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The Story No One is Telling

Last year’s was my first AWAI Bootcamp. As I mentioned yesterday, I learned copywriting secrets there that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

Today, I want to share a unique brainstorming technique I learned. This tip came from Mike Palmer, head copywriter for Stansberry Research, as well as the AWAI 2009 Copywriter of the Year and co-author with Michael Masterson of Copy Logic! The New Science of Producing Breakthrough Copy (Without Criticism!).

Before hearing Mike speak, I had always struggled with coming up with a big idea for a promotion. A big idea is one good idea the reader can grasp immediately. It has to be strong, easy to understand, and easy to believe.

There are millions of possibilities to focus on when writing about a product. I found it completely overwhelming to narrow down to just one idea. Not anymore.

Before you ever type a single word, use this process to brainstorm good ideas for your next promotion.

Step 1: Make a list of all the things that are hot or selling well in your industry.

These are the subjects that your audience is most excited about. Mike says that when we get a new project, we should think about what is popular right now and what the reader is thinking about.

Mike’s example came from the financial newsletter business. He said hot topics now are gold, silver, oil, energy, dividends, and safe ways to get more income.

Remember, this list is time sensitive. Five years ago, the big investing trend was real estate.

Once you have your list, it’s not enough to just say, "Okay, I’m going to write about gold." Every smart copywriter out there is already writing about gold.

Mike says there are two reasons people will throw out your ad without reading it.

  1. It’s about a topic they don’t care about.
  2. It sounds like something they’ve heard before.

To save your ad from the trash bin, you need to find a way to make the same topic new again. That brings us to step two of his process.

Step 2: Make a list of other subjects your reader is concerned with, even if it’s outside your industry.

Other topics our reader might be concerned with are: the debt crisis, house prices falling, stock markets crashing, changes in Social Security, inflation, higher taxes, and underfunded pensions.

To continue our financial newsletter example, gold is the topic we’re trying to make new.

So, your list helps you to stop focusing on the things the reader has heard before: a big gold discovery or the best gold stocks. Or the things they might not care about: the inventor’s story or the company history.

Your list helps you narrow things down to the new stuff no one is talking about. You’re trying to discover the gold story that no one is telling them. You want to capture their attention so they will read your ad.

When you’re done with your list, you can begin your research. You’re looking for a way to weave your hot topic (gold) and your new idea together and tell the story no one is telling. Search high and low for stories and connections between your hot topic and the other topics.

Sticking with gold as our example, maybe there is a glitch in the gold markets that no one has heard about. This glitch could help your reader make a lot of money. If you lead with the story of the glitch – the story no one is telling – their curiosity will force them to read on to learn more about this potential goldmine.

Here’s another example from my niche, the personal development industry:

  1. Something that is hot right now in personal development: raising your vibration to attract what you want in life.
  2. Other subjects my reader is concerned with: positive thinking, health, getting ahead in life.

The story that no one is telling could be: “Your daily vibration level is determined by how many times you hit ‘snooze.’”

Now, that’s a completely made-up example, but it is a subject people are interested in, and you’re telling them something new. If you can hit those marks as you go through this process for your own copy projects, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

What examples can you come up with? Join the discussion below.

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Published: July 24, 2012

1 Response to “The Story No One is Telling”

  1. Thank you for contributing this article. I would like you to know that I really enjoyed reading it.

    I, too, am interested in the personal development industry and growth sector.

    These days, people are interested in how to connect personal growth to professional development.

    That seems to be a trend these days.

    When both are in alignment, you know your work-life is on the right track.

    Too many families have suffered because working couples were consumed by their work.

    Work left them with no room for other things and life with negative consequences. A timely reminder.

    Archan MehtaJuly 25, 2012 at 5:12 am


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