Driver behind the wheel

Copywriting: Remember the Passenger

Copywriting is Like Driving

At the most basic level, the goal of both copywriting and driving is to get people from one place to another.

  • A to B
  • Clueless to aware
  • Uneducated to informed
  • Disbelief to acceptance
  • Wet behind the ears to experienced
  • Making do or using your client’s product or service

How well you perform along the way ultimately depends on what your passengers – target market readers – take away and how they assess the experience.

The Open Road

My father taught me about placing the passenger at the center of the experience when I was 14 years old and had my learner’s permit. He kept his patience, somehow, as I slammed us through hundreds of jerky starts and chin-to-dashboard late stops.

“The safety of your passengers is your responsibility,” he said, “and one way you’ll know you’re doing a good job is if they’re comfortable on the ride.”

He told me to begin slowing for stops early so the other people in the car would never be pressed into their safety belts. Don’t slam their backs into their seats; ease into accelerations so they don’t notice. Make easy turns instead of sharp jags.

“If you’re doing it right, they’ll forget they’re in a vehicle at all,” he said.

Easy Riders

Copywriting and driving are both journeys.

The product of a good writer is so smooth that readers have no clue as to the challenge it was to make the narrative seem so.

The best writers paint word scenes so vivid that readers see the pictures on their minds’ movie screens, or even imagine they’re in the scenes themselves. I’m thinking now of some of my favorite authors, masters like John Steinbeck and E. Annie Proulx. Reading their novels, I forget I’m reading at all.

Advertising and marketing copywriters don’t have the luxury of pages upon pages to paint the vision, but we can strive for similar effect in shorter form. Usually it’s about getting readers to imagine themselves working with your client’s company, using their products or taking advantage of their services.

Along the way, we not only take their physical comfort into account, but their emotional ease, as well. We’ll use words and phrases that arouse something in them, directly point out the benefits of what we’re suggesting, give them unspoken (unwritten) permission to take the next step in the buying process.

It’s like turning up the heat in a chilly car, tuning the radio to the type of music our passengers like, inviting them to sit right up front where the action is or take it all in more passively from the backseat (a.k.a. addressing pain points, leveraging motivators and highlighting differentiators).

Easy, Not Dull

At the same time, copywriting can, and often should, be more disruptive than a smooth Sunday drive through the countryside.

From time to time the writer can purposely give passengers a jerky start or a stop-short, face-flat-to-the-windshield revelation. A screeching burst of rapid-fire clauses. A pause that affords a glance in the rearview. A sharp swerve that screws their hairdos straight up into the roof upholstery.

In other words, sometimes a copywriter’s fun can be the readers’ fun, too.

There Already

Take your passengers on an easy ride. Keep them interested and wanting to travel farther down the road, deeper into the brand story. Give them an abrupt halt when it’ll help them see things more clearly.

Remember, target market members’ comfort is the copywriter’s responsibility. Be an exceptional chauffeur, and when the experience comes to an end your passengers will ask, “Oh, are we there already?” Sure are.

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Graphic of a cartoon bomb

Tip Tuesday – It’s Not Literally Dangerous in Copywriting, But…

Let’s be clear. No limbs will go flying when you use the word “literally” in your copywriting. Never in the history of the world has a written word literally caused an explosion.

Fredricks Communications Tips GraphicNevertheless, beware of using the word in your advertising and marketing content. Literally means something is fact, so using it to intensify a word or statement that follows is almost always incorrect.

“Our service will literally blow you away,” indicates your customers will, in fact, be lifted from their feet and tumble down the highway like so many tumbleweeds in a bad old Western when they experience your service. Or they will, in fact, be thrown back dozens of feet by a bomb blast.

Let’s be clear again. No one is going to take you seriously and expect to be lifted off of their feet, by wind, explosion or anything else.

But here’s the thing. What you’re trying to say, in a figurative way, is that your company’s service is incredible and your customers will be highly impressed and pleased.

Unfortunately, “Our service will figuratively blow you away,” doesn’t carry quite the same punch.

You just need to find a way to work that into your copy without resorting to literally or being insufferably dull.

Saying suspects, prospects or customers literally will be blown away isn’t dangerous – it won’t cause cancer and no one is going to get electrocuted – it’s just absurd. Your company won’t just look less than professional, it’ll look silly, like a company that really shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

If you see literally in your copywriting, a rewrite is in order. Seriously.

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A bridge at sunrise

Tip Tuesday – What Advertising, Marketing or Public Relations Costs

The Bridge to Everywhere

Everyone asks the question. “What’s it gonna cost?” for <this or that advertising, marketing or public relations service>?”

Fredricks Communications Tips GraphicFew are ever happy with the answer – “That depends.”

But it’s the most honest response, even if it is lacking precision.

Asking a creative firm, “How much is it going to cost to get a (your need here),” is like asking a construction company, “How much is it going to cost to build a bridge over the Red River?”

Neither the creative agency nor the construction company will be able to provide a reasonably accurate answer before finding out precisely what you want to get done and defining the scope of the work it’ll take to get you there.

A colleague recently gave the best answer I’ve heard in nearly two decades in this business:

“Somewhere between affordable and optimal.”

I understood precisely what she meant.

Ask me the question, and I’ll ask you a bunch more. We’ll talk. We’ll hash over the big picture. We’ll go back and forth on the details.

I’ll recommend advertising, public relations, online marketing, blog posts or a combination of those and a bunch of other communication tools, whatever I believe will build the best bridge between you and your customers or prospects. Then I’ll tell you what it’s going to cost. The number will be somewhere between affordable and optimal (good-better-best, anyone?), and I’ll stick to it, no matter how much time it takes me to do the job well. (Learn more about FredComm pricing.)

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