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Have you noticed what's changed in content? Tuesday May 2, 2017

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The view has changed…have you noticed?

I find it interesting to consider the many developments I’ve seen over the past 14 years. I’m frequently in conversation with business-owners across many sectors. The biggest thing I’ve noticed in the last few months? The landscape is changing. Change seems to be a constant now. Yes, I know that this is a fact of life, but now it seems to be very much a fact of business (speaking anecdotally, of course).

The reinventors are the winners

Whether it’s in response to the changing economic climate or just the need to stay ahead, I’ve seen many companies reinventing their approach and morphing into a newer version of themselves. Many of these are looking for their content to reflect this evolution, whether they want to update their clients about the developments by email, or they are looking to set themselves apart with a thought provoking blog. These are the companies that are staying ahead.

New just keeps on coming

It’s not enough to stick to the familiar way of doing things any more. Markets are changing. Strategy is changing. So why isn’t content changing to keep up? New channels, new audiences and new opportunities are here. The fact is that content really can’t only be about having a well written blog or a great sounding home page any more (though these things are still very valuable to businesses). The new channels demand content which is as strategic as it is engaging and as relevant as it is credible.

What’s next?

Added to this is the need to stay constantly up to date and in tune with your market’s interests. In my view, people expect a great deal more from content than they did just a few years ago. I’ve been lucky enough to watch how my clients have stayed nimble and updated their copywriting strategy to match their business strategy. There’s much more to come. After all, in just a few years, we’ve already seen changes like the rise of User Generated Content, the explosion of social media and the demand for increasingly sophisticated branded content…

Change isn’t just coming soon. It’s already here. And it’s here to stay.

Are you ready?

Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, May 2017

What's the point of putting a personal spin on my content? Monday April 17, 2017

“What’s the point of putting a personal spin on my content?”

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This was a real question I was asked recently by a business-owner. I’m still surprised by the lingering misconception that copywriting is simply about creating content which reads well and is grammatically correct. As I’ve blogged before, it’s a view which misses the whole point of copywriting for business. In this conversation, my contact couldn’t see the value of having individual, unique marketing content.

Most of us understand the value of content in connecting with customers through a copywriting strategy. But many people still miss the point of content with a spin which is uniquely theirs. An example of this is the enewsletter which is not only branded to match a company, but which has a distinctive tone of voice and a clear message. Just this week I have received enewsletters from two businesses. In both, the newsletter itself was nicely designed and branded, but the content lacked any individual spark or personality. So in response to the question above, my answer is this:

People-power

People buy from people. I know that that’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Those people are still making a choice about whether they buy into you, even in your content and your copywriting approach. If there’s no real personality for them to connect with, they’re less likely to make a valuable emotional association with your product or service.

Spot the expert

Why bother to make your content more personal? Well, one big driver in the content marketing revolution is about raising your profile as an expert through your copywriting approach. But how can you achieve this without having a personal and individual spin in your content? If you go for generic content, you lose all the value of your experience and knowledge – and so does your audience. Go more personal and you grow important links between your brand and public perception of your expertise.

Value the difference

Putting the personal into your copywriting approach is what highlights the difference between you and other businesses out there. By opting for generic content, you risk sounding very similar to other companies. Similar equals less memorable which of course equals less reason for your audience to respond to your content…When you find and communicate what makes you different, you make yourself distinctive – giving you a distinct advantage in your market. One example of this is an accountancy company in Nottingham who were looking for a more entertaining tone of voice. The copywriting approach we developed to give their content more personality has had great feedback from customers.

Drive response

What’s more compelling – a blank face or a big smile? That’s the equivalent of the difference between well written, but bland content and a copywriting approach that builds in your personality. Even when content is well-written, it can still lack that something special. Factual, clear, simple…that’s all fine. But as human beings, we can’t help reacting to some character, to the evidence of a personality. Building your personality into your copywriting approach helps to create a response. Of course, it needs to be done appropriately and carefully, but you’ll make your copywriting strategy much more effective in the long-run.

Grow relationships

Keeping your content personal has another important advantage. If you carefully plan your personal spin within your copywriting approach, you’ll naturally encourage a more direct relationship with your target audience. Your tone of voice, your calls to actions and other aspects of your content will work much more effectively at creating a connection with your audience.

Time to get personal?

Like to look at ways to make your own copywriting approach more personal? Let me know!

By Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, Nottingham, April 2017

4 ways to sound the same as everyone else Monday March 6, 2017

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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.

Why recycle?
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

How this client testimonial sums up the secret to copywriting Monday January 30, 2017

Copywriter Nottingham blog post on great copy
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?

Different perspectives

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You only have to spend time with another person to realise that we all see the world differently and express ourselves in varied ways – even when we’re talking about the same subject! Going even further than that, we all have different associations with specific words or phrases. Some of us have a higher threshold for jargon. Some of us can’t abide formality and others run a mile from a casual written style. Why do we forget that, even in the midst of a brief conversation? When we remember the differences between us, we can make the copywriting process much more powerful.

Staying connected

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

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It’s very likely that there’s a gap between the way you see your product or service and the way your audience sees it. That gap isn’t just about language, but perspective – so there are multiple aspects to think about. How can you allow for that and find ways to bridge that abyss? Copywriting is essentially about shrinking the space between a business and its customer. The smaller the space, the better. Sharing the right messages in the right way can achieve this.

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?

Hear clear
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

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Listening between the lines is essential to the copywriting process. There’s what a client says and what they want and good listening ensures that both bases are covered. I listen out for the subtle messages they share in our conversation. This could be about how they want the business to be seen, the type of clients they want to appeal to or the priority they want to place on certain messages.

Stop assuming
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.

By Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, Nottingham, February 2017

3 principles that matter more than content trends in 2017 Sunday January 1, 2017

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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.

Misleading messages?

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…

Vital principles

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!

By Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, Nottingham, January 2017

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