Startup owners have all manner of rusty weapons in their arsenal of skills, and writing decent copy needs to be one of them.
Words for websites, content for blogs, soundbites for PR, prose for newsletters, pitches for potential clients, summaries for business plans. And on the list goes.
Step one is to find a copywriting technique that works even when inspiration has failed you.
One such technique is to force yourself to start typing words, any words, until comprehensive prose forms and the ideas begin to flow.
I like to think of an angle that inspires when I'm out walking, return to sketch the piece out, add in supporting stats, and then edit heavily – often beyond the point of recognition – to inject some flair and personality.
Whatever your unique technique, those words need to command attention. Here are some tips...
1/ Edit streams of consciousness
What’s in your head doesn’t necessarily work on the page. Recently, I saw some copy for a foodie event on Eventbrite which opened with these words:
Have you ever walked past the slightly ajar door to a private dining room in your favourite restaurant and wished you could enter?
Er, no, can’t say I ever have. And that’s why this opener doesn’t hit the mark. But we get what the writer is aiming for i.e. to evoke the feeling of being on the inside of an exclusive private dining experience and make the reader want to buy a ticket.
We see this often in unedited online content. It also happens when the writer is eager to get the idea down and vomits words that are either without context or without explanation. Either way, the reader is baffled.
Avoid this by reading through the final draft and editing for comprehension and style, as well as running a final check for typos.
2/ Master the basics
Use line spacing between paragraphs and subheads to make your copy easier to digest. Bullet points can have the same effect.
Pick a headline that includes keywords for search but also makes people want to click and read - not always an easy balance to strike.
Have a purpose and a point, and keep referring back to it. This will also give your blog structure.
Don't underestimate the power of good imagery. Pixabay is a good place to find free images if you don't have your own.
What's the blog for? It serves multiple purposes beyond a search engine boost. Where applicable, you can also share it with your groups, your customers and on social media. Make it work hard.
Where relevant, link to other pages on your website.
What tone do you want to strike - and is it in keeping with your brand?
Add tags and a meta description so your blog can be found.
3/ Strive for gender equality
In the same way opening a letter with ‘Dear Sirs’ is a sure fire way to alienate any recipient who doesn’t identify as one, don’t rile readers with your choice of pronouns. Defaulting to ‘he’ is not the done thing in 2018. Either mix it up by alternating ‘he’ and ‘she’ throughout the copy, or use the plural ‘they’.
Not all content has to be published to a blog. Experiment with Facebook and LinkedIn, which both let you publish long form articles or posts with banner images. Note that Facebook docs can only be created within groups.
There are other sites you can self publish on, such as Thrive Global and Huffington Post. Although, to become a blogger on Huff Post, you must first submit a blog to the editorial team that meets their criteria.
Try vlogs too. There's real appetite for video content on social media, and it doesn't to be perfectly polished. Instagram Stories and Facebook Live Videos are about as raw as it gets in terms of video production quality.
5/ Outsource the wordsmithery
Don’t underestimate the skill of a good copywriter. They hold people on the page for longer and give your SEO a healthy boost, plus good copy is more likely to be shared.
Hiring a writer to give flair to website copy, or ghostwrite a customer newsletter, will help if you’re positioning yours as a premium brand. Linguistic snobbery should be the only form of snobbery, à mon avis.
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