May 25th 2017

Writing copy for humanoids

by Martin O'Toole

Regardless of how good you are, writing on behalf of a brand is bloody hard.

You might be able to write—class yourself as a punctuation principality—even have a useful command of the English language. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a natural when it comes to writing in line with your brand tone of voice, or indeed being able to write marketing copy in a natural style which keeps readers entertained and engaged. I.e. avoiding writing like a robot.

The issue of stilted tone is universal across B2B and B2C marcomms, so here are a few simple tips to consider when writing long copy on behalf of your brand.

1. Human to human

There is absolutely no difference between the way a B2B brand should communicate compared to a B2C brand. Why on earth so many so-called ‘B2B marketing experts’ believe that changing brand TOV to that of a Dalek is beyond me. We’re all humans at the end of the day, so how about we write human to human? Just an idea…

2. Fluff is for belly buttons

Avoid lengthy sentences which serve no purpose other than to articulate to readers that you have an exceptional vocabulary and very much enjoy exercising your loquaciousness! ;)

Don’t use long words. Write short sentences. Try to avoid writing a load of pretentious crap, which leave your audience none the wiser as to what you’re writing about.

3. These are not your shoes

This is probably one of the trickier things to get your head around. You’re not writing for you; you’re writing on behalf of the brand. You’re writing for the brand’s audience. So always ask yourself the following:

What do the brand guidelines say about tone of voice? Is my copy in line with them? Who’s my audience and what do they need to take from this?

4. Every story needs structure

This is a bit of a no-brainer. Plot your story first and THEN write your copy. This will ensure you achieve what you wanted to achieve from the copy, at the same time as helping you avoid pointless rambling.

5. Draft, rest, re-read, chop

Never use a first draft! I wrote this, sat on it for a couple of hours, re-read it, then hacked some more bits from it. Make this part of your writing routine and I guarantee you’ll wind up with cleaner, tighter copy as a result.

Also, taking a breather allows you to come back and see typos/shit sentence structure with fresh eyes. All your work will be a total waste of time if your copy winds up riddled with errors.

Summing up

Effective brand copywriting may not be rocket science, but at the same time, I get super pissed off when I hear people say “yeah we’re not paying for that, we’ll provide the copy”.

I read this quote from a freelance copywriter once: “Sure you can write your own copy. You can also cut your own hair…” Genius. It’a mad thing when a marketing project is all set up—the strategy rocks, the creative and tech look like they’re going to smash all expectations—then somebody somewhere treats the copy as an afterthought. Seems to me that if you’re expecting to engage customers with your brand, the words are one of the most important things, no? Now got forth and exterminate with some killer copy.