It was said of Michelangelo that his genius as an artist was to touch a block of marble and feel the form inside it, then chip away the surplus.
Words matter. Your ability to tell a story with personality will help you transform a formless mass of "content" and shape it into compelling copy.
Whether you're a community facilitator, Web site copywriter, author, publicist, direct marketer, or entrepreneur, the ability to write compelling copy will help you stand out, connect, and get results.
Online, copy is your body language. It's your ticket to driving action.
A combination or two or more of these ideas will get you started in going beyond words.
(1.) Create a feeling of involvement
You can see how people react to your content, online. Every time you publish a post, you can see how many people visit that page directly and share it. You can also see the referring sites and networks. What words can you use to help readers imagine themselves in your copy?
Take publicizing a Tata Nano car as an example.
One way is to describe what they would feel driving a car. What they would see and experience while driving it, parking, filling it with gas, etc. Another way to drive home the message of its size is by creating a video that shows what it takes to move it into the the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Hall. [hat tip Diego Rodriguez]
How do you write the story so you put your readers/buyers in it?
(2.) Be honest
We still talk about creating a sense of authenticity with online content, especially the content delivered over social media. Your customers are very smart, they're surrounded by advertising and marketing messages, and they can spot insincerity miles away.
You need to believe in what you're writing for it to ring true. Plus, you have the wisdom of the crowd at play. Why do you think items with both negative and positive reviews sell better? Because there is a certain ring of honesty with letting differing opinions stand, including potential flaws.
Honesty drives credibility (you do need to be believable as well to be truly credible) and creates trust.
One way to be honest is to focus on what makes you unique.
(3.) Provide value and proof of value
Establishing an emotional connection with your product through a story is not enough. You need to find ways to prove value, especially when the capital investment you're requiring is substantial.
It's probably easy to think through what you need to write to justify the purchase of a BMW convertible -- can anyone knock this car off its throne? To shell out that kind of money you also want to know that it has the latest safety features and the best technology money can buy with incredible resale value.
Proof of value satisfies the logical side of making a purchase, and it can be helpful to sway the rest of a team when we're talking big ticket items for businesses, which typically have a longer sales cycle.
Let's say your copy needs to persuade a director of IT and for her to convince her CIO to host in your center.
Is social proof enough in this case?
(4.) Establish authority
One of the key findings in the most recent Edelman Trust barometer study is that people trust experts -- good news especially for businesses that hire experts in a specific domain and encourage them to speak at industry events, write articles and papers, and blog.
Establishing authority can be done by using certain key terms in association with your service and putting search engine optimization to your advantage. Remember that even if branding can be aspirational, your positioning needs to be believable, or your attempts will sound bogus.
Establishing authority is easier when done through educating and teaching. By showing common practices that lead to success and examples of things to avoid to achieve better results, your copy will deliver.
There is a more powerful feeling of involvement with digital content.
Provide useful information time and time over and your authority goes up.
(5.) Build on the desire to belong
Why do young girls buy a Tiffany & Co. silver bracelet or necklace? Their desire to be fashionable and sophisticated comes at a price point that is affordable today in view of an upgrade tomorrow.
A strategy that paid extremely well for the luxury jeweler, so much so that the company managed to engineer a silver lining. Hence the importance of branding. What can you write about your company or product that will help certain kinds of people you want to appeal to associate with it?
You could see yourself as part of a product fan club without necessarily need to have anything in common with other fans. Tiffany is a good example of what the brand means to the buyer, even at varying price points.
Find the aspirational benefit.
(6.) Create a sense of urgency
Your copy needs to lead somewhere for people to take the desired action. What do you want people to do? By creating a sense of urgency, you give customers a reason to buy right after they read your copy.
How do you communicate a sense of urgency? By running a promotion for a limited time, offering limited editions, or including a bonus for those who take action. There's a big caveat with this technique -- make the offer something truly valuable.
This technique is being used in social networks by companies to build their "like" pages on Facebook by donating points to a cause, or sharing coupons and special offers on Twitter.
Legitimate offers work.
(7.) Make the whole brain work
Ever since I read A Whole New Mind, I've been working on including elements of content that speak to intuition and sensation along with thinking and emotion. The feedback I receive about this blog is that I make people think.
That is one of my objectives.
According to scientific research, asking the mind to work hard is also a powerful way of creating a positive, enjoyable, and stimulating effect on the brain. My posts leave plenty of work for the people who are keen on trying on new ideas and executions.
Read your own copy. Are you being too obvious?
When you write compelling content, you're pulling your readers into the story.
Good content works as a trigger for taking action. The kind of action depends on what you want readers to do next. Your next step may be validation and social proof. The ultimate action is making a connection.
[originally published as 7 Ideas for Writing Compelling Content]
[image courtesy of Will Lion]