There are over 300 million active blogs on the internet. More than ever, creative entrepreneurs need to be memorable and convincing, whilst providing really valuable content. Here are some industry best practices on how to write copy that will glorify (or destroy) your brand. Use this knowledge to propagate truth and value for your readers. The alternative is not advised.
Why creative entrepreneurs need to know how to write well
Creative entrepreneurs need to learn how to write well so they can get more sales. Writing, aka; blogging, affects the bottom line. Here are some ways that writing helps you get paid:
- Helps your Search Engine Optimisation
- Helps to grab the attention of people around the globe who are searching
- Having shareable content that people can forward to their friends
- It contributes to the community around your niche
- Helps build stronger relationships with bloggers and customers
- Positions you as an expert and influencer in your field
- Develops a foundation to launch other products; courses, books and events
Writing is integral to growing your brand and marketing your creative offering. It is a tool for getting more customers and building deeper relationships with current ones. I’m not telling you to write because it’s fun (though, it can be), but, because it’s going to make you more money – if done well.
Here are 10 tips that I learnt from a marketing and public relations firm, along with some top bloggers about how to write well.
What is a brand?
Branding is a term that gets thrown around a lot. A brand is the collection of interactions that involve all the touch points which create emotions around your product or service.
When people talk about ‘branding’, they are not talking about logos, slogans or taglines. They’re talking about all the intangible feelings and emotions that the logos, slogans and taglines represent.
1) Figure out who you’re writing for
Who are you writing for? It’s critical that you have context for your copy. Download our free buyer persona template to specifically map your ideal customer. This is a comprehensive planning tool that helps you target the problems your reader may have.
This is built around the inbound marketing methodology. Not sure what inbound marketing is about? Get our free 32-page guide that will take you through it.
2) Put the problem first
Copy that glorifies your brand will identify your readers’ problems. If you want your post to get attention, start with the problem first – people are wired to pay attention to problems. Once you identify the magnitude of the problem, hammer home the solution that you can provide for it.
When writing copy about a clearly identified problem, remember to be clear, concise and consistent.
People don’t have a lot of attention, they don’t have a lot of patience either. Confusion is the enemy. Never, ever confuse your reader, because they’ll leave.
Don’t cram too many words into your sentences. I’ve had clients who have had a proclivity to jam up their copy with banal filler words. I catch myself doing it, too.
101: Bad copy The day was sunny and warm, it provided us with some much-needed respite in which we could play and spend time with one another, and talk about what has been happening in our lives.
Don’t write a sentence like that! It actually hurts people’s eyes and brains, and you risk confusing people. You want to aim for ‘ah ha’ moments, not force readers to jump around in order to decode your convoluted syntax.
Aim for short sentences, use commas and full stops. Instead of trying to cram more info into a sentence, try to break it up into 2 or 3 separate sentences.
Being clear is also a sign of authority and confidence. Copy that’s long-winded and blurry reminds people of slimy politicians. We can’t have that.
“Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking”
102: Not too bad, but still lacking The day was sunny and warm. It provided some much-needed respite. We could play and spend time with one another, then, talk about what happend in our lives.
Have you ever talked to someone who just went on and on; they kept zig-zagging around the point. How frustrated and exhausted did you feel? In person, you have to be polite and patiently partake in this conversation. But, on the web, if you write a long-winded post with no helpful material – people will leave your site straight away, and they won’t come back.
103: Good copy The sunny day provided some much-needed rest. We could play and spend time talking about our lives.
See how much easier that was to digest. All without changing the message of the copy.
Being concise is a way to provide a great reader experience. Ruthlessly cut the banal and redundant words. If you have a list of events, lay them out chronologically or in order of importance.
You want to document all branded terms in the correct spelling and contexts that they can be used.
The point is that you’re shaping people’s perceptions about your brand by consistently using specific terms in your copy. (No, this is not brainwashing, it’s good messaging)
Derek Halpern of Social Triggers built his personal brand by engineering a consistent message for every touch point he was operating within. He would ask everyone who interviewed him to introduce him as ‘the guy who used marketing + psychology to grow sales’. Pretty soon, Derek started to own the space of ‘marketing + psychology.’ He carved out a spot for himself in the noisy marketing arena by consistently repeating the exact same message.
When I worked in a marketing agency, we had to deal with many different clients. Each, with different branded terms and special usages of grammar. It got tricky to remember everything, so the agency produced a style guide for each client. This is a lot of work initially, but, it pays back in accuracy and time saved. The style guide is a bible that contains all the correct usages of terms, grammar, logos, colours and anything else that pertains to your branding and public relations.
We made a conscious effort to update the style guide whenever we came across a new term or a better way to present an old one. Bigger agencies, please invest in a style guide. Ensuring that you use brand terms correctly, is a big step toward writing copy that will glorify your brand.
It’s okay to be opinionated, but make sure that your opinion is informed. Don’t throw hearsay around, because you’ll get caught out and it will be embarrassing (I’ve been taught this the hard way).
Writing great headlines is an art unto itself. You want it to be provocative but not slutty; brief but not scanty; emotional but not whiny or pathetic. Here are some tools and tips that have helped me immensely:
Jon Morrow from Smart Blogger wrote 30 headlines a day.
Keep a document of all the headlines that catch your eye on the web. Copy links and screenshot as much as you can. Next to each headline, try to break down what makes it so effective; how do you feel about it, what are the most effective words, is the headline promising to solve?
The coolest tool I’ve found for checking your headline is CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. This is an invaluable tool that breaks down your headline and gives you feedback.
Also, check your headline for title case with a title case tool.
Check out headlines from the greats: David Ogilvy, Eugene Swartz, Claude Hopkins, Robert Collier, Joseph Sugarman and Victor Schwab. These guys are master direct response copywriters, too.
7) The purpose of form
Form is a way to organise all your words into ideas, concepts and principles. Here’s the general form of all great advertising copy:
Tell people what you are going to tell them
Tell them what you promised them
Tell them why you told them
You may think that this would result in boring and repetitive copy, but it actually makes your writing way more powerful. You are driving the main point home. Remember, adding in too many disparate ideas in your articles will confuse the reader, and that is a big sin – never confuse the reader and always strive for clarity.
The job of your heading is to entice people to read your introduction. Your introduction’s job is to make people curious about your first paragraph, you get the gist.
Every word sells the next word, every sentence sells the next sentence.
That’s how to keep people on your page longer. The longer you have their attention, the greater the impression you’ll leave on them. It’s about taking that tiny bit of mindshare so they’ll remember you. Keep it simple and have one main thing that you want them to take away.
8) Power words
These are words that create an emotional change in the reader. You want to use these words to emphasise the main point. This is a delicate dance, be careful not to overdo it so it because you can come across as being inauthentic and a drama queen. Don’t be the boy who cried wolf. Power words trigger curiosity in the reader.
Here’s a great power word graph to arouse curiosity, credit Medium.com.
What are the actions that you want the reader to take? Are there logical and easy steps that are laid out for people to opt-in to your email list, download a PDF or find out more on your site?
9) Active vs Passive voice
Passive voice is when the verb acts on a subject.
I.e The cart was being pulled by the donkey.
Passive voice is great if you are setting the scene for a narrative. It assumes that your reader wants to take their time and get into your writing.
Active voice is when the subject performs the verb.
I.e. The donkey pulled the cart.
Active voice is, 80% of the time, more enjoyable and easier to read. If you are trying to tell the reader about your latest offer, then please use the active voice – it is less visceral, clean and concise.
“I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client.” David Ogilvy
Here’s the thing, the best and the worst writers have one thing in common; their first drafts look like a used diaper. But, seasoned copywriters know that their first draft is nowhere near what they want the finished product to look like. When learning how to write copy that will glorify (or destroy) your brand – make sure that you don’t skip the editing process.
Here’s the process of an experienced copywriter
Draft: Brain-dump of all current knowledge on the topic (assuming that you’re familiar with the topic).
Research: Making sure that you are correct and finding supporting information.
Writing: Placing all the ideas in a logical and digestible format.
Editing: Cutting out all the fat. Making sure that grammar and syntax are used correctly, ideas are presented clearly, the correct form is followed and the article looks good visually.
Editing is the hard part! Even Ogilvy, the acclaimed father of advertising says that he spent less time writing and more time editing and re-editing his ads. It’s a great lesson for aspiring writers: 1) don’t judge your first draft, 2) keep editing, reworking and reimagining your draft until you polish that turd into a diamond.
Really, really valuable editing tools
This is a Google Chrome extension that checks all your copy for correct spelling and grammar.
A great tool to check the readability of your copy. Hemingway grades your copy at a reading level, you want to aim for an 8 grade or below. This makes sure that readers aren’t working too hard to understand your very well researched and complicated prose.
Are you using the same tired old words? Word Hippo lets you search synonyms and antonyms, so you can inject some spice into your copy.
Don’t rush to hit that publish button. Sometimes it’s better to deliver a quality post a bit late, than on time and mediocre. Spend the majority of your time editing, or even better, get someone else to edit your copy for you. Worst case, Jump on Fiverr and find someone experienced to do it for a couple of bucks.
Great copy prioritises the reader. It delivers information that they are curious about in a respectful way: clearly, concisely and consistently.
If you are trying to sell something, get people to take an action or build an audience; make sure that your messaging respects the reader’s time. Clear, concise and consistent messaging has power and yields more results. It’ all about making sure that the reader doesn’t get bored, or worse, get confused at your excessive verbiage.
Summary: How to write copy that will glorify (or destroy) your brand
- Words that build a picture and grab valuable mindshare from your readers.
- Avoid using too many filler words and have long prose.
- Long form content is great, but short-form content at a high quality is better.
- Words need to have power because they push the reader to take action.
- Be clear, concise, and consistent.
- Be a good copywriter, but be a better editor.
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