1. Copywriting Fundamentals

a. Fine Writing vs Journalism vs Copywriting:

• Fine writing—the “ART” of writing, as in a novel or short fiction (a LOT of marketing is fiction too!) Fine writing differs from copywriting in that the writer is NOT selling you anything, even if they are delivering a message in the work.

• Journalism (commercial writing) is written to entertain FIRST, and inform. Today’s journalism has less to do with facts than opinion, and vacillates between fiction and copywriting.

• Copywriting (commercial writing) is written to SELL.

—Is the Bible fine or commercial writing?
—Are Series (romcom, sitcom, reality TV shows; HBO/Netflix, online streaming series…etc.) fine or commercial writing?
—Is FOX/CNN News the ‘truth?’

2. Copywriting Basics

a. What is Copywriting? Using words (generally in combination with visuals) to motivate people to buy a product/service or into a message/idea.

b. What is Effective Copy? Words that SELL—Product/Service/Message.

c. Content Marketing: a form of Branding through storytelling or entertainment, often with little to no relationship to your offering or company. Taken to the extent it is today, i.e. showing cat videos to sell cars, content marketing has become ubiquitous, with little to no ROI (other and “Views,” and “Impressions,” which typically neither Brand nor sell, but are a brief entertainment for most viewers). Even when only Branding, all marketing content SHOULD sell (direct or implied), features and benefits of your offering to fulfill a desire/need of a specific group of people.

Read Content is King, by Bill Gates, 1996http://web.archive.org/web/20010126005200/http://www.microsoft.com/billgates/columns/1996essay/essay960103.asp

d. Jobs in Copywriting:

►Read Copywriters Salaryhttp://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Copywriter-l-United-States.html

• Creative Director (CD) vs. Copywriter— within most organizations that employ copywriters, the copywriter works directly with the CD, or, in many cases, ARE the CD on any given project. The copywriter should be able to conceptualize the campaign, as it’s their job to ‘illustrate’ with words (that support the visuals) the offer to the viewer.

• Consulting vs employment— consulting gigs are going away in general, but in particular in graphic design and copywriting. Admins are often writing copy for marketing campaigns to save their employer money. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. While they may get a lot of “Views,” and “Impressions,” from Admins creating their marketing on the cheap, these campaigns don’t sell much, and turn out to be wasted ROI of TIME.

• Finding and generating clients/jobs— Put ads on Craigslist under SERVICES OFFERED. Join online business groups, or go to SIG (special interest group) meetings, or Meetups in your area of interest or expertise. NETWORK! NETWORK! NETWORK!

e. Copywriting Genres: Like fiction/non-fiction, copywriting has genres too! (Click on the bulleted text for requirements and U.S. salaries where applicable.)

Technical (including user manuals)


• Social Services/Non Profit—Admins and other personnel are often writing this copy content.

Consumer (B2C)—products/services; wholesale/retail

Business to Business (B2B)—products/services; wholesale

• Human Resources (HR)—copywriting for both business and labor sides, i.e. soliciting businesses for HR contracts, and searching for talent (job listings)

• Textbooks/Online Education

• Scriptwriting—video commercials; games; presentations; radio/broadcast; phone solicitation; sales pitches

• Speech Writingpolitics, fundraising and awards banquets (there are even [online] copywriters for funerals and marriage proposals!)

3. How to Write Effective Copy (Copy that SELLS)

a. Write to be read: professional writers write to be read. Copywriting is NOT journal or novel writing. Copy content should be written to SELL offering, i.e. product/service/message, and/or company (brand).

• Readability—copy must be readable on any device or size screen, or any surface it is printed on.

• Write copy to be read by a particular group of people, i.e. your target audiences

• Create an engaging story. (NOT today’s “content marketing,” that isn’t selling, or even branding anything with totally unrelated content to the offering.) Show (don’t tell) with images, and in FEW words the BEST THING, the greatest differentiator, of whatever you’re offering.

• Motivate readers to FEEL—engaging all 6 senses motivates ACTION: Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch. Taste. Feel.

• Compel readers to ACT (the CTA)—to get people to do what you want, you must tell them what you want them to do. The CTA is not only to get viewers to act, but also the OBJECTIVE of the campaign. For greater ROI, make sure the CTA is the objective of the marketing effort.

4. Three (3)-Step Process to Writing Effective Copy

1. Define the PROJECT

Use a Creative Brief to define the objective of the campaign, i.e. to directly sell, or only brand, and what action (CTA) you want to achieve from the viewers of your marketing material. A creative brief should be constructed for every marketing campaign, as each project is different, with different requirement and components. A CB also acts as a ‘check list,’ to stay on task and focused on one CTA for the greatest ROI per campaign.

♦ Components of a Creative Brief:

• Objective—effective copywriting is written to SELL. But we can’t always sell our product or service with a “Buy NOW!” button. Much of selling is Branding, convincing potential audiences that we have what they want (even if it’s to FEEL creative, as owning an Apple product does for many people).


• Background—identify the features and benefits of product/service/message you are selling. Know the competitors in your product/market space, and the differentitors that give your offering a unique selling position (USP). (Happily, you’ve done most of this work already for your startups first offering in your PRODUCTIZATION LISTS [from the beginning of this class]. And wisely, you’ve been updating these lists continually…

Understand economic climate (it’s harder to sell a BMW in a recession)

Understand sociological climate (it’s difficult to sell gun control legislation in Texas)

• Target Markets—characterize the type of people who potentially have a desire or need for your offerings. (Happily, you have a Target Markets list from Productizationtoo!) A creative brief is often where you drill down on WHO your target audience is, i.e. what they like to do, their concerns, fears, joys, hopes. List typical behavior patterns. List ‘triggers’ that get your audience to act. Consider and list ‘primers’ that may get your audience to act.

• Offer or Promisespecifically define the best benefit, or the greatest differentiator of your campaign. The offer may be “50% Off Everything in Store,” or promise may be ‘you’ll feel cool if you walk into Starbucks with an Apple laptop,’ but there must be some offer or promise with every marketing effort.

• CTA— describe what the viewer should think, feel and DO after seeing your offer or promise.

• Perimeters— identify the medium, file size, format, components, delivery method (print, online), and the budget of each marketing effort.

►Read Creative Brief Template for Copywriters and Designershttp://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/tools/writing-a-brief-a-template-for-briefing-copywriters-and-designers

►View 6 Tips for Beautiful Creative Briefs: http://www.slideshare.net/adcracker/killer-creative-brief2ss

2. Generate IDEAS

The process of writing the creative brief should spark ideas to sell your offerings.

Identify and exploit the Unique Value Proposition (aka unique selling position, USP)—a promise (real or implied) by a company, or on marketing material, to deliver something of benefit or value to a customer or group of people. UVP is usually the greatest differentiator in any given campaign, and distinguishes your offer, even for a short time, from your competitors. Company brand can also be the UVP, as with Apple, or Tesla Motors.

►Watch: How to Create a Value Proposition

• Reframe existing marketing material by combining two or more components into a fresh new look.

• View competitors offerings and marketing for ways to one-up them.

• Iterative search IMAGES and VIDEOS related in any way to your offerings or current campaign. Troll for images and WORDS that get your attention.

• VISUALIZE—find or create visual representations of your ideas. Draw thumbnails of layouts, include headlines and CTA. Storyboard video or presentation ideas.

• Share your idea! Brainstorm with others. Play with ideas together. LEARN from feedback (market research).

►Watch: When to Share Your Idea:

►Watch: Where Do Good Ideas Come From

3.  Choose the Right Words (off or online):

• Direct Selling—direct copy content should SELL offer directly. Buy. Subscribe. Try.

• Indirect Selling— indirect copy content is for BRANDING. Indirect copy shows (by painting a picture in our heads with words) a compelling story where the viewer pictures themselves in the scene.

a. Copywriting Process:

• Use a Creative Brief—break down complex content such as websites and marketing campaigns into the separate components of the creative brief. Sitemaps for websites and other multifaceted campaigns is highly recommended, not only for consistent branding across all media, but also to break down the copy into manageable FOCUSED content.

• Sell offerings by its Features, Benefits and Differentiators—refer to, review and update PRODUCTIZATION LISTS. Add new features every 6 months, minimum, to stay current and relevant to your target markets, and potential new markets.

Promote your company, products/services and marketing campaigns by their greatest differentiator FIRST. Additional differentiators can be added to concertize the messaging, but the BEST thing about your product/service or offer is always first! Focus copy and visual content on how these unique benefits (differentiators) meet the needs, or are solutions for your target markets.

Review competitors websites and marketing material for messaging. Rip their copy content and put it into a Word file. Review, restructure, rewrite for unique, targeted copy content for your product’s audience. 

• Rip-off copy from websites, ads, brochures—anywhere you find copy content that grabs your attention. Start a folder on your desktop of ripped copy in a Word Doc (with the URLs the copy came from); and a physical copy folder for print ads, mailers…etc. Rewrite and restructure good copy to work for your marketing material.

• Explore where your target markets hang out, online groups and forums, Meetups and SIG meetings. Talk to them! Find out what they want, think about, talk about, post about. Pay attention to use of language! Then write content in target’s dialect.

b. Copywriting Grammar: copy content should support the imagery and enhance the messaging of the campaign or brand.

Use short sentences— 3 – 15 simple words max. The shorter the better!

Use simple language— NO techno-speak! Even if 95% of readers will understand it, don’t use it. You want your marketing material to be understood by as many people as possible.

Use short words whenever possible— purchase >> buy; optimum >> best

• Be SPECIFIC, and KISS—keep copy as short and succinct as possible (even when educating readers with new products or technology).

• Don’t waste words—avoid cliches, and meaningless words like—state-of-the-art; user-friendly; advanced technology; or bigger; better; powerful; fast…etc.

• Use Active NOT Passive voice— simpler and more direct language, using the subject to perform the action: My husband loves me, is active. I am loved by my husband, is passive, and boring, and too many words.

►Read Grammar Girl, Active Voice vs. Passive Voicehttp://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice

►Read Purdue Online Writing Labhttps://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/539/02/

No exposition. It’s boring telling viewer a story instead of showing a story, i.e. using words to paint imagery or a movie inside reader’s head). Exposition is know in fiction as the ‘backstory.’ Marketing does NOT require a backstory. Viewer wants to know how your offerings benefit them, FAST.

• Keep long bodycopy in 2 – 5 short sentence paragraphs, with lots of visual space around the copy blocks. Use BULLETED LISTS a LOT! They are quicker and easier to scan read.

• Use fragmented headlines, subheads and bulleted points—Cut the unnecessary words for readers to experience fresh copy throughout the read.

Consider the format of copy delivery, i.e. cellphone; pc/laptop; tablet, print, billboard—where will the copy will appear? Writing a mobile campaign is way different than developing a print campaign.

Use keywords applicable to your product/service features & benefits; target market/s; competition (sometimes), for use in headlines and content copy.

►App: Keyword Tool Suggests Trending and Popular Keywords: http://keywordtool.io/

Cut redundant keywords and key phrases. BEWARE: Google will block you from their search results if they find you’ve been ‘overstuffing,’ and/or ‘overoptimizing’ your webpages.

c. Editing and Rewriting:

Read what you’ve written aloud—even better, record what you’ve written then play it back to yourself. READ your copy as you listen to your recording, and edit out redundancies, errors in copy structure, continuity and messaging.

• Correct spelling is a must to look professional. Have someone proofread your writing before producing your marketing material.

Stick to one (1) topic/message—per webpage, ad campaign, presentation…etc. This should be the greatest differentator of your product/service or campaign, AND the topic of the headline.

• Edit passive into ACTIVE sentences.

• Edit exposition into storytelling (showing viewer a pic or movie in their heads).

• Check Creative Brief with every marketing effort. Use the CB as a checklist to make sure content is on-task. Delete all copy that does not support the main messaging and objective of the campaign.