Full of possibilities, a blank page is an invitation to create something exciting. For copywriters like us at The Studio, that could be a message to agents about a revolutionary new product that will help them land more listings. Or it might be a piece that communicates to clients why Coldwell Banker agents are the best in the business.
No matter its purpose, or how big or small the assignment might be, the only proper way to get going is to ask ourselves a series of questions:
- Who is the audience?
- What is the main message?
- What is the medium?
- What action do you want the reader to take?
Once all of that is established, in order to help keep the creative process on track, we continually remind ourselves of a few key points outlined in the Communications Voice Guide developed by The Creative Studio copywriters and former staffers Melissa Springer and Luke Webber.
Write Like You Talk
- Read your work aloud to hear how it sounds.
- Use clear, concise, simple language – imagine talking directly to one person.
- Include contractions. They’re friendly and more conversational.
- Vary the sentence length to create a flow. Too many short, choppy sentences sound abrupt and unnatural.
- Avoid business jargon, buzzwords, overly formal, academic or flowery language.
- Use active voice instead of passive.
Find a Fresh Approach
- Consider using similes, metaphors, colorful language or a unique tone to convey the message.
- Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and imagine yourself reading that headline. How would it make you feel? Do you get it right off the bat? Would you want to learn more?
- Look for hidden benefits to reveal and find the end result of the benefits. What does it get you?
- Remember to tell a story, don’t just share the facts.
Focus on the Benefits
- Ask yourself: Why should the reader care? What do they get out of it?
- Describe the features in terms of how they can make the reader’s life better.
- Focus on the reader, not the company. Use “you” more than “we.”
- Back up your claims with evidence when you can.
Put the Important Stuff First
- Lead with your strongest point. The reader’s time and attention are limited.
- Get to the remaining copy in descending order of importance to the reader.
- Close with a reminder of the most important point.
Organize the Information Into Manageable Chunks
- Use bullets, short paragraphs and sections with headers to help break up the copy.
- Lead the reader on a path through the details and make it easy to scan for what matters most.
- Once you get your initial thoughts down, go back and pare down.
Keep It Simple
- If a specific word keeps tripping you up when you read it back to yourself, your audience is likely to do the same.
- Make every word count. Since you’re aiming for brevity, if it doesn’t further the message or make it clearer, you can do without it.
- Don’t try to share everything – choose one story and tell it well.
Each assignment we tackle is an opportunity to reach our existing customers, potential clients, agents, recruits and employees. Like all of us, they are bombarded every day with information, so our copy has to cut through the clutter. The goal every time is to create a finished product that turns the blank page into a compelling, well thought-out message that’s concise, stands out – and gets results.