Mention the phrase “corporate copywriting” and what springs to mind is a kind of neutral, jargon-heavy, personality-free style of writing that has – justly – been ridiculed in recent years. No wonder that every forward-thinking business is adopting a friendlier approach, ditching the management speak in favour of more direct, conversational prose that engages the reader and aims to tell a compelling brand story.
By nature, humans are gifted storytellers – not just novelists, journalists and copywriters who write for a living, but everyone. For thousands of years before the advent of the telly, we gathered around the fire to regale each other with tales of deeds done and left undone. We romanticised our love lives and boasted of our feats in battle.
You might think you’re rubbish at storytelling, but actually, you tell a story every time you meet someone new. Think about it. You go to a party, you meet someone new, and they ask about you…
“Hi Steve. Sarah tells me you are also a copywriter…”
“Yes, that’s right. I’ve been doing it now for over twelve years. Most of that at digital advertising agencies. What about you?”
And it goes on. We reveal a little about ourselves as a story. As the night goes on you find yourself telling more and more little stories about yourself. We do this in all our relationships – close or not. It’s the stories that give our lives meaning. Ever heard of ‘baggage’? That’s the case full of stories that we take with us wherever we go.
Find your plot
You know the scene in ‘City Slickers’ where Curly says he knows the secret of life and the guys ask him what it is and he holds up one finger? That’s what you need to find in your corporate copywriting.
The secret. The one thing. Writers like to be smug and call this ‘the plot’.
What is the one thing that makes your business special? Now tell a story about that. It’s not always easy to find the one thing. So I’m going to help you out – that’s what I’m here for, right?
Get creative with your corporate copywriting
Often all you need to get the storytelling juices flowing is a little push. Here are a few little creative thought starters to get you on your way. If you get really inspired here and want to use them on your site, just give us the credit back okay?
- Pretend your business, product or service is writing about themselves in the first person – what would they say about their life?
- Assign a gender to your business and take it to a party as a date, how do you introduce him or her?
- Who is your product’s or service’s arch-enemy? This could be real or imagined. Give it a really good nemesis name like ‘The Dreaded Power Surge’ or ‘Input Here the Auto-Copy-Generator Robot’.
- Spend 10 minutes writing a short story about your business’ first date.
- Your company/product is hugely successful, bigger than Apple. You are being interviewed for a piece in a magazine. The reporter asks you how it was developed, what do you say in response?
These techniques can be helpful in getting things going. They actively encourage you to think outside the box and see things from an entirely different perspective. This kind of imaginative gymnastics also gets you to become more creatively agile, which as writers we need to develop and maintain.
Thinking in a less linear way
Of course, it’s not likely that you’ll ever publish this kind of content – it’s an exercise to help you think in a less linear way about your corporate copywriting. The exercises will also help you develop a tone of voice, bringing more personality and aliveness to your brand. Once you’re finished, think about how the writing can help your brand or product. For example what aspects and qualities would you want to convey to customers? Is there anything in what you have written that looks like a benefit to your customers?
The exercises will also help you develop a tone of voice, bringing more personality and aliveness to your brand. Once you’re finished, think about how the writing can help your brand or product. For example what aspects and qualities would you want to convey to customers? Is there anything in what you have written that looks like a benefit to your customers?
Getting creative like this is always going to bring up some resistance, but once you get moving you’ll find yourself being more creative and engaging with your content.
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