Top Tips for Writing Compelling Copy

It’s been a busy few weeks as my team and I have been working with our clients to plan integrated communications agendas for 2014. It’s important to have a plan but even more, it’s about articulating your story with compelling copy. The best laid plans for media relations, advertising, social media or fundraising can fall flat without crisp, clean copywriting. One of our secret weapons at Paws PR is Carolyn Dempsey, a marketing communications consultant located between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Carolyn for many years and she always delivers stellar marketing copy. I asked her to share some of her top tips with you here today. Happy New Year! ~Patricia

Create crackerjack marketing copy on the double
Basic writing is a core curriculum skill starting in elementary school yet mastering the craft of compelling copywriting can feel akin to lassoing mercury. This simple how-to guide outlines key steps for kicking out killer copy pronto, without putting the kibosh on the rest of your calendar.

Capture attention by identifying the problem your product, service or idea will solve for the reader. Use inclusive language that directly relates to the customer. If your client base resonates with: “I need to be more productive,” that can be expressed as:

“Maximizing efficiency is a near-universal challenge that most everyone faces, but with a smidgen of strategic planning you can increase yours exponentially.”

Promotion and publicity are crucial to business endeavors because people can only partake of and spread the word about what’s on their radar in the first place. Use conversational language to show why the situation needs resolving, steering clear of technical jargon to prevent eyes from glazing over and mice from clicking away:

“Merely wishing for improved productivity is useless without implementing action steps for change. The good news is that there are lots of free, easy ways to boost your output and efficacy.”

Tell it like it is to crystallize for readers the creek they’ll find themselves up should they choose to ignore the problem:

“Implementing a practical productivity plan is essential to fine-tuning your system processes and staying competitive. Turning a blind eye not only increases your stress level, it can jeopardize your business.”

Once you’ve piqued reader interest, transition to introducing the reveal that promises to answer the dilemma. Provide three to five bulleted solutions — three is great for keeping it short and concise yet informative enough to be helpful:

“You’ve committed to stepping up your game so of course the next question is how to make it actually happen. Here are three easy ways to rev up your productivity and knock your goals out of the park:

  • Email batching: Turn down the inbox spigot during the day by scheduling specific blocks of time to check and reply to messages. A couple of half-hour sessions can be enough for some people, while others feel more comfortable with a 15-minute check every two hours. Adding an explanatory footer to your email signature about the batching schedule can reassure clients and coworkers that you’re not ignoring them. If possible, avoid email first thing in the morning.
  • Push notifications: Set your smartphone to manual email polling to limit mobile device distractions. The “do not disturb” setting can also help curb alerts while working.
  • Set a timer for 20 minutes and scribble on paper or peck at the keyboard until the alarm signals to stop. It doesn’t need to be worth even saving as notes but the basic act of writing can prime the creative pump and get ideas flowing. Even if it doesn’t, take a five-minute break away from the computer to stretch and refocus your vision before repeating the process.”

Call to action
Wrap up with a final paragraph inviting the reader to act. That might mean joining your mailing list, posting comments on your Facebook page or linking to your online shop:

“Discover more productivity hacks by signing up for our newsletter, below.”

And finally, keep paragraphs brief: limit each to two or three sentences, and divide run-on statements in half to convey your points more clearly and purposefully.

Have a question for Carolyn? Tweet her @neurohedonia

Carolyn Dempsey is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer, editor and marketing communications specialist who moonlights as a neuroscience researcher and looks forward to adopting a new pet. She is online at and Twitter @neurohedonia.

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