Writing ad copy you can believe in

I like to make eye contact when I sing in public. This despite the way I practiced performing as a teenager: We were told to overcome stage fright by finding a place just above the audience’s heads and to sing to this ether above them. This is an age-old technique for managing fear for both performing artists and public speakers. And yet, I’ve recently discovered that finding my authentic voice and building community—whether from a stage or from a budding author platform—is about the ability to connect. It’s about looking your audience in the eye.

As a journalist new to sales writing, I have felt reluctant to harness my wordly powers in order to manipulate people into buying things. Through the ages, advertising has successfully sold us things by convincing us that we are essentially lacking. Yet we could be happy, enviable, and have great sex lives if only we bought X,Y, or Z product. As John Berger shows in his classic Ways of Seeing, this message is a lie that wreaks havoc on everyone but in particular on women. How can I, as a former truth-telling reporter, engage in such falsehood.

I have learned I can only work for people and products I believe in. But it also helps that the landscape of advertising is changing so wildly—just as the journalism and publishing industries morph as well.

Increasingly, people inoculate themselves against the advertising machine: Envy-based messages no longer work as often or as well. Meanwhile, everyone can benefit from products and services that will actually help them and their businesses and their families in the ways they dream of and need.

The other day I stumbled across this quote from Seth Godin in Tribes:

“[It’s about] finding a group that is disconnected but already has a yearning, not persuading people to want something they don’t have yet.”

I felt the light go on. I’ve recently had the great good fortune to work with singer-songwriter Emma Back. Her Living Song program teaches women to find and share our authentic voices whether as writers, teachers, business leaders or… as singer-songwriters. From Emma I’ve learned that one of the best ways to overcome stage fright is to stop trying so hard to communicate and rather to receive the audience’s energy and attention. Paradoxically, when I try this, I relax. I stop shouting to be heard. And inevitably, I wind up fostering a human connection that nurtures and fulfills us both.

I want to make it possible for my clients to be discovered by the people who need and yearn for what they offer. Often, the first piece of this is to discover with each: What core product, idea, or information do my clients contribute to the world that no one else can, at least not as well? If I can help my clients find their unique “voice” and be heard, their tribe of customers will find them and together each will prosper and grow. We foster this one human connection at a time.

The best writing always aims for the individual, not the nameless masses. Editor Steve Austin explains it like this: “Pretend you’re in a bar. Turn to the person on the next stool and tell them the story.” It takes courage to authentically offer what is yours uniquely to contribute. This is a far cry from writing above anyone.

We copywriters employ whole toolkits of skills. We get more attention if we entertain, tell a story, make people laugh, combine unrelated things in unexpected ways. But at the core is a unique offering and our job is to help our clients share themselves with the world. One connection at a time, we gather together a community formed of individual, named stars. Clients gravitate here of their own free will, and everybody wins.

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One Response

  1. Lauren Sundstrom says:

    Sara, you are so on it. Your approach is simple yet profound. Your words are going to match a lot of yearnings with a lot of businesses. Way to go. Thanks for sharing!!

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