lost on the way to your audience:
Find their perspective
Got a clear picture in your head of what you want to say? That’s great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that other people will get it. Think carefully about your audience’s perspective on the subject. How do they see it and what kind of copywriting approach will work for them?
Shrink the space
Ban the bland
Always ask yourself if what you’re writing will translate. Is it so vivid in your mind that you assume it will instantly communicate across to another person? Or is there a risk of using ambiguous or bland language which simply doesn’t mean anything to the very people you want it to appeal to?
We all hear what we want to hear. Be careful that you don’t write what you want to write instead of sharing what’s of interest to your readers.
Keep your core
Another thing which can lost in the space between a company and and its customers is the authentic. Be sure to find a way to connect the two which retains that authenticity. In other words, don’t become so focused on people and their perceptions that you lose sight of your company and its values.
Listen between the lines
Assumptions are a very dangerous factor in communication. They are the basis of many an argument big or small. What assumptions are you making about your audience? Are you assuming that they’re a step closer to buying into you than they really are? How can you address these pitfalls?
Seeing vs. saying
Copywriting isn’t simply the process of rewriting content into plain language or reducing a message down to its simplest points. It involves gaining an accurate understanding of what someone is trying to say – the intention shapes the words. Copywriting is definitely not just about using fluffy words and applying an informal or chatty tone of voice
You may know what you want to say, but are you sure that’s what people are actually hearing? Because, without the right approach, what you say and what they see won’t be the same thing.
Happy 2017! Now, I know it’s traditional at this time of year to look at the trends which might shape the near future. Exploring the developments that could affect the prospects for content and copywriting is certainly something I’ve done before, from looking at my wishes for the year ahead to considering what might change for business copywriting in the new year.
Opinion on the latest trends is everywhere right now. While it can give an insight into just what might happen over the next 12 months, I do think it can be misleading. The message from all those trends articles seems to be that we should be leaping onto the latest bandwagon and embracing the changes without further ado.
Yes, marketing never stops and yes, we all need to keep adapting. But becoming hung up on the trends can get in the way of applying some essential principles in copywriting and marketing.
What’s going to be big in 2017?
Of course, there are some very interesting things to look out for this year. Like the potential for “dark social” to help marketers grow their audiences and the anticipated rise of optimisation for user intent in SEO. People are also talking about “conversational experiences” via chatbots and how they’re anticipated to be the next big thing. So, yes, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about content and copywriting in the year 2017. But let’s take a step back first…
Before we “follow the trend”, as so many of those trends articles exhort us to do, shouldn’t we first be sure that our content and copywriting strategy follows some vital principles? These are:
1. Be unique
Why? Not simply because your business is a “special snowflake”, but because being unique is a commercial advantage. Uncovering and strengthening your own voice can help you appeal more quickly to the right people. Be generic and fade in with countless others. Be unique and be remembered. So, before you follow the latest trends, make sure that your content and copywriting approach follows this tenet. Your business is unique. Shouldn’t your content be too?
2. Be relevant
You can’t be relevant to everyone out there. That way blandness lies. So, decide who it is your content is actually for first. Think about those people in detail. What matters to them? What interests them? How do they talk about your industry? Then ensure every word you write about your business matches that. Chasing after the newest and hottest change in the market is no good if the content you’re creating is generic.
3. Be precise
Those year-ahead trends articles are very tempting, with their seductive calls to leap on the latest bandwagon. But having content that’s precise comes first. When I say precise, I mean content in which every word is dedicated to communicating what your business is about and why it’s the right one to help your audience. You can achieve this by constantly asking yourself why you’re saying it and why you’re saying it in that particular way. That will help ensure that your content is on point and dedicated to making things happen – not just simply filling a space, as so much content ends up doing.
Some things are always true
Standing at the start of another year is a reminder that time moves on and that life – and marketing – keep on changing. But some things stay the same. One of them is that content has the power to inspire response, shape opinion and create business relationships – when it’s done effectively. Here’s wishing you a happy and fulfilling 2017!
Where do you start when you’re writing about something new? This is a question I’ve been asked regularly over the years. People often tell me that they wonder about the best place to begin when they’re writing about their new product or service. Copywriting with innovation in mind does demand a different mindset. Of course, there are all the essentials such as target audience, your core message, SEO issues etc. But there are some other valuable areas to think about as well.
Here are just a few pointers on what’s involved with copywriting for innovation:
1. What’s the buzz?
What is it that excites you about your new product or service? What’s given you the boost to bring something new to the market? Apply all this inspiration to your copywriting process and you’ll create content that reflects you and your new business to maximum effect.
2. Where’s the gap?
Where is the space between your new innovation and what other people are offering? Use this difference to speed up and clarify your copywriting approach. This is the space that will inform the messages you use in your copy, the contrasting benefits and features, the thing that makes your innovation truly special.
3. What’s the change?
Your new product or service will create some change within your market and the industry. What are these changes? What new opportunities will your particular innovation bring to the market – and how can you include them within your copywriting approach?
4. Where’s the voice?
If your innovation is offering something new, why does it sound so familiar? This is a common issue with copywriting for innovation. Businesses work hard at creating something fresh for their market – then communicate about it with copy that has a similar voice or style to what’s already out there. Instead, create a clear and appropriate voice for your innovation. Identify your particular style by considering not only the obvious aspects such as your target market, but also by looking at the wording that will both fit and highlight your innovation.
5. Where’s the starting point?
An important aspect of copywriting for innovation is finding the strongest starting point between what you’re offering – and what your audience needs and currently knows about. Being clear on these areas will help you create copy that reflects your innovation and keep it relevant and important to your potential customers.
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, December 2016
The 100-word blog post: Stop ignoring the big idea 154 days ago
Which comes first: the idea or the content?
Well, the idea should. But when you’re inside your business, it’s not always easy to uncover what it is that makes it unique.
Or what your potential customers will want to know about.
Or the interesting angle that will get your copywriting approach moving ahead with far less effort.
But a copywriting approach that includes developing ideas for your blog or social media or overall content plan is valuable.
If you put your ideas first, you’ll find that creating your content and copywriting becomes easier, more effective and (whisper it) more enjoyable!
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, October 2016