Bringing structure to the art of copywriting
December 15, 2006 • Glenn Murray
An interesting topic came up in the Divine Write Copywriting Forums today. If copywriting is an art, how do you make it work in a structured business environment? Specifically, how can you force art?
Every copywriter has asked themself this question, at one time or another. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. But there are a few things you can do to reconcile art & business ROI. Here’s the relevant part of my response in the forum…
… copywriting is an art. Like any other art, it requires you to be ‘in the zone’. If you need to let your mind wander to be in the zone, then that’s just how it is.
However, having said that, every business needs return on investment. If you feel like you’re taking too long (or that your boss may fire you), perhaps you just need a little more structure for yourself. The way I do this is to set myself a series of questions to which I must know the answers BEFORE I start writing. Ask yourself / your boss / the subject matter expert the following.
- What is this copy about?
- What is the objective of the copy?
- What is the overriding call to action (e.g. Call our hotline)?
- Who is your typical reader (e.g male, 30-45, professional, affluent, physically active)?
- What problem / need / situation has caused the reader to read this copy?
- How would your reader achieve their objectives without your offering?
- What are your overriding / strongest or most unique selling points?
- What makes your delivery of this offering better than that of your competitors?
Then, when it comes time to actually write the copy, try applying a standard logic each time. I find that almost all copy can follow this structure (more or less):
- Identify reader’s need / problem (to illustrate domain awareness and to engage the reader – e.g. “If IT is core to your business operation, you can’t afford downtime. Unplanned downtime can result in significant loss of profit, possibly even business failure.”)
- Discuss generic solution (e.g. “The most effective way to avoid unplanned IT downtime is to ensure you have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place. Disaster recovery…”)
- Discuss your specific delivery of this solution (e.g. “Widgets Disaster Recovery Services is Australia’s leading provider of disaster recovery and business continuity solutions. We have data centres all around the country, and blah blah blah…”
- Summarise with a brief statement which subtly but explicitly links your delivery of the solution with the resolution of the reader’s problem or resolution of their need (e.g. “Widgets Disaster Recovery Services has the experience and expertise to help ensure that your business doesn’t lose business due to unplanned IT downtime.”)
Obviously, you need to overlook the simplistic (i.e. poor) copy in these examples.
Oh, and in practice (depending on the length of the copy), sections 2 & 3 often overlap (or are combined).
Hope this helps!