Three ways to make your copy more creative
“Nobody ever sold anybody anything by boring them to death.”
— David Ogilvy
Ogilvy was right.
If you want someone to buy what you’re selling — whether you’re pitching products and services or positions and ideas — you must first engage them.
And nothing engages audience members quite so well as creative material. Creative elements get attention, communicate more clearly and enhance credibility. They paint pictures in your audience members’ minds so that they understand your points faster, enjoy your information more and remember it longer.
Here are three quick tips for making your copy more creative, engaging and effective:
1. Go beyond twist of phrase.
There’s nothing like wordplay to make your copy more eloquent. (Think Lincoln, Churchill and King.) But too often, writers stick with just a handful of rhetorical tools.
There is a world beyond alliteration and twist of phrase. From “anaphora” to “zeugma,” the more rhetorical devices you master, the more sophisticated and satisfying your copy will be.
One of my favorite literary gadgets is “compression of details.” Like squeezing together a lump of coal to make a diamond, compression of details condenses fascinating facts into a passage that’s more than the sum of its parts.
That’s the approach John Armato of Fleishman-Hillard took when he wrote this lead for a release about a survey for H&R Block:
That’s obviously much more compelling than a traditional lead like “H&R Block yesterday announced the results of a new survey on what kids say about taxes.” Yaaaaaaaaawn!
2. Translate numbers.
But sometimes only numbers can demonstrate the breadth or depth of an issue.
Make your numbers more meaningful by comparing them to something tangible.
One PR pro uses a line from the movie “Armageddon” to remind himself that comparisons make concepts easier to understand.
In the movie, the president’s staff is in a briefing about the giant asteroid. Just how big is it, they want to know. Finally, Billy Bob Thornton’s character says:
“It’s the size of Texas.”
Which means more: “261,797 square miles”? Or “the size of Texas”?
Don’t let statistics stultify your copy. Every time your finger reaches for the top row of the keyboard, ask yourself, “What’s this like?”
3. Create “driveway moments.”
I’ll bet this has happened to you:
You’re driving home, listening to a National Public Radio story. Suddenly you find yourself in your driveway, unable to leave the car until the story is over.
The ice cream may be melting, the babysitter may be waiting — but NPR has your attention until the very end of the piece.
NPR calls these “driveway moments,” stories that are so interesting, they compel their listeners’ rapt attention, no matter what else is competing for their time.
Want to put the power of driveway moments to work in your communications? Look for stories, anecdotes and narratives. They alone have the power to glue your audience members to your message.
Make your copy more creative
There’s an old joke among professional speakers.
“When should you use humor in a speech?” the young speaker asks the experienced orator.
“Only when you want to get paid,” the veteran answers.
A similar concept is true of writers. When should you use creative material in your copy? Only when you want your readers to pay attention.