On 7th August, Rebecca was asked to present at the Women in Business Network’s Dorset regional meeting. Here’s her presentation.
When Jacqui Frampton first asked me to do this talk, my initial reaction was to hide and never come out. I’m definitely more at home sitting behind my laptop writing than standing in front of an audience.
But I thought about it, and realised that I could share some of what I know and I hope it will be of interest to everyone because we are all writers. Whether you are a nutritionist or an interior designer, a personal trainer or an accountant, I’ll bet that you write every day of your working life. This could be composing an email, posting on social media or producing a report.
1. My first tip is to think about the psychology of what you are writing.
While content writing is informative, copywriting is persuasive. It’s about persuading someone to buy your product, or influencing their beliefs. Our job as writers is to trigger an emotional response from the reader.
As the old saying goes: “Sell a good night’s sleep, not the mattress.” No one cares about the features of the mattress or the underlying technology. They want to know that they’ll get the best sleep of their life, every night.
So next time you are writing for your potential customers, think about the problem they have and how your product or service can solve it. Then write clear, benefit-driven copy and you’ll be onto a winner.
2. My second tip is to tell a good story.
People are good at recognising and blocking out sales pitches, but no one can resist a good story. Stories get in under the radar and transport us to another place – a gentler place where we are more receptive.
So, what can you do to tell a good story? Start with a question or an off-the-wall, mysterious or attention-grabbing statement. This is the ‘hook’, to get the attention of the audience straight away.
Take every opportunity to use emotive words, and to make the audience feel something.
Stories need just the right amount of detail and context to keep the listener interested. Adding some detail adds colour and interest – especially if it creates a visual picture of something. Detail can also string out the tension, which makes for a great story.
3. My third tip is to lighten up.
I used to think that business writing had to be formal, but I was wrong. It does have to be professional, but that doesn’t mean stuffy or without character. There’s plenty of great business writing that uses humour, or shows the personality behind the brand.
Don’t use more words if fewer will do. It’s a useful exercise to imagine you’re writing for an audience whose first language isn’t English. It’s harder than it sounds to write in easy English. Keep sentences short, or break longer sentences up with punctuation.
And to dispel a myth, simplifying something doesn’t equal ‘dumbing down.’ It’s making something easier to read, and therefore making your message stand out more clearly.
4. My fourth and final tip is to proofread. Always.
Sorry to the members of the Christchurch group because I’m always banging on about proofreading and one of my hobbies, spotting typos! But spelling and grammar errors are one of the main things that can make you look unprofessional and even lose you business.
I didn’t learn grammar at school, but I have brushed up on the basics and continue to learn all the time. You can get so much help through books and on the internet it’s crazy not to.
Always use spelling and grammar check on your computer, but don’t rely on it solely. Proofread aswell, and if you can, get a second pair of eyes to look over your work. We can all be too close to what we are doing, and stupid mistakes end up slipping through the net.
I’m going to leave you with one of my favourite copywriting quotes from the famous ad executive, Leo Burnett:
Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.
With many thanks to Louise Jolley for the photograph.