It’s true. Writing good copy, words that excite, provoke, fuel the imagination and trigger deep thought, is an art. It is the perfect combination of style, language and relevance that forms a narrative designed to sell, persuade, inform or delight. This applies to any piece of written content, from a 140 character tweet or an email, to a thought leadership article or a 4000-word whitepaper.
Of course there is no magic formula; there is a hefty dose of instinct, skill and inspiration that goes into the process. Writing impactful copy is not like baking a cake where just having the right ingredients and following instructions almost always guarantees a good result.
However, there are a few basic elements that writers of great copy get right.
All about the basics
Today, in a world dominated by social media and the instant gratification generation it is easy to forget one of these fundamentals: good grammar, supported by its companions spelling and punctuation. This is especially important in the B2B environment where you are far less likely to get away with using emojis. Of course this doesn’t mean you need to use old-fashioned words or adhere to grammar rules from the 1950s because language is a living thing that adapts and evolves over time; no, it simply means that in a professional environment it’s good to start with the right foundation.
Know your audience
As consumers we’re bombarded with millions of messages each day, with every word fighting for our attention and time. In the B2B arena the same is true. As a result, you need to spend time understanding your audience, the challenges they face, what appeals to their interests and also what types of content will appeal to them in order the make sure the content is actually read, the message heard. Once your audience is identified and understood, it’s down to your goal.
Define your intent
The aim of written communications in PR, marketing or advertising is to convey a message. Sounds simple, right? Often the purpose of the piece can get lost, making the rest of the elements a little murky and the outcome underwhelming. At the outset of writing, be sure of what you’re actually trying to achieve. Great copy sets out a narrative that the reader wants to follow, is compelled to follow. And that doesn’t just apply to long form copy, but to tweets, posts and blogs, too.
This goes hand in hand with relevance; often we’re a little blinded by what we want to say that we lose track of what audiences want and need to hear. Great copy resonates because it’s appropriate; it is addressing a need, desire or opinion that is relevant to your audience. And it’s not just the content, but the way that it’s written. Clear, concise language, short sentences, avoiding jargon or words you would not normally use in conversation.
It may seem like there are too many things to consider, why aim for great when mediocre will do? The truth is, there is no shortage of content in the media, online and in the social sphere. The immediacy of 21st century life means you can easily write something, anything and get it out there with a simple click of button. The true value of great copy is that it lives in this instant world surrounded by hundreds of thousands of competing messages, but stands out because the writer got the fundamentals right.
Susan Richter, Head of Content