Dr. Content or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Copywriting as Storytelling

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Time waits for no one, and it has certainly not waited on copywriting as an industry. There was time when copywriters had a captive audience―magazine and newspaper readers who received content exclusively on those media, and TV audiences who had to watch commercials before they got to enjoy their entertainment.

We have progressed, for better or worse, depending on your perspective. The present- day experience and interaction with brands and brand communication happens in a completely different way.

We have choices in exactly what we opt for, and have the benefit of being able to tailor which brands and their ads we want exposure to. For the copywriter, it’s a greater challenge than ever to effectively grab and maintain consumer attention.

Media has changed with the internet, and with it, consumer’s expectations. Content is essentially consumer controlled and consumer generated. Engagement is occurring on a different level than it was in the days of Don Draper and the other Mad Men.

Rather than passively absorbing the fruits of a copywriter’s labor, consumers are on the internet, night and day, participating in brand identity, sharing opinions on products with anyone and everyone.

The result is that the old school one-way sales pitch has been replaced by the sometimes maligned two-way conversation―a strategy that brands use to appear more human. It’s about engagement, and engagement is a very human function that gives rise to story.

The Journey to Story

The best stories are those that involve a journey, whether it is a deeply inner quest (The Deer Hunter) or a journey across many miles (Indiana Jones), these are the stories that capture our imaginations.

Copywriters have had to take a journey just as surely as the industry itself has. Copywriting and consumer expectations have gone beyond marketing landmarks, of iconic advertising, to find us all sitting around the glowing warmth of our tablet screens―and we want story now.

There’s a lot to worry about. Creativity, writer’s block, and inspiration. Right? Wrong. The best copywriters out there have stopped worrying and have learned to love story.

How To Love Story

There’s one completely and effective way to stop worrying and learn to love story as a copywriter. You cultivate heart. Heart is, along with a good espresso and a laptop, your best friend.

How so, you ask? Because you can’t be productive without heart. Heart is what urges life-long learning. Heart urges us to be adaptable, to be flexible and urges within us the ability to transfer skill sets from one experience to the next. It is heart that gives us our ability to tolerate fear and uncertainty and potential failure.

If you’re more practical and less poetic, don’t worry about that either. Heart is what tells stories and stories sell.

Nurturing heart for the copywriter comes down to these three things:

1. Knowing your audience

No matter how engaging your story is, you won’t engage your audience unless your copy is directly relevant to them and their experience, whether it’s with a brand they want to partake of or a personal direction they want to go for. This takes heart.

2. Keeping it Simple

This doesn’t mean dumb it down. Don’t do that. The worst writing in the world is condescending. By the same token, be aware, understand that there is a virtual deluge of information out there. It’s not an attention span issue, it’s avoiding the traps of writing a piece that’s contrary to common-sense relationship building. Relationships take heart. Embrace your personal complexity all you want. Just put it on the page so we can understand it.

3. Keeping it Real

Keeping it real means focusing on delivering quality and value. It’s about being results oriented. The value of good copywriting is based on the outcomes delivered. We’re all committed to results―so writing needs to be geared toward real solutions with real stories about real situations to engage real people. And they have heart, too.

Photo Credit: Dr. Strangelove, 1964 (Columbia Pictures)

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