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 125 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
5 ways to put the fun into copywriting 132 days ago
“Fun? Having fun while creating content?” I can hear the protests now. I love being a copywriter for many reasons. But while my role makes me happy, I find that many business-owners dread the prospect of creating content. In their eyes, it is a huge, never-ending job. Not fun. I hear so many people sigh at the thought of looking at their content. They recognise the value of content and the fact that a great copywriting strategy can make the difference between getting noticed and being ignored. Yet they see the whole process of copywriting and planning content as a chore, a bore and a task. One big part of the problem is that it isn’t their day job as it has been mine for 13-plus years, But it’s more than that. I think it’s easy for business-owners to get into a state where they view content just as something to fill the spaces and complete the gaps and that makes them feel stressed.
One of my golden rules
One of my golden rules for when I’m writing content is that I have to find it interesting to write or people won’t find it interesting to read. Actually, I think if I’m not enjoying the writing process, there’s something very wrong. It doesn’t matter whether I’m copywriting for a manufacturing company, a firm of solicitors or a boutique hotel. If the writing process isn’t rewarding, it’s time to stop and take a fresh look at what I’m doing.
So yes, I think fun has a big part to play in copywriting. Enjoying your content process can make you more creative and your content more effective.Here are a few ways to help bring back the fun when you’re creating your content:
1. Try something different
One of the biggest blocks to having fun? Trying too hard, of course. Now, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t put your best into your content and copywriting approach. But why not try lightening up a little? It could prove surprisingly powerful. So many companies try writing with the straitjacket of professionalism on, even when their particular industry or audience is open to something a bit bolder. So, have fun trying out a more unusual tone of voice, instead of bland and neutral. Just one example of this is the client of mine who asked me to create a sarcastic tone of voice for their website and brochures. This had such a great impact that it ended up being imitated by one of their competitors. So, go on, relax and try something a little different. You may be surprised at what happens.
2. Bring in your team
Team building? What’s that got to do with creating content and planning your copywriting approach? Well, quite a lot. Great content should bring together messages from across a business. Asking your team about how they want to communicate about the business can be very revealing. Why not use your need for content as an opportunity to uncover what your team sees as your company’s strengths and skills? You might be surprised at what you find out. You could do this as group activity or simply by asking a series of questions. These could be around how your employees see the company, the kind of feedback they receive from customers and the value they think the business provides. You could gain all kinds of valuable perspectives, depending on different staff roles and how long they’ve been in the business.
3. Take it personally
In life, amazing things can happen when you share something of yourself. It’s the same in copywriting. Seeing content creation as a chore will keep it limited to a job to be got through as quickly as possible. But viewing it as a chance to share something about your story and what makes you tick will bring the process and the content itself to life. We all have different “sharing thresholds”. So experiment. Try writing from a more personal perspective and see how you feel. Does the process of copywriting for your business become easier or harder? Bringing in a more personal angle can help to reveal the story behind your business.
4. Don’t forget to smile
Yes, smiles are permitted in the copywriting process! A little humour can be a very serious advantage in business content. Think about the funny things that have affected your business and the interesting ways you’ve helped your clients. These stories can turn your content into something your audience wants to read like nothing else. Bring in the powerful art of humour and you’ll really start to enjoy the art of copywriting for your business.
5. Keep note of the daft
Don’t delete so fast! I know you want to create your content and move on to the next project, but deleting those more unusual ideas could work against you. Take your time and allow the daft ideas to remain on the page or screen for now. Then revisit them. They may hold the seeds of something useful. That’s certainly been the case when I’m copywriting for businesses. I won’t let an idea go until I’m sure that’s nothing I can do with it. So, relax, let the ideas flow, turn off your critical inner voice and trust the process. Then, when you’ve let the power of fun shape your copywriting approach, you can refine the content to its very best.
So there we are: fun and copywriting go together better than many business-owners seem to think. Business content is seriously valuable, but for the best results, fun isn’t an optional extra. Used in the right way, it can be a force for good in creating content that gains your business the right kind of attention.
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, October 2016