Recently updated on March 24th, 2021
Fun fact: about a year ago, we were contemplating ending our newsletter. Yes, the newsletter that now gets feedback like THIS every week:
(Read on to see what’s changed)
At the time, it had started to feel, honestly, a little like a chore to brainstorm, prep, write and send a newsletter every week, and while we knew we were SUPPOSED to build + serve “our email list” (i.e. you guys!) or else the ghost of a disappointed Jenna Kutcher would haunt us forever, we were just starting to feel uninspired.
Then, we had a mindset shift.
What if instead of writing the emails we felt like we should be sending, we wrote the kind of emails we would want to get?
Emails that people enjoyed reading… that felt helpful, personal, and interesting; that were different from everything else in your inbox; that didn’t seem like they were just holding space for a marketing pitch yet to come?
WHAT A CONCEPT.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, it’s understandable this thought didn’t come naturally to me because…
Strike that. Actually, there is absolutely no reasonable excuse I didn’t have this realization before… because, another fun fact: I’m actually a writer, not a designer, by training. I majored in journalism and I love to write. I’ve always loved to write. While I don’t write a lot of long-form articles anymore, I do write almost all of our TONIC marketing copy, social media captions, website copy, and even the placeholder text in our templates. I devour good writing — from great fiction (on audible, usually) to funny tweets to celebrity long-reads about pasta and romance. Writing is kinda my thing!
And yet here I was, passing up the opportunity to write something decent for thousands of people to read every week.
It makes no sense.
But you know what? Before you judge me, let me just turn this right around (classic defense mechanism):
Chances are, you’re passing the opportunity to write something decent for thousands of people to read every day.
That’s right. I’m talking about your website copy, your social media captions, your emails, and your marketing copy. The words you’re writing for hundreds and thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people to read all the time. Because here’s the thing: in our cultural marketplace, as entrepreneurs and creatives, we’re ALL writers.
Whether we like it or not, we all have to craft copy just to go about our business, and today, I want to give you a few quick tips on making your writing better. Because whether you’re someone who loves to write, like me, or you’re just a girl, staring at a cursor, begging it to magically become… words…. trust me, it CAN be better.
Important: I’m writing these tips with image examples from THIS amazing article with copywriting hints in action, and THIS one on writing better landing page headlines. Both of which are must-reads. Immediately after reading them, I subscribed to their newsletter… hello, proof that good writing works.
Tip One: Read Everything Out Loud
This is my ultimate tip to improve your writing. Good copy has a tone of voice. Good writing sounds like a person wrote it… depending on your brand, a person with a sense of humor, emotional depth, a desire to help, a poetic style, or empathy and an ability to relate…. maybe even all of the above!
If your copy is missing that tone of voice (and just feels blah or boring!), chances are, it’s missing YOU. Empty words totally lack the ability to connect with a reader. They feel impersonal and bland.
The BEST way to fix that problem? Read your copy out loud. Yep, every word. When you read your writing out loud, you’re able to catch the words that fall flat, the sentences that don’t sound like you, and the parts that just got… boring. Rewrite as you go — the best writers are “tweakers” (not in the drugs way) who exchange one adjective for another and rework sentences over and over until they flow.
Remember, if you don’t really want to read it (aloud or otherwise), no one else will, either.
(I rewrote that sentence four times.)
I’m obsessed with the brand voices of Obedient Agency and Oatly. I love how KT Merry’s aspirational copy (written by another TONIC client, Ashlyn Carter‘s team) would totally resonate with her client, how Elana’s copy (written with TONIC client, Kaitlyn from Copy Uncorked) inspires and informs, and how Jenna’s voice sounds just like her.Heck, if you haven’t read it, we get compliments on our website copy a lot, too! Two other helpful tips from the article I mentioned above:
Tip Two: Tell a Good Story
People make time for stories. (I’m really busy and I’ve still watched half of Netflix.) People pay attention to stories. They remember stories, and they re-tell them. Stories stick. In fact, messages delivered as stories have been shown to be TWENTY TWO times as memorable as facts. If you took nothing away from my last email, I bet you maybe remember the part with my sister-in-law and the bagel?
So, how can you tell the STORY of the disappointments that led you to become a life coach, or the time you threw out literally everything in your pantry and became a home organizer, or the moment you truly realized your photography made a DIFFERENCE? The client who felt ____ after working with you, the trajectory of your career, or the moment it all changed? When you get stuck with your copy, ask yourself how you can turn it into a STORY. (Great example: our client Beth Kirby — using our Smokescreen design.)
Tip Three: Refine Your First Line
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how great your story (/email/about page/sales page/ social media caption) is if no one actually reads it. Which means the first line of anything you write is crucial — it’s either going to capture someone enough to make them read on or cause them to scroll right on past. People are busy. Most people don’t love to read. And here you are, with this one sentence asking them to take time out of their day to read something. It’d better be good.
Example: THIS is one of our top-performing Instagram posts ever. I’m guessing at least part of that is because the caption started with, “We’re here for the rebellion, and we brought the bourbon” instead of “The Instagram algorithm is so frustrating.” As this great article says, if they don’t read your first line, they won’t read your second one, either.
Addendum: when it comes to straight-up marketing copy, it’s better to be clear than clever. We’ve been guilty of this mixup with our TONIC brand *so* many times… focused so much on being “cute” with our copy and our cocktail puns that we lose site (er, “sight) of the fact that… um, we are not a bar, and it needs to be REAL clear that we sell website templates! This is so accurate:
Tip Four: Make It About Them
What’s in it for your reader? Why would someone take the time to read what you’ve written? Your copy either needs to be interesting, helpful, informative, thoughtful, fun to read, or a mix of all of the above. If your about page feels like everyone else’s, what’s something you could add to give it LIFE? What would add value for someone reading it, make them smile, or make them think? Remember, people don’t necessarily care unless you make them care… and they don’t care nearly as much about what you do as what you can do for them.
We love the book STORYBRAND, which helps you craft a brand story built around your customer, for this reason (examples in action here), and try to incorporate that framework into our template designs as much as possible!
I could go on and on and on (as you know!), but I’m going to call it for today before we get into the “REALLY long and weird” category and I further ignore that whole “brevity is the soul of wit” thing… (My complex sentences and I sincerely hope that’s not true.)
I hope these tips were helpful and would LOVE to hear if you have recommendations for other brands with great copy and brand voices we should be following!
P.S. Want to get the emails they were all talking about? Click here to hop on our TONIC VIP newsletter list!