Copywriter Crash Course

9.9.2014 »
Strategy
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Copywriting is a surprisingly lucrative trade—if you possess the skills for it. In fact, good writing has actually gained importance in the digital age.

Woman Copywriter from the 1960's

We’re bombarded with content in new and dynamic ways, so it’s important the writing matches the medium. And at its most fundamental level, writing needs a clear, distinct voice.

The funny thing is, however, there’s no formal education for copywriting. It’s a learn-as-you-go/thrown to the wolves/trial by fire skill to learn—which is probably why good copywriting sometimes seems like a diamond in the rough. I was lucky enough to attend a copywriter’s workshop earlier this summer, and it not only prepared me for writing a couple video scripts assigned to me two days later (this job can be awesome), but it made me reexamine everything I write.

No matter what you’re writing or who your audience is, your content needs to do fundamental things to make it break from the clutter, from the mediocrity. And so, my fellow word nerds, let the crash course begin.

First Lesson: 75% of Writing is Pre-writing
Never ever underestimate the power of writing preparation. Research, brainstorming, even scribbling comes together to eventually make up your first draft. I’d say nothing is scarier to most people than the blinking cursor on a stark white word document. You can’t start there! You have to get your ingredients procured and prepped before you can make a meal. The same goes for your writing. Once you go through pre-writing, writing turns into a breeze. For someone like me, it’s actually fun. HA!

Lesson 2: Features & Benefits
When you’re appealing to an audience, you need to appeal to two parts of the brain—the learned, evolved human—and the animal inside us all.

As humans, we’re objective and rational—we think, plan, and reason. But as animals, we’re subjective, emotional, and have fight or flight instinct. Because of this, your message must have features and benefits to truly appeal to your audience.

Features appeal to our human side. They cover what you’re offering. They’re objective and inherent. Benefits appeal to our animal instincts. They’re about what the end user gets. They answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Lesson Trois: Humanize Your Audience—Even with B2B
Somewhere down the line, B2B marketing forgot people are still involved in the process. It’s not corporations talking to corporations. We’re all special snowflakes, or whatever—you get what I’m saying. We need to humanize ourselves – and our work.

  • Always write to an individual—Make someone up if you have to
  • Make it conversational—We’re not writing legal documents – your copy should inform, but it must grab attention first
  • Storytelling is a thing—“Once upon a time my copywriting skills were awesome.”—storytelling appeals to everyone

#4: Don’t “WE” Your Audience
It’s not a good look to be a narcissistic writer, ESPECIALLY when your endgame is a call to action to your audience.

  • We don’t persuade ourselves, so we shouldn’t be the subject
  • Write in the 2nd person
  • For every mention of “we,” there should be TWO mentions of “you”

Finally: Don’t Make Your Reader Do Extra Work—Because They Won’t
Writing for the Internet is like feeding a toddler—you have to cut up the content for them. Your team, your client, and you are the only people who will read ALL the content … unless there’s something wrong with it. So be sure to make your call to action often and versatile. When you’re writing a page of content, assume the user will only look at that page. Have a call to action somewhere on every page.

I could go on with the lessons I’ve learned, but a lesson of hard knocks is that if I make this piece too long, no one will read it. If you learned nothing else from me, remember this: being a good writer is being a good person. You must be empathetic. Pay attention to other people, let them know that you’re thinking about them, and most importantly, don’t use too many exclamation points!!!

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