Have you ever wondered what goes on inside the mind of a copywriter? Maybe not. And perhaps you’re better off for it. For some people, the mere idea of dedicating an entire career to writing seems crazy. To sit at a desk and be forced to write all day? Madness. They equate it to writing a term paper in college or even harken back to required book reports in grade school. But in actuality, copywriting is a whole lot more interesting than that. It keeps you on your toes and is always changing, making it anything but boring. Dare I tell you, it’s even fun? Let me explain.
Multiple Voice Syndrome
As a Senior Copywriter with GDD Interactive, I have the unique opportunity to see the world through the eyes of my audience — and that may mean switching through multiple voices in a single day. My writing personality must shift as quickly as new projects come through, adjusting to fit the needs of the brand I’m working with and the consumers it will reach. In essence, I have the guilty pleasure of enjoying multiple personalities by giving brands their own distinctive voice without going all Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey in “The Secret Window.” (Spoiler alert: It’s all in his head.)
While I’m able to adapt and change my voice and the tone/mood it conveys to reach audiences in different ways, I promise I know there’s only one of me. Some might call it Multiple Voice Syndrome; I simply call it a typical day at work. And psychologists? Well, they have an entirely different name, known as theory of mind, defined as “the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions and perspectives that are different from one’s own.” That’s the first step to impactful copywriting, to step away from your own frame of mind and realize your audience is unique and quite possibly completely different from you as the writer.
Creating That Connection
Like a great novelist, copywriters create characters who will eventually help guide us to write the words you’ll read on banner ads, websites, social media pages and more. Establishing the voice and tone that a brand wants to use to represent itself begins by finding this so-called “character,” also known as its target audience. By knowing whom a brand wants to speak to, I can then work to define that character, many times putting a name and face to them to make the conversational writing tone of advertising its most natural. Which means at 9 a.m. I may be talking to Brittany, a 30-something mom, about the latest trends in interior design through my copy, and by 11:30 a.m., I may be switching my voice to address the needs of Rick, a 50-something businessman who’s looking for a great patio atmosphere to entertain clients. This also means adjusting my voice to work within a variety of mediums, from various social channels to email to websites and back again, while connecting with Brittany, Rick and every other potential customer for those brands.
What’s the Story?
Once you’ve found your audience — brought to life by that character you’ve created — it’s time to get to work on building your story. But first, you must understand the components that make up a good story. I came across an article on Distilled.net that does a great job of explaining what a good story needs to be successful in four simple steps:
- Keep it personal: Be about a specific person or a small group of people rather than a whole company
- Evoke emotion: Draw on a basic human emotion such as frustration, hope or excitement
- Give your protagonist gumption: Feature struggle, and require the character to change or learn something
- Make every moment count: Embrace details (these set one story apart from another)
“If told well, a story will embody a company’s beliefs and personality but in a way that is, first and foremost, entertaining and memorable for the audience.”
– Harriet Cummings, Copy Editor at Distilled
I was also particularly moved by this quote, which explains why storytelling is such an effective form of copywriting:
“If told well, a story will embody a company’s beliefs and personality but in a way that is, first and foremost, entertaining and memorable for the audience.” – Harriet Cummings, Copy Editor at Distilled
At its core, a brand’s story must be original, it must be engaging, and most importantly, it must be genuine. Consumers can spot a brand that’s faking it from miles away, which means it’s my job to help brands achieve a voice that fits as well on them as a custom-made suit. Blogger and social media consultant Kathi Kruse wrote an insightful post about storytelling in social media, and I find it holds true no matter what medium you’re writing for. One of the things that Kruse said that stood out to me most was that, “Masterful storytelling techniques play a significant role in the outcome of your campaigns.” Her point being, if you don’t connect with your audience immediately through the words, images, videos and even the tone of voice you’re using throughout your marketing efforts, you’ll lose them. Without that captive audience, your story has ended before even beginning. Which makes her second message even more important: “Build drama with a beginning, middle and an end.” Everyone has a story to tell, and brands are no different. It’s just a matter of identifying the brand’s audience, determining their needs and satisfying them with content that’s engaging from start to finish. It always comes back to knowing whom you’re talking to, and then speaking to them in a way they wish to be spoken to.
Who Am I?
So, who will I be today in my writing? Which personality will I unleash? Perhaps I’ll be a parent, a teacher or an adventure traveler. Or maybe I’ll become a foodie, a small business owner or a high school student. That’s the beauty of copywriting — you never know whom you’ll become until the next big project comes along.