Sanity Check #2 - How to say less
Gonna blow your minds right now because, guess what - there's no true way to say less because, as writers, we iterate, iterate, iterate. Within those iterations are multiple options varying in lengths; 2 small words, some 10 characters, some 150 characters, maybe you get to make sentences. Then, we add iterations because of tests (btw, I love testing). Next, our minds get confused because the test that should have won because of all the resources we scoured said it should have due to "best practices" ("best practices" is a vent for another day). BUT, lo and behold, you've discovered your audience is actually unique to you and your brand (please say that sentence in the most sarcastic manner possible because it should be common sense).
Today's audiences live in a fast paced world (duh) whether they like it or not because *drum roll* that awesome little computer in your hands/hand that houses high-speed internet and multiple social media apps has given all of us a shorter attention span...the ability to convey complex ideas concisely is a valuable skill I'm sure we're all still working on.
So, tips & tricks? I got 'em and I've found they work across the spectrum - copywriting, email marketing, growth marketing, lifecycle marketing...advertising and marketing.
1. Know Your Audience:
Before you begin explaining anything, it's crucial to understand your audience. What do they already know? What are their interests? Your explanation needs to meet their level of understanding. This allows you to focus on the essential points, avoiding unnecessary jargon and detail.
Listen to your Account Managers. It doesn't matter if you do or don't like them. They connect you to your client who funds your paycheck. Be courteous and listen.
Ask questions during briefings. This is where, if you listen to your AMs and are courteous, they will (hopefully) look at you and say, "good question(s). I'll get clarification." They don't know what they don't know and neither do you.
TRUST THE DATA. I cannot stress this enough. Data doesn't lie, no matter what your opinion, assumptions, or thoughts are. Weave questions about data into your questions. Work at an agency? Figure out how to talk to the media people. Work brand side? Figure out how to get access to the data and/or product leads.
Find out where your audience most likely shops, hangs out, what car they drive or don't drive, etc. Then, GO THERE. Putting yourself into your audience's shoes will help you better understand their obstacles, goals, what they see everyday because in order to connect and know your audience, you need to understand them.
2. Use Analogies:
Analogies are powerful tools for simplification and lesson #1 when learning how to be a Copywriter. Compare a complex idea to something familiar. For example, if you're explaining computer programming to a non-technical audience, you might liken it to a recipe, where code is the ingredients and the computer is the chef following the instructions. You can simplify this into billboard copy, SMS marketing, product descriptions, etc.
The better you get at using analogies, the better you'll be at communicating with a plethora of audiences and eventually start veering from using/writing apparent analogies because you've learned how your audience speaks and wants to be spoken with 😉.
Tip: do not ever speak at or to your audience; internally and externally.
3. Visual Aids:
There's a reason the saying goes: A picture is worth a thousand words.
Whether you use diagrams, charts, stock photo (😅 like me because sometimes that's the resource you have), or you have an awesome Art Director or Designer who can help bring what you collaborated on to life, today those visuals will help drive home what you're trying to convert. You need to convey some kind of emotion and/or sense and your audience cannot touch what you're sharing or see your facial expressions so get those visual aids to show fluffy, soft, spiky, serious, happiness (think a hockey stick chart), get your visual aid to spike emotion and/or senses.
Visuals whether it's an image, GIF, font types, or video can clarify relationships, processes, and data in a way that words alone cannot. Yes, that hurts us writers right in the heart...and gut. I know.
4. Eliminate Jargon:
Guess what - surprise, surprise, your audience doesn't understand internal, corporate, or product jargon, and if they do, they don't want to read it when they're part of an audience. They want to be spoken to in their language - yes, if you're B2B, sure terminology changes, but jargon is honestly annoying; you aren't in a meeting with them (yet) and you need them to like you/your product to get a meeting.
Jargon can and mostly likely will make your audience feel overwhelmed or alienated by unfamiliar words and acronyms. Don't make them feel stupid. You'll lose.
5. Stick to the Essentials:
Age old saying: Keep It Simple...Stupid.
Resist the temptation to include every detail. RESIST!!!
Focus on the most critical information and omit the rest. Woosah and focus.
This is sometimes why us Copywriter and marketers who write go crazy - say what would make the most sense in 8 words, in 3 words.
If your audience wants more information, they will click, they will contact you, they will convert - you win.
Tip: write it all out. Put it all on paper. Get every single word out you wish you could write. Then...splice, slice, dice, cut. You'll probably have a ton of options.
6. Tell a Story:
We're wired to understand and remember stories - thankfully. The best part about writing and explaining anything to anyone is how you tell the story. This makes the content more engaging and relatable whether it's in a meeting, presentations, emails, SMS sends, anything.
Your product is the main character. The ingredients are its characteristics. The villain? It's what your product is making better/resolving. This also works in presentations where your solution is the main character, tactics are the characteristics, and the villain is what you're main character and its characteristics are making better/resolving.
7. Repetition for Emphasis:
*caveat: this is what I was taught and have kept up on as far as advertising and marketing goes*
Seven is the magic repetitive number. I didn't even plan for this part to be #7. We remember something after seeing it seven times. That's where a logo in a TV show, logo in commercials, algorithm testing in social feeds, mentioning a brand name X amount times...repetition = becoming top of mind. But, be careful...don't become annoying. Then, they'll forget your brand and you'll fall into the category of "OMG how many times have you seen X's ad...soooooo annoying".
8. Be Patient:
Lucky #8...this shit takes time aka testing. It's why we all have to start somewhere, test, hear feedback, read through results and maybe start over, hear client's not so great feedback...It's a complex, ongoing process and not everyone understands that or wants to hear that. It takes time and practice to become a master or even good at conveying intricate ideas in fewer words. Be patient with yourself and especially your audience. Saying less takes time and patience, especially with your bosses.
Apply the tactics patiently, remember the basics, you can become a more effective communicator one simplified explanation at a time. The reason we all need sanity checks is because we all need to remember the basics. Every single time I would go brain numb, Google something so simple, the light bulb would start flickering with every tip & trick I would read and I'd find myself saying to myself, "I'm so stupid". Why? Because we're as overwhelmed as our audience. Chill. Relax. Take a sanity break. Remember the basics. You're welcome.