Some years ago, right around Mother’s Day, I wrote an article, “Why your mother is not your copywriter.”
I was thinking of those signs around the kitchen of my coworking space. We’re a pretty laid-back bunch, but one of the guys got fed up with people leaving dishes in the sink. He posted a sign, “Your mother doesn’t work here! Wash your own dishes.”
This sign played on the stereotypes of the mom who thinks you’re wonderful, praises everything you do, and practically reads your mind.
But people didn’t like my article. I tinkered with the title and the headings. Then I started to see how other people treated Mother’s Day in their articles.
The Right Way To Write About Mother’s Day
If you look at Medium and other publications, the articles fall into two categories.
Some people share heart-warming stories of their wonderful relationship with their mom. Her sacrifices. Her kindness. How she kept the family together. How she served as a role model.
Other people shared heart-wrenching stories of their dysfunctional relationship with their mom. To them, Mother’s Day seems like a cruel joke.
Then I looked up Mother's Day humor. I found jokes in all flavors. For example:
“Mom, what does it feel like to raise a perfect daughter?”
“I don’t know, dear. Ask your grandmother.”
Not really in the Mother’s Day spirit, is it?
New Takeaways For Writing Articles About Mother’s Day
(1) Be relatable. Your audience relates to mothers because they’re moms (or married to moms or are dads bringing up kids without moms). Or they relate because they’re young; they relate to their own moms or mom substitutes.
My story would relate more to the first group, yet I suspect more of my readers come from the second group. In fact, one of my subscribers wrote back, “My mother IS a copywriter.” He gave me her name. She’s actually pretty famous.
(2) Holiday metaphors can backfire because they’re filled with meaning. I’m an Educator archetype, which means I brand on educating my audience. (See http://mycopy.info/brandsteps )
(3) We know sex, politics, and religion can be sensitive topics. It seems that family might be too. People have strong cultural feelings about family.
Some audiences think it’s funny when someone says, “The cat gave me a Mother’s Day gift. She coughed up a hairball.” Others are horrified.
So I’ll be revising this story to make the same points with a different position. Meanwhile, you can read the original article here.
WHY YOUR MOTHER IS NOT YOUR COPYWRITER
Recently I got some questions that could be answered the same way, “Because your mother isn’t your copywriter.” So in honor of Mother’s Day , here are some reasons your mom is not your copywriter.
Note: This post does assume a traditional, positive role for mothers, for the sake of artistic license and making some points. We honor you whether you enjoyed a supportive mom, lost your mom early, or had negative experiences with family and motherhood.
Reason #1: “It’s nice, dear.”
Clients often begin a consultation with, “Cathy, I’ve already shown your website to six friends, my mastermind group, my spouse and even my mom! They say the copy is fine.”
Before you say, “Oh come on, Cathy, nobody does that!” let me tell you about a client I worked with a few years ago.
Clive was a licensed accountant. He needed a new website because he was entering a new practice area. Since he had hired me for a full service copywriting project, we also reviewed his strategy and some of his other marketing materials.
In particular, I recommended some changes to the design of his brochure. He laughed. “I’d love to implement these recommendations,” he said. “But my wife designed this brochure. I value my marriage.”
Well, he’s got his priorities straight. And he’s not unusual. It’s just one reason I recommend separating your personal life from your business, so you won’t risk losing one or the other.
Let’s face it …
— Your friends and family don’t want to hurt your feelings. Your mastermind group (and sometimes, alas, your coach) doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of saying, “I hate it.”
— Your friends and family may not know how to evaluate what you’re doing. They just don’t have the experience or qualifications. (In the example above, that guy’s wife had taken ONE marketing course in college. I’ve taught many of those courses myself, back in the day, and I can tell you they do not equip students to evaluate online marketing materials.)
Even if they realize your materials don’t resonate, they often don’t know why, and they are rarely experienced in articulating what’s wrong. It’s like you change your lipstick and your date says, “You look different — is it your hair?” Or if you’re a dude, you’ve shaved your mustache and your date says, “New shirt?”
— There’s an unwritten rule in business: “Don’t just tell me what’s wrong. Tell me how to fix it.” If you’re not getting paid, will you spend the time (and it’s more than 15 minutes, trust me!)? Unless you’re doing this every day, it takes a while to come up with the guidance.
Reason #2: “Of course he’s brilliant: he’s mine!”
My clients often raise questions like this:
“Cathy, you are telling me to brag. But I just saw a Call to Action: “‘Click here to get 9 brilliant ideas that will save your business!’ That’s a turn-off.”
Comments like that remind me of sitting next to someone who’s determined to show me photos of all her kids, with a running commentary.
“This is my Mario. He’s so intelligent.” “This is Rose: isn’t she beautiful?”
Whether you promote yourself as a professional or your products, you’ll get better results when you avoid describing yourself with adjectives (such as “amazing”) and describing your actions with adverbs (such as “brilliantly”).
The key to successful engagement is, “Show, don’t tell.” Use stories, examples, case studies, and metaphors.
Reason #3: “You’re really special.”
Another mom-trap involves branding yourself on a quality that doesn’t communicate a benefit to your prospects.
Your mom thinks of you as “the redhead in the family” or “the quirky one.” But your clients (hopefully) aren’t hiring you because you have red hair or because you are quirky. These branding styles turn the focus to you, not the benefits they’ll get from your new, improved marketing.
Your mom, your friends, some of your colleagues, and occasionally your coach will relish your unique personal qualities … and that’s why they’re not the best candidates for serving as your copywriter. You can (and should) bring your personality into your copy.
But, as with the stories you tell, the personal qualities you share should support and reinforce your brand position.
About the Author
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., helps independent professionals, solo-preneurs and small business owners who want to turn the question, “What’s your story?” into, “How can I become your client?” Using story-centered marketing, Cathy helps you develop your narrative and create content experiences that will motivate and engage your target audience; use the power of storytelling to develop and implement your marketing strategies; and develop a customized plan to strengthen your message so your ideal prospects will listen and connect with you. Her website is http://cathygoodwin.com and her latest Amazon kindle book is Grow Your Business One Story At A Time.