A client recently asked me for a few copywriting tips to help them get better at writing for their not-for-profit. She said they were helpful, so I’m sharing them here to help you hone your copywriting skills.
Tip 1: Write, a lot!
Writing is like training for a marathon – the more you do, the better you’ll perform.
I’ve been writing for work for over a decade but feel that you never stop learning or improving. My process is well-established – research, write, review, edit – but my writing changes every time.
Writing regularly shouldn’t be a chore and you don’t have to write pages to see the impact. Whether you’re producing social media posts or press releases, just putting pen to paper and building a little on your last efforts will make a difference.
Tip 2: Inject feeling
“Don’t start by writing, start by feeling. Feel, and feel passionately and the emotion you feel will come through the spaces between the words.” Indra Sinah
I discovered this quote in the book ‘Storytelling can Change the World‘ by Ken Burnett.
I had recently started a contract in a brand new sector and was in the process of finding my own and the organisation’s voice. This quote acted as a reminder that immersing yourself in a cause and discovering what moves you about it is key to producing writing that will encourage people to act.
For me, this process is all about research 🤓. Talking to staff, reading articles and studies, having conversations with the intended audience and taking time to reflect on my own related experiences are key.
Tip 3: Develop attention to detail
When people ask me what quality sets a decent comms professional apart from an amazing one, my answer is always the same – attention to detail.
From checking your @ mentions in social media posts to carrying out the required research to develop creative comms strategies, attention to detail has a place in all things comms.
Here are three pointers for developing your attention to detail:
✏ Use all the tools in your comms kit to check, check and check again. Draft and check the spelling in social posts using Word or Google Docs, use the preview function in scheduling tools to check formatting, and make sure you’re linking to the right accounts by visiting the profile before you tag.
✏ Always think three steps ahead. If you’re unsure about sending something out into the world, take a moment to think about why you’re sending it, how it fits with your goals and what the worst case scenario is. Could your comms create a backlash? Rethink or prepare for it.
✏ Make your style guide and brand book your bible. These documents are not only key to building your brand, they are your guiding light when it comes to producing beautiful comms. Not sure when to capitalise? Check your style guide. Need to provide a short description of your org to a journalist? Check your brand book.
Tip 4: Define your audience
Think about who you are talking to. It is helpful to be as specific as possible – when it comes to audience targeting, there is no such thing as ‘the general public’. Once you know who your audience is, you can develop copy that will appeal to them. A bit of research might help at this stage. EG If your target is parents with children under five years old, look at popular Instagram accounts, magazines and websites that are aimed at this demographic and learn from the way they write. You could even keep a ‘Swipe file’ to record pieces of writing that you like for various audiences that you regularly write for.
Tip 5: Write in plain English
Don’t make the reader work hard to understand what you want them to do! This guide from NCVO sets out 7 simple tips on how to write clearly in plain English. Avoiding jargon and keeping sentences short are key.
Tip 6: Set out your key messages
When I start a comms project (like a campaign, which inevitably includes a lot of copywriting), I like to set out the key messages in a doc so whenever I write something for that project I have something to work from and keep me focused. It also really helps when I’m new to a subject as this process includes research into the issues and a lot of reading around it. As a consultant, it also makes sure that the client and I are on the same page.
What are your tips for honing your copywriting skills? I’d love you to share them in the comments below. And browse the rest of the blog for more tips to help your comms sing!
Director, Colvine Communications