Understanding Your Audience

Writing copy is more than putting fancy words on paper. Clever alliterations and an onomatopoeia or two thrown in won’t entertain the masses anymore.

Great copy is about creating a connection with the folks who are reading it, and increasingly that involves design thinking. Understanding your objectives, how they add value for your audience, and how your audience interacts with the medium your words are written in are all… well, pretty critical.

Beginning with the End in Mind

What are you trying to accomplish with your copy? And “I want them to click this big red button” is a cop-out answer. Take the long view. How do you want your audience to feel after they’ve read your copy? What do you want them to do not only in the seconds after they finish, but the hours or days? What’s the bigger picture? Orient your copy around that… not around a single, specific action you want them to take in the next five seconds.

I’m a digital marketer by trade. To the industry crowd who read that last sentence and cringed, I apologize for not hawking the hyper-fast click-the-button mentality that permeates the conversion-driven thinking of our industry.

Here’s where my headspace is at: sell your audience on what’s in it for them that’s lasting, and they’ll come back for more over the long haul. Don’t fuck and chuck. Be generous in what you give, and save something for next time.

Understanding Medium Context

In most digital mediums, audience behaviour is as much driven by the interaction elements and experience design of the platform as it is the content. What’s that mean? The placement and colour of the buttons, size of images, and animation elements work together to draw attention away from your words. Not by choice, of course… [most] designers aren’t evil like that.

What’s that mean for your copy? Examine the visual layout of where your copy will live. Map out what catches your eye, and use that knowledge when you’re writing. The most important things that you have to say will be more effective near the design elements with the highest visual priority. Writing in a responsive design context can make that incredibly challenging, because your words will move around based on the size of the device. If you want to get ultra data-geek on that problem, look through the analytic data for the medium you’re writing in. Pick out the most popular screen resolution amongst your visitor traffic stats, and view the page layout at that resolution. Not perfect, but it will give you a sense of how to plan the structure of your words.

This is part two of a three part series. See the rest:

Part I: Getting in the Mood

Part III: Anatomy of a Great Ad

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