The Written Word According to Jon

By Catherine Fee, ADMA

What if your brand was a car, a suburb, a pet, a smell? Could you describe it?

That was the question by ADMA copywriting tutor Jon Maxim, which made the audience really question the way they wrote.

Everyone has a different idea of how we should write. For marketing, the writer needs to be invisible; it needs to be the organisation voice that’s writing says Jon at the last ADMA Member FREE Lunch n’ Learn*. As a writer we need to know the tone of voice we need to be and work from there.

Jon went straight into the tough questions. What makes a great creative brief? And how to best execute? He quotes a simple answer: “A creative brief is like a road map. A good brief leads to imaginative and persuasive communication. And gets you there quickly. A bad brief starts you off in the wrong direction. So you have to stop, figure out where the heck you’re going, and start again. Or worse, you follow that brief to a town called Bad.”

So what does it take to be a creative writer? A vivid imagination?; The ability to write about anything, even when you don’t know the product? Nope. Jon says to stay away from fiction and take the time to get to know the product and the customer you’re selling to.

“Working without facts means the work can only be fiction” Alastair Crompton

When we sit down to write we think about the tone of the copy, the time, the deadline, what needs to be pushed back to get this done; all problems which we as writers have to overcome. We need to reshape our thinking to how we can fix the audiences problems, and get into their world, not ours.

Quantity vs. Quality

The content world is changing. As we open up to new media, where the consumers are the producers and the whole world is writing. We close the traditional journalistic way of complex metaphors and getting paid per word; we now get paid per engagement. And in order to engage, we need brevity. We need to cut through the noise, those irrelevant words that create breaks and restrict the time we get to convert our customer.

So how do we make a great piece brief? Jon says to work with everything you have and condense it; starting with the very first word. Jon brings a beautiful reference to sum up his reasoning. “Don’t start with an angel, start with a block and sculpt it out”. And that’s how you’ll get your best piece. Jon encourages people to overcome writers block by just starting. Then go back and edit.

“Inside every fat ad there is a thinner and better one trying to get out. In short, the less said the better.”  Tony Cox

Brevity is king in every sense. Why utilise longer words when diminutive expressions succeed just as effectively?  Jon urges writers to use the sociatic style of writing. Make it easy and immediate. Think about the scope and budget but personalise your message for everything. “Don’t be restricted, every medium has its advantages, it’s about finding it and getting creative”. But most importantly, be unique.

“Never write an ad a competitor could sign.” Jim Durfee

They say a picture paints a thousand words: Jon displayed some of the most compelling wordless adverts to prove that point. Adverts that no words could sum up better. “It’s about knowing when to stop,” he said.

An interesting fact: We’re 30% slower reading off screen than paper

One interesting point that Jon notes about writing for online is to “inverse the pyramid”. Key words are in the first two words, so you need to make them count. Aligning your content to SEO is essential.

If you want your site to be found when people search the web, use words your target readers use. Before you begin to write, sit down and think carefully about the keywords you’re going to use. Then carefully weave those words and phrases into your copy.
(10 Tips For Writing Effective Web Copy, webpronews.com).

Email is dangerous

Subject line length is vital. E-mails with shorter subject lines significantly outperformed emails with longer subject lines. According to a study conducted by emaillabs.com: ‘Zero to 49 character subject lines had an open-rate of 12.5% higher than the 50+ character subject lines. Click-through rates for the 0-49 character group were 75% higher than 50+’.

Analysis Paralysis

And finally,  we love statistics: To prove a point, to add weight to a piece, or simply to make it look well researched. Jon displays a simple quote to consider the next time you want to use statistics:

“Statistics are like a drunk with a lamppost: Used more for support than illumination. Sir Winston Churchill.

This was a review of Jon Maxim’s Lunch n’ Learn “Maximum Copy: 45 Copy Tips in 45 Mins”. To view the full presentation or for more info contact Jon directly.

*Our next FREE Lunch n’ Learn for ADMA members will take place on June 4.
An ADMA exclusive, this lunch will showcase a presentation from Will Morey from UK Trade and Investment on the topic of Social Commerce and Brand Interaction. Seats are filling fast, so email membership@adma.com.au to register your interest.

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