Every time you write something at work that could influence someone to do something, you are writing what professionals call “copy”. The term comes from the advertising industry where the image usually does most of the influencing but where someone still has to write the words. Typically, those words are few and so they have to be just right.
You might be tempted to think that you don’t work in your marketing department but, today, at work, every time you have to get someone to accept something you’ve put into writing, you are selling to that person. Perhaps the thought of being a salesperson leaves you cold but every time you have to get someone to say “yes” to something you’ve written, you’re being a copywriter, and so you could benefit from applying some of the most useful techniques of persuasion you might ever learn.
If you do write to influence others at work – whether on paper, on screen or on social media – then here are the three most important things you need to know to excel at writing copy:
1. You can’t make anybody do anything they don’t already want to do
You don’t have to worry about whether or not you can sell. You only have to be concerned with what makes other people want to buy. Think about your own life. No one had to sell you a bank account. You knew that you needed one and so you went out and got it. Your sector is full of people like you. They have specific needs, and they are looking for ways to meet those needs, and that puts them in the perfect position to make buying decisions that involve you.
2. You should tailor what you have to offer to the needs of your buyers
You have ideas, services and products you want other people to use. From now on, you can call them your offerings. Your first responsibility is to know your offerings inside and out. Your second responsibility is to know exactly how your offering will meet the needs of your buyers. Then your job is to write the copy that will explain to your buyers exactly why their buying decisions should centre around what you have to offer them.
3. You should choose your words carefully when you’re writing copy
Remember that copywriting has its roots in the advertising industry where the space is limited and so every, single word has to count. And don’t forget that some of the most powerful ideas for social change have also been sold to the world through a careful and clever choice of words. “Liberty. Fraternity. Equality.” “A room of one’s own.” “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.”
The good news is that you don’t have to be a poet or a politician to be a great copywriter. You only have to know a handful of proven guidelines for choosing your words and you will also see an immediate difference in the impact your copy has on your readership.
Want to find out more? Join Writing for Impact on Thursday 23 April.