It’s been weeks since I last saw a movie. Last night I did go to bed at 9 pm, even though I stayed up until 3. Oops. I wish I didn’t feel the need to go deep into every single conversation or interaction. Nah, it’s not going to happen.
Yesterday, I completed a course on marketing copywriting. The professor, Ian Lurie, was fucking awesome. He was passionate about writing and believed great marketing delivers value to people when they most need it, period. Unfortunately, I find it’s rarely so. Still, find some of his gems below.
Value, art and formulas
Provide value in the form of a return on time invested.
A lot of folks think marketing copywriting isn’t a creative art. They think it’s some kind of mechanical, formulaic discipline where creative writers go to die. That is so wrong.
My notes: I felt personally attacked, but I giggled. I do believe the last sentence is inherently true. In Biggie's words, it's all good baby baby.
Direct marketing copywriting is an art in and of itself. It also gets a bad rep, because most direct marketing is so awful. But great marketing delivers values to those who need it when they need it.
My notes: It is extremely awful and disrespectful, most times. However, those other times make it all worth it.
Interruptions, focus and flow
First off, interruptions. A colleague may stick their head into your office and say hey, gotta minute? Your child may choose that moment to fill the toilet with paper towels and then flush it 11 times. That’s actual experience. Your phone may ring. You may have problems with your computer or your software. Maybe the computer dies, the software crashes, or your pencil breaks. You may have a lack of examples or inspiration.
In spite of free writing, careful pondering, and a long list of notes from your boss, you just can’t get started. Cats may be a problem. Your cat may jump into your lap. It may proceed to paw at you, claw at you, paw at your keyboard. It may tip over the glass of water on your desk. Or it may chase the cursor around your screen.
My notes: I was giggling hysterically at the cat references in an otherwise silent office. Again, worth it.
Writing requires concentration for solid stretches of time. All of my preparation ensures that as much as possible, I can stay focused.
And make sure whichever cat is in the room, is either settled on my lap for a nap or that all cats have been forcibly removed from the premises. Same with the dog. No matter how cute and how good the puppy dog eyes are. I know it feels cruel, but it’s really necessary. And then I get a timer, and I set it for a chunk of time.
My notes: Pomodoro was his fave time tracking app, and mine too, even though I haven't had the chance to stop and take breaks lately.
If you’ve never lost six hours’ work because of some unforeseen disaster, lucky you. If you’ve never managed to miss every single warning window, every single box that says, are you sure you want to do this, from your computer, and managed to completely delete your work anyway, I salute you.
My notes: How is an online course funnier than most men I know?!
Because in my experience a five-minute interruption means 25 minutes of time getting back into the flow of your work. I’ve had great ideas ready to write down, only to have a rogue house cat jump into my lap or a colleague ask a question, and poof, the idea is gone.
My notes: It was kind of sad realizing the professor was absolutely right, and I've noticed how much more I can get done now that I'm not on social media every day. However, my cat can jump into my lap whenever he feels like, I'm not that cruel.
Writing done right
Here is an example. Harrison could say, the HH1’s shell can withstand up to four tons of pressure. Great, I can use it as a jack stand when I change the oil in my car. But what does that matter?
How about this instead? A fall from a stationary bicycle delivers the equivalent of two tons of pressure to your skull. The HH1’s shell can withstand up to four tons of pressure, protecting you from impact injuries. That’s the so what. It tells me why this helmet matters to me.
My notes: We're selfish beings, no surprise there. It's not about your company, or your amazing product. It's all about them.
Finally, you need to just say it. Be direct.
My notes: Honesty is the best policy. Forever.
Online, a clear headline outperforms a mysterious headline about two to one in every way. Why?
Because as other great marketers say, people don’t have time, they have options.
Social media writing/copywriting
I see companies and writers get completely verbally blocked when writing for social media. Maybe it’s the potential audience size or the horror stories they’ve heard. But the truth is, social media is a very casual environment…
If you mind your manners, just as you would at a casual dinner or a first date, you’ll be just fine.
My rules for social media copy writing are fairly simple.
- First, enjoy it. Readers can tell if you’re having fun. And they’ll respond in kind.
- Next, do not be offensive. Instead, be sincere and tell the truth.
- Next, treat it like you’re having a conversation with a good friend.
Set aside one day per month for your team to work on their favorite project. All copywriters are creatives at heart, including me. Supporting that even one day per month goes a long way to their sanity.
Never, ever, throw one of your team under the bus with a client. No matter what happened. You can discuss any mistakes privately, but do not point the finger at your staff. It’s demoralizing. It also makes the client think you’re not a team, you’re more of a mob.
Spread around the good stuff. I’m not going to lie. There’s really fun copywriting, and then there’s copywriting that feels like work. That’s part of the reason we get paid. But its important that the fun projects get spread around among your team. Those projects recharge any writer.
Mistakes will happen. You’re going to make them, your team’s going to make them. If you do, own up, especially to your team. They actually kind of like that. If they make them, review what happened, why, and how to prevent it from happening again.
My notes: Perfectionist me is quacking.
Because as copywriters, our first job is communications that deliver the right value to the right people at the right time. I think it’s one of the most important jobs out there and it has endless possibilities.
Endless possibilities. I love those words together.