Words or pictures? This might seem a little surprising, coming from me, but marketing copy should actually be more about pictures than words. A bit of a strange statement coming from a copywriter who is always banging on about the power of words? Not really.
Because I’m talking about ‘pictures’ in a broad sense. Good writing creates pictures and good copywriting creates pictures in the heads of potential customers. When you write effectively, you’re actually showing rather than telling. You’re creating pictures in people’s heads. They can visualise what you’re on about. When the copywriting is poor, the visuals will also be poor. Take a look at this statement:
Our customers operate complex, international strategies to provide access to instant, applications development, maintenance and consultancy services. We dovetail with suppliers of BPO or ongoing strategic initiatives and the internal IT teams, provide instant access to scaleable resources and cost effective offshore development.
It doesn’t paint a vivid picture of anything, does it? Yet people feel compelled to write this way, because that’s what they imagine is expected of them. You can read business-to-business copy like this and get some kind of inkling of the meaning, but boy, it makes you work hard. It’s not reader-friendly. In fact, I put it through my Fog Test and it came out as ‘unreadable’. So what didn’t this writer do that he or she should have done? Here’s the checklist:
- Identify the features or the product or service
- Match benefits to features
- Identify the potential reading audience and what is going to appeal to that audience
- Identify what job the copy must do
- Decide on a pitch/concept/approach that will connect potential reading audience to benefits
The writer must determine an appropriate tone of voice, then create pictures to SHOW the product or service, rather than TELL about it.
Hard, isn’t it? But rewarding too, when you clients call to say how well your writing’s working for them. When we’re talking about words or pictures, it isn’t really an either/or. Not all copywriters think visually and like to lead a designer through the creative process. That’s fine – after all it’s what graphic designers are paid for. But all copywriters should be able to create word-pictures from what they write.
If you’d like to know more, or to talk to me about one of my forthcoming copywriting courses, call me in the Best Words office:
01582 761212 or on my mobile: 07973 751039