Monday, October 05, 2020

Copywriting: How to Captivate Your Reader

Engage your reader by writing about everyday life using ordinary words, or illuminating them with a story.

What is engaging copy?

Being able to hold a conversation with your reader is what engaging copy is all about.  You talk to readers one-on-one about things they might like, using their language, without talking down to them.  Appreciating they're probably really busy, bored or tired.  It's all about treating your reader the way you would like to be treated.

Communicate with your reader

Your copy will be read by thousands of people and is known in marketing as 'one to many' (a single source providing information to multiple people).  Always remember to talk to your reader as an individual, instead of a group of people, the best copy works as a conversation between writer and reader.  It can also work the opposite way, not unlike an uninterrupted correspondence, like an email from a manager to their workforce.

The way you address your reader can make or break your copy.  You need to pull your reader into your copy by involving them in the conversation, just like you would talking to someone you know.

Always address your audience as individuals, instead of a collective, because most people are likely to be reading your text alone.

Write for the reader not the client

When you're working for a company it's only natural you're going to want to please the company, so you'll automatically start writing for the client because you want your copy to succeed.  It's only normal to think about what they might want from you as a copywriter, and plus you hope for more projects from them in the future.  What your client might have in mind may be completely wrong for the project.

Your reader should always be your primary focus on every project you deal with.  So stop trying to impress your client with the copy, instead grab their attention with the thinking behind it.  

Using copy that talks back

If you have an idea how your reader might respond, try talking back to them.  In the summer of 2016 this technique was used to capitalise on the unfamiliarity of the product:

Kopparberg fruit lager.
Yeah, lager.


Using this in longer copy helps you build up a conversation with your reader, helping you answer their objections and questions as they arise.  Here are a few examples:

Copy

The QR 2000 is the slimmest laptop you can buy.

Reader's thoughts

So what?

Copy

Pop into PC Planet any time to see it.

Reader's thoughts

I might just do that....

As you can see by the above examples this technique will give your copy both structure and flow.  All you need to do is to decide where your reader is now and where you want them to finish, and use their expected responses to write the steps in between.

Why you should use 'we' or 'I' when you're writing copy

The best way to talk to the customer when writing for a company or brand, is to use 'we'.  After all you wouldn't talk about yourself in the third person would you?  Things can start sounding really strange when that starts happening, so companies shouldn't do it either.

Write the way you speak

If copywriting is all about sounding like a conversation shouldn't it be written that way?  Often this gets missed because some people think they should be writing in a certain way to get their message across.  It's easy to hear what you want to say in your head, but when it comes to putting it down on paper it can sound too writerly, or finicky.  The problem can be further worsened when the copywriter is asking the reader to do something, this is often taken the wrong way as authority instead of a simple formality.

Anyhow if you think you're beginning to sound too writerly, give your copy a more conversational rewrite, as novelist Elmore Leonard said, "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Shorter simpler sentences are used when you start writing like you talk, this should allow your copy to flow naturally and not sound clunky to the reader.

Would I say this out loud to someone?

Renowned adman Fairfax Cone used to ask copywriters, "Would you stay that to someone you know?."

Some simple questions to ask yourself:

  • Would I say this out loud?
  • What would you think if someone said this to you?
  • How would you feel?


Another handy technique is to write for a friend or family member who might be using the product already. 

Match the reader's language

The reader will gain a greater understanding of  what you're trying to sell to them if you use the same language they use.  This also demonstrates that you understand them, respect them, and like them.  And also that reveals that you care about the conversation, and how much you really want it to work.

This can backfire if you start using jargon or language they don't understand.  Giving the appearance of not caring anything about what the reader thinks.  

Using big words can often put people off, when all they want is a product to a particular job.  Use simple words, or better still Google it!  Look on search engines and see what people are looking for.

Sometimes simplicity is all you need.

Take the reader's point of view

A great way to take the reader's point of view is to include some of the benefits of the product to their situation.  Don't make your language abstract, keep it simple so they can get a clear picture of what it is they need to do.

Simple language is an uncomplicated way to connect with your audience who may have English as their first language, broadening your audience numbers.

Why you need to use verbs and not nouns in your copy

When you're using verbs in your copy your using 'doing' words, making it easier for you to paint a picture in the readers mind.  

Noun phrases are often used and sound like a defense mechanism, put people on a negative footing the moment they start reading your copy.   

Your copywriting should always relate to your reader's concerns and not your own.

 

Bring it to life

Your job as a copywriter is to bring a product to life and make the reader want to buy it.  You can do this by using sensory language: describing the sights, tastes, sounds, smells, and textures of using a product.

These sensory experiences go into our memories, and can often trigger strong emotions.  Evoking the feeling of a using a product, as well as physically experiencing it.

This kind of language can be used to show what the product may be like to use, with the help of a step-by-step guide. 

Become a master of storytelling

A powerful tool in the copywriters arsenal is storytelling.  Used by most copywriters for decades, stories are a way to make sense of the world.  They can tap into the deepest memories, and emotions.  Stories like those used in fairy tales prepare us for the life that lies ahead, and things we've yet to experience.  Our memories, problems and emotions are spoken through stories.  Our relationship with each other is also used in the same way, because stories are about life.

Some stories can be fantastical and take us to other places that are completely removed from our own experiences.  When you start reading a story you're locked in and have to go with the story's flow.  If we want to know the end of the story we have stuck through it the whole way.

Stories are more than just a technique of writing, they're something we all experience, and are different from digesting information about some product benefits, stories are one of a kind.

Storytelling is a good way to pass on information you want people to remember.  They focus on real people, events, and emotions from real life which adds pathos to a message that might be a little dull.  We learn from a very early age to listen to stories, which makes it an inherent part of us, making storytelling a very persuasive tool.

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