The name of the game for copywriters is behaviour change. It was ever thus!
In the 21st century, the rules of this game of behavioural copywriting come down to personalising your content for digital channels. Your aim, as a digital content manager, is to make your organisation’s copy as direct and human as possible. The more personal it is, the more it may touch, engage, activate and motivate your readers to do something new – like campaign for something, or buy something. Or donate something. Or run a triple marathon to persuade others to donate something. But how?
At Copper we start out with 5 simple rules – 5Ps of personalisation that apply when writing for digital.
1. Write professionally
The start point of any good piece of writing is to write like a professional. Not too many adjectives, no schoolboy metaphors, and not too much clever, clever punctuation; like this. We all know what good likes like, don’t we? But having a good guidebook is a great place to start – perhaps with Hart’s Rules? Before you can start breaking the rules, know what they are.
2. Write plainly
As George Orwell has been telling us for decades, good writing looks, first and foremost, like plain English. If you can see a word to cut out, cut it out. Foreign words? Vamoose! Technical terms? Better in absentia. As Orwell said:
“Good prose should be like a windowpane”
3. Write passionately
At Copper, all our clients, or virtually all, are charities, and they all have causes worth fighting for. But the same logic also applies to the commercial world. If you don’t feel passionately about your subject, don’t expect the reader to. Bob Geldof didn’t actually say:
“Give us your fucking money!”
But he might as well have. Whether it’s a can of coke or a cure for cancer, say what you have to say, and say it with passion.
4. Write poetically
Poetry may seem like a million miles away from everyday marketing, but the best copywriting IS poetic. The rhythmic sense of Apple’s prose,
“Does even more. Weighs even less”
is actually just a line about the latest Macbook Air. But it might as well be poetry. Our copywriting should all aspire to these heights of balance, precision and tension.
5. Write pithily
In modern copywriting, the subject line of an email is the single most personal part of it. So it had better be right.
Presenting choices, portraying urgency, triggering intrigue or offering insight are just a few of the ways to hook the reader. The current blog page of web writers StickyContent for example, includes mentions of:
“6 Rules… 9 Top tips… How to… The death of… Why you need a…
…and on, and on”. All these ‘clickbait’ headlines, and the others that will replace them, exhibit the same feature – a pithy, emotional or rational ‘grab’ of the reader. Right there in the subject line. Where it can be tested!
This blog continues with 5 rules for effective content management…
Tim Kitchin is client service director and director of consulting at Copper, the digital marketing agency.