Giving Voice to the Real Copywriter Inside You
I’ve got a confession to make. And with it, a crucial copywriting lesson I want to share with you.
First off, the confession …
I have to admit, I started off a little “stiff” writing to you in The Golden Thread. I’ve been writing the Circle of Success Blog for over three years. The type of copy I wanted to write there — and that I did — was conversational and personal.
But when Katie asked me to take over TGT, I felt I needed to be a little more “professional” (for want of a better word). The other day, I got this very nice comment from Katie about some articles I’d written recently for TGT:
These have been really fun to read. I'd love to see more of your personality in all the issues …
Katie was right on. I looked back over some earlier articles. I’d made a rookie mistake. The articles were okay. Content was good and useable. But I hadn’t been true to my “voice.”
What do I mean by voice? Trying to come up with a formal definition is like trying to swat flies in the dark. It’s not a concept easily put into words.
But here’s the best I can do …
Voice is a subtle, personal quality a writer brings to everything he or she writes. It’s how he uses words in a sentence. It’s how he punctuates. It’s how he connects with the reader. It’s him. (Or her.)
For instance, I can always tell when I read John Forde’s or Clayton Makepeace’s copy. It doesn’t matter what the product is or who “signs” the letter.
John always brings a subtle core of sophistication to his writing. He never talks down to his reader. He brings the reader up to his level. Here’s an example …
The smartest investor I know just bought a luxury penthouse.
It has a balcony overlooking the glittering Mediterranean. And he paid cash, just like he did for his last apartment on the French Riviera.
He's rich, obviously.
Partly because of his investments.
And partly because there are people — very wealthy and market-savvy people — who would pay thousands of dollars to hire him for a few hours of advice.
Smooth. Unhurried. Direct. With a touch of sophistication befitting the copy.
Clayton, on the other hand …
Well, if you could see Clayton on his Harley, you can guess the voice he brings to his copywriting.
Washington and Wall Street are now trying to set you up for the most callous fleecing of individual investors EVER.
Specifically, U.S. government bureaucrats have launched a campaign of disinformation designed to pull the wool over your eyes … to convince you that the U.S. economy is strong and improving … and to push you back into the arms of the very brokers who ripped your portfolio to shreds in 2001 and 2002 …
You can almost hear the Harley revving in the background.
Both copywriters were writing about the stock market. Both maintained a strong, conversational tone. But the individual voice in each piece is very distinctive.
This is what Katie meant. I needed to let my genuine copywriter’s voice shine through.
Capturing your genuine copywriter’s voice
There’s only one way to develop your voice: Write. And write. And write some more.
The more you write, the more comfortable you are writing. The stronger your voice becomes. More ingrained. More genuine. More an expression of you.
But, here are three strategies to make it easier to coax that voice out quicker.
First, and most important of all copywriting secrets: Know your prospect or reader. Know as much as you can about this most important person in your professional life.
I know a lot about you (as my reader). So this wasn’t where I slipped up when I didn’t let my voice shine through.
The second strategy is this: Love and respect that person.
When you meet me in person — or through one of AWAI’s programs like COS — you’ll know how much I really do respect you. And, as corny as it may sound, how much I love you for being the type of committed person you’ve shown yourself to be.
So, this wasn’t my problem either.
My problem came because I neglected the third strategy.
The forgotten third strategy …
Write like you’re writing to a friend or loved one. Write conversationally, like you speak. This is easy to say, I know, but not so easy to do.
We all go into writing with expectations. If you’re writing a sales letter, the expectation is to sell something. When you approach it this way, you can lose your voice. (Or never get it in the first place.) How do you avoid that?
Here’s one of the first assignments I give in the COS Headlines Intensive. I ask members to write a friendly letter to a real person about a product of their choice. I tell them to decide who that real person is and to name her in the salutation, something like “Dear Sarah.”
Then — and this is a great way to warm up your voice — write two or three paragraphs that have absolutely nothing to do with the product. Start with something like:
It’s been ages since I’ve written. So sorry! But it’s been insane around here, between Linda starting her new job and the kids pestering me to go camping …
You get the idea. Once you’re well into the chitchat, you start the “sales part” of the letter, still keeping your same, genuine voice.
One thing that’s kept me really busy — and incredibly happy — is a new direction my life has taken. You’ve talked to me about how much you want to change your career. So I know you’ll be interested …
See what you’re doing here? The warm-up copy gives you a running start on your copywriter’s voice.
You’re going to get rid of all the introductory part. But that’s easier than trying to go back and put your voice into copy where it’s lacking.
Does all of this sound like work? It isn’t. Developing your own, genuine copywriter’s voice is fun. Or maybe I should say, letting your natural voice come out is fun. Because it’s already inside you.
When you let it out, when you let it be a part of everything you write, your writing is easier, more natural, and more convincing. And you will be a more successful copywriter.