Words, words, words… what better way of celebrating Green Light Copywriting’s 12th birthday than with 12 of the world’s most unusual and wonderful words. While some are English and some aren’t, what they all do is express something of the experiences that have shaped the past 12 years.
Originating from Greece, Meraki is a wonderful word which means to do something with creativity or to really put yourself into your work. At the risk of sounding cheesy, this is something I’ve always aimed to do with my copywriting services, whether it’s for a manufacturing company or an accountancy firm. But more importantly than putting myself into it, I’ve aimed to put the client into it. That’s because copywriting isn’t simply the process of writing well. It’s the art of expressing a company’s character, like the ghost blog posts that always sound like my clients, rather than me!
Mudita, a lovely Pali word, is all about finding enjoyment in the happiness of others. When I write for businesses, I’m not just producing content which fills the brief, but doing my best to support my client’s goals, be it to speak more dynamically online or to increase awareness of their new products. Mudita is the reason I’ve really enjoyed building up long-term relationships with clients.
Lagom. This funny little Swedish word means just the right amount – no more and no less. Which is how you could sum up copywriting – creating a message which fits just right. That’s all I need to say on that one.
I’m a proud sufferer of logolepsy. Yes, I’m obsessed with words. It’s this fixation which first sparked my freelance career and then the 12 years (so far) of Green Light Copywriting. And it’s not going away any time soon.
We’ve all met a blatherskite – the person who talks and talks, but by the end of the conversation you’re no clearer about who they are or what they do. So too with business content which goes on and on, but leaves the reader no closer to understanding exactly why they should use that company’s services. I’ve made it my mission in the past 12 years to banish blatherskites from the world of business content.
What a delicious word (oops, my logolepsy is showing again). Sort of like succulent, but even better. Luculent refers to writing or speech which is clearly expressed. I’ve been delighted to devote the last 12 years to bringing luculence into the world of business communications.
This odd word refers to the kind of language which makes full use of jargon or vagueness to avoid making a clear statement. Quite clearly, a big part of my role as a copywriter in the past 12 years and onwards is fighting against camouflanguage and jargon.
This delicious word means the day before yesterday. It is the point in time at which many clients need their content. All part of the service.
Selcouth is a word that expresses itself, to some extent. That’s because this unusual old word actually means rare, strange or wonderful. I’ve had the delight of working with many unusual companies over the last 12 years. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with lots of wonderful people. Speaking of wonderful, I lost a special friend very suddenly at the start of this year. But that description’s doing him a disservice. He wasn’t just a true friend, he was my confidante and adviser on many aspects of life and work. And he shared my love of words and daft puns. I was fortunate to know one as selcouth as him.
This interesting German word refers to the character of a language or an intuitive feeling for what is linguistically appropriate. Appropriate isn’t something that gets a lot of airtime in the world of business content, yet it applies to both to copywriting tone of voice and to the messages we choose. Get these wrong and you can do lasting damage to your business.
Business content that isn’t swasivious isn’t going to get very far. Swasivious means something that is agreeable or persuasive and certainly applies to the role of copywriting. Not from the hard-sell point of view, of course, but from the perspective of creating a positive and enduring connection with the reader and building from there.
How could I resist? One of the longest words in the English language, floccinaucinihilipilification, means the estimation of something as having no value. Its use in the House of Commons in 2012 even earned an MP a place in the record books! I’ve been lucky enough over the past 12 years of Green Light Copywriting (and before that) to help make sure that companies are recognised for their true value. It’s my job to draw out and express exactly what is valuable about a business and bring it into their content. But I’ve also been hard at work creating content which is of value both to businesses and to their customers. Here’s to the next 12 years!
Now I’m going to have a birthday drink and see if I can still say “floccinaucinihilipilification”…
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, Nottingham, September 2015
5 common content arguments (and my responses) 21 days ago
Having earned my crust as a copywriter for more than 12 years, I’ve spent nearly as much time talking to business-owners about their content as I have actually writing it. During this time I’ve encountered some common reasons as to why copywriting is not a concern for particular businesses. I thought I’d share five of my favourites – and my responses – here:
1. “We don’t really get leads from our website so it doesn’t matter what our web content is like.”
Yes, even now that the world is online, this is something I still hear every once in a while when chatting about copywriting…It’s all too easy to forget that while those lovely leads may be coming in another way, other potential prospects might be put off by less than engaging website copy. Aside from typos or grammar gaffes, there’s also the small matter of defining your business above others. It’s great that those leads are coming in, but does out of date or dodgy web content mean that your business credibility is gradually being undermined at the same time? It could be, without an appropriate copywriting strategy.
2. “We haven’t really got anything new to say for our industry so why do we need to have a blog?”
By definition, every company should have something new to say. This message is exactly what a great copywriting plan and blog can bring to life. Does your product have an environmental edge over similar products? Is your service based around niche industry experience? Have you discovered an innovative way to help people save money? These are all of potential interest to your market and extremely blog-worthy topics. With the right plan and approach, you can generate all kinds of valuable blog content. Yes, it usually takes a little time before you enjoy the benefits of blogging and copywriting, but if your company doesn’t have anything new to say, how is it going to stand out from everyone else? This particular cop-out overlooks the many advantages of blogging, whether that’s better SEO, more profile or gaining the edge over your competitors!
3. “I didn’t get a response to my new content as quickly as I wanted so I stopped.”
Reviewing what you’re doing – good. Suddenly stopping a long-term copywriting strategy – not so good. While there’s no point in continuing with an approach which has stopped working, this particular statement always makes me want to ask about that person’s expectations. Were they hoping to go viral right from their inaugural blog post or aiming for hoards of comments after just one week? The reality is that effective copywriting strategies take a little longer to have an impact. It’s all in the planning.
4. “We can’t all agree on the core message/tone of voice/format so we’re leaving it for now.”
Consensus can be a challenge. I know. I’ve heard first hand from clients how tough they can find it to reach a final copywriting decision. From issues around the right tone of voice to the appropriate way to present a business, copywriting choices can be tricky – if they’re not managed effectively. But it’s not a good idea to let decision-by-committee get in the way of applying the power of content. Creating a clear process and having one or two named people who oversee it and make the final decision is a good way to avoid this particular problem.
5. “Our business isn’t really about marketing so it would be inappropriate to use content to communicate with our clients.”
I occasionally hear this one from people who make things – hard working business-owners in the manufacturing or industrial sectors who (understandably) haven’t used content or copywriting strategies to communicate with their current or potential clients. But it’s a viewpoint which excludes all kinds of possibilities. Like that mailing list which is gathering dust (or the digital equivalent) or the upcoming industry conference for which there is nothing but some very ‘vintage’ (and not in the upcycling, fun way) brochures. Just because your core product or service isn’t about marketing doesn’t mean that your business should miss out on the opportunities offered by an effective copywriting strategy!
Want to chat more about this or other copywriting ideas? Let me know!
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, September 2015
The burger that sounded like a conservatory 33 days ago
Please excuse the quality of the picture above. It was snapped at high speed somewhere in Nottingham because I didn’t want to miss it. That wasn’t because I was feeling hungry and needed to take note of the nearest burger place. I just had to grab an image of the idea of advertising a custom-built burger.
Too much seasoning
To me, this is a statement about what happens when companies use complex language to show their expertise. And how wrong it can be. Even as a freelance copywriter, I accept that some jargon in some contexts is unavoidable. But, when a fun concept is communicated in heavy language like this, it creates a kind of distance. I can see why the company chose these words. Custom built does suggest something which has been carefully crafted – if you’re talking about a car or a conservatory. The intention is right, but the tone of voice just doesn’t fit.
Who’s for a bespoke sandwich?
This reminds me of the ‘bespoke’ sandwiches I noticed in Nottingham city centre last year. This kind of jargon tends to confuse rather than convey the message – the first step in pushing your audience away. Ultimately it means that people end up being more aware of the language you’re using than anything else. Of course it could be that I’m just a hungry freelance copywriter. But I think there is pattern of companies working very hard to demonstrate their know-how through over-complicated language.
Perhaps an ambient sausage roll?
It’s curious that this isn’t the first food/hospitality sign that I’ve snapped for reasons of jargon abuse. I can’t help noticing how over-dressed copy bamboozles rather than interests people. After all, less is indeed more. That’s what The Plain English Campaign thought when they drew attention to the ambient sausage roll... People notice if the language doesn’t fit, whether you’re talking about a conservatory, an accountant or an app (all businesses I’ve written for). That’s why an effective copywriting approach is so important. And why using jargon isn’t the best way to get people salivating over your products or services.
Autumn. It really is just a conker fall away… which makes now the ideal time to explore how to squeeze even more value from your content, whether it’s your website, emails or direct mail. Like to look forward to an autumn of content packed with more value? Read on.
1. Speak louder
Want to be heard by your potential clients next season? Look again at your content to see whether the tone of voice is doing your business justice. Could it be time to take your company’s voice from generic to memorable or from robot-speak to personality-packed? This will add value by giving your content more character and making it more memorable!
2. Share stories, not sales pitches
How’s your content been working for you up to now? Not hard enough? This could be the ideal stage to assess whether you’re really telling an inspiring story about your business or just pushing a sales script. Our brains are programmed to respond to stories, so why miss out on the opportunity to bring the power of an interesting tale to your business?
3. It’s not you. It’s them
It really isn’t all about you. As autumn approaches, why not review your marketing content to really understand whether or not your content is all about your client, rather your business? This will instantly add value to it in the eyes of your prospect. How can you help them? What’s in it for them? Look at ways to replace the list of your company’s many achievements with content which compellingly demonstrates what you can do for your customer.
4. Show, don’t tell
Why just talk around your company’s benefits, when you can highlight how you benefit your clients? Don’t just tell them, show them how great you are with case studies that detail the amazing stuff you do. This will bring your business to life like nothing else.
5. Ask more questions
Never underestimate the power of a good question or two. If you want to get more from your marketing content this season, make sure you’re asking all the right questions first! How do you actually resolve your customers’ problems? What do you do differently to others in your market? Great questions can generate all kinds of insights that you can apply to make your content more active and engaging.
6. Stay present
Staying present matters. Are you really relishing those opportunities to make your marketing content topical? Spend some time exploring how you can connect your blog, enewsletters and other marketing content with current events like festivals, special days and perhaps even quirky happenings. It’s a relatively simple way to keep your content relevant.
7. Get closer to your audience
With copywriting, business-owners often feel tempted to stick with one particular approach. But if you’d like to see more of a result from your content from autumn onwards, you’ll do well to look at the power of the marketing persona. This is all about getting closer to your dream customer. You can do this by asking the right kinds of questions: what is important to this customer right now? What are their priorities and how can I match that in my copywriting approach? What kinds of goals and interests motivate my clients? What bothers them? Create content around these issues and you’ll instantly make your content more valuable.
8. Give your client a voice
Here’s something you may find surprising. Valuable content doesn’t always have to be about what you write. Are you overlooking the power of what your clients have to say? Client testimonials can be a very beneficial part of an effective copywriting strategy. I appreciate that many business-owners often feel too busy to follow up for testimonials, but they are worth the effort! It’s a simple and enduring way to enhance everything you’re saying in your content with an added stamp of credibility. With the right approach, you can re-use client testimonials in a range of ways to add even more value to your content!
9. Jack in the jargon
Could technical-speak be getting between you and new business? Does your website sound as if it’s swallowed a work manual? Jargon overload is an easy way to reduce the value of your content. If you’d like more effective content this autumn, a great way to start is by weeding out the jargon and replacing it with a more human, approachable tone of voice.
10. Search for special
Copywriting is not just about stating what you do. This autumn, replace the factual statements with content which specifically pinpoints what is special about your business. Facts are important, but so is carefully selecting and sharing the right ones. This could be facts like the surprising thing that inspired you to start your business, the incredible new sector you’ve just moved into, the number of people you’ve helped…
11. Look for a new angle
Have you noticed a drop in response to content that’s perhaps a few years past its best? A new season can be a great opportunity to take a step back and refresh how you convey your message. Changing your angle can give you a great deal more scope for how to look at and write about your business.
12. Swap serious for funny
Making your audience smile is a powerful way to create content with more value. Work in a little humour and you’ll create a more inviting statement about your products or services!
13. Put your creative hat on
Could this be the season that you reinvent how you and your audience see your business? It could be, if you dare to get a little more creative. Taking a fresh view on your business topic can really help to share what’s uniquely special about that product or service.
14. Make a great offer
One quick way to add value to your content is to make a clear unambiguous offer. It could be a free consultation, a chance to win something great or a little of your time for free. This will instantly draw attention to your business and show that you mean business too!
15. Prune it
It may sound like contradiction, but if you want more value from your content, you could benefit from cutting it down. Is your current content packed with lots of words and unclear messages? Pare it right back to create more of a response!
16. Be generous
Value in content also means value for your potential clients, like informing them about the things you know will be of interest to them instead of just what’s of interest to you. This could be a blog which features helpful tips and updates, rather than simply sharing the latest news about your most recent business triumph, for example.
17. End it well
Is every aspect of your content designed to create a lasting impression? Consider the ending as well as that fascinating first paragraph. Don’t overlook the opportunity at the end of your content (your web pages, for example) to remind people of your core message and benefits. Add value by making sure people leave your website with a clear sense of what you can do to help them.
Adding value doesn’t necessarily mean doing more. Consider the ways in which you’re currently sharing your content. Are they working for you? What could you do to simplify your marketing approaches and reach the right people with less effort?
19. Bring out the benefits
Does your content clearly explain why your business is the best choice? Look at converting the facts about what you do into the many important reasons to buy into your business and you’ll instantly add more value to your content.
20. Request a response
A classic and commonly committed content error is to overlook calls to action. So if you want to see more action-packed content in the coming season, don’t ignore the power of a great call to action! Ask yourself how you’d like your potential customer to respond after they’ve read your content: call, click or what? Then make it as easy as possible for them to do that!
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, Nottingham, September 2015
The Pylon Appreciation Society… no, it’s not an oxymoron. The Pylon Appreciation Society is one of those groups bound to inspire a giggle or two, purely due to the unfair perception that having a passion for large metal grids in the ground is an odd thing. While I’m not a member of the society, I do think that it (and other similar niche groups) can teach us something about the value of great content. It’s a reminder about the importance of changing how we look at so-called “boring” or “uninteresting” subjects. Like the perception of those pylon fans, how can you excite people about less conventionally “interesting” topics?
From pylons to prized content
During a recent conversation about blogging, a new client expressed how dull they thought their own products were to write about. So strongly did they believe this that they used a word which would not be right to share on a (mostly) polite copywriting blog. This client believed that their blog would be dull because they see their own business topic as dull. Not so, I hastened to tell them. That’s precisely why it’s helpful to work with a copywriter or to look again at how you view a topic.
Like the Pylon Appreciation Society, the truth is not just that everything is fascinating to someone, but that everything is fascinating with the right angle. Life – and content – is all about how we look at it. Copywriting is the process of reframing and drawing out the good stuff. To all the business-owners who sadly declare that their business is “boring”, I say this: there’s always something interesting to it and there’s always an interesting way to write about it.
Thriller not filler
As I’ve written before, effective content isn’t just content that is grammatically correct, with every apostrophe in place, important though that is. Powerful content does not simply fill a space, but is packed full of words on a mission. Every single sentence needs to be targeted towards the goal of stating the right message… not just fluffing around the edges. Each word needs to be put together to build and sustain interest, rather just saying your piece. Then you need to build in a twist to create energy. That’s why my very first blog post was called “The writing surprise”.
Put your angle before your topic
Which marketing straplines stay with you? Not the more mundane ones, I’m sure. While it’s important to remain appropriate in your marketing content, it’s less about the topic and more about the angle you choose to take. This of course needs to be added to a tone of voice that sizzles rather than drizzles. I’m going to say a couple of obvious things here:
Content which surprises is more memorable than content which stays within the boundaries of our expectations.
Content that shows some (appropriate) personality is more likely to be remembered.
Content with a touch of the contrarian about it can help to address the arguments a prospect might have against choosing your product or service.
Defining a topic as boring is seeing it in a conventional rather than a creative light. Just as with the pylon aficionados, it’s human nature to think that because something is less conventionally appealing it is entirely without fascination. I actually get excited when a new client declares that theirs is an unexciting business to write about because I know I’m going to enjoy working on finding a new way to look at and write about it.
Great ways to bring out the fascinating in your business topic:
As they point out on their website, the Pylon Appreciation Society are constantly judged for being “mad or geeky” yet those same critics often contact them for more information! In my view, every topic is fascinating if you look at it closely enough. Doing so will help you create content which brings your business to life memorably and credibly so that people remember and respond to it. And there’s nothing boring about that.