Why a copywriter is just like a plumber (sort of)

Plumbing CopywritingMost businesses recognise that to get the best results you need to employ the best people, yet some still won’t employ a copywriter. That’s despite everyone including Google consistently telling us all the time how important great content is.

Instead they rely on their own abilities or ask their staff, usually those already committed to other tasks within the business, to create their copy for them.

In my experience, this is true particularly of small businesses. Most medium to large organisations now recognise how essential content marketing is. They either employ in-house writers or use external resources like a copywriting agency or freelancers.

All have their merits.

For some though the rationale is this:

Everyone can write, so why pay a professional copywriter? 

I get it.

You’ve already spent a fortune on a new website and it’s easy to see the value of what you’ve got.

Your developer has done lots of stuff you may not understand to make the site work properly.

Your designer has created a beautiful look and feel that makes the site look lovely.

You can see the expertise and skill that’s gone into it. You appreciate the talent backed up with years of experience that has enabled them to build something beautiful for you.

At this point the under-appreciated designers and developers out there are now banging their heads against the wall shouting: “If only, Derryck. If only that were true.”

But when it comes down to it, most businesses people aren’t able to build websites or design logos and so on. They don’t know how to code, how to customise a WordPress theme or use Photoshop or Illustrator. For all the software services and WYSIWIG editors out there, there are still some big barriers to entry.

Hang on though? What about the words? Everyone can write, can’t they? You don’t have to use fancy software for that, or learn complicated computer stuff.

You could do it yourself. Or maybe the web designer can do it for you. Maybe they’ve got a friend who could do it as part of the cost. Maybe you’ve got a friend that’s done a bit of blogging who could do it.

And what happens once you’ve launched the site?

When budgets are tight, blog posting, long tail web pages or regular emails are the last thing you want to be spending money on. Get the intern to do it. Get your sales person to do it.

Don’t do it at all (Seriously? And how are people going to find your site?)

Unless you know and understand what a copywriter does then you may think that, because everyone can write, you can pretty much get anyone to write your content.

And that could be a terrible mistake.

The plumber analogy

If you think of your copywriter as you would your plumber then it’s easier to recognise the value of using someone with the right skill set.

You wouldn’t pay someone with no experience of plumbing to fix your boiler, even though everyone (pretty much) can hold a wrench or a screwdriver.

The results would almost certainly be disastrous.

Like a plumber, as a copywriter you have to develop the skills that allow you to not only respond to problems that your clients have but also to give advice and carry out work that will save them money and improve their lives (businesses).

Richard Bandler, founder of NLP and patron saint of sales people (and perhaps even plumbers) everywhere has a good analogy in his book, The Structure Of Magic (a must-read for anyone interested in the art of persuasion) which I’ve paraphrased here:

A ship owner was having trouble with the boiler on one of his cruise ships so he called in a specialist ship plumber. This ship owner was incredibly mean and he told one of his managers to watch what the plumber did to make sure he got his money’s worth. The plumber arrived and spent about half an hour looking around the boiler before tapping in a single rivet and presenting a bill for £500. When the ship owner heard the manager’s report of what the boiler repairman had done he was furious and demanded to know why he was paying £500 for a single rivet. The plumber sent back an itemised invoice, which read: Cost of 1 rivet- 50 pence Knowing where to tap- £499.50

OK, I’m laying it on with a trowel… or perhaps a wrench… but you get the idea.

If you want to avoid disasters, you need to employ someone with the right knowledge and skills.

So what skills does a copywriter have that distinguishes them from everyone else who can hold a pen or tap away at a keyboard?

  1. Writing ability.

Obvious? Perhaps. But since Big Star was founded in 2005 I have worked with hundreds of freelance copywriters and I have seen well over 1000 CVs. Most of those writers could place words together to form sentences and communicate things reasonably well. (NB: A surprisingly large percentage could not.)

But only a small number could really write.

What do I mean by that?

Good writing has flow. Good writing is readable. Good writing conveys the essence of an idea simply and confidently. Good writing has style (and the best writing has a style so idiosyncratic that it is immediately identifiable with its author.)

There are lots of tools now that can help writers turn mediocre prose into decent work. We’ve talked about Hemingway and Grammarly when we’ve discussed how to make your writing more readable.

They can get you so far.

However, when I look for a new freelance copywriter to join our team I look for those who are born writers. The ones who have kept a diary since they were five years old, who were voracious readers as kids, who started their first novel at thirteen and wrote embarrassing poetry on the back of till receipts when they were working at the checkout of Marks & Spencer’s.

Education in something like English or journalism is often a good indicator but it’s not a given that someone with the right academic qualifications is a good writer.

It’s difficult to quantify exactly what I look for – I’ve got a good eye for the “naturals”. Some common factors include:

  • word economy
  • “flow”/rhythm
  • logical structure
  • lack of repetition
  • clear and understandable

The best test is to read their work. How does it feel when you read it? Does it make sense? Are you compelled to read more? Does it have life to it?

2. Speed

Speed is important primarily because it affects cost – just as it does with a plumber.

Given a similar level of experience and ability, a writer who can create a compelling product description in fifteen minutes is a far better proposition than one who takes a whole day.

It’s not just about cost though. A writer who understands that work needs to be delivered quickly and accurately, understands the commercial pressures that anyone in business faces.

That makes it more likely that they will understand your business, and the specific commercial pressures you face.

3. Technical understanding – SEO and content marketing

Just like our plumber, any copywriter worth their salt needs to understand the technical skills involved in their trade and the innovations and trends that can lead to better results.

Knowledge of SEO is an essential part of web copywriting. In 2015, all copywriters must understand the technical demands of their craft and grasp that the days of keyword stuffed content, rehashed material or just plain waffle is not going to cut it.

There are tools and research available to assist in developing content that people want to read and to measure the efficacy of the content you produce.

Your copywriter needs to understand what works and what doesn’t. Right now, for example, the most shared content is useful content – content that helps you make a decision or solve a specific problem.

Writers should also understand the context in which their writing is being used – and how it can be shared and reused for maximum value.

4. An understanding of business and the needs of your client 

A good copywriter should be able extract the key benefits from your product or service and present those to your customers in a way that persuades them to part with their hard-earned cash – and feel happy about it.

They should be able to understand your business objectives and advise on how to use written content to support, and even improve, your goals.

Not all writers are able to do this and I’ll let you into a little secret:

Lots of writers don’t know or care much about business.

They would much rather be writing their screenplay, scribbling poetry or finishing their novel.

That’s OK. None of those things are bad in themselves. There are probably plenty of plumbers who aren’t that passionate about plumbing, who get through the day job so they can indulge their hobby of ballroom dancing or wicker basket weaving.

It’s just that those writers who understand and are excited about business and have an entrepreneurial instinct are worth a lot to you.

Not only will they get the wider context of your writing project and the direction you want to take with your brand, they will give you advice on how good writing can make your business better.

If we go back to our plumber example, then he’s the kind of person who will look at your water tank and tell you that you need a replacement as it’s just about to fall through the roof. Or he’ll advise you that if you just go out and buy a 5p washer and replace it yourself, then you won’t have to get a new set of £200 taps. Or he’ll put you in touch with an electrician that can sort out the bathroom light that’s been broken for years.

Ultimately, the type of copywriter who will write enough words to just finish the brief is a cost to your business. Whereas a good copywriter is an investment, and their work will repay that investment many times over.

By now, even if you haven’t got my plumber analogy, you’ll have some understanding of the state of my house. But then I’m not a plumber. I’m a copywriter.

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7 Steps To Success In Travel Content Marketing

7 Steps To Travel Content MarketingAccording to figures released by StatisticBrain in 2015, a little over 148million travel bookings are made online every year, or 57% of all travel bookings. How many potential customers are you missing out on by having a mediocre travel content marketing strategy?

Having a successful digital marketing strategy isn’t just about having an exceptional website. Even mastery of individual disciplines in online marketing isn’t enough.

You need to put the pieces together to create a coherent brand that carries your message to your customers, your investors, and everyone within your organisation.

The glue that holds everything together is your content. Here’s are seven areas to focus on:

  1. Brand story: Take your customers on a journey

If you’re going to convince your web visitors to book their holiday, activities, flights or accommodation with you, you’re going to have to take them on a journey of the mind first. There are a lot of travel firms of all flavours out there – why should they trust their precious money and leisure time with yours?

The most effective way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is to have a compelling and authentic brand story. That brand story should combine your USPs, your history and your overall vision – and it should talk directly to your ideal customer.

According to a recent Forbes article by George Bradt, there are three imperatives of authentic branding:

  • Honour the brand heritage’ – If your brand has a long history, leverage it in your brand story to boost your credibility. “People want to know WHY you do what you do before they will pay attention to WHAT you do and HOW you do it,” says Bradt.
  • ‘Live in the present’ – Emphasise what is special about your travel brand today – what makes it special and how will travellers benefit from this?
  • ‘Create the future’ – “Make sure everything you do and say reinforces the values you and your customers will hold most dear,” Brandt says. “You can’t make up the past but you can create your own brand heritage going forward.”

In applying a holistic brand story like this to your online presence, you should endeavour to ensure consistency across all platforms (website, blog, social etc). Once you have created a compelling story, you then need to ensure that everyone who works with you and for you understands it, particularly your content creators.

Find out more about brand story

2. Copywriting: Employ travel copywriting best practice 

The content on your website, aligned with your brand story, is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools at your disposal. But not all web content is created equal, and for maximum potency it should follow web copywriting best practice.

  • Be concise – According to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, “On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” That means that you need to engage them quickly and concisely – lose the fluff and get straight to the point.
  • Talk benefits, not features – As Elmer Wheeler once said, ‘don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle’. People are far less interested in the specifications of your holiday than they are in what it will do for them. Will it excite them, relax them, broaden their horizons, give them a tan, enable them to understand the local culture better? Whatever it is, make sure you emphasise it.
  • Break up your content – Reading on a screen is more difficult than reading in print. On top of this, people tend to ‘scan’ for specific information rather than read the whole piece. On both counts, you should break up your content with plenty of subheaders and bulletpoints that ‘signpost’ each topic. Shorter paragraphs will also aid clarity.
  • Know your audience – If your holidays are aimed at middle-aged couples, it’s no good pitching your content as if you’re talking to twenty-somethings. Create the personas that best represent your ideal (most profitable) customer then talk to them in a way that will appeal specifically to them. Knowing your audience will also affect the details you include and those that you omit in your destination guides.
  • Use a consistent tone and style – Once you’ve determined what tone and style of writing will play best with your audience, you need to take steps to ensure its consistency – particularly if you’re outsourcing. Creating a style guide which will keep all of your writers on track and on message is highly recommended. If you require a particularly high volume of content then outsourcing to a professional copywriting agency is often the most effective solution. Having a style guide will help them to write content that is consistent and true to your brand.

Read more about travel copywriting

3. Mobile: Get into people’s pockets

Today a rapidly growing number of holidays are being booked and researched via mobile or tablet. It’s an irreversible trend.

In the US for example, 40% of travellers booked their holidays online during the first six months of 2014, according to a report by Criteo. The way that people consume and assimilate information is changing. This applies even when they’re NOT on a mobile device.

The two key changes are:

  • Brevity – When someone looks for information on their smart phone, it’s often in response to a sudden thought that they’ve had, or a conversation that they’re having. They’re not looking to read anything lengthy, they’re looking for specific answers as fast as possible.
  • Information Infidelity – Today, web users are far less likely to turn to a preferred source of information for their travel needs. They will instead opt for the content which is the most convenient, the most valuable and the most relevant to them. When they’ve absorbed that information, they may well turn to a entirely different source for their next query.

To make the most of this shift, travel firms need to be thinking ‘mobile first’ with all your content.

That means creating short, snappy pieces of content which are laser-focused and get straight to the point. Think about the kind of things that people search for on a whim: ‘What’s the weather like in Algiers in June’, ‘how many beaches are there in Ibiza’, ‘what are the best attractions in Rome’.

If you can create content that targets these needs, you can drive extra traffic and conversions.

Read more about writing for mobile

4. SEO: Put your brand on the digital map

Before people can choose you, they have to find you. In order to compete at the top level, your brand needs to be at the cutting edge of search engine optimisation practice. In 2015, that means:

  • Having a responsive website which works equally well on mobile and desktop
  • Offering users a large amount of high quality, relevant content
  • Subtly using the keywords that people are searching for, eg. ‘flights to Athens’, ‘holidays in southern France’
  • Creating content which is will be frequently ‘liked’ and shared on social networks
  • Creating a ‘buzz’ around your brand that will help it thrive as ‘non-linked brand citations’ come to the fore in SEO.

5. Destination Guides: Guide your customers’ expectations

As the saying goes, it’s all about ‘location, location, location’ when it comes to travel copywriting.

But there are myriad ways to paint a picture of any location or vacation, and so it’s important to consider what style of destination guide will work best for your brand.

Most importantly, you should avoid clichés – they don’t really tell the reader anything about the destination, and more importantly they make your holidays seem boring and ‘samey’.

In an excellent piece on this topic recently, eConsultancy’s Dan Brotzel points out that, “A Google search on the phrase ‘unspoilt beaches’ yields 242,000 results… it’s a phrase so overused that it’s become meaningless.” Likewise, he says, you should avoid phrases like ‘stunning vista’, ‘hidden gem’, ‘city of contrasts’ and that ever-popular ‘rich cultural heritage’.

So what should you be saying about your destinations instead?

  • Research. You need specific detail so your travel copywriters can actually tell the reader something useful and interesting about the place, rather than trying to dazzle them with superlatives. Your guide should be exactly that – a guide which sounds like it’s written by someone with in-depth knowledge of the location.
  • Headlines. Use headers to give your guides a familiar structure that can be repeated over and over, so people can quickly find exactly what they’re looking for (‘eating’, ‘activities’, ‘key attractions etc).
  • Add Value. If you really want to provide your customers with added value you may want to present a series of ‘curated’ travel guide experiences, in which you suggest in-depth itineraries and insider knowledge such as where the best places to go river swimming are, or where you can go to get the most authentic plate of local paella.
  • Write for your customer. Consider what kind of holiday people are looking for – if they’re on a family break they’re going to be interested in different things than if they’re looking to indulge in a romantic weekend away.

In an interesting article on curated content in EyeforTravel, Andrew Lacy, founder of travel personalisation service Zaptravel, says, “Our belief is that we need less not more choice. Curation is key… at Zaptravel we are highly focused on curation to the point where we don’t even want to tell you what we left out… People are overwhelmed, and we need to use technology to make life easier.”

To give you more of an idea of what curated travel means, Zaptravel’s content titles include:

  • ‘I would love to go to a beach’
  • ‘I fancy discovering top hikes’
  • ‘cool tech events’

By curating useful travel content you can not only make your site more useful to web users, but also build your authority as a top travel brand.

6. Social: Go beyond web content to generate interest

Social signals are of growing importance when it comes to SEO.

According to Moz’s Search Engine Rankings 2015, ‘page-level social metrics’ (defined as being ‘Quantity/quality of tweeted links, Facebook shares, Google +1’s etc to the page’) were rated as having an influence factor of 4 out of 10 by a panel of more than 150 SEO experts.

While not the highest ranking factor, this places it at 9th. It highlights the growing importance of social.

To benefit from this new paradigm you need to be creating social-orientated content that people will actually want to share with their friends. This in itself increases brand exposure and drives additional traffic to your site.

So how can you use social content to achieve this?

  • Create valuable blog posts – A valuable blog post is one that teaches the reader something, inspires them, solves a problem or entertains them. You might create a series of posts that provide inspiration for would-be travellers by highlighting aspects of specific destinations. Or your blog copywriters could generate useful guides on things like, ‘how to survive a family holiday’, or ‘The top five culinary destinations in the world’.
  • Get social – All of your blog posts should be promoted through an extensive range of social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. You should also increase engagement with your customers by sharing interesting external links to relevant travel news and other useful information.

In bolstering your social strategy, it is important to ensure that you maintain a consistent tone in line with your other marketing channels. As we discussed earlier, a brand style guide can be distributed to all content creators to this end.

Read more about writing great travel blog posts

7. Internal communications: Strengthen your brand’s internal connections

All your staff, your partners, your agencies and your suppliers are ambassadors for your brand.

Communicate to them the same ideals and messages that you are trying to get across to your customers. For example, your customer service staff are much more likely to stay on message when taking a phone query if your staff newsletter and other internal communications are communicating these brand values to them effectively.

To strengthen your internal communications and increase their impact upon the overall success of your travel firm, you should ask yourself three questions:

  1. What values and ideals are we communicating to our staff?
  2. Are these in line with the values we wish our customers to perceive?
  3. What can we change in our internal communications to align the two?


If you need help putting your brand jigsaw together or with high quality travel copywriting, get in touch with Big Star Copywriting now. We’ve written for a diverse range of travel companies including Hotels4U, Hilton Hotels, FlyThomasCook, Visit Devon and the English Riviera Tourism Company.




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Copywriting tips: How to write the perfect travel blog post

How to write the perfect travel blog post

For travel companies, writing a blog can be a powerful way of generating additional interest, driving web traffic and expressing your brand voice.

But according to Travel Age West “few [travel firms] are spending much time making regular updates to their website, and fewer still are doing any form of blogging.”

But travel agents and others, “need to reconsider adding blogging to their social media mix, as the numbers demonstrating impact are compelling,” the post goes on to say. “According to HubSpot, companies that blog get 55% more website visitors… more importantly, 57% of all business have acquired a new customer through their company blog.”

These figures demonstrate the impact that good travel copywriting can have, but how does one go about creating an effective blog that will provide the maximum return on investment?

A blog is not a single entity, but a collection of blog posts, so the answer lies in consistently creating and publishing perfect travel blog posts.

How do you do that? Read on…

What is a perfect travel blog post?

Before we look at what ingredients constitute a perfect blog post, we should identify what exactly we mean by one, more specifically, the effects that it will have. For a company operating in the travel sector, a perfect blog post should:

  • Bring extra traffic to the website
  • Capture interest and promote brand exposure through social media
  • Strengthen brand loyalty
  • Drive additional bookings
  • Reflect positively on your travel brand and boost your credibility

So, how do you go about creating this perfect beast?

Step one: Pick an interesting/useful/inspiring topic

In order to create a travel blog post which stands out above the rest as exceptional, you must first choose a topic which is genuinely interesting. You can get everything else right, but if the topic of your blog is about something dull and tedious, or is blatantly self-serving, it will be doomed to obscurity. It’s fine to have the occasional post about your latest offer or other service, but the majority of your posts should either excite readers or provide them with valuable advice. To give you a few examples of interesting and useful topics, let’s take a look at some of Thompson’s recent blog topics:

Each of these topics connects with people and their holiday dreams, either by giving them inspiration and ideas for the kind of things that they might do while on holiday, or by giving them advice on how to get the most out of their holiday.

To create a blog post that will really resonate with your prospective customers, step inside their shoes for a moment and ask yourself what they’d really like to know, or what might tantalise their wanderlust.

Step two: Get specific

Once you’ve picked a killer topic, you then need to ensure that you include plenty of detailed information in your post that deals with that topic. It’s no good drawing readers in with a hot subject if you then take a wishy-washy approach to it that never really gets to the nub of the matter. People want information they can use, and useful information deals with specifics.

Over on the Thomas Cook blog, many of their posts deal with specific elements of a destination. For example, the post ‘Top 7 Free Things to Do in Gran Canaria’ highlights seven very specific things – ideas that readers can latch onto – such as walking the Masapalomas dunes, climbing up to Roque Nublo, or walking through the Jardin Canario botanical gardens.

By being specific about what visitors can do, rather than being vague and talking about ‘walking on the beach’ or ‘enjoying a drink at the bar’, the travel company makes the ideas more engaging. Why? Because people can better envisage doing these things.

Step three: Structure eloquently

When people read your blog they’re looking to be entertained, but they’re also often seeking information. For instance, if your blog is about Rome, there may be one specific aspect of the city that they’re keen to discover more about. If they can find that information easily then they’re more likely to continue to read the rest of the post, and you can help them do so by structuring your post clearly and logically.

In ‘A Lady in London’s’ ‘Guide to Summer in San Francisco, she adopts a conversational style, but at the same time she uses helpful sub-headers to sign-post the piece for reading ease. These include:

  • ‘Summer Weather in San Francisco’
  • ‘Summer Festivals in San Francisco’
  • ‘Day Trips from San Francisco’
  • ‘Farmer’s Markets in San Francisco’

It’s worth noting that using keyphrases such as these as sub-headers will also help Google and other search engines to determine the relevance of the post to users’ queries, and this in turn may boost inbound traffic numbers.

Use plenty of sub-headers and bullet points as appropriate in your post, to break it up and make it easier to scan. It’s also a good idea to include pictures which can further illustrate your piece and draw attention to specific areas.

Step four: Provide value

The more useful information you can provide, the more effective your blog will be in converting visitors into customers and in garnering social shares. So what kind of information do people mostly seek?

  • Information about the culture of a destination
  • Practical information about getting about, money etc
  • Details of specific landmarks, attractions and activities in a destination/ region
  • Speculative information about types of trips. ie. ‘the world’s top ten dive spots’ or ‘Seven natural wonders to visit before you die’

In boutique hotel experts’ Mr and Mrs Smith’s blog post, ‘Five reasons to visit Malta in summer’, they very methodically provide a great deal of information that readers can actually use to decide upon and plan their trip. The post focuses on five events taking place and provides specific information on each. For example, the entry for the Delicata Wine Festival reads:

“When: 6-9 August
Where: Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valetta
What: You didn’t know they made wine in Malta?… All the more reason to seize the chance for a sampling at this three-night winery-hosted event, enhanced by live music, fine food and a tipsily sophisticated party atmosphere…”

The emphasis here is on useful information which people can use to determine whether A) Malta is a destination for them, and B) what time of year is best to visit.

Provide value to your readers, and you may find that repay you with their custom.

Aim for continuous perfection

After a little experimenting with these guidelines, you should have nailed the art of the travel blog down to a precise formula that can be replicated on a weekly basis. It’s then just a matter of being consistent and keeping fresh ideas flowing. If you begin running short of material, you can always ask your blog readers if there are any specific travel topics or issues that they’d like to know more about.

If you’d like any more advice regarding your travel blog, or you’re looking to outsource your blogging to a professional UK copywriting agency, get in touch with Big Star Copywriting.


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5 ways to INSTANTLY improve any written business communication

bottle pixels Whatever sector you’re in and whatever role you play in your company, accurate, effective and compelling written communications are a key factor in success.

It might be a press release, a new product launch presentation, training materials for sales staff, product descriptions or any customer-facing copy – whatever you’re writing, good copy has the power to:

  • Convince your clients that your products or services are right for them
  • Ensure your team or even your whole organisation is on the same page
  • Make the right impression with colleagues or managers

Many people are concerned about whether their written communication skills are good enough, particularly if they’re communicating in English as a second language.

If that’s you, then you may have even thought about enrolling in a course to improve your writing and language skills, or employ a copywriting agency to work for you.

Both are viable options. Both take time and money.

However, all it takes to dramatically improve your written business communications instantly is a little knowledge and effort.

Here are five ways to start writing like a pro:

1. Adopt the inverted pyramid structure

pyramidIf you’ve ever read a newspaper or a piece of online journalism, you’re already familiar with the inverted pyramid style of writing.

The inverted pyramid refers to the practice of putting the most interesting, important and relevant information at the very start of a piece of writing, following this with other significant details, and leaving less vital background information until later in the piece.

There are several main reasons for using this style.

  • It hooks the reader right from the start. It gives them the ‘gist’ of the story before they read on.
  • It means that they can exit reading the piece at any point but still get the general message behind it.
  • It makes it easy for editors to simply cut lines or paragraphs out from the end if they need to conserve page space.

So why is this relevant for communicating with customers and colleagues?

According to the web usability expert Jakob Nielsen, “Users often leave web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer.”

The same is true of business emails.

People are bombarded with dozens, even hundreds of emails every day, so get straight to the point. Support the main points with strong evidence as quickly as possible. There’s no time for teasing or suspense.

How to use the pyramid style:

When writing anything, consider the following questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

  • ‘Frontload’ your content or email by putting everything people need to know into the title headline and the first paragraph.
  • That way, the reader can quickly work out whether they want to read on. If they don’t, then they’ve already got the message you wanted to convey.
  • Use sub-headers to signpost the rest of your content.
  • Elaborate on and give evidence for your main point with statistics and quotes where necessary. Cross-check statistics to make sure they are accurate and up-to-date.
  • Make it easy for the reader to stop reading at any point but still come away with the ‘meat’ of your content.

2. Write in plain English

writeJargon is a turn-off. It’s often used in a business environment in an attempt to appear intelligent or to impress by making something simple appear complex.

Unnecessary use of jargon can harm your writing. This is because it can make your content difficult to understand, resulting in a dry and lifeless style that sends the reader to sleep, or to your competitor’s website.

There is a place for jargon of course, particularly when communicating complex concepts to an expert-level audience. Generally though, if it is possible to use a simpler, more common word you should do so.

It’s not just jargon that causes communication problems. Other barriers to easy communication include:

  • Overly long sentences and paragraphs
  • Sentences with lots of clauses
  • Over-use of ‘buzzwords’, acronyms and abbreviations

The antidote to this is to write in ‘plain English.’ That is, English which is easy to understand by anyone on the first reading.

Mark Morris, Head of Clear English at the Department of Health, wrote on the Government Digital Service blog about a survey which found that 80% of people preferred sentences written in plain English when reading a legal document.

He continues, ”The more educated the person, the more specialist their knowledge, the greater their preference for plain English”.

Morris concluded that, “In work, we write so we can do something. If you want your writing to achieve its goal, then do all you can to make life easy for your reader.”

If people don’t understand what you’re saying, they’re unlikely to take the action that you desire.

How to write in Plain English:

Make sure that your writing:

  • Is free of unnecessary jargon and abbreviations
  • Is written in the active voice
  • Is composed of relatively short sentences (20-25 words) and paragraphs
  • Does not use complex words where simpler ones will do
  • Explores only one topic or idea per paragraph
  • Is written with ease of reading in mind

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

3. Think mobile first


Today we use our mobile phones or tablets to view online content all the time. Research by Smart Insights shows that 80% of Internet users today use smartphones to search and browse the Internet.

This is changing our relationship towards information.

We want instant answers to small questions, and we’re promiscuous with our information sources.

Online businesses need to evolve their communications in line with this shift towards shorter attention spans and casual access of information while doing other things.

How to write for mobile first:

When writing your content specifically for mobile users, consider how the reader will view it via a mobile phone or tablet screen, and write accordingly.

This means you should:

  • Keep it short – Aim to write roughly half of what you would normally for desktop. Sentences and paragraphs should also be kept short to make it easier to read.
  • Use sub-headers and bullet points – These improve scannability, so people can find the information they want quickly and easily.
  • Get to the point – Because people are accessing your content on the move, it’s even more important that you don’t keep them hanging around. They won’t.

Remember EVERYONE lives in the mobile world ALL THE TIME. We are becoming used to consuming information in that way so even when writing other types of communication, whether it’s a sales presentation, a training manual or a press release, WRITE AS IF YOU WERE VIEWING IT ON A MOBILE DEVICE.

4. Use a conversational tone of voice


When writing for consumers or for a corporate audience, it can be tempting to adopt a very formal, rigid tone of voice to convey the impression of professionalism.

This is particularly true when the author is not a native English speaker. However, writing in an overly serious and business-like style can actually turn people off, as it can appear to be dull, cold and impersonal.

US-based copywriter E.T. Robbins says that, “A conversational style is the most effective form of copywriting… Why is it so effective? Simple. Your reader doesn’t have to struggle to understand the message. This ‘Brain comfort” is important when you consider all the different messages vying for our attention every day.”

When you talk to people in a conversational tone of voice, you sound more like a friend – someone the reader can trust.

How to write in a conversational way

When writing conversationally, simply try to write as you would speak to the person if they were there. There are a number of different techniques that you can use to achieve this, including:

  • Using short sentences
  • Asking rhetorical questions
  • Use contractions liberally
  • Keep your writing simple

Get a picture in your head of whom it is you’re writing for before you start. While you write imagine you’re having a conversation with them.

5. Use online tools to optimise your writing


In the four points above we’ve suggested a number of powerful methods for improving your business communications.

This final point however will require very little effort on your part. Once you’ve written your first draft, simply run it through one of these online tools to further optimise it.

How to use writing tools to improve your work:

Hemingway – Ernest Hemingway was renowned for his simple and direct writing style. The app named after him builds on this approach.

Simply feed in your content and Hemingway will highlight words and sentences that are overly complex, too long or use adverbs. It will also give your content a ‘readability’ score, which rates how easy it is to read.

GrammarlyParticularly useful if English isn’t your native language, Grammarly will automatically detect and instantly fix grammatical errors in your writing. Not only will this help to make your individual pieces of writing better; it can help you to learn from the mistakes that you commonly make so that you can eliminate them in future.

Whatever your sector or your role within your organisation, by following these guidelines you can very quickly improve your written communications.

One final thought. Before you start on any piece of writing, ask yourself:

“What’s the story I’m telling here?”

There’s a reason that much of the information we consume is presented in story form, whether a novel, a TV series, newspaper article or a piece of online content.

Human beings love stories.

We want to make sense of the information in front of us, and neatly packaging that information into an easily digestible story is a powerful way to do that.

In all of your business communications, consider what story you’re trying to tell, and how it fits into your wider brand story.

If you need help telling your story, why not drop us a line?

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How to create irresistible fashion copywriting that sells

In a world where consumers have virtually unlimited choice regarding what clothes they buy and where they get them from, to have a successful online fashion retail business  you need to ensure that everything you do is exceptional. Your clothes, exceptional. Your deals, exceptional. But you also need people to know how exceptional your offering is. That means utilising fashion copywriting which is irresistible.

Here we’d like to guide you through some of the fashion copywriting techniques that will help your brand to excel.

Preach to the choir 

Speak to your audience about what’s in their heart” – Jonathan Lister

Not everyone wants to buy your products. They don’t fit. They’re too expensive. They’re not the right style. But that’s fine; you weren’t going to sell them anything anyway.

Rather than trying to appeal to everyone, your fashion copywriting should speak directly to your core customers, using language, attitudes and perspectives that they’re familiar with. To do this you need to A) Know who your audience (your core demographic) is B) understand how to talk to them C) leverage this information in your copywriting.

If for example your main customers are teenage girls, then you should speak in a young, vibrant and fun voice that will resonate with them. Avoid the urge to throw lots of trendy ‘buzzwords’ or teen colloquialisms in there though as this will usually come across as insincere and forced. At the same time, avoid dull or over-elaborated language that will bore them.

Similarly if you’re selling high-end suits for men, adopt a professional and dependable tone of voice that will resonate with that particular audience.

‘Sell the sizzle’

Marketing guru Elmer Wheeler once said that marketers should “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. This principle is highly relevant to fashion copywriting, as people are not necessarily buying your clothes, they’re buying the way that they think your clothes will make them feel about themselves.

Wheeler elaborated on his now famous soundbite more by explaining that, “What we mean by the “sizzle” is the biggest selling point in your proposition – the main reasons why your prospects will want to buy. The sizzling of the steak starts the sale more than the cow ever did, though the cow is, of course, very necessary!”

In the same way, having exceptional clothes to sell is very necessary, but when you’re selling them you need to emphasise the benefits that your product will bestow. Will it make them sexier? More confident? Appear more professional? Provide complete comfort? Last for a particularly long time?

Understand what it is about your products that ‘sizzles’, and make sure that your copywriters are getting this across to your customers.

Brand your copywriting for success

“Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.” – Jonah Sachs

To ensure that your business experiences continued success rather than small victories with one or two popular products, you need to have a strong and consistent brand.

Branding for success means determining what makes your fashion retail business different from the competition, and telling a positive story that will set it in the best possible light. Within this story should be your unique selling propositions, which highlight what is special about your brand, and provide compelling reasons for people to buy from you.

Once you’ve created a brand blueprint, you need to put in place a system of ensuring that this branding is present and consistent across all of your product descriptions and website copy. The most effective solution is to create brand tone of voice and style document that can be easily distributed to in-house fashion copywriters and copywriting agencies as needed.

Think mobile first

Not so long ago, if someone was looking to buy new clothes they’d make a special trip to the high street, or set aside a portion of time for browsing through a catalogue. Today though, with most people owning a smartphone (and UK ownership levels predicted to reach 43million by 2017), things are far more spontaneous. People are clothes shopping on their lunch hour, on the train, whilst waiting for a bus, or are suddenly taken by the idea of buying a new dress while sitting watching TV.

Even if they’re not actually shopping on their mobile, the way people process information is changing to reflect the emerging mobile paradigm. They consume information in short nuggets and in very short spaces of time, and they’re far less loyal to one particular source. Therefore online businesses need to adapt their web content to be ‘mobile first’. This means:

  • Keeping copy succinct
  • Writing shorter sentences and paragraphs
  • Using sub-headers and bullet points for reading ease
  • Getting straight to the point and focusing on it throughout

Create power images

From novels and movies to television advertising and persuasive articles, imagery has the power to shape our minds and influence our behaviour. If you’ve ever read a good book that left a lasting impression, chances are it’s because the author created some compelling imagery to accompany the story. Could it be that the rolling green hills of Tolkien’s shire, the chaotic claustrophobia of Hunter S Thompson’s Las Vegas and the descriptions of your next product range all share something in common?

To leverage the power of imagery in your fashion copywriting you might try building pictures in your readers of minds of how they’ll look or feel or act when they’re wearing your clothes. For example you might plant the image in their mind of boldly striding through a crowded club or public space, or of enjoying themselves and feeling free at the beach, or taking part in an action sport in complete comfort.

Work out what people want, how your clothes can fulfil this need, and then create an image which will link these two together.

Bait, hook, sell 

As we mentioned earlier, people are increasingly promiscuous with their information sources and where they seek their solutions from. Though you may achieve a healthy loyal following who eagerly anticipate your product launches, many more will have more of a casual flirtation with your brand. Your goal with this latter group should be to very quickly entice them, convince them and then close the sale.

Bait – Alongside attractive images of your clothing products, your product descriptions should also be highly desirable. Use the techniques above to make this so.

Hook – Once you’ve got their attention, you need to hook them on what you have to offer by selling the sizzle as discussed earlier. Emphasise the benefits of your products, and bring in your brand USPs for maximum effect, such as affordability, luxury stylings or even something more practical like fast delivery times.

Sell – You’ve convinced them, but you haven’t made a sale until they’ve checked out. Your aim should be to make this process as quick, intuitive and straight forward as possible. Provide a clear call to action such as “hit ‘buy now’ to purchase this item”. When they take this action this should lead them straight to the checkout page, and everything about this should also be kept as clear and simple as possible.

If you consistently employ these techniques in your fashion copywriting, you should begin to see some great results. If you need any advice on creating irresistible online fashion content, or have a copywriting project you need handled, get in touch with Big Star Copywriting.

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How to leverage brand voice in short-form fashion content

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How to make your food product descriptions tastier

As an online food retail business, you probably spend a long time either creating your own products to make them as mouth-wateringly delicious as they can be, or assembling the kind of product ranges that culinary dreams are made of. And that’s great, but people can’t taste your products through the screen, and unless they’ve […]

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Five steps towards building a compelling brand story

Whatever sector you’re part of, if you want to be a recognisable and respected part of it, you need to build a solid brand story. If you want a place at the top of your particular food chain and you want conversions by the virtual bucket-load though, you need to make your brand story irresistibly […]

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In-house copywriter or copywriting agency?

If you’re considering taking on a copywriting agency or copywriter, you need to read this first.

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