A Publication of WTVP

Remember the 1987 movie Roxanne, starring Steve Martin?

Remember the 1987 movie Roxanne, starring Steve Martin? In that movie he portrayed Charlie, a Cyrano de Bergerac-esque character who falls in love with Roxanne, a beautiful woman. Alas, Charlie sports an unusually large nose and Roxanne is smitten with his co-worker, a handsome yet verbally-challenged fireman named Chris. Charlie, ever the good friend, writes his expressions of love to Roxanne and allows Chris to present them as if they were his own.

In a roundabout way, copywriters are the Charlies of the world. Our job is to woo customers to a client’s product or service with descriptive, persuasive prose. But unlike Charlie, who wrote for his one and only, copywriters write for many and have to tailor their writing styles based on who—and what—they’re writing for.

Motivating the Masses

Your business may have one product or service, but you want to market it in a variety of venues. It’s a copywriter’s job to tailor your message to the medium where it will be presented, whether that is a sentence on a billboard, a call to action in a direct mail piece or an informative description on a website.

For instance, a radio ad will consist of short, crisp sentences, giving basic information in a span of 30-60 seconds, i.e. “Are you tired of your varicose veins?” A webpage for the same product may address your concerns, answer questions and direct you to treatments for varicose veins through a number of screens and links. A direct mail piece will be written to capture your attention—“Get rid of varicose veins!” and list the benefits of your treatment options. People respond to each medium differently, and a copywriter’s words have to reflect those differences and capitalize on the strength of that medium.

Prose for Print

Ah, print—the tried and true medium many businesses rely on. The world of print is a big one, but regardless of whether you choose newspaper, magazine or newsletter, it’s all about hooking your reader from the very first sentence.

Print reaches those who may not even know about your product or service but who may be enticed to try it or find out more about it. Whether it’s an advertisement with bullet points outlining your product’s benefits, a newsletter offering tips related to services you provide or a press release touting your organization’s new product line, print is intended to ignite a fire under your reader to want more of what you’re offering.

Writing for the Web

Just as the style of writing for print varies, the Web presents a whole other world of choices. From web pages and banner ads to e-newsletters and emails, web writers use different methods of attack when utilizing this effective medium. A website is like a tree, with branches leading to different pieces of information.

In most cases, people go to a website seeking information, and with a click of the mouse they can be gone. Effective web copy anticipates a web user’s next move and efficiently provides the information the person is looking for in a direct yet persuasive manner. It is generally tighter and punchier than print, with shorter sentences and a greater use of bulleted points and visuals such as charts or interactive graphics.

Professional web copywriters also understand the impact they can have on a website’s rank when consumers are searching for information. The effective and proper use of headlines, subheads and repetition of key words or phrases can make a difference in whether your site appears in the top five listed sites or gets buried below your competitors.

Putting Ourselves in Their Shoes

One unique quality of a good copywriter is the ability to realize what exactly the potential consumer wants—or needs—to hear. After researching a product and talking with a client, I always envision myself in need of that product or service. What do I want to know? What information am I seeking and what do I hope to gain by reading this ad/visiting this website? What would cause me to take action? By playing the part of the consumer, a copywriter can hone in on what will be the most effective wording to target that product or service’s audience.

It’s OK, I’m a Professional!

An experienced copywriter can be one of your biggest assets as you market your product or service. Not only do copywriters have an outsider’s perspective, they have the ability to take the same information and tweak it to effectively capture your audience no matter what medium it will appear in.

A professional copywriter takes pride in telling your story, whether it be a three-word slogan for a famous running shoe or a step-by-step guide for a computer program. I guess our value can be summed up by a surgical client of ours who “gets” the value of a good copywriter, and put it quite eloquently when he said to me, “If you don’t do surgery, we won’t do copywriting.” Fair enough. TPW