If you have a business, you communicate in writing – and so your copywriter’s skills always remain relevant and important to your image. It’s no great effort or expense to buy good copy these days. Competent writing is the expected norm. Of course, excellent copy will get you noticed in the right way. Conversely, below-average copy, whether online or off, will lower your reputation in an eyeblink.
Tips for good copy:
Keep it smart and clean. Elementary errors in grammar, usage etc are like holes in a skirt or food stains on a suit. Readers will inevitably draw unflattering conclusions: you don’t know how to use language correctly, you don’t check details before you publish, and you can’t afford to pay someone else to do these basics either. You’re messy, unprofessional, uncompetitive, and irrelevant. Next!
Stay on-brand. While you’re still thinking of copy as clothes, think about how different vocabulary, tone, punctuation, and even layout all express different styles that can either support or detract from your overall brand. (For example, an older financier who votes right of centre does not go to work in orange hotpants and a Gaga tee.) Give your writer the company style sheet, examples of past copy, and your most recent branding documents including any online brand specifications.
Deliver a clear message. If the message is not clear and straightforward, rethink it. Readers’ time is important. They shouldn’t have to waste it trying to interpret whether wishy-washy copy is relevant to them or not. A strong narrative and a clear call to action can really help here. Ask yourself: if the reader is only going to remember one thing from this copy, what should it be?
Know your audience.
The best way to write ineffectual nonsense is to write for nobody in particular. Don’t write until you have a picture of your audience in your head. Who’s going to be reading or hearing this copy? Where are they while they do so? What’s on their mind right now? How old are they? What’s their relationship with money, family, school, work, health, the environment, international issues, the subject you’re writing about? What are their concerns, fears, hopes? Who do they want to be?
Good copy is your company’s clothing. Dress appropriately, show a little style, and always check in the mirror before you go out.
Katharine Scarfe Beckett