Archive for September, 2011
Just lately a project I’ve had on simmer for a while has ramped up. Most freelance copywriters experience this ‘tools down to all systems go’ phenomenon quite often. For writers and other creatives, working with extended breaks in the project is a challenge in itself. But that’s another story.
This particular project involves an emerging brand and voice. It’s early days, so the ideal time to position the business. I suggested spending idea generation and writing time on strapline development. ‘What’s a strapline’ they said.
So what is a strapline?
Sometimes called a buyline, slogan or tagline, straplines are short, catchy phrases that appear with your branding. Copywriters often include a strapline in advertising. Individual campaigns and projects may even have a strapline of their own. Some famous straplines written over the years include:
- The ultimate driving machine – BMW
- Because I’m worth it – L’Oréal
- When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight – FedEx
- Let your fingers do the walking – Yellow Pages
- Just do it – Nike
What does a strapline do for your business?
There is some debate about whether straplines are a bit old fashioned. But there really isn’t a better way to position your business. If all your prospects see is a logo, what will that tell them? A strapline adds context and communicates your core brand message.
How do copywriters create straplines?
There’s really no formula to writing a good strapline: some are witty, others hard hitting. But there are a few essential characteristics copywriters aim for:
- Short & sweet
in general, the shorter the better
- How’s it sound
hard to define, but does it sound right
- Big kahuna
the best straplines project one big idea
straplines that tell a story resonate
is the strapline adding brand personality
tell the reader what’s in it for them
Does your copywriting pass the acid test?
A lot of thought, ideas, revision and writing goes into a great strapline. The last thing you want is brand creep or confused prospects. So how do you test that piece of copywriting? This might sound brave, but take your strapline and put it together with your top competition’s corporate ID. If it doesn’t quite work, that’s fantastic! If it does … back to the drawing board.
3 take away tips
- Straplines are short, catchy phrases that give brands personality.
- There’s no strapline formula but copywriters aim for key elements.
- Test your copywriting by putting your strapline with competitor branding.
We’ve all been there. Completed some writing task … and then started editing. You get creative cutting, pasting and revising content. How easy is it for bits of text to get orphaned? Or for writing passages to lose context? Very. That’s what makes proof reading content so important.
Check, check & check again
Once I was working in a studio that was putting together a hands-on exhibition. You know. The sort of thing you’ll find at a museum – press the poop button and it makes a fart sound.
Anyway, this particular installation was destined for a big oil and gas company. All their ships are named after sea birds. The copywriting was complete. Writing revisions were complete. And to be truthful, the job had already gone to the sign-writer when I was asked to proof read.
What do you suppose? There, among the sea bird shipping was the Storm Petrol. That’s what you fill your car up with here in Australia. Not related at all to the Storm Petrel.
It’s an easy mistake to make. Especially when you’ve got oil and gas on the brain. But some effective proof reading on the copywriter’s part might have avoided unnecessary cost.
7 content proof-reading steps
So how do you do that? Here’s a few pointers. But don’t run away with the idea there’ll never be another mistake. Proof readers are human too.
- Fresh eyes
If possible, always ask someone other than the writer to sanity check.
- Rest it
Put the copywriting down for a couple of hours or even overnight.
- Peace please
Adopt a firm ‘No interruptions’ policy to avoid missing anything.
- Hard copy
Always proof read copywriting from a printed version of the document.
- In reverse
Once the writing has been proof read once or twice, go again from the back.
Read aloud to ensure the writing flows well, beyond just punctuation and grammar.
- Take time
They say more haste, less speed. Rushing will only deliver under par quality.
Proof reading might not be the most exciting job of a writing career. But it’s very necessary to consolidate the reputation of quality content copywriters. Who wouldn’t want to be known as that?
3 take away tips
- Proof reading is the best way to avoid orphaned text after writing is edited.
- Re-reading the copywriting isn’t a be all and end all. Mistakes can still slip through.
- Effective proof reading improves content quality and builds a writer’s reputation.
You know that old number. It’s actually titled ‘Let’s call the whole thing off’. George and Ira Gershwin wrote it for the 1937 film Shall We Dance. Of course, it’s all about love gone wrong thanks to miscommunication. That’s exactly what happens with web content if you aren’t careful.
I say you say
Most websites these days have some degree of optimisation. So, what is SEO copywriting aiming to do? Answer: use the terms viewers search in the web content. Users say potato. So you say potato. It kind of builds the expectation that, when I click, that’s what I’ll find. Cool potatoes web content.
Romance grows flat
You say pyajahmas, I say pyjamas. For the most part, website visitors aren’t looking for bedtime reading. Online guests are quick hitters, and they know how to get the content they’re after. Fast.
That SEO copywriting had better make an impression. Or your visitor romance is going sour pretty early. Imagine your viewer response when they check in online to find content that’s not:
- written to web content conventions
for example, writing that uses small words, short sentences and snackable chunks
- laid out in an easy to follow format
viewers skim web content so use formatting to make key points and engage readers
create a clear, concise messages
Lets’ call the whole thing off
The average visitor spends less than one minute on your website before deciding whether to clear off forever. Even if your SEO copywriting is doing a great job of driving traffic, you still need engaging, well presented and clever web content. If not, visitors will figure: you say tomato, they say tomahto and call the whole thing off. Click.
The great news is that’s not hard to do. All you need is an experienced SEO copywriter. So, shall we dance?
3 take away tips
- Writing for an SEO campaign involves using search terms in your web content.
- Poor quality layout, copywriting or complicated messages are a real turn off.
- SEO copywriting needs to make an impression early to capture visitor interest.
Actually, I’m not a shampoo bottle. Not the last time I checked, anyway. Products like that are identical wherever you buy them. So the purchase decision is often based on factors like price and convenience. The thing is (and you’ll know this if you’ve ever employed staff) shopping for people doesn’t work like that. Not if a good job is important to you, anyway.
Before you request a writing quote
So many people make the mistake of wading into copywriting rates as priority one. That risks a sub-par outcome. As I’ve just said, no two people are exactly alike … and neither are any two writers.
Before you even start thinking dollars, ask yourself:
- Does the writer have the experience I’m looking for
- Is this copywriter a good fit with by business or team
- Do they ask lots of questions and seem to be interested
- Can this writer slip into my existing corporate voice
- Does the copywriter seem easy to get along with
- Is the writer available to meet my project deadline
Not until you have the best writing candidate in mind is it time to request a quote.
What a copywriting quote includes
OK, so you’ve zeroed in on a copywriter who fits the bill. If you’ve got a project or writing brief, let your writer have that now. It will help them prepare a better proposal.
So what should you expect will be included in the copywriter’s quote? Depending on the size and extent of your project, a formal writing quote may include:
This provides an outline of how the writer understands your project. It should touch on the purpose and objective of the writing project and identify the target audience.
A breakdown of the copywriting elements, including how the writer will approach each task, format and approximate word count.
In many organisations, quotes are further reviewed by a manager or financial controller. A summary of like projects the copywriter has completed can be helpful to confirm your writer preference.
The most cost-effective way for a copywriter to quote is by the project. But, depending on the writing task, many will also provide rates by the hour, half day or full day.
This is important because it tells you what’s included with the copywriter’s fee. That means things like how many edits and authors corrections (changes you make after the fee is agreed).
It’s good business practice to provide a formal acceptance of any quote, but not every business will use an acceptance. Some prefer to use a purchase order or simply confirm via email.
3 take away tips
- Finding a copywriter is unlike shopping for products – no two are the same.
- It’s best to screen writing candidates for suitability before getting a quote.
- A comprehensive copywriting quote will usually include 6 elements.