YOU vs THE BLANK PAGE
For me, there is nothing more therapeutic or healing than the act of writing. There is something about stringing words together that feels almost meditative.
In fact, I am writing this article during a particularly tough time in my life, so what better thing to do than write about, well, writing. Every small, medium, and large business has to do it; every start-up, non-profit, community enterprise, freelancer, and entrepreneur needs to write and write well in order to be taken seriously. Even more importantly, to get noticed. When you take your business idea from subconscious to conscious; from a chat over wine with a girlfriend to a chat over numbers with an accountant; and inevitably from a dream into a frightening reality, the chances are you need to start putting pen to paper very early on and write about you and your business. *Cue the taunting blank page and anxiety-inducing blinking curser*
Clients often say to me, “I know what I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it.” This perennial stuckness can sometimes come from a lack of background work. So, here are some things you should know before you even attempt to face the black-page-nemesis of kryptonite doom (aka copywriting).
1. Know your brand.
Okay, this one is easier said than done and a lot of people decide to invest a fair chunk of time and money for this knowledge (certainly not a bad idea at all). Having a brand strategy is crucial and it will become the foundation of your copywriting – as well as a host of other creative and business decisions. What is your brand’s personality? Is it fun and playful, or serious and professional? What is the tone of the brand? Witty and intelligent, or humble and creative? Is your brand young and innovative, or established and trusted? There are a lot of questions and it’s time to start answering them. If you find it hard to define what your brand’s personality is, try to start with what your brand isn’t. Defiance can often kick start the process with a lot more clarity.
2. It’s about them, not you.
For each piece you write, you need to know who you are talking to (and it’s never yourself). Some businesses make the mistake of talking too much about themselves and their pursuits. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s always about your audience – their lives, their problems, their reactions, and their needs. And your audience changes, a lot, so change with them and tailor each piece to each new audience.
3. Choose your medium.
Your style of writing needs to suit its environment. It needs to fit in with the content it’s surrounded by, or it needs to offer a clear contrast for a reason. The tone for a social media post will be vastly different to that of a stakeholder newsletter. Sure, this is about the audience but it’s also about the method by which you are reaching them. What frame of mind they are in and what they are expecting from you via that channel.
Look at what you have just written and halve it. Okay, that’s a little extreme, but you do need to simplify the content and give it some structure. People are busy (preaching to the converted here I’m sure) and they skim read. Give the most important information first or a strong hook to read on (do both if you can), use headlines and sub-headlines so that readers can skip to the sections relevant to them, and just because Facebook ads have all but abandoned their character limits, it doesn’t mean you have to.
5. Grammar, seriously.
This one is make or break. Grammar is so important if you want to be taken seriously. If you can, get a fresh pair of eyes to look over your work before it goes out. You can also download a handy little tool called Grammarly which trumps spell-check on any program.
If you still come up completely wordless like Taylor Swift without a boyfriend or a breakup, or like Trump without Twitter (and you know this article can do nothing to save you from blank page-itis) then there’s a reason why people like me have jobs; we love extracting what’s in your mind and putting it into unique words for your brand and its audience. In other words: handball the task and keep copywriters writing!