This is a post about personality. The importance of creating a personality for your business and how important it is when it comes to making connections with customers.
I’ve wanted to interview Glenn Murray from Divine Write for a while. I first got to know Glenn after buying his books on SEO copywriting. So, yes, Glenn definitely knows his onions when it comes to SEO copywriting but that’s not what I wanted to talk to him about.
The day I fell in love with a men’s leather bag
Glenn wrote this product description of a men’s leather bag and it captured a little bit of my soul. I think about Glenn’s little blurb quite a bit. Not because I love leather bags, or James Bond, but because (I think) it’s a perfect example of copywriting with personality.
So I quizzed Glenn about creating a brand personality and writing copy that has that personality wafting through it, like all the yummy things you remember from your childhood.
How would you explain the idea of a business personality?
This is tricky without an example. Is it a Porsche or a Corolla? A Sean Connery or Roger Moore? A Google or Facebook? Is it aloof or playful? Corporate or mom & pop?
Basically, I try to get clients to wrap up the essence of their business into something with a distinct personality. Whether it’s a person, character, brand, trait or object, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that I can imagine how that person might talk and engage with people around it.
But I don’t like to give an example to my clients. It leads them. Without an example, they have to think a bit harder, and there’s a good chance they might come up with something amazing, that I wouldn’t have thought of.
Like: “It’s definitely not Gordon Ramsay. More like Jamie Oliver.” That tells me a great deal about the voice I should use in my copy (and in the design if we’re doing that too).
Do you think it’s important for businesses to have a distinct personality or is it ok to give their brand a broad appeal?
A business without a personality won’t pick up at parties! But broad appeal is (or can be) a personality too. It’s the magnetic, friendly, comfortable TV show host. Someone like Jeff Probst from ’Survivor’, maybe.
I blogged about the importance of personality in copywriting recently. And in another post, gave some good examples of companies that obviously value it.
How do you go about considering the right language for the business personality of your copywriting clients?
As I mentioned above, I imagine how the person/character/brand/trait might interact with the people around it. If it’s a known person or character, that’s easy. If it’s a brand, I draw on their advertising. If it’s a trait, I pretend I’m going into a business meeting with the client’s readers, and imagine myself adopting that trait.
The funny thing is, no matter what personality you use, most of the time, they’ll speak in a conversational manner. Connery and Moore both did. Porsche and Corolla ads are conversational. Google and Facebook are very conversational in their ads and interactions with users. A corporate bigwig still speaks like a person in a meeting.
Unless your chosen person is the Queen, there’s no need for you to be super formal. You’re having a conversation with your readers (or at least you should be).
So HAVE A CONVERSATION! Say “it’s”, not “it is”. “Doesn’t”, not “does not”. “Can’t”, not “cannot”. And forget that silly old rule that says not to start a sentence with “And”. It’s fine. Your English teacher was wrong!
How do you find businesses respond to copywriting that doesn’t stay in the safe zone?
I usually don’t venture into the ‘unsafe’ zone unless the client asks me to. Those who ask me to are obviously happy when that’s what they get.
Occasionally I get a client who doesn’t ask for it, but I think they need something adventurous. When that happens, I write a quick sample and say, “This is how I’d do it if this were my business, and I wanted to make as much money out of it as possible.”
If, on the other hand, by ‘safe’ you mean ‘formal’, then my answer’s very different. Generally, I can tell before I start writing if the client’s a bit old-school in their writing tastes. If I pick it up early, I give them a heads-up before starting. If, however, I don’t pick it up before I get underway, I generally pick it up when they review my proof of style. (For big jobs, I always write and send them a single page (generally the home page) to make sure I’m on track with the tone and approach. I get them to approve it before I spend too long writing the rest.)
Occasionally I have clients flag the conversational bits. The contractions and so on. Usually, they’re fine once I explain that it’s grammatically correct. Once every six months or so, though, a client will dig in his heels and say he really doesn’t think it’s appropriate. When this happens, I’ll sometimes provide examples of similar brands that use conversational English. But sometimes I’ll just roll over. Depends on whether I think the client is paying me to do the job well, or simply to do it their way. 😉
Do you have any advice for business owners pondering the personality of their business?
1. Don’t be scared. Fear leads to bored readers.
2. Trust your copywriter. They live and breathe this stuff.
3. Don’t think about how YOU see your business, otherwise, your copy will simply have YOUR personality! Think about how you want YOUR READERS to see your business. If that’s you too, as is the case with many freelance businesses, that’s fine. Just be aware that it often won’t be.
4. People engage with people. How? Through conversation. So a conversational tone isn’t just acceptable, it’s desirable!
That about wrapped up my chat.
Big thanks to Glenn for his time and his willingness to share his expertise.
So now it’s over to you. How much personality do you write into your business copywriting? Do you think it’s even worth the effort?
Let me know.
Belinda (and Glenn 🙂