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The Copy Shop is Copywriter Exchange’s monthly blog series written by our community members with the goal of sharing advice and insider tips with like-minded copywriters around the globe.
This month’s entry is by M. Scott Morris
Act Your Way to Better Copywriting
Copywriting often includes an imaginary person to pitch the piece toward.
If it’s available, I like to read the background information compiled about the persona. He or she was created as a stand-in for a specific type of customer. I try to communicate to whomever the character represents.
In a way, it’s an acting job because I’m getting into a different headspace to appeal to a specific audience.
Before going any further, I’m not an actor. I’ve appeared in a couple of community productions, but I’ve never fully committed to the craft. My bookshelves are filled with writing and editing books, but I also have a few about acting because I thought they could serve my writing. The best actors immerse themselves in their roles and discover things writers and directors never intended, but that doesn’t make the discoveries any less valid.
For a writer, acting is about inhabiting the material to make more interesting decisions.
A Measure of Freedom
When I first started copywriting and content writing, I thought it would be constraining. And it is in some ways: I write what clients want me to write. If they could’ve done it themselves, they would have, but they’re too busy running businesses.
They hire us to write for them, but we can do a better job if we also act for them.
Let’s go back to the persona. When I get stuck, the persona can point the way forward:
- What does “Volunteer Vanessa” need to know?
- How will the topic affect her?
- What value will she get out of the company’s product or service?
Sometimes, answering the questions can free you up to pursue new directions. But the answers aren’t always necessary. The questions themselves can be sufficient when you’re caught up in the flow of things.
Inhabit the Voice
You don’t have to limit yourself to the persona’s groove. In fact, I’d argue against it.
You also want to inhabit and channel the people who are writing the checks. When copywriting, it’s about using your storytelling skills in the service of their voices.
One company made it easy because their voice came from Monster’s, Inc, my favorite Pixar movie. I rewatched the film and listened to the soundtrack. I also had access to a recording of the ideation session and used the client’s speech patterns in the piece.
Other clients offer fewer opportunities to cut loose, but you’ll be well served to capture their voices. If ideation recordings aren’t available or you don’t have the opportunity to ask them questions directly, dive into their websites and other articles they’ve posted.
I might be weird, but I see the potential for play when writing for no-nonsense clients:
- How clear can you be?
- How efficiently can you say what they want to say?
- Can you achieve a stripped-down elegance?
You Be You
A third aspect of acting is all about me. I’m no longer “Scott the Newspaper Man” or “Scott the Hopeful Fiction Writer.”
I’m “Scott the Copy Man.” His goal is to finish the piece on deadline, but his objective is to surprise clients in honest ways so they see their products or services in slightly different ways. Maybe, he’ll produce a line that goes so straight to the heart that it pops up on billboards and Super Bowl commercials.
So my acting advice is simple when it comes to copywriting and content writing:
- Imagine a specific reader.
- Inhabit your client’s voice.
- Know your goal and your objective.
Thanks for reading, and good luck.
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