The Art of Copywriting in Seven Steps

Copywriting web cropCopywriting is the art of writing with a clear brand purpose. From website copy to news releases, from social media to newsletters – even advertising slogans – everything written to promote or inform an audience about a business is copywriting.

So why is good copywriting important? In both written and spoken forms, it’s the number one way that businesses communicate their brand to a wider audience.

Creating engaging content takes time, but once it’s in place it can be used to inform, inspire and influence.

If you’re keen to improve your copywriting here are some things to consider:

1. Objective

Engaging copy will make the reader or viewer think, feel or do exactly what you want them to. But to do this you need to know exactly what you want to achieve from the outset.

A charity might want to raise funds for a specific project, while a business may be launching a new product or service. The charity could consider a series of case studies highlighting what the fundraising will help them achieve and a clear call to action asking for funds.
Meanwhile, the business may consider a social media teaser campaign, a high-profile launch event and industry-targeted news releases and features, to encourage people to buy from it.

2. Target Audience

A frequent mistake is to write from the company’s point of view. How many times have you read an introduction to a company that includes an established date, says how dynamic the team is or boasts about its most up-to-date technology and thought, “So what?”.

Your audience won’t care if your business was established in 1887, but rather that the product or service does the job, doesn’t cost the earth and can be easily replaced if needed.

A good copywriter will build a picture of the target audience and create messages that resonate with them; imagine the individuals within your target group and make sure you’re speaking their language.

Find out as much about your target audience as possible and use it to inform your writing; copywriting about skincare products for babies requires completely different words and phrasing to luxury cars, for example.

3. Message

Once you’ve got a clear idea of your objective(s) and your target reader/viewer, decide exactly what you want them to do and lead them to it through your copy.

Using persuasive language to sell or emotive language to inform and inspire requires the use of different words and styles of writing.

Good examples of this include Nike’s Just Do It campaign which is direct, simple and persuasive, while the NSPCC uses the strapline, ‘Help us be there for more children’ above its online donate buttons to encourage users to contribute.

If you’re launching a new product or service in which you want customers to invest, steer away from listing features and instead opt for benefits. I found this real-life example of an advert for a top-of-the-range kettle, which focuses on the features:

“Add a touch of designer chic to your kitchen with the new Accentz Traditional Kettle which combines classic retro styling with all the functional features required in today’s kitchen.”

Here, I’ve re-written it based on the benefits:

“The Accentz Traditional Kettle boils a litre-and-a-half of water in 45 seconds and uses a third less energy than any other kettle on the market. It’s available in a range of colours to match your style and is self-cleaning.”

See which one works best?

4. Structure

There are three main structures for copy, and choosing the right one for the job is often down to the medium you’re going to be sharing it in.

An inverted pyramid, with an attention-grabbing heading, summary of key points, full details and links to further information is the classic format for news stories, press releases and web copy.

Inward spirals work for features, opinion pieces, blogs and case studies, because they introduce a topic and intrigue you, provide context, explain or provoke and then challenge and inspire.

Persuasive copy, such as direct marketing emails and social media posts, are often structured using AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) which grabs your attention, shows you why you need to act immediately, explains the benefits and tells you what to do.

5. Style

The style or voice of your brand can range from business-like to zany, from educational to rebellious, from informative to mysterious.

Factors that will help you determine the right style for your copywriting will be down to your audience, content, brand, objective(s) and the platform it will be broadcast on.
Once you’ve established a style that works for your business, be consistent across all communication channels so that customers can easily identify your content among other noise and even actively look out for it.

6. Drafting

When you sit down to write your first draft, keep the above points in mind; consider your objective(s), picture your audience and then tell them what they need to know.

When drafting, some people write everything they know and then fill in the blanks, while others plan their structure using sub-headings and then write fluidly from start to finish. One thing is for sure, there isn’t a wrong or right way to do it – to quote Nike: “Just do it”!

7. Editing

There is far more to editing than just cutting down the number of words; the best copywriters don’t produce one draft and then sign it off – they write, review and rewrite until the copy is perfect.

The purpose of editing is essentially tightening up the copy – cutting out unnecessary words, improving understanding and making it more engaging. If you’ve lost sight of your audience during the drafting stage, editing can help you refocus your thinking and smooth out any creases.

This article was originally published on Lincolnshire Business on 26th May 2017.