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Copywriting

Copyright vs Copywriting

Copyright vs Copywriting: What’s the Difference?

We’ve been excited to write about this topic for a while. When networking with business owners, the question usually asked after “what do you do?” is… “So do you protect what you write?” Of course, we then actually spell out RIGHT vs WRITE to start explaining what we do. So what’s the difference between copyright vs copywriting?

Difference Between Copyright vs Copywriting 

Copyright vs copywriting… 2 words that sound the same when spoken have completely different definitions and purposes. We’ll try and keep this explanation as simple as possible.

When you strip the terms down to fundamentals, they are both processes. 

Copyright protects an item of value. It’s usually common with authorship of website copy, novels, or music.

On the other hand, copywriting is the process of creating something of value that an organization can use to promote the product/service, grow the business, and/or even make it more efficient or business-optimized. 

Let’s dive a little deeper…

What is Copyright? 

Copyright is “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work).”

Merriam-Webster

In the U.S., Copyright law has its foundations in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, granting Congress the power to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. The first original works protected by copyright were in 1790. Copyrights were later registered with and monitored by the U.S. Library of Congress. The federal Copyright Office was established as a separate entity to the Library of Congress in 1897.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, a copyright provides legal protection for works of original authorship which are “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.”  This means that the work to be copyrighted must be in a form in which it can be perceived by others, either directly, or with the use of a device.

(If you need an attorney to help you with copyright or trademark, we have trusted individuals that can help you out. Contact us to connect with one of our trusted referral partners.)

So there it is… 

In layman’s terms, this means that if an organization wants to keep legal ownership of something it has created that is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression”, they must copyright it. Essentially, this means going through a registration process – similar in principle to registering a patent for intellectual property.

What Copyright Protects

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright covers both published and unpublished works. So, FocusCopy holds the copyright to this blog!

A copyright is a legal device that gives the creator of a literary, artistic, musical, or other creative work the sole right to publish and sell that work. Copyright owners have the right to control the reproduction of their work, including the right to receive payment for that reproduction. An author may grant or sell those rights to others, including publishers or recording companies. When someone violates a copyright, it is an infringement.

  1. Copyright protects the expression of an idea or vision, not the idea itself. In legal terminology, this concept is called the idea-expression dichotomy. It has been an important feature of legal reasoning related to copyright. Ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, and discoveries are not within the scope of copyright protection work.
  2. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. 
  3. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment someone creates the work. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. copyright.

Copyright vs Trademark

So what’s the difference between copyright vs trademark? Isn’t copyright a trademark? 

No, copyright protects original works of authorship. Whereas, a trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.

What does this mean for you?

Again, in layman’s terms, any documents, website design, website content, sales materials, internal procedures, etc., that your business creates are wholly owned by you. No other party has any implicit rights or ownership of the material. So your organization can and should copyright your material.

(We are not attorneys or qualified to provide a legal opinion. If you need an attorney, we have several that we can introduce you to.)

How to Copyright Your Materials

So what should you do to copyright your materials as defined previously? Quite simply, unless you think you are likely to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. copyright against someone, include a copyright symbol © and copyright ownership statement in the document (e.g. © 2020, Your-company-name. All rights reserved.).

Of course, you should secure legal advice on the exact wording for your company.  The previous text was simply provided as an example; it may not be legally sound for your location or company.

What is Copywriting? 

Copywriting is a comprehensive process from planning to conceptualization of advertisements and marketing campaigns (including text that appears on websites, in emails, internal marketing,  press releases, etc.). In the past, copywriting was a purely in-house job for a company with many companies employing gifted or highly talented writers.

However, since the tech-boom of 2000, or even a little before, the demand for tech writers and copywriters far outstripped their supply. The education system could not meet our demand for writers as many student’s focus shifted to jobs where they could make money and get rapid pay rises (i.e. technical, engineering, numerical and financial jobs). This left a vacuum.

As with all job-related vacuums, something always appears to fill the void.

In this case, outsourcers and freelancers across the globe filled the void. Some of the copy they write is terrible (just look at instruction manuals for inexpensive and sometimes even expensive electronics goods), and some copy is great. But mostly, it is average.

Today, organizations are looking for great copy.

Why?

Because they realize it helps drive and accelerate their company’s sales and growth. This is why copywriting services, like FocusCopy, thrive. It’s also why companies, more than ever before, are prepared to pay for great copy. But it doesn’t make it any easier to write!

Copywriting Scope

The scope of a piece of copy is critical to the quality, applicability, and usefulness of the copy. Often, the scope is ill-defined. An ill-defined scope for a piece of copy may result in copy being provided that is…  

  1. Not applicable to where it will be seen (i.e. in print, or on the Internet); the writers use different writing styles that work in one media but not the other
  2. Too technical, or not technical enough
  3. Inconsistent, often making the reader wonder what is going on with the company
  4. Written for the wrong audience and not providing what the real audience for the copy is expecting

These are key considerations that the copywriter (internal or external) must know prior to touching their keyboard.

Remember, contrary to many documents that organizations create, design your copy to sell. This means it should be…

  1. Concise. Attention spans are getting shorter; your copy needs to make your customer want to read more in about 8 seconds of reading time – maybe 2 or 3 sentences at most. In other words, the copy must communicate more using fewer words, yet still be clearly understandable
  2. Focused. To achieve #1, it needs a hook that demands more attention
  3. Engaging. To achieve #2, the hook must be unavoidable; if you succeed in #2, they must bite on the hook
  4. Convincing. Convince the customer to buy from YOU, not the other guys; now they are on the hook, you have more time to convince your customer and make them very comfortable with buying from you

Traditional Copywriting vs Technical Writing

Although we often link copywriting to sales and marketing activities, some copywriters, who have a technical bias, often do technical writing. What’s the difference between traditional copywriting vs technical writing?

  • Copywriters write to sell
  • Technical writers write to explain
  • Technical copywriters do both

Regardless of whether the copy author is a trained copywriter or a technical writer, neither will successfully create the document your company needs without a tightly defined statement of scope for the copy.

Copy Ownership

As stated above, ownership of the copyright on the copy belongs to the author and their employer (as this is usually a legal agreement in their terms of employment). 

So if you use an outsourcing company to create copy for you, who owns the copyright on the copy?

This can and perhaps should be a discussion you have with your legal team. 

Require the ownership of the copy to be spelled out clearly and unambiguously in the terms and conditions you sign with your outsourced copywriter/copywriting company. 

While different copywriters may have a different opinion, FocusCopy transfers the ownership of the copy to the buyer after it’s completed. But this is something you should verify with your copywriter.

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Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis

Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis

March 18th, 2020… The rapidly spreading coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) led to countless local and national events to be cancelled. Major events such as the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, to MLB spring training, and NBA March Madness came to a stand-still and halted the community spirit they engender. Churches, universities, libraries, and school districts rapidly followed suit. Suddenly, virtual classrooms were hurriedly created, parents had to become homeschool teachers, and homes became offices.

Even today, there continues to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding coronavirus. Will what happened in Italy happen in the United States? How long will this pandemic last? How will it impact my business?

When there’s uncertainty, people either make rash decisions (AKA taking more than their fair share of toilet paper and water) or don’t make any decisions at all.

Take a deep breath…. In… Out…

Let’s talk through one of the most important decisions your business should be making right now: communicating through the coronavirus crisis to your community about your company’s plans.

2 Camps for Coronavirus Business Communications

There are 2 camps for coronavirus business communications: those which require immediate communications with customers or vendors (urgent) and those whose business has not been impacted dramatically (non-urgent). It’s critical that you figure out which camp your business is in. 

There are 2 audiences for business communications, audiences that:

  • Urgently need information (i.e. staff, customers and vendors or suppliers)
  • Can wait or don’t need explicit communications about what you’re doing 

You should communicate with both audiences, but your immediate priority audience should be staff, customers, and vendors/suppliers. This is especially important regarding the highly volatile and troubling COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies That Require Urgent Communication

If your business primarily depends on customers and workers being physically present in your place of work, it is essential that you communicate as soon as possible with your customers, employees, and vendors about your plan regarding the coronavirus pandemic. 

Here are some examples of companies that require urgent communications with employees, vendors, and customers:

  • Restaurants / Cafes / Coffee Shops / Bars
  • Fitness Centers / Gyms
  • Businesses whose supply chain has been disrupted (how many of your goods or components are sourced from China?)
  • Retail stores
  • Event planning companies
  • Entertainment
  • Face-to-face contact

Companies That Do Not Require Urgent Communication 

Businesses and people that you work with, but don’t necessarily have to be in the same room or building with them to conduct your business, should be considered for non-urgent communications. Why? Because they only need to be kept informed about what and how your business is operating under current conditions as it may affect how you continue to work together.  

For example, if your key personnel are now working from home, they may need to offer their cell phone number or clients or set up call forwarding to their cell phone. 

That’s why you won’t see an email about how FocusCopy is reacting to the coronavirus pandemic. Our clients already know that we can do everything remotely and that we are able to deliver our services to them – business as usual.

Here are some examples of companies that you may consider for non-urgent communications:

  • Companies that already work remotely
  • Coaching or consulting businesses

Identifying What Coronavirus Means For Your Business

To communicate effectively with the community regarding your company’s plans, you should first identify what the current state of affairs means for your business.

Create a Business Communications Plan Before You Need It

Most days, I check the weather before I leave the house so I know whether to pack an umbrella – I don’t want to get caught in the rain. 

If the coronavirus had your company blind-sided, let’s talk about ways you can regularly tune into the forecast of your business network to anticipate major events and be prepared for an unexpected storm.

Pay attention to your employees, vendors, customers, and customer’s customers.

One of my mentors once told me to ask every business I come in contact with, “How’s business?”. Whether it is before the close of a meeting or at the end of a quick phone call, it’s one of the best pieces of advice that he ever gave me.

Asking this one simple question will give you a regular update on the economic climate and keep you tuned in to challenges that might soon rise to the surface. When issues arise in other businesses, vendors, customers, or employees, you can anticipate the impact this might have on your business and start preparing your communication plan, well in advance.

Always Defer to Reliable Sources For Guidance

It’s so easy to get caught up in pseudo-reliable sources or believe compelling news trends that pick up in your social media feeds. However, before you put out any business communications, defer to the legitimate reliable sources of information – the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). 

While we could go into everything you need to think about when it comes to COVID-19, we’ll defer to resources that the CDC has put together for businesses.

Tips for Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis

Here are tips for communicating through the coronavirus crisis.

Keep Messaging Clear & Concise

When public health officials release new information, they aim to be consistent, accurate, clear, and concise. You should do the same thing. The last thing that you want to have happen is have a wave of customers responding with clarifying questions. 

If there is any vital information that your audience needs to hear, don’t withhold it. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, then state it. 

Many businesses in the service industry (restaurants, cafes, bars, etc.) have created a separate COVID-19 response page on their websites to explain how they are helping to maintain cleanliness and how they are going to serve their customers despite ever-changing demands from public health officials. 

If your normal services need to be adjusted to protect your customer and your staff, consider creating a COVID-19 web page of your own, or devoting a post on your social media page explaining the change(s).

Be Positive

Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis
The College Planning Center Example

There is a balance between being serious (not joking) and remaining positive. It’s a fine line to dance, but we always err on the side of caution especially with something as serious as a pandemic. Acknowledge the challenges of the situation, and offer ways that your business can provide some solace or positive distraction. 

One of our clients forwarded us this great email – full of empathy, positivity, and opportunity. It acknowledges the situation (lack of college guidance while schools are closed) and a perfect solution to make their readers not waste this extra long Spring Break.

Leave Email Blasts for Essential Communications

Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis
Postmate Example

Leave the email blasts for essential communications. Here are some companies that sent really well put-together emails about their response to COVID-19.

Postmate has direct contact with their consumers; therefore, it makes total sense to send out an email to their customers. One thing that we really like about this email is they include everyone – customers, fleet (their “employees”), and vendor (restaurants) in one simple to read email. It’s clear and concise. Bullets are your best friend here!

Unfortunately, my inbox has been flooded with non-essential emails. These messages aren’t communicating useful information about changes in a company’s normal procedures or access to their services. Instead, they are sending out messages solely because they have hopped onto the bandwagon and think that they need to address the world news via an email blast. 

To protect the following perpetrators, we haven’t included any examples. But I can almost guarantee that you have some in your inbox. Read through a few of them, and while reading these, ask yourself… Did these communicate anything valuable? 

Remember, if your customers already interface with you digitally or have little in-person interactions with you, do them a big favor and spare their inbox by communicating with them using  other mediums instead. Your community will respect your ability to be thoughtful and intentional about your communication.

Reinforce Safety & Priorities

Southwest Example

While you’re communicating through the coronavirus crisis, it’s important that your reinforce safety and state your priorities. Your customers need to hear that you’re taking care of everything.

Southwest Airlines put together a great email outlining the biggest concern in the airline industry right now – cleanliness. They expressed that while they already have an extensive cleaning process, they’ve upped their game to protect their customers.

Letting your customers and employees know what your company is doing to ensure their health and safety will put the community at ease, and help business run as close to normal under unusual circumstances.

Get On It Early

It’s no shocker that things change on a daily if not weekly basis. In the span of just 2 days, Harris County shut down all bars and clubs and closed all restaurant dining rooms. In the food and beverage industry, that’s a rapid and radical change! Successful transitions into these changes relies on a company’s ability to adjust early.

When first hearing news about health and economic troubles in other parts of the world or even local companies outside of your industry, it’s only natural to want to keep hope that these misfortunes will not come your way too – that things will not get as bad here. But like the old saying goes: better safe than sorry. It’s better to prepare a plan you may never have to use, than to be forced to react last-minute without one. 

Another benefit about planning an early response is that it allows you to create your own narrative rather than allowing the media, the government, or competitors to write your storyline for you.

Support Other Businesses 

Bottom line… Every business has been impacted by COVID-19. In times like these, there is power in numbers. We are stronger together. Support other businesses by…

  • Engaging with their brands on social media
  • Sharing offers from other companies
  • Partnering with a company for a joint product/service
  • Referring business to those other businesses

Offer Free Value 

If you have not been impacted, then I encourage you to offer free value to your followers. Don’t be afraid to give value, even if it was once behind a paywall. Here is a list of free value you can offer your followers, prospects, and customers:

  • Free Facebook Group
  • Access to normally paid content (see below for an example from Digital Marketer)
  • Webinar training
  • Instagram/Facebook/LinkedIn LIVE content
  • New blogs
  • Guides (see below for what Jenna Kutcher put together)
  • Podcasts 
Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis
DigitalMarketer Example

All of these options are social-distancing proof, can be extremely valuable, and help build relationship equity.

For example, DigitalMarketer just offered its DM Lab available for free. This is a subscription that has helped me as I built my career. Again, they’re building relationship equity. 

And they didn’t send an email about how they are reacting to COVID-19.

Extend Grace to Your Vendors & Customers

Everyone reacts differently to stress. Some become very quick decision makers. Others lose their cool or shut down. So in all your communications – digital, written, verbal, etc. – extend grace. You don’t know what unexpected challenges others are dealing with, how they react to stress, or how they’ve been treated by others. 

Thankfully, this isn’t the first pandemic of our time (last one being the 2009 H1N1 pandemic). For some of us towards the end of the millennial generation or in Generation Z, that memory may be vague. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask more experienced colleagues. This isn’t their first rodeo, so you may learn something that will help you not reinvent the wheel.

Give large amounts of grace. Be quick to forgive. And forgive often. 

At the end of the day, your vendors and customers are human beings. I know I say that all the time, but we often forget that we’re working with emotional beings. They have basic needs, just like you. 

Ask For Help If You Need It

Finally, ask for help if you need it. Small business communities are stronger than ever. People are willing to fight for you, but they can’t give you what you need if you don’t ask for it. Common things to ask for are:

  • Copywriting for websites
  • Online shops
  • Process flows for product delivery
  • Other revenue streams
  • Social media management
  • Childcare (so you can focus on your business)

Whatever it is, ask for it. If you’re having issues finding a solution, please tag FocusCopy at @FocusCopyLLC to let us know or send an email to info@FocusCopy.com. We made it our mission to be our clients’ strategic partners in all their business communications. So let’s partner together and get through this!

If your company needs help with COVID-19 messaging, we are offering 2 hours of free consultation with me –  co-founder and CEO of FocusCopy. With over 4 years of copywriting, digital marketing, and entrepreneurship experience, I want to help you navigate these uncertain times. No gimmicks. No up-sells. Just pure and sincere help from a fellow business owner. Click here to schedule your consultation.  

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11 Tips on How To Overcome Your Writer’s Block

Picture this. You sit down at your computer, knowing you have to produce a 1,500 word blog for your marketing team. A blank page stares back at you with the blinking cursor taunting you. Nothing. 

The time ticks by… It feels like it’s been at least 20 minutes. 

Nope, only 30 seconds. 

Writer’s block is a real thing that destroys productivity and confidence. When we experience this, we start to believe that we are not the experts in our field, we don’t have anything valuable to say, or our story is not worth hearing. 

No, no, and no. 

The #2 reason why people come to us is because they love to write, but it takes them an entire day to write that same 1,500 word blog post. Or sometimes, it just never gets done. They are plagued with imposter syndrome and don’t believe that others will see them as the experts they really are. 

The main reason for this is… Writer’s block. 

What is Writer’s Block?

Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it”.

Writer’s block occurs when you have this overwhelming amount of work to do but the motivation or inspiration isn’t there. Nothing happens when you sit down to write. It’s largely defeating and can destroy the momentum you once had for a project, a goal, or to complete a given task. 

It’s a creative slowdown. 

Why We Get Writer’s Block

So, why do we get writer’s block? There are many reasons why we get writer’s block.

Often, the biggest reason for writer’s block is the lack of inspiration or distractions in other areas of your life. When a person is experiencing a life-altering event (i.e. marriage and wedding planning, death of a loved one, physical illness, lawsuit, etc.), it can stunt our ability to process and be creative. We are in the fight or flight mode – just trying to get through the day. If that’s you, give yourself grace. Try some of the tips below to help you overcome your writer’s block and improve your overall headspace. 

In addition, the pressure to produce content or copy can often result in writer’s block. We get fearful that we’ll never accomplish it, so we submit to that fear and give up. 

Mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, makes it difficult to form complete thoughts in writing. Producing written material – even as short as a blog – is stressful to some. When that stress reaches a particular level, the brain goes back into that fight or flight mode. 

Sometimes, we experience physical damage (i.e. a stroke, brain injury) that results in writer’s block. This extreme version of writer’s block – agraphia – makes it almost impossible for the brain to translate thoughts into writing. 

11 Tips on How To Overcome Your Writer’s Block

When I get writer’s block (even a writer gets this), here are a few things that I do to move past it and overcome writer’s block.

1. Sit Down When You’re Most Creative

Sit down at your desk (or wherever you type) at your most creative time – for me, it’s in the morning (preferably before 8am). I love love love to write even before the sun comes up because everything is still, and my productivity is at its highest. 

If I have a big writing day, I’ll try to wake up between 4-5am to start writing. When you know you’re going to write early in the morning, your brain actually prepares to write. 

In addition, I even block off hours or days where I do not allow any phone calls, other tasks, or meetings to enter that time. But, I’m too busy Lauren, and people demand my response all the time. Me too! But if you are writing a blog, a book, or an online program, it needs to get done. You need to prioritize your schedule – not let others dictate what it’s going to be.

2. Put Pen To Paper

If the keyboard isn’t inspiring you, get a notepad and sit in a comfy chair. Then write on that notepad. 

You can refine your ideas when you type them back into the computer. There’s something magical about putting a pen to paper. Plus, you get away from that blue light emitted by your computer screen, phone, or tablet for just a little while. Again, it helps to break up your regular pattern – and consequently, improves your creativity. 

3. Get Outside

Overcome Your Writer's Block

Get outside and in nature – even in a city environment. There are so many benefits to getting outside, including the following:

  • It boosts your energy
  • You are more likely to move your body – increasing blood flow to your brain
  • The sun gives you Vitamin D which is essential for your bones, immune system, and blood cells
  • It reduces any anxiety that you may have over the writing process
  • It improves your sleep, helping you to wake up early easier
  • You focus more easily as greenness is proven to help improve your concentration on any given task

We could go on and on… But if you’ve been locked up in a room for days trying to write, get outside. 

4. Change The Scenery

Change the scenery that you’ve been surrounding yourself as you’ve built up your writer’s block. For me, coffee shops give my spirit so much energy, and I’ll type up several blogs in a few hours. Additionally, I’ll change what I’m sitting on and what I’m writing on (see tip #2 on putting pen to paper). 

Can’t change actual locations? Then it’s time to change up the mood. 

At a marketing internship, we often would pour a glass of red wine before writing the weekly blog. That was our creativity session!

When I am writing a lot of deliverables for clients later in the day, I’ll even light a candle, put on some cool jazz music, and put on my favorite sweater (as long as it isn’t a 100 degrees outside). 

5. Play Some Music

Put some music on in the background. You can search for writing or coffee shop playlists. Those are usually chiller playlists that don’t distract you with fun lyrics. Instead, they’ll inspire you and keep a rhythm for your writing pace. 

Often, I’ll listen to movie scores as they have an ebb and flow – allowing for my brain to breathe during slower sections then speed up during the quicker sections. In college, I learned this practice very well; I listened to the Interstellar film soundtrack on repeat for hours and hours. 

6. Walk Around And Talk

Walk around and talk into a voice memo. You’ve got the content in your head; it just needs to come out. 

When I used to ghostwrite for an entrepreneur, the “author” used to get in his most creative moments after lunch when he was sucking on a Starburst. He’d walk around the office talking, while I madly wrote down notes. I also recorded his 5-minute brain dumps – many of which you can hear the smacking of the Starburst.

The act of walking helps improve blood flow to your brain, gets the oxygen where it needs to be, and often lets you essentially walk through and overcome your writer’s block.

7. Skip and Keep Writing

If you get stuck on a section, make a note of it then move on. It’s better to keep the flow going then get stuck on a particular section. When you’re out of the writing flow, that’s when you can come back to work on that section.

Most of the time, the reason you are stuck is because you’re missing a fact or point. Be sure to read tip #9 to solve that issue.

8. Drink That Water

Be sure to drink that water. This seems so simple, but I’ve learned that when I’m hydrated, and my body has the things it needs to operate, I write more efficiently and effectively.

Did you know you should be drinking half your bodyweight in ounces? It sounds like a lot, but your body needs that amount of water to operate effectively. Sure, you may have to visit the restroom a couple of extra times a day, but that too gives you much needed time away from “the screen”.

9. Do Your Research Before You Write

To overcome your writer’s block, you must do your research before you write. If you research while you write, it’s so easy to get distracted. Eventually, you’ll end up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram, and you’ll have no clue why or how you even got there. 

Do the research beforehand. 

Like planning your day or for a big client meeting, you need to have a game plan with everything you need before you start the day or meeting. Likewise, you must have your research completed and organized before you start writing. 

10. Put The Phone Away

Simply put, put the dang phone away. Phones, to say the least, are largely distracting.

Put on the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone and your computer. You don’t need to hear the dinging or vibrating of your phone while you work. Your spouse or kids need to reach you? You can allow them to reach you even with the Do Not Disturb setting on.

Employees need to reach you? Send automated emails and/or texts that let them know you’re in a writing session. They will only have to wait for a couple hours (if that) for you to return their message. 

11. Ask Questions

Finally, one of the best ways to overcome your writer’s block is to flip the script. Instead, ask questions about what your intended audience is asking. What do they want to know most? What are their big questions? Write a whole list of questions, then start answering them. 

How did we come up with this blog? A client had a bad case of writer’s block, so I answered them with my biggest tips. 

Overcoming Writer’s Block Is More About Unblocking Your Brain

Listen closely. Writer’s block isn’t a physical block; your brain unconsciously applied the brakes to your creative thinking. Often, it’s because you are not creating an environment that will facilitate creativity and productivity. Your brain needs you to take care of it well so it can release the brakes for you – that’s why much of this blog wasn’t about writing; it was about taking care of your body. 

We have to do what’s best for our brains for it to produce our most creative and inspiring work. 


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Brand Voice is Critical to Business Growth

Why Developing a Brand Voice is Critical to Business Growth

Have you ever seen a company whose copy was just all over the place? Better question… Have you ever seen a big brand publish something that seemed entirely off-brand with the voice they used?

Probably not.

Because those companies have developed what we call a brand voice. But you don’t need to be a Fortune 1000 company to have a brand voice! You can start it now. Today.

In this blog, we’re revealing 4 reasons why developing a brand voice is critical to business growth.

What is a Brand Voice?

A brand voice a set of emotions, tones, and descriptions that describe how you want to communicate to everyone who comes into contact with your company. It’s like an external culture.

We help craft brand voices for companies in what we call a Brand Voice Guide. This guide allows for anyone to read and use to write for the brand itself.

It’s not what you say… It’s how you say it.

Why Companies Needs a Brand Voice

Often, the CEO or the founder is the face of the company – meaning their time becomes more limited as their company grows. They cannot spend the time they used to commit to writing blogs, articles, website copy, or social media posts.

There are two options here: 

  1. Wait until the CEO or founder of the company has time to write
  2. Hire someone else to write in place of the CEO or founder

The problem with option #1 is that the copy or content that needs to be written almost never gets done in a timely manner, or at all. It also sometimes creates friction within the organization because the marketing department is trying to adhere to a content schedule. The marketing department then finds themself in a catch-22 – following a schedule vs. annoying their employer (which is something that we do not suggest doing). 

Option #2 can go one of two ways. 

First, it can look sporadic, unprofessional, and messy because the ghostwriter doesn’t fully understand the voice they are mimicking. Additionally, the customer or subscriber will immediately be able to tell that it’s a different writer – losing trust and credibility. No one wants that. 

The other way option #2 can go is… 

The CEO or founder appears to be active, personal, and trustworthy to their customers without ever touching a keyboard. How can you accomplish this? By documenting your brand voice guidelines.

4 Reasons Why Developing a Brand Voice is Critical to Business Growth

Not convinced enough that you need to develop a brand voice? Here are 4 reasons why developing a brand voice is critical to business growth and your success.

#1 It Streamlines Your Editing Process

Who doesn’t need more time? Oftentimes, the most time is spent in the editing and proofreading stages of copywriting and content production. 

If we take an average blog length (1000-1500 words or 2-4 pages) with a light edit, it will take approximately 30 minutes. This of course assumes that the writer is an excellent writer and nailed down the brand voice. 

Using the same number of pages or words for a heavy edit, it will take over an hour to edit the same exact blog. 

And that’s just an average technicality.

If your blog is significantly technical, you’re going to find the editing process is a lot longer. The most common reason for this increased time is not because the writer is trying to perfect the copy. It’s mostly because they have to completely rewrite the piece because they didn’t get the brand voice across originally. 

When you create a brand voice, it streamlines your editing process by removing one less thing you want to worry about when editing. A brand voice guide decreases the number of edits or complete rewrites. 

#2 Your Customers Need to Recognize and Remember Your Voice

A consistent voice builds a recognizable voice that your customers will remember. The goal is for your customers to think of you as many times as possible. How do you accomplish that? You make it easy for your customers to remember you – even if they are just scrolling through Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. 

Examples of Memorable Brand Voices

Let’s take a couple of examples… Can you guess who they are before checking out the link? 

Brand Voice is Critical to Business Growth

“We know men have thicker skin and luxurious facial hairs to grow classy mustaches and thick beards if they so choose. We built our products uniquely for your face, the face of man.” (Hint: men’s grooming.) 

Did you guess it right? 

“A top-shelf grooming routine. Personalized for you. No two people are the same. Tell us what you like so we can pick the right products.” (Hint: they changed this industry.) 

“For a pop of color to brighten any palate, go floral. Our in-house artists hand-painted a variety of beautiful floral prints for this collection, and we think you’ll agree—they’re the perfect nod to spring. (These amazing vases start at just $14.) And for an even more lush look, layer in faux greenery or delicate dried stems.” (Hint: a girl’s favorite hangout.) 

“It’s finally happening. Buy one [burger] and get another for just $1 when you place a mobile order. This is one of those rare cases where the sequel is better than the first—because this sequel has six more strips of bacon for one dollar more. So good you’re gonna wanna see it again and again.” (Hint: we’re big fans of their social media team!)

Now, this may be a little harder to get…

“Love, for all the right reasons.” (Hint: it’s a car company.)

How’d you do? A brand voice helps your customers remember you and think of you the next time they’re looking to buy. 

#3 It Improves Customer Engagement and Conversion.

People don’t change overnight – they evolve over time. So when a prospect feels like they know your brand like the person in the cubicle next to them, their best friend, or even their family, they are more likely to engage. 

The higher engagement rate, the higher conversion rate. 

Think about the coffee giant Starbucks. When you look at its 18.4 million followers on Instagram, you see at least 110,000 likes and comments – translating to an average 0.78% engagement rate (last 3 posts as of January 5, 2020). While that rate seems low in our brains, it’s consistent with their social presence and they are engaging hundreds of thousands of people every single day – even if they don’t like or comment. 

Top of mind. 

How does social media engagement translate to conversion? 

Go run by a Starbucks sometime today. Every table is taken, the drive thru line is long, and the baristas are pushing our drinks as fast as possible. 

While Houston’s coffee scene is on fire right now, many people often go for the easy route when scheduling a coffee meeting – Starbucks. They will always know what to expect from a Starbucks. That starts with the very foundation – the brand.  

#4 More Writing Projects Can Get Done

Because your company writing process has already been streamlined because of the brand voice, your writers can work on more writing projects. Thus creating more opportunities to increase revenue. 

Additionally, the company’s founder or face doesn’t have to write everything. No one would ever know unless you revealed that yourself. 

What type of writing projects can you get done with a brand voice guide?

The possibilities are endless when you have a brand voice guide because anyone will be able to use it. 

Develop Your Brand Voice Today

If you need help developing a brand voice, learn more how you can access a Done-For-You Brand Voice Guide here. 

Building a Unique Selling Proposition

During the holiday season, we are bombarded with advertisements, sales, and deals. It can be overwhelming and just plain annoying. This year (2019), I received a staggering 238 emails about Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone. 

As a copywriter, I usually read every email to see what other companies are doing; however, this influx of emails beat me.  

All that being said, there’s a lot of noise. And you have to do something different if you want to stand out from the crowd. Cue today’s topic… You need to start building a unique selling proposition. 

First, what is a unique selling proposition?

What is a Unique Selling Proposition? 

A unique selling proposition or USP is a statement of what makes your business unique and ultimately valuable to your prospective customer or target audience. Essentially, it answers the questions… How are you better than your competition? Or Why should the customer choose you over your competition? 

This is the secret weapon that a lot of marketing strategies forget about or don’t spend enough time on. 

Think of building a unique selling proposition as laying the foundation for your entire business.

Unique Selling Proposition vs Value Proposition

Before we go any further, let’s clear up a few things when it comes to the difference between a unique selling proposition vs value proposition. 

A value proposition describes what your company is offering, to whom you are offering it to, and how it solves your customer’s problem. For example, you can use the following framework to build your value proposition.

We sell [your product or service] to [your customer] to solve [their problem]. We solve this problem by [your solution with the big differentiators].

In comparison, a unique selling proposition is a statement that explains how your product or service uniquely solves your customer’s needs. It is a specific statement that can vary slightly between landing pages, offers, and promotions. It is meant to “move the masses” because it is uniquely better than the competition. 

Although the USP isn’t necessarily “copy”, we do use it as a framework to base our copy around. 

Components of a Unique Selling Proposition

Take your target audience, figure out their big problem, explain how you solve their problem, highlight the big benefits of your solution, and finally define your promise. You’ll want to combine all of that, rework it, and turn it into an easy-to-digest proposition.

You can use the following framework to build your USP. 

Our [company / product / service] is the only one that helps [your customer] solve [their specific problem] by [unique promise or benefit].

Where To Use Your Unique Selling Proposition

Before you start building a unique selling proposition (USP), it’s important to know where and when you can use the USP. Copywriters use USPs on each advertisement, promotion, or sales letter. In short, your USP is the reason why the customer needs to buy the product or service for a very specific benefit. It helps the copywriter keep focused on that benefit as they are writing the copy. 

Although the USP isn’t necessarily “copy”, we do use it as a framework to base our copy around. As a result, you will see a lot of USPs in the headlines or at least the first few lines of copy.

Examples of Well-Executed USPs

Here are a couple examples of well-executed USPs. 

TOMS Roasting Co. 

You thought they only sold shoes! TOMS has been a long standing, philanthropic company that believes in One for One®. Their roasting company is no exception. Their USP is that in return for your coffee purchase, they provide safe water. Can you name another company that is doing that? It’s unique and admirable. 

Building a Unique Selling Proposition

Away Travel 

Away luggage creates suitcases and other travel products. This USP doesn’t directly talk about what they do in addition to creating these products – “building peace in areas of conflict around the world”. But they are unique in that they see travel as something greater.

Building a Unique Selling Proposition

ClickUp

“One app to replace them all.” It’s unique. It’s a huge selling point because if you’re anything like me, you are trying to simplify how you work – and consequently, the number of apps you use. 

Building a Unique Selling Proposition

Steps to Building a Unique Selling Proposition

Building a unique selling proposition (USP) may not be easy. It needs to be strong enough to influence a large number of people, but specific enough to be consumed in one bite. It’s the framework for an entire piece of copy. In this blog, we’ve broken down the steps to help you get started. 

1. Who Is Your Target Audience?

This is always always always our number 1 question… Who is the customer or your target audience? If you don’t know that, then you need to figure it out. 

Remember, there is no business without a customer. It’s imperative that you do not skip this step. 

For a wellness coach, it could be a college student that is experiencing new pain and wants to find a solution. 

For a corporate event planner, it could be a real estate broker that sells luxury condos and wants to woo his clients. 

Whoever it is, know who that person is. It will not be everyone, and that’s totally okay. You can scale later. 

2. What Is Their Problem? 

Now that you know who they are, it’s time to assess what their big problem is. What is the one thing that they are missing or gripe about?

For example, a real estate brokerage firm targets first time homeowners. New home buyer’s big pain points are that they have no home buying experience and fear they may invest in a bad property. That fear is crippling, so they don’t buy at the right time or at all.

3. How Does Your Product / Service Solve Their Problem? 

Next, assess how your product or service solves that problem. In the same example above, a real estate brokerage firm could have a program specifically tailored to educating first time home buyers. 

What features and benefits help you solve that problem? 

4. How Are You Unique?

The key of a USP is the unique aspect. Your competition must not offer the same benefits as you because you’re… Unique! Why are you different? How are you special? These questions are helpful when defining your uniqueness.

5. Combine Those Answers In An Easy-To-Digest Sentence

You may be thinking… How am I going to combine all of this into one sentence? You’re killing me, Lauren. Okay, I get it. I said that too when I developed my first USP. But the big reason why you need an easy-to-digest sentence is because you want anyone in your company to immediately recite it without tripping over words. 

Employees Need to Memorize the USP

You also want your customers and prospective customers to buy-in quickly and even memorize it themselves. 

Customers Need to Memorize the USP

Think about it this way… Your customer isn’t that valuable to you unless they’ve bought from you two, three, four, or more times. Right? The more they buy from you, the more valuable they are to you because your customer acquisition costs are decreasing. 

The relationship goal all companies want to reach is when your customers are advocating for you and eventually promoting your product or service. This is GOLD. Your customer, when they reach this stage, are your free promoters. PLUS their network are more likely to buy from your company because they trust that person. 

That’s why it has to be digestible and memorable.

Conclusion Building a Unique Selling Proposition

Every company has a unique selling proposition – whether they have defined it yet or not. If you need help building your unique selling proposition, we just released a 1-hour Brainstorm Session that includes an entire action plan based on our conversation. And it’s completely customizable. Take advantage of this offer here.

Focus Your Copy On Conversation & Conversion

Let’s Grab A Virtual Coffee With Us To Discover How To Boost Your Words

How to Write a Golden Thread

Have you ever heard a TED talk that just took your breath away? Some of my favorites are Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability and Robert Waldinger’s What Makes a Good Life?. It’s incredible how they wrap up their talk so eloquently, so perfectly. You didn’t know where they were going with the story when they started and then BAM! It hits you like a ton of bricks. 

I want to let you on a little secret… That bam-effect is the result of a well-executed golden thread. 

One of my favorite TED talks is below… Be prepared to laugh!

Besides this talk being absolutely hysterical and discussing something that we’ve all been tempted to do – reply to your spam emails – it’s a perfect example of a golden thread. 

You see, James Veitch begins acknowledging that we want to respond to those ridiculous spam emails but don’t. He actually does. Then he spends several minutes covering the correspondence between him and “Solomon”. Finally, he comes back to the thread – we all want to respond to those spam emails. 

So he gives another, much shorter, and slightly less funny example of spam emails. 

Besides the Giant Gummy Lizard and hilarity, he continually weaves back in the problem (we receive ridiculous spam messages) and the desire to respond. 

Let’s get into what a golden thread is and how to write a golden thread into your copy.

The Golden Thread

A golden thread is an idea or feature that is present throughout a company’s messaging or a single piece of copy that holds it together and ultimately is what makes the copy so valuable. We define it as a promise or central theme that is threaded through the promotion and keeps the reader interested.

American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) defines the golden thread as, 

“The manner in which a copywriter connects core desires to the sales pitch throughout a promotion. Usually, it’s in the form of a promise or central theme that runs through the entire promotion and keeps the reader from losing interest by reminding him or her of the benefits offered by the product or service.”

AWAI

How the Golden Thread Works

The goal of copy is to get the reader to take the intended action on a specific webpage, video, sales letter, etc. When you break that goal down into smaller chunks, you’ll find that how you meet that goal is to engage the reader and get them to move from the first line to the second to the third and so on…

If the copy isn’t engaging, then your prospective customer isn’t going to be prompted to do business with you. They will move on to the next potential partner. 

As you weave a golden thread throughout your copy, it reengages them and reminds them of the promise you are making. The golden thread is what gets your prospects to nod their heads as they track with you. Then clicking the “buy” button becomes a no-brainer to them. 

With the TED talk above, that promise is to show you what happens when you respond to a spam email. You can see the audience nodding their heads, laughing in agreement, and ultimately cheering James Veitch as he closes his talk. This is exactly what every piece of copy should be doing for you.

How to Write a Golden Thread

In 3 simple steps, you’ll learn how to write a golden thread that converts your prospects into customers. 

1. Write Your Big Promise

First, you need to figure out your one big promise or one big idea. Ask some of the following questions to see if the promise or idea is big enough:

  • Does this idea expire or is it evergreen?
  • Does it fit into your marketing strategy?
  • Is this big promise unique and special to your company? 
  • Does it hit the nail on the head?

In the TED talk, James Veitch’s big promise is to show you what happens when you respond to a spam email. It’s evergreen – we’re always going to have spam emails unfortunately. It fits into the TED Talks’ agenda to “make great ideas accessible and spark conversation”. This talk is very unique to Veitch and special to what he’s done over the last couple years. Has anyone else invested weeks of their time corresponding with spammers? And it hits the nail on the head.

2. Focus on Your Major Benefit

Then you need to figure out the major benefit for that big promise. Now, a big benefit is basically the benefit of the benefit of the benefit. It’s BIG! 

For example, we work with a lot of professional services that offer leadership coaching. A benefit for leadership coaching may be feeling more confident in leadership coaching. But what’s the benefit of that? Perhaps, it may be no second guessing yourself in your decision making or leaving the office everyday knowing that the company is growing in the right direction

There may be a ton of benefits that you can list, but the golden thread is all about one BIG promise and its BIG benefit. You can sprinkle in a couple other benefits; however, don’t let them distract your reader from the golden benefit. 

Need help to develop the big promise and big benefit of your product or service? Our copywriters are standing by to help you convert your prospects into customers. Click here to contact us.

3. Weave Golden Thread Throughout Copy

People buy with emotion but need logic to back up their decision.

Lauren Jefferson

Weave in the golden thread throughout the case for the product or service. People buy with emotion but need logic to back up their decision. 

That being said, tie the emotional tugs into the logical side (i.e. features or logistics). 

Example of Leadership Coaching Program:

Feature: Weekly Check-Ins with Coach & Participants
Emotional Tug: Develop relationships with your coach and other participants so that you’re never alone as your lead your organization

Where the Golden Thread Goes Wrong

Like all threads, the golden thread FAILS when you forget to tie it off. Don’t leave it hanging in the middle of your copy! You must continue to weave it through the copy, the call to action, guarantee, offer, upsell, and order form. In a longer piece of copy, it’s easier to break the golden thread. That’s why it’s super important to read know what your golden thread is before you start writing so you can identify where and if it breaks in your copy. 

We freely admit that writing with a golden thread does not always come easily. If that’s you, go back and weave it through again. 

How to Write a Golden Thread

Don’t overlook headings, subheadings, and the call to action. These are generally known as beads throughout your thread. Remember that while many people use logic to back their decisions, most buying decisions are still made on emotion. 

(Even if you are selling something not emotional like an O-ring, you can make the copy emotional! For example, you could write trust that our O-rings are malfunction proof because our quality inspection ensures each O-ring is perfect.)

Your prospects will ask these questions…

Can I trust this company? 

Do I know this company and their product? 

Do I even like what I’m buying and who I’m buying from?

It goes back to the age-old rule: people do business with people they like, know and trust.

If you need help strategizing what your golden thread is or writing your copy, we would love to help you.

Before You Hire a Ghostwriter

5 Questions You Need to Answer Before Hiring a Ghostwriter

Writing is not always a natural skill for people in business. Like public speaking, you can put time and effort to improve your skills, but that takes time and energy away from other tasks. 

Your prospective customers may expect that you publish content on a regular basis.  You can either spend your valuable time writing to fill your sales pipeline or outsource content development to a ghostwriter, which could be less than your hourly rate. Meanwhile, you can spend time and work on other revenue generating activities. 

In this blog, we’re going to define what a ghostwriter is, discuss the benefits, and present the 5 questions you need to answer before hiring a ghostwriter.

What is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter creates a written piece under the name who hired them. No one knows that the “author” of a piece didn’t actually write it, except for the ghostwriter and themself. Ghostwriters cannot claim that work as their own – hence the “ghost” aspect.

Ghostwriting is an extremely common practice when influencers or executives want to write a book but do not have enough time or lack the skill set to write good copy. Ghostwriters work closely with the intended author to craft something that represents and captures the author’s voice. 

Freelance Ghostwriters vs Ghostwriting Companies

There are two options to consider when hiring a ghostwriter: freelance ghostwriters and ghostwriting companies. Let’s take a look at the difference. 

Freelance ghostwriters are typically free agents. They play the feast and famine game, so their flexibility in being able to commit to your project is largely dependent on which season they are operating in. High-demand freelance ghostwriters may have a long waitlist to start your project. They are usually cheaper, and you as the client only work with one person – the freelancer. It may be simpler; however, they may lack the business sophistication you may prefer.

Ghostwriting companies, in comparison, might be more expensive and not have the touch you’d like for your project. They may have more than one ghostwriter on your project to cover any gaps in leave, make sure the quality is at 110%, and fulfill your every need. 

Like all things, there are pros and cons to hiring a ghostwriter. While I won’t divulge into why we think FocusCopy is the right balance between the two options (at least right now 😉), let’s take a look at some of the benefits of hiring a ghostwriter and 5 questions you should ask before your hire a ghostwriter. 

Benefits of Hiring a Ghostwriter

Hiring a Ghostwriter

Hiring a ghostwriter is a big decision. Let’s take a look at some benefits of hiring a ghostwriter…

First, it will actually get done! How long have you been saying… “I’m going to write that book!” Or to your marketing team, “I’ll have that blog to you by midnight”? I have heard so many CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners say a variation of those excuses. When you hire a ghostwriter, that blog, book, or other writing project will actually get done. 

Then, it will get done faster. Ever wanted to write a book? How long have you wanted to write that book? For many, it takes years before they take any action to write that book. Hiring a ghostwriter is pulling the trigger to make it happen. 

Additionally, you don’t need to learn the mechanics of blogging or writing a book. There are so many methods, strategies, and formulas associated with each medium. It will take time, ample amounts of research, and learning from mistakes to get it right. At that point, you’ve already spent 3-4x the time a ghostwriter would spend AND that’s before editing. 

Finally, you’ll have more time to focus on other higher priority tasks. While you do have to invest some time with the ghostwriter so they can develop content that is aligned with your voice, you have so much more free time to work on revenue generating activities while it’s being written. 

5 Questions You Need to Answer Before Hiring a Ghostwriter

Before you hire a ghostwriter and commit to weeks or months with that writer, you need to answer these 5 questions. 

1. Why am I interested in hiring a ghostwriter?

First, you need to figure out why you are interested in hiring a ghostwriter. Is it because…?

  • You want to finally publish that book that you’ve been wanting to write for over a year
  • You want to stay in front of your audience by publishing timely content

Types of Ghostwriter Projects

The next step is assessing the project that you are looking to complete. It could be a one-off publication or an ongoing engagement. Keep in mind that some ghostwriters only work on book engagements. Other ghostwriters might only write blogs.. 

Here are some examples of what a ghostwriter can do:

  • Write a book
  • Create blogs
  • Develop an ebook
  • Guest post on another blog

2. Do I have a branded voice that I want to continue or am I recreating one?

Whether you are a new brand, a long-time authority holder, or a reinvented house-hold name, you must know the voice of your brand. Your brand voice is the basis of the writing and takes time to develop and change. Your customer is attached to the voice of your message because it elicits an emotional response.

“People like to do business with people they like, trust, and know.“

3. What kind of experience do I expect my ghostwriter to have?

Another reasonable question to ask is “what kind of experience do I expect of my ghostwriter?“. For example, you may be in a super-technical environment that requires a writer to be knowledgeable of the technicalities. There are writers that are well-versed in medical or legal terms. 

On the other hand, you may want someone who is unfamiliar with your topic, giving a fresh perspective. In addition, they may be able to communicate your complex or technical information in a way that every reader can understand.

4. What will the ghostwriter be writing? How often?

It is also important to define the scope of what your ghostwriting project. You also need to set expectations on how often you would like to use a ghostwriter (weekly, monthly, one-time, etc.) and what type of content you want. 

Here are some examples of content and their approximate word counts:

  • Weekly blogs (1000-2500 words)
  • One-off guest blog (1000-2500 words)
  • Ebook (30-150 pages)
  • Book (150-300 pages)

5. What is the ROI for hiring a ghostwriter?

Finally, you need to determine if you will see a return on investment. Ultimately, hiring a ghostwriter should improve your bottom line. Look at the following factors that impact bottom line:

  • Your time savings
  • What you’re doing with your free time (those revenue-generating activities we talked about previously)
  • The leads from the blogs (look at our lead generation services)
  • Consistent content for your customers
  • Sales from the ebook or book

Where to Find Your Ghostwriter

Finally, it’s time to find your ghostwriter. You can find them through freelance sites like UpWork, search on LinkedIn, go to a marketing agency that offers ghostwriting, or finally go to firm that writes for a living – like FocusCopy. 

I promised I wouldn’t talk about how we’re a perfect option for someone who wants a combo of ghostwriting companies and freelance ghostwriter (until later). And I’ve kept that promise! 

Our in-house copywriters and ghostwriters keep in constant contact and make sure that our writing is consistent with our client’s needs. We’re professionalized freelance ghostwriters – giving you the relationship you need to express yourself with the sophistication of a ghostwriting company. You can learn more about our ghostwriting services here. 

If you’ve answered all these questions and are ready to say “yes”, click here to connect with our team.

Hiring a Ghostwriter

Proofreading Tips From Pro Copywriters

Is there anything worse than when you catch grammar mistakes on websites, social media posts, or worse… printed material?

Personally, when I find a grammar mistake, I become so fixated on that mistake that I go on a treasure hunt to find more mistakes. If the author of that piece of copy only knew… Phew! I sure am not taking the intended action on that page.

In this blog, I’m revealing all my proofreading tips that we use to dramatically improve our client’s existing copy and make it easier for their target audience to want to take the next step in the customer journey.

While there is a stark difference between editing and proofreading, we think it’s important that both of them happen. Editing is working on the messaging and the actual content itself. This is a much larger undertaking than its opponent. Proofreading focuses more on the flow, typos, and grammar mistakes. When we talk about proofing in a general sense, we also include editing into that. 

Every Piece of Copy Needs to Be Proofed & Edited

Plain and simple… Every piece of copy needs to be proofed. When copy or content is not proofed and there are mistakes littered throughout, you risk losing credibility, customers, etc.

Imagine this… Your all-star client sends you an email letting you know about a typo in your latest blog. 

Ouch.

It not only hurts to hear that from that client, but think about these two things…

  1. Other prospects aren’t as kind or forgiving as your all-star client. They’ll click to the next company because they don’t want to waste time with a company who doesn’t care enough to actually proof their copy. Potential revenue… Gone. Your competitors are benefitting from your careless mistakes.
  2. If your company cannot do something as simple as writing without grammar mistakes, then what other areas of quality are you skipping? Product manufacturing, quality control, product delivery, etc.?

Proofreading Tips From Pro Copywriters

As copywriters, we must be in the business of proofing too. In fact, we spend just as much, or even more, time proofreading and editing than it takes to write the entire piece of copy

Here are our 3 proofreading tips that every person writing content or copy should follow. This includes any emails going out to clients from the CEO to customer support and everyone in between.

1. Print It Out – Then Recycle

There is nothing like putting a pen to paper and ripping the content apart. It’s personal and keeps you connected to the art of writing. Some people claim they can do it on screen, but we’ve found it requires less effort and results in fewer errors when marking up the printed copy! Think about it… You read it, mark it up, then you re-read it as you edit your live copy. That’s 2 whole rounds of proofing, not just one (as it would be if you proof on-screen)!

So print out the copy (2-sided), and start marking it up. I’ll share a few of my editing marks later in this blog.

Proofreading Tips

Another alternative to printing it out is to switch on the Editing or Suggesting mode in your document provider (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc.).

2. Read It Out Loud

While you have it printed out, read it out loud. 

Every last word. 

Why? Because it should flow easily and sound natural. 

If you find yourself stumbling over a sentence or a phrase, reorganize the sentence while you’re reading through it. Then read it back out loud. Repeat until it sounds natural. If you don’t read it out loud, then you actually start to read what you think you wrote, not what you actually wrote. Verbalizing it eliminates this human trait.

Another thing that we do – especially when we are in the thick of editing – is to read it out to another person. They will be able to help you to catch all the errors, syntax issues, and content issues. This works especially well for large or complex pieces of copy. Yes, it burns the other person’s time, but it ultimately saves time, and therefore money every time.

3. Mark It Up

Finally, mark it up. Here are some short hand notations you can use while you edit. 

Proofreading Tips

You can read other proofreaders’ marks in the Chicago Manual of Style.

Proofreading Tips

Don’t have access to a printer? Or don’t want to waste paper? Many document providers like Microsoft Word or Google Docs has a suggesting tool where you can market it all up. Then you have the right to refuse or suggest the edits. They are good, but often you can do better with pen and paper.

Things to Look For When Proofreading

Now that you have a system, it’s time to figure out what you’re looking for. One thing that we commonly do is attack the entire copy with one perspective (i.e. spelling then flow) at a time then move onto the next. It helps you keep focused on the task at hand. 

Clarity of Message

First things first… Is the message you are writing about as clear as possible? Now, this isn’t a true and hard science. It’s helpful to put the copy in front of someone who has no clue what your writing about or who you are writing for. This is extremely helpful when explaining something technical or complicated. They will be able to indicate if your message is clear and universally understandable. 

Read more about our CFE Framework where the first step is bringing clarity to the topic. 

Focused Message

After you have deemed the message clear, it’s time to determine if it’s focused. In other words, this is where you cut the fluff, extra embellishments, and filler words or phrases (e.g. “like”, “as such”, “in order to:, etc.) that add to the word count but not to the effectiveness of the copy.

Spelling Mistakes

The most obvious thing to look for when proofing is spelling mistakes. While spell check has made it extremely easy to catch spelling mistakes, there are so many words that are used interchangeably wrongly. 

For example:

  • Except vs. Accept
  • Too vs. To
  • Their vs. They’re vs There
  • Your vs. You’re
  • Loose vs. Lose
  • Insure vs. Ensure

Sometimes, spell check corrects your misspelt word to a word with a completely different meaning. It now says there are no spelling mistakes, but some sentences may have completely different meanings or simply don’t make sense. This is where proofing comes in!

Syntax / Flow

The next thing to look at is the syntax or flow of your content or copy. Syntax is the set of rules, principles, and/or processes that determine sentence structure, usually including word order. Does it sound natural? Not clunky?

A great way to check for the flow is always to read it out loud. I know we’ve said this before, but it’s really important not to skip over.

Brand Voice

Another thing to take a look at is your brand voice. Is the piece of content or copy synonymous with your brand voice? You need it to sound consistent with the rest of the content on your website or your copy.

Readability

Finally, a good test of readable content is to check its readability score. There are two tests that we use frequently with our copy…

  • Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
  • Gunning Fog Index

There are many readability tests online where you can paste your copy into their test and it will rate it. 

Proofreading Tips

The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score was originally developed to determine the ease of military processes and procedures. Business writing needs to be around a 65; however, anything between 60 and 80 is considered a good score. 

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is similar to the readability score; however, it determines the grade level the text is catered to. Most business writing targets the grade-level 7.5; it used to be 8th grade but it has since been changed. Writing at this level means the copy is complex enough to engage interest but simple enough not to strain the brain. Writing at 20th grade (which some writers do) is only intelligible to post-graduates with three or more degrees. While my co-founder Stuart Broderick may be able to understand that language with his Ph.D. in physics, the rest of us will pass. 

Both measurements focus on word length (syllables) and sentence length. For example, if there are too many sentences with over 20 words in them, then you risk reducing your readability score. 

Finally, there is the Gunning Fog Index. Its scoring mechanism is based on the grade level of which the text is appropriate for. For example, a 12 would be suitable for seniors in high school or 18-year olds. Most text should be at or below a 12 if you are in a B2B setting. If your intended audience is extremely wide, it is best to aim for 7th or 8th grade. 

There are many other readability scores or grade level scoring indexes, but they all focus on the same thing – how easy it is to read a piece of content.

Avoiding Proofreading All Together

There is one sure way of avoiding proofreading all together. 

Hire professional copywriters or retain a copywriting firm.

This only applies when you hire professional copywriters that are obsessed with quality. At FocusCopy, we have quality controls to ensure that a single piece of copy does not leave our office without being proofed by at least 2 people. Why? Because the value is in the copy and the value can be immediately lost if there are grammar or flow issues. 

Have any other proofreading tips? Let us know about them in the comments below. 

Copywriting vs SEO Writing

Copywriting vs SEO Writing: What’s the Difference?

It’s no secret that copywriting and SEO writing is becoming increasingly critical to marketing strategies. The digital landscape is cluttered with both valuable content and junk. A keyword a year ago might have had a few million results but now has hundreds of millions of results. That makes life as a digital marketer and entrepreneur both terrifying and exhilarating. So let’s take a look at which you should invest in: copywriting vs SEO writing.

What’s the Difference Between Copywriting vs SEO Writing?

First, let’s analyze the difference between copywriting vs SEO writing. Although they are both technically writing and can be intertwined, they serve two different purposes. 

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting is the act of writing text to persuade the reader to take a requested action – usually found in advertising and promotions. The product sold by copywriters is called copy. It’s only purpose is to convert the reader to opt-in, buy, or schedule a call. 

What is SEO Writing?

In comparison,  SEO writing is the act of writing content that ranks well on search engines (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Bing). The content is usually informative and/or expressive, rather than persuasive. SEO writing contains keywords that ranks the page on search engines. SEO writing can be in the form of web pages or blogs. 

Good SEO writing should be fluid, easy to read without noticing the interspersing of keywords. Remember, people do business with people, NOT keywords or robotic sounding content. It’s better to write like a human than to meet all SEO requirements. 

When Copywriting & SEO Writing Fuse Together

One thing I – among many other copywriters – love is when you can fuse copywriting and SEO writing together. What do I mean by this? 

Good content is searchable, easy-to-read, and informative in some capacity. More than that, good content will include persuasive call to actions to some next step in the customer journey. For example, a blog post can offer a lead magnet or a trial offer to a premium offer.

Here are some examples of how you can infuse copywriting into your search optimized piece of content.

DigitalMarketer is really good at this… They break up their blogs with timely call to actions about free lead magnets, such as their 15-Point Landing Page Audit. In addition to the written copy with a hyperlink to a landing page, they also include an image with copy embedded. 

Copywriting vs SEO Writing

This next example is from GoLive. One thing that I really appreciate about their blog is the subtle call the action. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may even miss it… And that’s a good thing for content marketing and SEO writing! If your content is always sell, sell, sell, you are not adding value to your customer before they give you their credit card. It’s important to offer value up-front.

 Notice when you click on the “Squarespace Website Template” link, it sends you straight to their shop. 

Copywriting vs SEO Writing

Moz is great at producing blogs about SEO; however, they do not actively present their product until the very end after the conclusion and after popular posts. This is another way to fuse SEO writing and copywriting together.

Copywriting vs SEO Writing

Reasons to Invest in Both

To create a sound digital marketing strategy, you need both copywriting and SEO writing. Here are some reasons why you need to invest in both.

Your Prospects Need To Find You

You could have the greatest product, innovative technology, or coaching program that changes lives… BUT if your prospect cannot find you, you will unfortunately never make it. While there are many ways to reach your customers, every decision maker in a company has a smartphone, a tablet, and/or a computer in their hand. As a business owner, if I need to know something and I can’t think of a person to call to answer my question… COMMAND+T. I’m googling it. 

(You’re welcome for my favorite Apple keyboard shortcut!)

That’s why SEO copywriting should be a critical part of your marketing strategy.

Creating a sound SEO writing and content marketing strategy doesn’t always come easy. It can be time-consuming and draining as you learn the nuances. That’s where we come in! Contact us today to explore what opportunities are in your business.

Your Prospects Need To Feel Confident In Buying From You

Another reason to invest in your copywriting and SEO writing strategy is to make your prospects feel confident in their buying decision. 

SEO writing makes you an authority; it helps you gain respect because you have displayed that you know what you’re talking about. 

But copywriting takes you to a deeper level with your prospect with emotional persuasion. Once the prospect believes that they buying decision is logical and truly believes that they need that product or service to solve x, y, and z, then they are highly likely to buy. In addition, copy that creates an emotional connection creates loyal followers, lifers, repeat customers.

Again, there are thousands of options customers may pick from other than your company! We think you’re still special though. 

So how are you going to set yourself apart from the competition and make your prospect feel confident in choosing you?

Your Prospects Want a Company They Can Trust and Believe In

Where do you buy groceries – HEB or Kroger? Which social media platform do you like better – Instagram or Snapchat? Do you buy directly from a company’s site or go straight to Amazon? Ultimately, every person has their preferences. Because there are so many options to choose from, your prospects subconsciously want to buy from a company they can trust to do the job right, delivering above and beyond AND believe in because they just get you. 

For example, we at FocusCopy have made it our mission to be our client’s strategic partner in all their business communications. We truly believe that. We cheer on our clients and celebrate their victories, even if it had nothing to do with us! Additionally, we connect them with resources and potential customers. Being a strategic partner goes beyond just copywriting services. At the end of the day, we believe in our clients. It’s our hope that our prospective clients see our internal guiding beliefs in everything we write… And ultimately trust and believe in us.

Let’s take another angle! Think about romantic relationships. When a couple first meets, what do they look at? Their eyes and maybe lips (while they’re talking). Attraction. Then they listen to what they have to say, leaning in a little more to make that first impression judgement. Are they intelligent, genuine, and kind? Or Are they clueless, rude, and lack depth? Because who doesn’t like a good story, let’s say this couple makes the first judgement – we’re good to go! They then start to build an emotional connection with that other person as time goes on. Eventually, a meet-cute turns into a date, which becomes a relationship and then engagement, and finally marriage. 

The same is true of B2B copywriting. People form connections with people. So a business must understand and communicate like humans. This is why influencers on social media have become so big. People feel a connection with the person behind the screen because those influencers have opened their lives up to them.

The Final Decision: Copywriting vs SEO Writing

If you have a limited budget and had to make a decision on what to invest in first, we always suggest doing what will make money first… In that case, it’s always copywriting. You can drive more traffic all day. BUT if your copy does not convert, then that traffic is going to go elsewhere to find what they are looking for. 

Good SEO simply makes it easier to find your great copy, and hopefully convince them to buy from you.

In conclusion, it’s more important than ever before to evaluate your website’s SEO and copywriting. The competitive landscape is ever changing as algorithms change, prospects demand more free content, and the cost to acquire a customer is increasing. Contact us to explore how FocusCopy can build a competitive content and copywriting strategy and ultimately reduce the cost of customer acquisition.

Why Companies Need to Focus on Their Copy in 2020

Why Companies Need to Focus on Their Copy in 2020

Business communication is now more important than ever. Scandals, success, missed opportunities, synergy… How you shape the story is critical to business success. It’s becoming more important for companies to focus on their communication pieces by the second – not minutes or hours.

Information Collection Taken To The Next Level

We are living in a world of information collectors and hoarders. It is estimated that data created next year will be greater than all material generated since people started recording information thousands of years ago. (Check out some cool big data facts here.)

Many people shy away from using libraries and dictionaries. Instead, they use Google or other search engines as their main source of information. Why? We created a world that craves instant gratification for everything we could possibly want to learn.

Greater than our external need for information, organizations use online storage tools, intranets, wikis, and other real-time internal search engines to locate information related to their employer, industry, and numerous other topics. It’s quicker than flipping through a dated binder of SOPs.

In 2020, companies must focus on their copy in all areas of their business – sales copy, content strategy, and internal communications. Your prospective customer can subconsciously spot good copy from bad and will immediately click to another page that is better. It’s critical to fight for the top spots on the results page.

Why Companies Need to Focus on Their Copy in 2020

In this world of overwhelming information, your customers want to get what they want, now. As a result, companies need to accelerate their copy production and improvement to meet demands. 

So, what does this mean for business to business communication? And how should we create and publish copy in a prioritized manner?

Copy Needs To Be Fresh

First, your copy must be fresh, original, crisp, focused, and contain only essential information. More detailed voluminous materials should be included in a referenced document that the user can open by clicking “for more information”.

One tip that we give our clients is to strip out all the fluff or embellishment. Sure, those extra words may paint a picture more delicately, but are those extra words getting in the way of the big picture? Quite simply, more words take more time to read and the value from these extra words often provide little or no extra value to the reader.

Keep it fresh.

Copy Needs To Be Focused

Second, the copy must focus on what impact it will have on your prospect. What’s the Big Benefit? People, in general, have become very self-focused. If the copy they read doesn’t impact them directly or require their action, they start to question why they are reading it in the first place.

Click.

They’ve moved on. That is why it’s so important to evaluate if your company’s existing copy is focused.

Even worse… Your prospect may subconsciously record the sender’s identity (i.e. your company’s brand) and skip future communications from you.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at your email inbox. If you’re like most, you have many unread emails from people that are sending you content, sales pitches, promotions, and more. The thing is… Internet Service Providers (ISP) and email service providers (like Gmail) will start to learn your habits and stick the emails your to dreaded spam filter. That means more than just your prospects not opening emails… It will also hurt your deliverability for future prospects that actually want to receive your emails. 

SEO Best Practices May Have Changed

Finally, Google reputedly makes over 500 adjustments to their SEO algorithm every year. That means within 2-3 years, SEO is completely different. That’s also one of the reasons why I fell in love with digital marketing… It will always be a new day with new challenges. How does that impact you? What your company did for SEO a year ago may not work as effectively in 2020. It’s important that as we enter Q4 of 2019, you need to reassess your weak points in SEO and to improve your SEO. 

So how does your website copy rank in terms of search-ability and ease of finding information? Does the information about your new product, service, update, or landing pages rank as #1 of 230,000 hits or #250? Guess which site your potential customers will look at? It’s the #1 result… Maybe if you’re lucky, they will go down to result #5. 

Here’s the kicker… A decade ago, users were okay with spending 15, maybe 30 seconds searching for relevant content. Now, they spend only 5-8 seconds searching! That means your information must rank in the top 5 hits when they search your keyword. Assuming they find your page, they want the core information in no more than 10 seconds! 

Some areas to look at include: 

  • How your content is categorized and organized
  • Your inbound and outbound links
  • Readability scores
  • Keywords (might want to check how many results your best keywords have; competition is tight)
Why Companies Need to Focus on Their Copy in 2020

Up Your Business Game By Focusing On Your Copy in 2020

So, how should a business ”up its game” and provide copy that its target audience wants to and needs to read? There are formulas for this, but these formulas only work if you know exactly what you want to write, who will read it, and what you want them to get out of it.

There are two things that you can do… Reassess how your existing copy is being used and apply our CFE Framework to future copywriting and content creation.

Reassess How You Use Your Copy

If the copy doesn’t support anything your prospect needs to do their job and support their buying decision – what VALUE is it to you? It’s wasting valuable real estate on your website, email campaigns, etc. 

It’s important to understand and audit how your copy is working for you and against you. Junk? Delete it. It may be tempting to fill that blank space with other content, but if it’s not valuable, do not add it. 

CFE Framework

Our CFE Framework shows you exactly how to get clarity and focus around your copy before you execute the creation and publication of the copy. If your business takes the time and effort to clarify exactly what they need and focus on its creation, publication, distribution, and search-ability, then your business will definitely benefit… Your prospects will read your copy more frequently and better understand your offer… Thus, increasing the likelihood that that prospect will convert into a buy.

Need help preparing for 2020? We are standing by. Click here to explore how to you can surpass your competition with copy improvements.