Why Copywriting Is Worth Investing In

It’s hard to quantify the value of copywriting to a business. You could tell a business owner that you could deliver a magical formula of words that would boost their bottom line by 20%, but you would be lying and that wouldn’t be fair. What businesses fail to realise, in their rush to reach that bottom line, is that before you can sell, you need to know what to say, and that’s the value of copywriting.

Investing in Copywriting

If you’re willing to take the time to figure out what you’re about a business, then you will stand out above other companies who did not invest that time. When I do copywriting for a business, my goal is to help them figure out what they want to say, and how they operate either differently or better than their competitors. The content that the copywriter creates gives them a foundation that they can then build into a sales strategy.

copywriting image
Copywriters – their words have the power to sell.

 

In the coming weeks, I will be helping a company go through the process of figuring out what to say and how to say it. I will be creating a service manual, which lays out the fundamentals of the company, so the staff can refer to it in their communications with customers. It will essentially help them figure out what to say, and they can use it to create content. I will also be compiling a style guide, with guidelines on the types of words they can use to describe their company. This guide will tell them how to say it.

Defining Your Message

The goal of the service manual will be to define the company’s core message, and how it delivers on this message. Every company has a goal, a mission behind all the activities it does. Successful companies recognise that behind every business, there is passion and purpose, and the core message crystallises that passion and purpose. The manual then elaborates on how that message influences the company’s activities, how they go the extra mile to deliver customer service, and how they enhance their customers’ lives.

Saying It With Style

In general, a style guide aims to ensure that an organisation uses language consistently, so that their content looks professional. This short style guide will help the staff decide what wording to use when they’re writing their content, the tone they want to adopt and how they will refer to their company. Will they say “we” or will they use the company name? It will also ensure that they are consistent in how they lay out that content and how they use grammar and punctuation.

Copywriters, how do you convince businesses of the power of words to sell? Business owners, have you found copywriting services to be worth the investment?

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My New Writing Bible

I’m suspicious of writing guides. Most of them are either how-to books, which take a writing-by-numbers approach to the craft of writing, or they’re wafty, spiritual guides that reek of incense. I have found some amid the dross that stand out and that I’ve paid homage to. Recently, I hit on one which I already feel will be the touchstone guide for the rest of my life. Lots of people had mentioned Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to me over the years, and I decided to act on their enthusiastic recommendations.

Turns out they were right to sing its praises. It’s just the right mix of earthy and inspirational. It performs the rare feat of making me laugh, and on almost every page, I pump my fist in recognition. It’s like talking to a slightly wiser, slightly smutty friend, with all the comfort that that brings. But it does a great deal more than that. It dispenses nuggets of wisdom that you can carry through into your writing process.

Bird By Bird

Book cover originally from Anchor Books.

Here are a few gems I have mined so far.

Listen to your broccoli

There’s a little voice inside all of us that tells us what’s true, and if we follow it, we’ll know exactly what to do. But it can be hard to hear that voice amid the chatter of voices inside and outside our heads. When we do hear it, we don’t always trust that it’s right, but if we take time to listen to it, we’ll have the tools we need to write our stories. Lamott calls this voice your broccoli, based on the idea that broccoli is a vegetable we may resist, but it’s good for us.

Relax your writing muscle

 

When a part of us is hurt, our muscles tighten to protect us. When Lamott had her tonsils out, she was still in immense pain a week later. Rather than give her more painkillers, the nurse told her to chew gum. She took the advice and felt a terrible ripping sensation, but then the pain was gone. Similarly, you need to relax our writing muscle, and the only way to do that is by writing. If you’re willing to endure the ripping sensation, the words will flow.

Put your characters first

Plots are sexy, and they make bestsellers. If you’re a character-driven writer, you may feel that your story may be overshadowed. Lamott recommends letting your characters speak. Listen to what they say, and as they develop, they will provide you with the details of your plot. Handled right, a plot based on psychological warfare between characters can really sizzle.

In a way, Lamott isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know. She’s simply reminds us that we have the tools we need for writing success within us, and that the only person we need to listen to is ourselves. She tells us this in a way that resonates, that helps us understand these truths not just with our rational minds, but with our hearts, where it really matters.

Have you read Bird by Bird? Did it make you pump your fist too, or did you feel it reeked of incense? Are there any other guides that you use as a touchstone?

Writing History: Stories of Waterford Women in 1916

It’s hard to escape the 1916 Rising in Ireland at the moment. It’s being commemorated in all sorts of ways. And I’ve decided to play my own small part, with a project that tells the stories of ordinary women in Waterford City during the Rising. The idea planted itself in my head when I went to a meeting in Waterford City Library announcing a funding programme for projects commemorating 1916. It occurred to me that creative writing can be used to give a fresh perspective on history. It gives you the freedom to imagine what it was like to live in another time, and it fills in the gaps that facts miss.

I felt that in particular, the voices of ordinary working women were absent from history and that the women who fought in the Rising did not necessarily represent the majority of women. I came up with an idea for an exhibit that would use various creative techniques to tell their stories. For various bureaucratic reasons, it made more sense to do the project under the umbrella of a community group.

Women and the Rising
Telling the stories of ordinary women during the 1916 Rising

Pic from Ireland.ie

1916 Creative Exhibit

I knew that there were women’s groups at St Brigid’s Family and Community Centre in the heart of Waterford city. I approached them and they were receptive to the project. We worked together to fill in the application form, to define the project, outline a budget and give a timeline for completion. The project would be an exhibit about Waterford women in 1916, comprising diary entries, crafts, photographs and other artefacts. The participants would be woman of all ages and backgrounds in Waterford City.  

In December, we were delighted to discover that we had received funding from Waterford Council for our exhibit. The diary entries will form the centrepiece of the exhibit, and the other exhibit items will be decided upon by the women. I’m hoping the exhibit will play to their strengths. They may be interested in crafts or art, in which case they might like to create art or craft items inspired by the Rising. Or they may enjoy research, so they may want to collect artefacts from the time, or bring in items that belonged to their ancestors.

Writing Diary Entries

I will be responsible for helping the women create the diary entries, and we will do this through six 90-minute workshops. During the workshops, the women will create characters, ordinary women like themselves, who may have different perspectives on the Rising from the traditional historical one. They were the ones who stayed at home and kept the show going while the men fought, in the Rising itself or in World War One. They may have wished to fight themselves, but not be allowed. The participants may choose to write about their own ancestors and imagine what their lives were like. The women will also time travel to 1916, getting a sense of the atmosphere of the times and what was important to people who lived at that time.

After the participants have done all this, we will have a session devoted to the creation of diary entries. Aside from the chance to look at history in a new way, the participants will experience the sense of achievement that comes from creating their own piece of original writing. And they will learn a new skill, the skill of storytelling. The beauty of this project is that the participants won’t need an extensive knowledge of the 1916 Rising to take part. They just need to be able to imagine what it was like to live through it.

Do you think that using fictional and creative techniques offers a fresh perspective on history? Or do you prefer historical accounts based on solid fact?

Making Creative Connections in Galway

Conferences are great crack. As a writer working alone, they give me an excuse to break out of my four walls and re-acquaint myself with my fellow human beings. I also get grub, swag and a legitimate excuse to party. But I don’t just attend conferences for the crack. I attend them to remind myself that the work I’m doing is worthwhile and to connect with forces bigger than myself.

Last week, I attended the Creative Connections conference in Galway, a known party town (though an early start prevented me from availing much of that). This conference was organised by Arts and Disability Ireland, the main advocacy organisation for artists with a disability in Ireland, and for arts organisations that work with artists who have a disability. The conference aimed to bring these people together and explore ideas. As a visually impaired writer, I reckoned the conference would be a good fit.  

Creative Connections
Pic from Arts and Disability Ireland Website, features artists at Club Tropicana

Aside from being a stimulating, efficiently run conference, I found it beneficial in three important ways.

Meeting People

The conference gave me a chance to listen to speakers who were leaders in their field, including bloggers, curators, comedians and policy makers. Among the delegates, there was also plenty of talent. Being on my own meant I had no choice but to march up and start conversations with people and that’s exactly what I did. I made particular connections with Mary Hartney of Spoken Dance, an integrated dance company, and Louise Footte, organiser of the Perceptions exhibit in Cork.

Access to Information

Though I have been giving creative writing classes for a few years, it’s been on an ad-hoc basis, and the best way to take my practise to a new level is to collaborate on a project with a bigger organisation. I wanted to find out what kind of projects other people did and how they approached them. As yet, I have a little bit of work to do to figure out how I can fit with a bigger organisation’s plans, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Inspiration

It’s easy to get jaded when you’re looking at those four walls. Conferences give you an extra bit of jizz, connecting you with why you want to do this work in the first place. From listening to the speakers, I noted down a few ideas that I can develop. For example, there aren’t that many specific disability projects in the area where I live, but I do know people who work with people with disabilities in the area, so I can connect with them. Also, there is scope for greater involvement of people with disabilities in literature. The idea of people with disabilities publishing their own work, as I did, is a very gratifying thought.

Do you go to conferences? How do you feel they benefit you in your work?