Deal with it, advertisers. Interactive copywriting differs from traditional copywriting. But how?
First: Don’t throw out the baby with the soggy diaper. Declaring yourself an interactive copywriter requires you to master the skills of traditional copywriting. If you’re going to enjoy success in this business, you still must be able to:
- Concept with an interactive designer or art director
- Come up with 9,003 big ideas and executions
- Endure dirty looks from creative directors
- Come up with better big ideas and executions
- Write smart, compelling, conceptual copy
That’s hard. No matter what kind of copywriter you call yourself, chances are good you’ll need to attend an advertising portfolio school or take a concentrated, mentor-guided journey before landing that first job. Building up to interactive copywriting requires mastery of additional considerations:
1. Your audience cares. (Hallelujah!)
Because online and mobile initiatives require active participation, people reading your bullet points, listening to your podcast or watching your spot hold you to a higher standard. You must be able to answer their questions and make them smarter. This means you must be able to weave conceptual solutions with meaty, often expletory, content.
2. Your audience needs you to be good at Jenga.
Interactive copywriting is how we create choose-your-own adventure stories for corporate America. It doesn’t matter how well you can write. If you can’t create (or collaboratively understand) site maps and information architecture, you’re ignoring user experience. Your copy will fail. In other words, you’ve got to keep a beanie and a pocket protector in your soul.
3. Your audience wants to be told what to do.
Yes, traditional copywriting includes calls to action. But you’re not trying for a point-something percent response rate. Part trail guide and part waiter, you must eliminate guesswork and name action steps clearly and compellingly. Tell them to open the e-newsletter, download the widget or bookmark for a time when their boss isn’t peering over their shoulder.
4. But, your audience wants to tell you what to do.
As a wise mentor put it, interactive isn’t another media space for messages. It’s fundamentally changing the nature of branded conversation. Your audience wants to take part in your creations. Allow them to customize, personalize and navigate their own journey with your brand. Give them space to speak up.
5. Your audience is ready to run with the message.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the term viral marketing? Or social media? Meaning your boss wants you to crank out a blockbuster right now? In order for someone to pass along your message, you must make it compelling (hilarious, unusual or somehow otherwise relevant), customizable and somehow better when shared.
Interactive copywriting adds distinctly new skills to the traditional bread and rum butter of Mad Men-esque copywriting. That’s cool. After all, geek is the new glamorous.
I’ve been on Web content strategy binge lately. I’ve been wondering if one way we can increase the effectiveness of our online efforts is simply have smarter copy?
MIMA to the rescue. I was thrilled when MIMA recently hosted a Web Content event featuring speaker Ginny Redish, author of the best-selling book Letting Go of the Words – Writing Web Content that Works. Redish focused on the concept of speaking to the site visitor and giving them what they need. Seems like a basic concept, but this is often lost on many marketing folks who put up websites.
Consider the difference between print and online content:
Print- Push Technology, you start the engagement with the customer.
Web- Pull Technology, the visitor starts the conversation.
If the visitor is starting the conversation and the average time spent on the homepage is 30 seconds, you have to capture their attention… fast.
Overall Tips for Web Content:
- Mesh your business goals with the visitors’ goals
- Visitor is not looking for a document, he is looking for information
- Don’t focus on YOU, how wonderful you are, your mission statement, etc
- Don’t put a lot of words on the page, put the right words on the page
- Respect visitors’ time: use short paragraphs, lists, visuals
Content Writing Tips:
- Use language appropriate to the visitor based on the target audience
- Heat maps show an F pattern is used when scanning content, so using bold headings and sub-headings to make it easier to scan and break up copy
- Change paragraphs to bulleted lists
- Put the main point first (inverted pyramid)
- Use personal pronouns
- Put yourself in the place of the visitor and consider questions the visitor may have, then get to the point with the answer
- Add links, if appropriate, to keep the visitor engaged on your site and to keep them from searching elsewhere
- Name links (and anchor text) in a way that the visitor will know what to expect when they click
- Find out what keywords visitors are searching for to reach your site and write with these keywords in mind
These tips are a great starting point for anyone wanting to optimize their website content. For the complete presentation, a video can be found: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/858588
We are thrilled to welcome Erin Matson as a guest blogger for Online Marketing Mavens blog. She is a writer and activist. She is currently a Senior Interactive Copywriter at an advertising agency and on the Board of Directors at National Organization for Women. You may also enjoy her blog, radtothemax.com in which she challenges us to feel things, think about issues, and ideally help her advance women’s rights. We are smarter for knowing her.
My friend thinks my job sucks. I think he sucks and you should, too (at least if you want your business to succeed).
Thing is, my friend and I have the same job – if you ask him. Recently I did over instant messenger. “Erin, I’m not trying to offend you,” he said as we chatted from our respective advertising agencies. Then he told me interactive copywriting is traditional copywriting with lower standards.
I’m not offended. I know most Big Deal Creative Directors of Today, many of them Big Deal Copywriters of Yesterday, reward that attitude. Those guys hire my friend and give him raises when he says that.
Not for long.
If you’re strong enough not to get seduced by the open bar at insider award shows (or are an unusually clairvoyant drunk), you know that the biggest deal in advertising remains what it always has been: the customer. Sadly, that customer rarely gives a millisecond for even the award-winning headlines, TV and radio spots.
Enter neat-o! Customers, prospects and lonely people with insomnia actually pay attention to interactive. That means copywriters, creative teams and businesses contracting advertising agencies can use their work to influence the market side of marketing. Add that up: Interactive is on the cusp of becoming a bigger deal.
I’ll agree with my friend that most interactive copywriting sucks right now, but I think the entire polarized nation could agree that most advertising copywriting sucks harder than an aardvark on top of the ant community’s Kilimanjaro. If we do have the same job it’s to write as hard as we can. People don’t care about any form of writing unless it’s spot-on. That’s hard to do.
So I’m not offended. I know my friend will figure out that he needs to care about interactive copywriting within the next few years, and he’ll give me a call for tips then. There are a few things that are different. I’ll deal with them in a future post here.