Copy vs. Message – The New Art of Writing Good Copy

The New Art of Writing Good Copy

We all need good words to put our work out into the world. As business gets more and more virtual, we meet more and more people through our words instead of in person. In a world where online business levels the playing field, our words make the case for our services, and move people to buy, and to buy now.

When those words for our business appear in print (or the virtual equivalent), we call those words copy. We all need good copy to generate opportunities to make a living doing what we love.

When you think of what it takes to write good copy, you may think first of writing sharp headlines, emphasizing your benefits, and making strong calls to action. What you may forget is that “less obvious” step that gets taken for granted and which needs to happen first if you’re going to have something worth saying – developing your message. That means fleshing out your thoughts and ideas and putting into clear, radiant focus the most powerful, profound message you are here to share.

The distinction between developing your message and writing your copy has become more significant in this changing landscape of business. Here’s why. If you are selling something straightforward – clothing, hair cutting, how-to information – then it doesn’t take much effort or creativity to get across the WHAT of what you are offering. You can talk about the deeper meaning if you want (and that’s a smart move, by the way) but you can jump right to why your product or service is better, why it’s faster, and how it will solve all your problems if you buy today, without losing your audience.

But, for this new kind of businesses – the ones that offer personal and spiritual growth, or a radical new way of living and working – going right to comparison or benefits leaves out the real story!

Most of us in the “transformative” field aren’t promising a discrete, isolated benefit: make more money, grow more hair, save more time. We are inviting people on a journey to expand their understanding of themselves and their world, to experience a way of living that they may have never imagined for themselves. Our promise is transformation, which brings with it a rich web of new feelings, experiences, and capabilities.

Our language — those key words and phrases we use to paint a picture of what the world could look and feel like if they take the leap–is the way we make that promise tangible, the way we pull all these great ideas, concepts, and insights down to earth so they can feel real, compelling, and inviting to someone encountering them for the first time. Our language needs to be fresh, distinctive, and original if it’s going to break people open to a new awareness or understanding of themselves, their lives, and their place in the collective dance. We need to know if we are talking to our audience about “walking on water” or feeling healthier; “making magic happen” or creating greater organizational productivity; “experiencing the thrill of touching something deep inside of yourself” or identifying your greatest strengths.

Copywriting is about selling. But, before you can sell, you need to communicate. You need words to get you and your audience on the same page, sharing a common understanding. You need a story that resonates for both you and your audience. And that’s the art of developing your message.

Message development is the deeper work of digging inside yourself and your life story, for the words, images and feelings that make that profound message come to life. It’s about finding words and metaphors to express the common thread that ties all the best work you’ve done together. It’s about finding the language inside of you that paints pictures, stirs feelings, and expresses the powerful change that you want most for people.

Alexandria Brown, the Ezine Queen, says this about working with a copywriter “A crucial factor in streamlining the writing process is determining the principal points you need to communicate — *before* you bring in a writer.” Not just who your target audience is, or what you want them to do, but what it is you truly are here to say.

If you focus on writing strong sales copy, before you’ve fleshed out the story you are here to tell, your words will always fall flat. Know your powerful message and how to say it, and copy writing becomes the skill adding the refining touches that shift people from loving what you have to say to doing something about it.

© 2006-10. Isabel Parlett. All rights reserved.

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