Day 2 – What to Do if Words Don’t Come Easy
Back in 1982, FR David sold 8 million copies of his song ‘Words’. He sang:
“Words don’t come easy to me,
how can I find the way to make you see I love you,
words don’t come easy.”
If like Mr David, words don’t come easy to you, then this is your day. While you may not want to tell your new and existing customers that you love them, you do want them to know why they should work with you.
Understanding what your reader wants to read
The ’31 Days to Write Better Copy’ is not a sequential series. However, I wanted to devote Day 2 to follow up on the homework from Day 1. Day 1 of the ’31 Days to Write Better Copy’ helped you look at your message from your audience’s point of view.
From Day 1’s homework, you will have gotten a better understanding of
- Your readers’ purpose for reading your piece
- The level of interest they have in your subject
- How knowledgeable they are on your topic
Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail
One of the main reasons that words don’t come easy to many people is because they don’t feel confident enough. Most business owners and executives are confident speaking on the phone and one-on-one yet words fail when writing.
The more preparation you do before you write, the more effective the piece will be and the more confident you will be when writing.
Write a list
Once you’ve found out more about your target audience, you should create a list of what they like, what they don’t like, what language they use and how formal (or not) their interactions are. This will give you greater awareness of your audience. You’ll discover things such as
- Your audience likes to answer questions
- They prefer straight-talking information
- Testimonials are important
- White-papers don’t apply to the audience
- They wouldn’t read a blog if you paid them
- They are used to reading text in the third person
A secondary benefit to writing a list is that you’ll now start noticing what other suppliers are doing or saying, what they are advertising and how they write their messages. Be prepared to be inspired for future promotional material.
Where to look for information
Many clients ask where can they find out more about their audience. You won’t find it in any one specific place. But reading a few places will allow you to join the dots and you’ll start to see a common theme.
These can be hidden gems when looking for information. People who comment on forums generally do so in an informal nature. There are forums on everything, from general interest to business, entertainment to farming. You just need to pick the right ones for you.
A good starting point is Big Boards which promotes itself as the largest list of message boards and forums on the web . Another way is to google a local forum related to your business.
2. Trade Magazines
Nothing beats reading about your industry than trade magazines. You can read the tone which articles are written in, giving you a good indication of the tone and style that readers like. It will also give you ideas as to what is topical or of interest to your audience.
While more general in nature, you can pick out stories that you know your audience is interested in. When reading stories applicable to your audience, ask yourself what is the headline, what is the first paragraph and what is quoted. Such answers will offer more information about your audience.
4. Social Media
The Internet is alive with social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace, Audioboo, blogs, YouTube – the list is endless. Find your ‘water cooler’ sites. By this I mean, where your audience hangs out and has the chat, like the watercooler at work. You’ll find much information about your readers likes and dislikes here.
A word of caution, however, be careful to validate opinions. Make sure that they are not the opinion of one or two in your industry. If you write to the strong opinions of one or two and not the majority, it could be detrimental.
Day 2 Homework
1. Take an hour to browse through the Internet, trade publications and the newspapers that you have to hand.
2. Bookmark sites that you think are worth monitoring
3. Tear out articles of interest and put them into a folder called ‘Writing Ideas’
Becoming aware of what your reader wants to read will give you the confidence to write. You’ll soon find that words will come easier to you, as will ideas.
As a reward for doing your homework, here is the classic 1980s video to FR Davids romantic ballad.