want to communicate? then market your message

You have a message to deliver but sometimes you need a good copywriter to cut through the noise and help you deliver it. This is why. 

By Simon Carroll

The main obstacles that face anyone trying to communicate with lots of people boil down to a single uncomfortable truth:

Just because what you have to say is important doesn’t mean people will listen.

People are busy, easily distracted and lazy.

Even when their lives depend on what you have to say, there’s a good chance they still won’t listen (anti-smoking campaigns, anyone?).

Copywriting is the craft of using ordinary words to create powerful, engaging messages. Or, more simply, getting people to listen.

Writing to communicate with an audience is an exercise in selling.

You might not be asking people to part with money. But you’re asking them to do something – listen, learn, know, understand, support, sign up, agree. Whatever it is, you want to influence their behaviour.

So don’t think of selling as a dirty word. Look at it as a way of understanding what makes human beings tick.

There might not be an obvious, simple ‘buy this’ call to action in many comms campaigns. But some of the tried, tested and successful methods of marketing still apply because the ultimate goal is the same. To catch the eye. To engage emotions. To make people do something.

The key is to spell out to the audience what’s in it for them. But, above all, to make it easy for them.

Take a step back. Further. A bit more. Perfect.

Very often, the problem is that you are up close and personal with your subject matter. There’s a real temptation to just say everything at once. Just get it all out there. Because all of it’s important, right?

But nobody wants to be hit with a barrage of information and left to pick the bones out of it.

Copywriting approaches from the opposite direction. It employs perspective and the ability to stand far enough back to see things from the point of view of the reader. Who exactly is the reader? What do they want or need to know? How do they like to be spoken to?

Answer these questions and you can start to work out how to pitch your message. You’ll have worked out what’s in it for the reader. You’ll be making it easy for them.

What’s the big idea?

Producing words for a campaign is usually a big part of any job. But a good copywriter is a creative professional who can offer much more than a word count. Their ideas can shape concepts that drive entire campaigns. They can offer a whole different way of looking at a project, often nudging a client out of their comfort zone. They can create a story and tell it in a tone that connects on an emotional level. This is the path to impact and engagement. As long as the ideas fit the job and can be backed with solid rationale, they can be the touch paper for creating truly exciting work that gets results.

Heads you win

Headlines are your opening shot. Your big chance. Very often, more blood, sweat and time go into these few words than go into the few thousand that might follow. The same goes for taglines and brand slogans. At worst they are a tortured, meaningless collection of words. At best they evoke emotion, passion and – most importantly – an identity or idea that resonates.

Headlines use simple, everyday words. The trick is using the right ones in the right way.

It’s about leveraging all touchpoints to maximize ROI

No it’s not. You might talk like this. Your audience might even talk like this.

But this kind of language is exclusive and harder to read than plain English. Good copywriting makes complex matters simple and resorts to jargon only when absolutely necessary and right for every potential reader. Your readers might well be experts. But they’re definitely human beings.

It’s about making your message clear, compelling and consistent wherever your audience sees it.

Simon Carroll is a creative copywriter and former Sun headline writer.  He has worked on projects ranging from branding to internal communications, and from start-ups to household names. You can find him here.

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