I went to see Tim Burton’s new film, Alice in Wonderland, last weekend. I had been looking forward to seeing it ever since I saw the trailer revealing its stunning visual effects and typically wild, Burton-esque costumes. In the end, it was a very pretty film but not very compelling. With just a thread of a plot to hang onto, the story ended up being kind of, well, boring. The eye candy and A-list actors will be enough to bring out hoards to the theatre but will this film endure? I’m doubtful. The same holds true for the vehicles you use to communicate with your audiences in the corporate or nonprofit sector. If you aim for style over substance, you’re going to fall short of your goals.
A stunningly designed website, newsletter, advertisement, brochure or blog gets your foot in the door to your customer’s consciousness. It’s an absolute must for getting your message across. Equally important, though, is the written message you deliver. If it’s not clear, engaging and structured to deliver results on your established goals, it’s going nowhere.
Many small to medium-sized businesses as well as nonprofits don’t appreciate the value of solid copywriting. Granted, professional design is an easier sell because the difference from bad/amateur design is immediately apparent. The effect of rambling, poorly constructed copy, however, only hits home when you realize people just aren’t reading, or understanding, whatever you’ve produced.
Here are the key indicators of good copywriting:
- It reflects the audience reading it. This means it takes into consideration the audience’s interests, needs, values and reading ability.
- It’s tailored to the platform. The medium (e.g., brochure, blog, website, direct mail) dictates writing style, length and structure. (Choosing the right platform for your message is also important.)
- It engages. Good writing immediately draws your audience into your message and compels its members to act.
- It’s clear. It doesn’t distract with poor grammar or typographical mistakes.
Small businesses and nonprofits are not always in a financial position to hire a professional copywriter but should make every effort to ensure that their message is being delivered in the most effective way possible.
If you’re the person charged with writing copy for your organization, invest in the time to learn the basics of effective corporate and persuasive writing. In addition to scads of good books that address various writing challenges (The Copyblogger blog includes a “must read” list), there are many free, online resources for improving writing as well. Some of my favourites include:
Bad Language (writing about writing) – blog
Write to Done (Unmissable articles on writing. Twice weekly.) – blog
Coppyblogger (Copywriting tips for online marketing success) – blog
Grammar Girl (Quick and dirty tips for writing better) – podcast/blog
Writing good copy is vital for any business or nonprofit. Without it, you’ll be less competitive and the goals you’ve set for reaching new audiences or engaging and sustaining customer relationships will consistently fall short. Make sure your message is being delivered.
Do you agree or do you think great design can make up for less than stellar content? Weigh in with a comment.