Below are tips to help you find your writing magic from Lily Spencer – a leading non-profit copywriting consultant.
Writing is a highly individual process. It really helps if you feel good.
You might find you get comfort, buzz or joy writing:
- with music
- with food or a cuppa
- at a certain spot (café, desk with a view, particular room)
- in a quiet space, with all distractions blocked out
- straight after a walk in the park
- first thing when you wake up
- or late at night
In general, before you get started talk it out with someone with good insights and jot down some notes on:
- What are we trying to say?
- What are the key “sticky” bits – key lines, points, target audiences?
- Ohter bits we’d love to work in if we can (i.e. a point for the PS, something one of our allies would love for us to include etc.)
Then, do a 5 minute brainstorm, this can save hours down the track, and helps overcome any unconcious neves about the pressure to just sit down and come up with something brilliant.
Imagine the individual you’re writing for… someone who really gets you, is warm and receptive, but not already rusted-on for your cause. Someone who is open to what you have to say and while busy, wants you to convince them – and doesn’t have all day for you to do it! Your core audiences are not long-time activists or the issue experts you’ve been speaking with as you research your campaign.
The more specific you are with your insights, the more believable and valuable your message will feel.
You don’t have to be an expert to tell your story.
Cultivate a distinct voice, and personality with each email. Is your tone authentic? If it feels forced to you, it feels forced to the reader.
Warmth. Humour. Wry observation. Simple candour. Praise. Gratitude. Grounded optimism. A dash of quirkiness. Use them! People are generally bored. We always have time for the stuff that makes us feel something!
Imagery, analogies and metaphors from unexpected places like pop culture, history and sport make your words stick.
Mix up longer sentences with short, punchy ones.
It doesn’t have to be fancy; it has to ring true.
Always respect your reader enough to make your communication worthwhile for them.
If your opponents attack “you”, they attack “us”. Likewise, if “you” achieve something, it’s “our” achievement.
Watch out for:
- Overwhelming, losing or confusing your reader with different links away from the primary action, as well as large amounts of text.
- Clichés and over-used campaign/activist terms. They cause people to switch off without thinking.
- What excuse will your readers have for not doing what you want them to do? If you can’t get rid of them, introduce any elephants in the room.
- Don’t harp, nag, or guilt – unless you tell the audience that’s what you’re doing. A common pitfall for cause-related emails is to come off sounding a bit shrill. Your emails are not a chore to read.
Paint a vivid picture about what you’re against, but remember to also offer a shared vision of what you’re for. That’s how movements are built.
Remember head and heart. Not just the what and how, but the why.
If you’re stuck:
- Go read some amazing emails and get inspired
- Read what other people are writing about the issue, then pick the best of it and say it better or differently (‘How would the Daily Mail write it’ can be a useful question!)
- Talk to your peers. Give three minutes for a team subject-heading nomination, or ask people to voteon their favourite version of what’s been written.
- Talk to someone different to the usual suspects – ideally the kind of person you’d love to be swayed by your words. A (past or present) Conservative voter. Your dad. That guy from the coffee shop. A business owner. Nanna.
- Go for a swift walk. Walking has mythical powers to combat writer’s block.
- Lie to yourself and make up a deadline. What can you come up with in the next 15-20 minutes?
- Write it, then walk away. Get a coffee. Adrenaline works wonders, AND you’ll get in a walk.
- Keep a HAPPY file. Reading words of inspiration, motivation appreciation from real people will boost your mood instantly, and when you feel good…
- Reality check. Believing you have the weight of the world on your shoulders does not actually help you achieve anything.