Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent, says copywriting is one of the most challenging kinds of writing. It requires a balance of both creativity and a call to action, which involves persuasion and strategy (Lurie, 2020). Yet, this involves more than selling to anyone and everyone. The aim is not to turn the masses into zombie-buying machines. Lurie says that great copywriting markets to people who are already interested. No brainwashing required. Frankly, marketing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Using language to manipulate others is not what I’m interested in doing. It was a relief to hear Lurie talk about marketing to reach those who are already interested in your product/service. Or something like it.
According to Lurie, for copywriting to be successful, creativity is an essential ingredient. Without it, words lay flat on the page and do not reach out and grab the reader’s attention. In other words, copywriting is gripping when it capitalizes on a visual layout and supports a call to action. Lurie also explains that the call to action must deliver significance to the target audience (Lurie, 2020).
In the video, Lurie lays out the three ways to classify copywriting: collateral, medium, and style (Lurie, 2020). The three main types of collateral are letters, brochures, and web pages. The three types of medium, he says, are video, print, and online. Finally, three types of style are hard-sell, scare, and straight shot. Lurie notes that it’s essential to know that each type has different purposes and understand them to decide which one to use (Lurie, 2020).
So far, I have had the most experience writing brochures, posters, odd social media posts, and slide show content. While marketing in itself is not my field of interest, I’ve noticed it has been a part of every job I’ve done in recent years. Hence, the reason I’m taking this course: to improve my copywriting skills.
Lurie says that preparing yourself and your space for writing is the next important part of copywriting (Lurie, 2020). I have also found this to be an integral part of writing or doing any work. I find it helpful to turn on music designed explicitly for focus. I’ve also found brown noise to be supportive.
Lurie details the process he uses for writing copy. Gathering the tools, creating a plan, and freewriting are pre-writing tasks (Lurie, 2020). He mentions various devices, including a timer but points out that our brains are the most important ones. With regards to note-taking or journaling, pen to paper is my preferred method. I’m even picky about the kind of pen and paper, preferring soft textures and a ballpoint pen. I love the feeling of writing on a lovely piece of paper. The way the pen slides along smoothly. It’s fascinating that so many people no longer know how to read handwriting (or cursive). It’s through the act of pen to paper that the words that feel most like me come through. That being said, for assignments and work-related writing, a laptop is my favourite tool.
Next, he details writing the first draft, general rules, and polishing the draft. This is about getting into the guts of the writing process (Lurie, 2020). Writing the first draft is, in my experience, the most challenging part. It’s when I feel the most overwhelmed and when I’m most likely to give up. Therefore, Lurie’s suggestion to start in the middle and “sprint” write using a timer is intriguing. I’m reminded of a book I read called “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. She has a chapter entitled Shitty First Drafts, which is about getting the words out of your head and onto the paper (Lamott, 1994, p. 20). It was liberating to learn that most people struggle with the first draft. She says it is essential to let go of perfectionism and permit ourselves to write something terrible initially.
The general rules for copywriting that Lurie delivers are worth writing down. These could be rules for communicating in life. My understanding of these rules is to focus and connect with the reader using concise and straightforward language. Don’t try to elevate yourself above the reader and avoid ploys. Be direct.
Once the copy is written, the next part Lurie covers is writing and testing the headline (Lurie, 2020). He explains again that direct is best and directs us not to try being mysterious. He encourages trial and error by writing several headlines and combining them to find the two or three to test.
Whether it is your writing or helping a colleague, editing is an integral part of the writing process. Lurie stresses that cutting down words, being succinct, and writing in the active voice make copy engaging for the reader (Lurie, 2020).
Typography is an element that could take our writing to the next level. The goal, Lurie says, is to make your writing scannable. Images, fonts, white spaces assist in that goal. The golden ratio is a ratio that depicts what is pleasing to the eye (Lurie, 2020).
Writing for Various Media
When writing for print, Lurie recommends making the call to action clear and letting images dominate the space. There also needs to be an immediate call to action being cognizant that print is permanent.
Concerning online media, he mentions disadvantages such as a potential lack of context. However, there are several advantages as well. It is editable, testable, and transferable to multiple channels. He also stresses that multiple small paragraphs are preferable to large chunks of text (Lurie, 2020).
Lurie says about webpages, creating a solid call to action and ensuring that writing is in the active voice is beneficial. He also suggests having fun with this form of writing (Lurie, 2020).
Next, product descriptions are a very commonly used form of copywriting. Be sure to leave space for images, Lurie says, and use minimal text (Lurie, 2020).
And, lastly, writing for social media has unique aspects. Keeping it fun and brief are two points that Lurie stresses. And while these posts are editable, it’s not considered good taste to do so unless there is a significant error (Lurie, 2020). This information was new to me. I often don’t notice mistakes until after I hit “post” and find myself editing more than once. It’s time for a new course of action. Editing social media posts for effectiveness may mean writing more, not less, despite Lurie’s rule to keep it brief. He indicates that writing to the reader, creating a connection, will take our writing and message to the next level (Lurie, 2020).
Lurie expands on creating a structured plan in his conclusion. Firstly, he discusses the importance of creating an editorial calendar. It lists what the writing projects are and who will be writing them. He says that most of it should be explicitly based on the business strategy when planning the content, but some should be riskier. It is the place where we can play and try new things (Lurie, 2020).
According to Lurie, a posting schedule should be included in the editorial calendar. Also important is assigning editors for the writers. This makes sense since editing live posts is such a no-no.
Managing the brand voice for a product or service needs to be understood, Lurie explains. It’s about development and management by creating a guide for your company. He lays out several rules, including creating a lexicon, personas, and a library of terminology (Lurie, 2020). He also, again, mentions testing. Run ads on Google and evaluate the responses. Monitor as you go. Lurie stresses that recording results as you go will assist in developing a solid and distinctive brand voice (Lurie, 2020).
My Take Away
In my work with Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) Society, I create social media marketing images and slide shows for webinars. I’m often uncertain about my work. I’m not trained in graphic design, and, therefore, I’m usually scrambling trying to make things look good. I use templates, but those can be very limiting. After learning about the Golden Ratio, I am re-thinking some of my creations. For example, I made an image for our upcoming webinar earlier this month. I adjusted it, applying the Golden Ratio. Even though it seems small, it did make a difference:
As Lurie concluded this series, he talked about copywriting being half art and half science. When I first started my business education at NAIT, I feared that professional writing would kill the creativity in me. However, I have found the opposite to be true. The more I learn the science behind concise, professional writing, the more freedom I feel to be creative. I can see that even the structure I so often resist would be supportive in increasing creativity.
I am interested in developing an editorial calendar for myself. I have written a personal blog on and off over the years. I have also written long-form Facebook posts that garner a positive response. However, my writing method has always been inspiration-driven. When an idea strikes me, writing comes pouring forth. When inspiration is not present, which can be long periods, writing does not happen. My concern, again, is that structure will kill creativity. How can I schedule inspiration? That being said, I’m willing to try an experiment. If nothing else, it will get me writing more which will undoubtedly improve my skills.
Inspiration is one of my driving factors in life. But waiting for it could be something like this:
I’ve noticed in life ideas come from walking down the path, not standing at the beginning waiting for something to motivate you to walk.
Lamott, A. (1994). Bird by Bird. New York: Anchor Books.
Lurie, I. (2020, 11 25). Learning to Write Marketing Copy. Retrieved from LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/learning-to-write-marketing-copy/what-is-copywriting-2?u=2109516