Corona Virus  / Covid-19 and Your Business Messaging

Now is not the time to stay quiet. Now is the time to show leadership and empathy.

At times of crisis, businesses must communicate clearly with their clients and staff. It is vitally important that you show not only leadership but also empathy. People are concerned about the Corona Virus / COVID-19 and your response must be reasoned, reassuring and supportive, with a healthy dose of confidence around long-term business prospects.

Don’t delay

If you haven’t already, get your emails out. Update your website with specific messaging. Use social media to explain how you’re responding. Make use of your internal channels to regularly keep staff updated.

Show empathy

This is not the time to be cold and distant. Show your clients that you understand their concerns and that those concerns are a reasonable reaction; don’t brush them under the carpet, but dispel them rationally. Be clear with your staff about how you’re supporting them to keep working, or with sick-days if they can’t work.

Keep messaging clear and simple

Be methodical with how you express your information. Make sure your content is broken down clearly, so it’s easy for worried readers to find what they are looking for, even if they’re scan reading.  Be crystal clear about the plans you have in place. Use simple, numbered lists to explain any new procedures.

Invite questions

If your staff or clients have concerns, make sure they know you are ready to answers their questions, so provide channels where they can contact you. Make sure you give realistic estimates for responses, to avoid frustration.

Consider your tone

Tonally you should be aiming for understanding, reassurance and confidence. Express your understanding of your readers’ uncertainty and that you share it. Re-assure readers but do not dispel fears flippantly. Stay confident and be positive about your organisation’s long-term resilience.

Effective, appropriate messaging is a crucial tool in the effort to curtail misinformation and inappropriate action around the Corona Virus / Covi19. We all have a responsibility to do what we can.

If you need any help, or advice about how to go about this, please just ask us, our advice is free – we all need to do our bit.

 

 



Financial Content That Works

While every sector has its own peculiarities, nothing is quite like Financial. Excluding health and family, what’s more important than money? It governs lifestyles and life options; it’s socially and politically charged and essential to every life. All of which makes finance a unique and fascinating area in which to work.

In order to communicate financial content effectively, there are a number of key considerations we must make, before even thinking about putting pen to paper. I’ve listed a few here, but I would be keen to hear if you think I’ve missed anything, so let me know in the comments.

 

Brand personality

Before any company can effectively convey its message, it must have a clear, consistent way of communicating. Getting to know your brand is vital, enabling you to express the values at its core. These are the touchpoints that engage your readers, letting them know what they have in common with the brand.

Getting clarity on who you are is vital.

Pinning down your brand also enables you to define its tone of voice. By tone of voice, I mean the way the brand writes and speaks to its clients. Consider the difference between how two brands, IBM and Innocent Drinks, ‘speak’. The former, is serious and full of gravitas, the latter casual and fun. That is reflected in their words, grammar, verbal rhythm and numerous other decisions.

All of these stylistic choices reflect the personality and voice, and are set down in the guidelines. Just as your visual/brand guidelines tell a designer about your colour palette and how to use your logo, your tone of voice guide ensures your written communications are consistent. This consistency of voice is essential in a world where so much of your client communications are written (on websites, email, blogs and social media).  

 

Back to basics, every time

The process of writing financial content can be intricate, with many different parties involved, large swathes of information to distil and a great deal of complexity to simplify. So, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s important, which is why I always recommend getting back to basics.

When you’re planning and executing, always return to ‘marketing 101’. Make sure you’re communicating the essentials and meeting the content objectives. Ask yourself those basic questions. Are you clearly expressing the product/service? Have you covered the key features? How do those benefit the client practically? What are the emotional benefits?

Make sure you’re asking the right questions.

In short, what’s your proposition and why you, rather than a competitor?

These are some of the questions you need to be able to answer and share with anyone who’s writing for the company.

 

Client-centric communications

One of the greatest mistakes financial brands make is thinking clients want to read about their business or even important financial news. That may sound counter-intuitive but the truth is clients want to read about themselves. They want to know about what can benefit them specifically.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t blog about market trends. Rather, it means that your blog should focus on your client and how those trends might affect them. That doesn’t mean doing what you always do and adding a ‘How does this affect you?’ section at the end, although this is very common. It means, putting the client at the very heart of the piece, by thinking about the information from their point of view and making the content about them.

You’ll still be presenting your brand as the authority but you’ll also be showing you care about how it affects your clients. This shows empathy and that you have your clients’ best interests at heart, which creates ongoing engagement.

 

Don’t make assumptions

Once you’ve worked in a sector for a while, you start to get familiar with its verbal quirks, acronyms, abbreviations and the like. To speed up communications, you might slip into jargon, which works fine in the office. However, problems arise when you communicate in the same way with your clients. That’s where we tend to make assumptions. Just because you know APR means Annual Percentage Rate, it doesn’t follow that your readers do, even if they’ve come looking for financial information.

Assuming the wrong level of knowledge is a sure way to put some people off. Jargon can make it hard for readers to grasp what you’re saying, which is a significant barrier to online engagement. Of course, people can just Google it but your brand should care enough about them to make sure they understand. Moreover, it is unhelpful to have users click away from your site.

Don’t leave clients feeling confused.

Sometimes, jargon works

Writing to suit your audience is what counts and in some areas of finance, jargon works. With many B2B audiences, it shows a brand’s level of understanding. For example, a Fund Administrator would, rightly, expect its readers to understand what it means by AUM (assets under management) or AML (anti-money laundering).

Jargon may also be used with B2C audience, for example, to signpost that a certain level of sophistication is required from the reader. Consider an online investment house, with complicated, higher-risk investment vehicles. The use of jargon around these is one of the more subtle ways they warn less experienced investors that these products are not for them.

 

Make the most of Compliance and Legal

For some reason, a lot of marketers and creatives dread working with the legal and compliance teams. However, effective finance sector copywriting is about meeting all the objectives of the project, in a way that readers really value. Of course, the requirements of the marketing team are important but so are those of the Compliance and Legal teams.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve found that problems arise when these teams are excluded from the process until late on. This can create a stressful, difficult sign-off process, with them having to catch up with the project and the marketing/creative team becoming frustrated.

Collaborate early.

We believe it makes more sense to involve Compliance and Legal from the outset, to find out what you must say and can’t say early on, so you can build that into your planning. It’s also worth getting to know the people themselves, to help you understand their approach. There are always grey areas and knowing the real red lines, as early possible, can only ever be helpful.

These teams also come at problems from different angles. That means they can offer solutions that the writer alone may not have considered. They may also know about additional relevant research that could enrich your content, adding value for readers. In short, there is a great deal to be gained from close collaboration with Compliance and Legal, and considering them part of the creative team.

 

Choosing the right content partner

As you might expect, I would be delighted if everyone who read this worked with us. Realistically, there are many choices for outsourcing your financial copywriting and there is a great deal to consider.

Most importantly, of course, you must work with writers who know the financial sector, can make complex content easy to consume and who understand it’s a regulated environment. However, please don’t just pick a writer based on experience. Make sure they care about fast, clear client communications.

There are thousands of great wordsmiths but writers who work without ego and prioritise listening to their clients are harder to find, and it makes all the difference; trust me.

What do you think are the priorities for financial content? How do you make yours stand out? Could you make your content work harder?

If you would like to discuss working with us, please drop us a line at: hello@alexgenncopywriting.co.uk



SEO v Brand: Beware the spiders

Trigger warning: Spiders etc

A gentle summer breeze flutters the curtains as you sleep soundly in your bed. All is peace, everything is fine… except, it isn’t; something is wrong, very, very wrong.

Thick, oppressive heat fills the room. Shadowy corners turn an inky, unknowable black that absorbs all light and joy, leaving in place only cold, hungry fear.

A small, spindly shadow crawls up the duvet along the line of your leg. Moving in short, jagged scuttles the blood-red spider is already past your thigh. It pauses for a moment before its needle feet prick their way higher, tip-toing toward your waist.

You shake your head, you murmur, unconscious but aware that something isn’t right.  

Eight black, unblinking eyes move up your chest to the edge of the duvet. It waits, an inch from your exposed skin. Your breathing quickens as it crawls slowly but with unmistakable intent onto your vulnerable throat.

You know you must wake up. Neurons fire, blood pumps, muscles tighten but then, nothing; you lay still, paralysed by fear.

Now, it is time. Dark mandibles unfurl; each a tiny, jagged butcher’s saw. The spider begins its work…

Seconds, or perhaps hours later you shake yourself awake, screaming. The spider is gone. But your scream is silent. You shout. But your shouting is a weightless, empty nothing.

The spider has stolen your voice.

…Of course this is not really how it happens (to most freelance copywriters). And I’m not really talking about eight-legged spiders. I do, of course, mean web spiders. Those clever little algorithms that use web content keywords and general good SEO (search engine optimisation) to decide who soars high in the search rankings.

Check your ears for Brie

Unless you’ve been keeping cheese in your ears for the last 15+ years you’ll have heard (relentlessly) from copywriters, your content agency and everyone else about the importance of keywords and SEO. It’s impossible to ignore. And, of course, as a provider of online content, I’m not going to disagree or tell you they’re not important. But I do think your web content should be about more than SEO.

Take off the objective blinkers

If your aim is solely to drive page rankings, surely SEO is the most important thing? Well, yes and no. You’ve got to remember your brand. That ephemeral, hard-to-pin-down thing; the bridge you’ve built to your customers. And no matter how strong it is, like any bridge, it is fragile; one small crack and the damage can be irreparable.

What’s your brand got to do with SEO rankings?

Well, everything. Because, whatever you write online is there for your customer and potential customers to discover. They can love it and share it or be bored and totally put off by it. SEO content won’t affect any of that. But how you use your brand voice absolutely will.

So how does it go right, and wrong?

The client wants to be on the first page of Google search. The team does some keyword research. And before you know it the website is full of keyword-driven content, which the web spiders love. Then, over time, assuming all the other good stuff is in place (dynamic site, fast loading, correct keyword density etc.) it works, and the page moves up the rankings – cue much whooping and slapping of backs. But, um, what happens when someone actually reads it?

“I am fluent in over six million forms of communication and…”

If you’re only thinking about keywords without considering the brand, you’ll end up with unnaturally repetitious, robotic content that sounds like C3PO having a nervous breakdown. That sort of hard-to-read content is (fingers crossed) way off brand. “Good Heavens!” indeed. And whether you’re a copywriter in London or a plumber in Cardiff manager that won’t do.

Off-brand is not OK

Just like your logo and design guide, your brand voice is an integral part of the brand. Hopefully you’ve put as much thought into your verbal identity as you have the visual side. Because no matter how beautiful the design, if your copywriting and/or content isn’t engaging, people will lose interest fast. The same goes for all the SEO; it doesn’t matter how high your Google rank if no-one cares about your online content.

Ranking v. Engagement?

It’s not one or the other. It’s both and that comes via your brand. I don’t think I’m telling anyone anything new here or at least I hope not. It’s more of a reminder. Google rank is important. But don’t forget the vital role your brand voice plays in creating engagement. As with all things, it’s a balancing act. You can’t do away with keywords; but forget about your brand voice and what’s it all for?

So, by all means feed the spiders but don’t let them take your voice.

…Of course this is not really how it happens. And I’m not really talking about eight-legged spiders. I do, of course, mean web spiders. Those clever little algorithms that use keywords and general good SEO (search engine optimisation) to decide who soars high in the search rankings.

Check your ears for Brie

Unless you’ve been keeping cheese in your ears for the last 15+ years you’ll have heard (relentlessly) about the importance of keywords and SEO. It’s impossible to ignore.And I’m not going to disagree or tell you they’re not important. But I do think your content should be about more than SEO.

Take off the objective blinkers

If your aim is solely to drive page rankings, surely SEO is the most important thing? Well, yes and no. You’ve got to remember your brand. That ephemeral, hard-to-pin-down thing; the bridge you’ve built to your customers. And no matter how strong it is, like any bridge, it is fragile; one small crack and the damage can be irreparable.

What’s your brand got to do with SEO rankings?

Well, everything. Because, whatever you put online is there for your customer and potential customers to discover. They can love it and share it or be bored and totally put off by it. SEO won’t affect any of that. But how you use your brand voice absolutely will.

So how does it go right, and wrong?

The client wants to be on the first page of Google search. The team does some keyword research. And before you know it the website is full of keyword-driven content, which the web spiders love. Then, over time, assuming all the other good stuff is in place (dynamic site, fast loading, correct keyword density etc.) it works, and the page moves up the rankings – cue much whooping and slapping of backs. But, um, what happens when someone actually reads it?

“I am fluent in over six million forms of communication and…”

If you’re only thinking about keywords without considering the brand, you’ll end up with unnaturally repetitious, robotic content that sounds like C3PO having a nervous breakdown. And that sort of hard-to-read content is (fingers crossed) way off brand. “Good Heavens!” indeed.

Off-brand is not OK

Just like your logo and design guide, your brand voice is an integral part of the brand. Hopefully you’ve put as much thought into your verbal identity as you have the visual side. Because no matter how beautiful the design, if your content isn’t engaging, people will lose interest fast. The same goes for all the SEO; it doesn’t matter how high your Google rank if no-one cares about your content.

Ranking v. Engagement?

It’s not one or the other. It’s both and that comes via your brand. I don’t think I’m telling anyone anything new here or at least I hope not. It’s more of a reminder. Google rank is important. But don’t forget the vital role your brand voice plays into creating engagement. As with all things, it’s a balancing act. You can’t do away with keywords; but forget about your brand voice and what’s it all for?

So, by all means feed the spiders but don’t let them take your voice.



Copywriting in an ‘agile’ environment

So, you’re the superstar freelance copywriter who’s been brought in to make the magic happen on a funky new app or other digital product. You’ve been told your copywriting is going to be part of a collaborative process, and it’s going to move fast, to get the job finished on time. Maybe it’s a new micro-site for a well-known brand. Maybe it’s an app for a funky, disruptive start-up. Who knows? But you do know you’ll be copywriting in an agile environment.

Agile what?

For the uninitiated, agile working brings together everyone with an interest in the project, to co-develop it, throughout the process. And not just the other business writers / copywriters and other creatives, also representatives (‘stakeholders’) from all the departments involved.

So, you might have people from marketing, brand, compliance and legal as well as back-end programmers, the business unit lead (whatever it is they do) – and more. Of course, as you’d expect, you’ll also have front-end design, UX and marketing copywriters. And they’ll all be coming together regularly, in the room or on screen, to guide the project.

The idea is that, by meeting frequently, focusing on specific objectives one at a time, they can sign-off or develop work and solve problems together quickly, to keep the project on track. It’s a great way for the copy writer, or anyone else, to stop time being wasted on nonviable ideas or tangents. And it ensures milestones are met. When it works, it’s an effective, positive and energetic environment.

Who’s who and why?

As well a copywriter, there will be lots of other contributors; they split into two types, creatives and those I call ‘co-developers’. The creatives are, as you’d expect are the freelance copywriter (or maybe they’re in-house), UX designers, front-end designers and programmers. They’ll take the brief and create their own first drafts to meet the objective for that part of the project. Before and during this process, the co-developers advise, answer questions and support. Once this process is complete, they’ll be on-hand again, to sign-off copy writing or suggest developments/alternatives.

Ouch! My Toes!!

Whether you’re a London based copywriter offering content writing services or you’re a copywriter based up in Scotland or the States, this might sound like being bothered and having your toes stepped upon. But it’s actually rather helpful. It saves you a lot of time delivering content writing and guarantees the next iteration will be closer to perfect. Co-developers have valuable information and insight around the brand, user, market, competitors etc. They know they need to be available to feed into your work, whether it’s marketing content or anything else, help it develop and, ultimately, sign it off. All of which means you, as an advertising copywriter, can move fast, without wasting time on anything that isn’t going to fly; and almost guarantees there will be no nasty surprises towards the end of the project.

Avoiding the mud

Prepare yourself, there are going to be challenging conversations. The priorities of the legal team for example, will be different to those of the designer, and in turn, different to yours as web content writer. So, you need to listen and compromise, a good copywriter wants get to something everyone is happy with, that meets their needs as well as yours. Remember, digging you heels in is a great way to get stuck in the mud.

Make like Usain Bolt

Agile projects are mapped and run in ‘sprints’. These are short time periods, which everyone (hopefully) agrees are realistic; each with specific objectives for each creative. The overall process is managed by an account manager or ‘scrum master’, who brings everyone (not just the marketing copywriter) together regularly, to keep the objectives for each sprint on track. Big whiteboards and Sharpies are very important. Often, weekly/mid-sprint meetings only involve creatives. Issues or questions for the co-developers are raised here and passed on by the scrum master, or directly by creatives. It’s likely that the co-developers join the meetings periodically, as each sprint is completed. Regular communications and meetings mean if it’s looking like a deadline is going to be missed, everyone who it affects can adjust and the project continues to move smoothly.

As a freelance copywriter I’ve been involved in some fantastic agile working environments and seen amazing results. The key thing is that everyone needs to take responsibility and be up-front about progress, problems etc.

Of course, because my experience is as a copywriter, I’ve put together a few tips for writers on agile projects.

1. Take charge and ask questions

If you’re the lead writer on the project, step up. Don’t expect anyone to spoon-feed you the website content, app content or anything else. You need to start asking questions about what’s needed from your copywriting services. What, if anything, is pre-existing (e.g. tone of voice, content elsewhere you need to reflect)? What are the deadlines? Who needs to sign-off the content work? Make sure they do it early, to avoid delays.

2. Spreadsheets are your friends

You’ll need to do some mapping. Create a big-old copywriting spreadsheet that will connect all those wireframes and/or front-end designs with your content. You’ll need to ask the UX and/or design leads to put annotations on their documents. Use these same notations on your content spreadsheet. This is your master copywriting document. It is vital, as it will allow whoever is uploading the content to know where your content goes. Make sure it all marries up.  If it doesn’t, the wrong copywriting will end up on the wrong page.

3. Control the content process

Check if anyone has done any app or website content planning. They may well have, but it’s likely you, as a professional writer, will need to take control of the content writing process and take full responsibility for delivery of all copywriting. Make sure you find out all the different content elements needed for the project (e.g. app page content, app notifications, emails triggered by buying, FAQs etc.). Have any been forgotten? What else might it need? Check copywriting priorities with the scrum master. They may already have a plan for what the copywriter needs to do when. If not, make one.

4. Build relationships early

Work out who the copywriter will need to lean on and reach out to them. For example, if it’s a financial project, you’ll need the compliance and legal teams to sign off the SEO copywriting, content and all the other copywriting. So get to know them, find out how strict the compliance team is. Let them get to know you, as a person as well as a freelance copywriter. This way you’ll get quick answers from them, and they’ll trust you understand what they need.

Getting to know people will really help. Fist bumping is optional.

5. Think in sprints

Start thinking early about how fast you work, how much copywriting you are likely to get done in the upcoming sprint and estimate carefully. Remember, it’s always better to under promise and over deliver on the marketing materials you’ll deliver, than the other way around. Factor in things like meetings, research time and how long it takes people to feed back; these can eat up your time.

6. Set deadlines for what you need

If your first draft of content is reliant on others delivering things (e.g. wireframes, facts from the product team) establish a time frame for when you will receive these. Make sure the person supplying them is aware – make this part of copywriting spreadsheet. You can’t be sitting around twiddling thumbs and blaming others – you have to be in charge of the copywriting process. Always set deadlines for feedback.

7. UX and other people’s shoes

The UX (user experience) team is crucial to creating something that people actually use. Every professional writer knows that the best copy in the world is worthless if people can’t (or won’t want to) find it. So, work with UX to help create copywriting that people understand and want to use. One of your key skills as a freelance copywriter should be putting yourself in other people’s shoes; consider the end user. If the wireframes you’re looking at don’t make sense or follow a logical path for the target audience, say so; be confident and willing to push back. But always suggest an alternative.

8. Design is beautiful

How the app/site looks has a huge impact on whether people actually use it and whether they bother to read the creative copywriting you’ve worked so hard on. So, engage with the process. Feed in, offer an opinion, make sure that what’s on screen feels right for the product, the user and what you’re all trying to achieve. Ask the front-end designer to put your copy in situ on the screen. You’ll be amazed at how different it can look and how little space you have. The earlier you can do this the better. Plus, if co-developers can view copy in situ it’s easier for them to sign it off or offer useful suggestions.

9. Communicate; NOW

If your freelance writing is going to take longer than expected, let the team know early (there will be ample opportunities at progress meetings). Agile projects rely on everyone being honest – it’s fine to change direction, to need longer or want more information, but tell everyone immediately, so they can respond appropriately.

10. There go the goalposts

Let’s face it; clients have a habit of changing their minds and making surprising decisions. And that’s true here as everywhere. When the goal posts shift, your job as a professional writer is to be crystal clear about how the change will impact your project objectives, especially in terms of time and hitting deadlines.

So, there you have it, some (hopefully) useful tips to help you make a success of your agile project.

Good luck!



Top Tips for Super-Sticky Landing Pages

If you’re using pay-per-click advertising, there’s not much more important than your landing page. And it needs to be that’s less trampoline and more like super glue. That is to say, it needs to avoid bounce (i.e. users clicking away) and keep people on the site, moving through to purchase. As copywriters we’re often asked, how do you do that? Well, there’s no magic wand (sorry). But, like everything, there are some must-haves that will make a big difference.

Please don’t use glue on your screen. This is NOT what we mean by super-sticky landing pages.

Any good freelance copywriter knows you’ve got to consider both design and copy, and how they work together. Have a look around at successful competitors; how do their pages look? How simple/complex are they? What are they doing right? How frequent are their calls to action (buttons with where to go next etc.)?

Research is key but the most important thing is to get your offer right and communicate it effectively. Easy for me to say as a professional copywriter, I know. So, here are our top tips, to help avoid common pitfalls and create something that can turn clicks into customers…

Plan your content
Be strategic about what you include – but keep it simple. Use one main message and back it up with a few evidence bullets – these are your reasons to believe. How will you move users through? Is it clear and logical? As with all copywriting, you must be clear on what your product/service is – and who it’s for. Does the user know what to do ‘next’ and feel a sense of urgency? Consider your calls to action; make sure they’re right there after your most persuasive points.

Order… ORDER!
A professional copywriter will always check that everything is in the right order. You should do the same. Consider your hierarchy of information. Are you starting with your main offer? Does the flow of information lead users through the offer? Does it direct them to calls to action?

Check your layout
Look at your page. Is it clean, clear and simple? Whether they’re a London-based copywriter or a copywriter working from Goa, a professional writer always tries to cut page clutter. Confused people aren’t patient, and competitors are just a click away. Does your make it easy and reassure the user that they’ve arrived in the right place? You can do this through consistent branding and echoing a statement/offer from the advert that sent them to the page.

Punchy Headline
Is yours big and clear? Does it explain the product/service? Does it let the user know how it helps them? Headlines (and images) are the vital attention-grabbing elements of the page. Any creative copywriter will tell you that without a strong headline the rest of the content is irrelevant because people just won’t read it.

Are you reflecting user needs?
Has the copy pinpointed what users need? Your page must mirror what readers want/need. If it’s not doing that, it’s not doing its job. Highlight a user problem and show you can solve it! And once you’ve done that, don’t forget to tell them where to click next.

Questions and answers
As a professional copywriter we always ask whether the copy is answering all the user’s concerns. The landing page must pre-empt any questions the reader has about the product/service. This helps them to feel you know them, understand them and can help. And don’t forget your call to action, once you’ve given your answers.

Benefit-driven copy
Is your copy focused on what your product/service does for the user? A good professional writer will talk less about its features and more about how it helps the reader. Think about the practical and emotional benefits, these will sell your offer.

Consider customer objections
What are the reasons people might not buy? Freelance copywriters specialise in putting themselves into their audiences’ shoes. You can do the same. Make sure you address objections in your copy. Your benefits must be powerful enough to overcome them. The persuasiveness of your content plays a big part here.

Powerful imagery
Much as any freelance copywriter loves words, they also know the value of images. Make sure you use eye-catching images. They should back up your offer and re-enforce your messaging. They must always be relevant. They’re not just there to look nice – although that’s important. Images (and headlines) are the most important attention-grabbing elements on the page.

Ready, steady, TEST!
A/B testing is a great way to check what’s working and what’s less effective. Create two versions of your page and on one, change something you’re not sure about, maybe the main headline, maybe a key image, maybe the information hierarchy. Testing is a powerful, low-cost way of making your page work better.

Apply all of these tips and you’ll be on track for a super-sticky landing page that adds real value to your site.



One Word. HUGE Difference (28% sales boost!)

Love your food? Me too.

It’s one of my passions, like writing, which you’d probably expect from a professional writer. But the two don’t often come together in my work as a copywriter, unless you’re working only on food products.

So, I was chuffed to come across this fascinating research by Brian Wansink and Katie Love, picked up by Cornell University in the US here. It’s really reminded me how important good freelance copywriting and thoughtful content can be to perceptions – and sales!

It seems that when you change how a copywriter describes the food, it changes how people perceive what they eat.

Researchers looked at menu items across 30 diners. They made small written adjustments to the descriptions, and the impact was huge. Not just on the taste people experienced but on what people ordered – and what they were willing to pay

Beanz Meanz SALES

In one example, the researchers took a starter called ‘Red Beans and Rice’; and changed its name to ‘Cajun Red Beans and Rice’. There were no other changes to the recipe, dining experience or presentation, just the name. And guess what? Customers said the food was tastier. And it wasn’t just taste. Sales of that starter went up 28%. Those are results any freelance writer would be delighted about – and any client too.

It was just one word. But it worked hard, by the adding something exciting, cultural credentials and a load of other personal perceptions.

“…taste resides not only in our mouths, but our minds play a crucial role in the way that we perceive taste. Our expectations of what a food will taste like can “trick” our taste buds into thinking the food tastes better than it does.” – Food and brand lab at Cornell University

Real, measurable impact

BUT it wasn’t just that they sold more ‘Cajun Red Beans and Rice’ – customers were actually willing to pay more – across all the tests (on various menu items at 30 diners), on average they were willing to pay 12% more. Now, whether you’re a copywriter yourself or you’re looking for a professional writer, that’s some measurable impact we can all get behind.

It’s amazing what a freelance copywriter can do with words isn’t it?

Now, I’m in the mood for a snack…



The world is changing. Keep up to stay connected to your audience.

Male? Female? Or…?
I was shopping at the weekend. My wife was in the changing room. So, my 4-year-old daughter and I were outside entertaining the shop assistant, ‘Raz’ who was (of course), far younger and cooler than me. About 6 feet tall, with a broad, typically masculine figure, long dark hair and purple nail varnish, so not someone easy to place as male or female. I don’t know. I didn’t ask, it was and is after all, not my business. But I was about to get involved, like it or not.

Grabbing the baton
I was away for a few minutes and on my return I took over a story my wife had started, to entertain our little one. It was about a monster and a brave warrior who, my daughter had decided, should be our new friend Raz. Usually that’s a fun situation for a copywriter that doesn’t take too much effort. But this time it was different.

Our star and extra audience member was listening and possibly wondering what they might end up doing. As a professional writer I felt an added responsibility in how I described Raz. If they were non-binary (didn’t identify as one particular gender), what I say might make them feel validated and acknowledged or potentially ignored and hurt. And of course, everything you do as a parent is lesson to your child. No pressure, then!

Making grey matter, matter
So, I engaged my freelance copywriter brain and made small changes throughout the story. Just tiny things really, saying ‘they’ and ‘their’, rather than ‘he/she’ and his/her’. “As Raz mounted their horse, they felt ready to take on the monster.” That sort of thing. It’s slightly tricky at first but you get used to it quickly. I think that’s always the way with something new. But it’s amazing how fast it becomes second nature, especially when you’re offering copywriting services.

George Washington never said ‘OMG!’
As society evolves, so does language (just ask someone from 1925 what a ‘selfie’ is). So, we can choose to ignore it, because change can feel hard (even when it’s not) or we can adapt, to communicate more successfully. I think it’s a simple choice.

As freelance copywriters, my team and I spend every day working hard to make people click, swipe, buy and, sometimes, even think differently. We know how hard it is to pick the right words, whether that’s for blogging, website content or script writing. But we also know that doing so means we’ll continue to be mindful, empathise and stay connected to our audience; whoever ‘they’ are.

 



10 Grammar Rules It’s OK to Break

Whether or not you’re a professional copywriter, you’ve probably had to choose whether to follow the grammar rules we all learned in school or go a bit rogue. It’s something we get asked about a lot in the world of copywriting; so how do you decide?

With language constantly evolving, many grammar rules have fallen by the wayside or can at least be ignored to suit the context. That isn’t to say they don’t still have a place within copywriting, but sticking rigidly to them can actually harm website copy and other SEO content, such as blogs. So how can you change it up?

 

Good. Old. Evolution

The way we speak has evolved (how many people said ‘selfie’ in 1926?) and online content needs to reflect this. Look at the work of anyone offering content writing services – they try to engage and appeal to the audience by echoing how they speak, rather than using the dusty grammar manuals of bygone years.

As most of those rules were developed over a century ago, they tend to formalise language, so are a teensy bit outdated. This is especially true in the digital space, such as mobile apps, SEO website content and blogging, which tend to be more colloquial and informal.

 

Go on you rebel BREAK SOME RULES

So, let’s get our professional writer hats on, and look at some rules it’s OK to break.

1. Don’t start a sentence with ‘And’. One of the first grammar rules we all learn is not to start a sentence with a conjunction such as ‘and’. But (there’s another!) this is often ignored in good copywriting. You’ll see most copywriters using ‘and’ or ‘but’ at the beginning of the sentence, as it’s a good way to break a long sentence and can also add impact. Breaking this rule is a great way to make sure you’re writing effective website copy and making blogs easier to read.

2. Don’t us slang. With formal writing, it’s best to avoid colloquial language and slang terms wherever possible. But, good copywriting connects with the audience by ‘speaking’ as they do. Slang is one of the best ways to connect to readers in a friendly and natural way. A great example of this is Barlcays Bank renaming the ‘Cashpoint’ the ‘Hole in the wall’.

3. Avoid one-sentence paragraphs. When writing for a digital audience, you’ll want your SEO content to be easy to read. Audiences often skim-read for quick answers and important  information. One-sentence paragraphs are a useful way to make key points stand out in your copywriting, especially in SEO content.

4. Don’t miss out, ‘that’. Missing out words in your copywriting isn’t going to work if no one knows what you’re talking about. But sometimes it’s useful, especially in website content or blogging, where shorter sentences are better. It’s perfectly acceptable to miss out words if the meaning of the sentence remains the same. For example: ‘Ann was sure that she’d win…’ works just as well as, ‘Ann was sure she’d win…’.

5. Use commas ‘properly’. Most of us, freelance copywriters included, were taught to use commas sparingly and in specific circumstances, such as to create lists or join clauses. But it’s fine to break this rule by using commas more often. As a copywriter, using commas is a way to set the flow and interpretation of a sentence. Here’s an example, a comma can dictate a pause.

6. Never split infinitives. We all know not to split infinitives right? Wrong. This is another grammar ‘don’t’ freelance copywriters often ignore. But it’s not about making a hard and fast rule about whether it’s okay to make like a banana and split, especially in their website content or blogs. Most copywriters look at the sentence structure and decide based on what sounds best in each case.

7. Don’t swap ‘whom’ for ‘who’. Knowing whether to choose ‘whom’ or ‘who’ has baffled even some professional writers for years. These days it’s more common to swap ‘whom’ for ‘who’, though ‘whom’ is still used in formal writing. A lot of freelance copywriters use ‘who’ instead’, depending on the audience, the tone of voice and of course subject matter. A good copywriter is led by context, rather than pre-conceived rules and ideas.

8. Don’t finish with a preposition. Allowing yourself to end on a proposition will help avoid awkward, overlong sentence structure, so freelance copywriters often break this rule. Instead of focusing on whether or not a sentence ends with a preposition, think like a copywriter – about how the sentence reads. This is far more important when it comes to engaging readers and creating a tone of voice, key concerns for SEO website content and blogging.

9. Always use ‘correct’ personal pronouns. He. She. Him. Her. For a long time these were all you needed. But with more people identifying as neither male or female and a wider awareness of gender fluidity, we need another term. So, if you’re writing about someone who’d rather not be classified or who you’re unsure about, the best approach is to use ‘they’. For example, “Sam is a pilot, they’ve always loved flying.” See? Easy.

10. Do not use contractions. Though it’s best to avoid them in formal writing, it’s okay to use contractions with an informal audience. Generally, people want to read stuff that sounds like they speak. And most people don’t speak formally (lawyers, the Queen and her corgis aside). Most writing, including SEO content such as websites and blogging works best when it sounds natural and engaging, and contractions really help.

 

Breaking grammar rules, rather than landing you on the naughty step, can make a step change in the effectiveness of your copywriting. Using your judgement, based on context, will help make sure your tone of voice suits the brand and subject – as well as creating that all-important connection with your audience. So, whether you’re a freelance copywriter who wants to make their work more effective or another professional keen to write better, remember, some rules were made to be broken.



Squeak. Squeak. ROAR. That’s the sound of copywriter having an idea

Sometimes copywriting is about crafting the right words. Sometimes it’s about shuffling the old grey matter, to create ideas. Sometimes copywriting is about bring it all together, for the greater good – or search engine rankings.

 

Tiny = Enormous. Really.

Everyone keeps telling you to make an impact on social media. But who has something interesting to say, week-in-week-out? Something that doesn’t make you sound desperate? That’s where a good copywriter can help, with some awesome ideas. Ideas are great. They’re small. But powerful. Tiny little things with enormous consequences, especially on social media.

 

It’s easy to be hard to ignore

A good copywriter can create a content calendar of ideas for industry/area-specific subjects write about on social media. And of course a good freelance copywriter will be able to write those smart Facebook posts and super-snappy tweets, which pique interest and get you the shares you need.

 

Look left. Look right. What’s coming?

But when you’re looking for copywriting services, you want to make sure your copywriter or copywriting team is the full package, and can give you everything you need. That’s why Alex Genn Copywriting isn’t just about ideas. We know social must drive web traffic, and that’s our focus. Our content calendars are also blog calendars. And our copywriting team is expert in writing original, search engine optimised (SEO) blogs that help push your site up the search page rankings. This turns the copywriting we do for social posts into perky little teasers that link to the blogs. Original, interesting and fully SEO blogs that people love to read – and share.

 

Beyond blogs

Of course once you get people onto your site, through your blog, you’ll want to direct them through your sales journey. And a good copywriter will have you covered there too. Not in a gun fight sort of way though. More in a, making the language work to move people through, with clever, short sentences, snappy little paragraphs headings, and punchy calls to action, sort of a way. A good copywriter can review the whole site, from content strategy to tone of voice, to terminology and even images. Clever huh?



We’re not all superheroes with odd backstories. And that’s good. Obviously.

Usually, copywriting and tone of voice are things entrepreneurs don’t think about until after the company is established. That makes sense, you’re far too busy making the business work. But talking to a freelance copywriter sooner can help you establish who your brand is early, so all your marketing is consistent. Which means you won’t be spending money re-writing your website, mobile app or offline communications later. It might not seem like it, but when it comes to starting up your company there’s little more important than getting your copywriting right; your website, social or blog are the first place most customers will meet your company and your words are their first experience of your brand.

Consistency counts; BIGTIME

A good freelance copywriter can take the content and copy of your blogs, website or social and make it really connect with your audience. It’s not just finding the right words or getting the grammar right. It’s about creating a consistent tone of voice that establishes the brand as something the reader can trust. It’s that word ‘consistent’; that’s what counts. By making sure the language (or tone of voice as your clever-clogs copywriter will call it) is consistent all over the website and your other communications, your customers will always recognise your brand.

So who are we?

It can be great fun working out who your business is and how it talks (and so how it writes). Authoritarian expert? A chatty mate in the pub? Or a superhero with an odd back story? All companies have a different brand personality and need a different tone of voice. Of course, no one knows your company better than you. So our copywriters work with you to help define the brand personality of the business.

How do we decide?

We can help through onsite sessions or remote surveys, whatever’s easiest for you but you’re a key part of the process. And of course once it’s all locked down, expert copywriting brings it all together in consistent collateral. From the words you use, to the length or your sentences, to the frequency of your communications, a good freelance copywriter will help make sure your brand is ‘someone’ your customers really relate to, who’s always reliable and consistent, just like your products.

Whether you’re writing web content to push yourself up the search page rankings, creating fascinating blogs that give you something interesting to talk about on social media or developing a killer app, your copywriter will make sure that what you say is made even more powerful by how you say it.