Almost every week I see brochures, websites, advertisements and newsletters that have been poorly written. Either the spelling is weak, or the sentences are badly constructed, or the key message is buried somewhere in the middle. Sometimes the message isn’t even clear. What these pieces lack is good copywriting.
Most of what I see has been written by highly competent professionals who are expert in their field. But not in writing. They imagine that, because they are smart chief executives, clever property experts or skilful consultants, they can also turn their hand to copywriting. Often they cannot. The net result is that what they write diminishes their message and damages their reputation.
Whereas poor writing will sabotage a good reputation, excellent copywriting will enhance it. Indeed really good copywriting can sometimes create a reputation where none existed before. So for example, a well turned-out brochure, crisply written and beautifully designed can help an organisation craft a completely new image. Similarly, a radically new website which has an eye-catching design, a clear structure and copy that is easy to read as well as convincing, can make a dramatic difference to an organisation. Good copywriting gets noticed and that’s good news for the business that the copywriting is supporting.
Good copywriting not only gains the attention of the reader, it convinces as well. That is so important. The writing needs to be attractive, friendly and jargon-free, but it will fail if its underlying message is not made strongly enough. An interesting example is the writing of a case study for a company magazine or sales brochure. Unless the case study contains clear and objective arguments to show why a product or service was a success, it won’t convince the reader.
Copywriting a case study sounds easy, given what I’ve just said. But it is not. You have to strike a balance between giving too much information to the reader and too little, and between inflating the reasons for success and underselling them. Most important of all you have to remember all the time who your audience will be.
Understanding your audience is absolutely key to good copywriting. That’s where the value of good copywriting lies. A skilled copywriter will start by thinking about who they are writing for, what they want to say and the best way of putting that message across. It should be lucid, inviting and interesting. That’s what makes good copywriting.