5 Things I Learned About Copywriting From Being A Volunteer Tour Guide
On the list of 15 things you don’t know about me is the item, “I was a volunteer guide for historical tours in Philadelphia, sponsored by a group dedicated to preserving the city’s amazing landmarks. It was challenging.
Compared to guiding, teaching students in a university classroom (something most people do know about me) is a piece of cake.
When you’re guiding a group of people around the city, you have to find a way to hold their interest. Unlike college students, people on a tour can tune out anytime: there’s no final exam. They can even leave if they find something more interesting.
As a college professor, I never competed with noise and traffic. I didn’t have to remember not only just what to say, but also where to say it. If you take a wrong turn, your tour unravels, and so do you.
Commanding attention — whether with a tour group, a workshop or a class, is all about creating energy.
Reading from notes? Energy destroyed.
Lively stories and anecdotes? Energy goes way up.
You need the same energy when creating your online persona, which is defined as the way others perceive your online personality.
When your website, blog and sales letters radiate energy, your readers want to hang around — just as we all enjoy spending time around vibrant, high-energy people.
While you don’t have to compete with fire alarms and honking buses, you do face invisible but infinite sources of distraction: anything from cell phones to a dog who’s demanding to go out right now to an unexpected call from a client with an emergency.
As a copywriter and a tour guide, I’ve learned a lot by trial and error. Here are 5 tips on creating high-energy content that keeps readers riveted.
(1) Illustrate every point with a story.
Tour guides soon learn they won’t get very far if they just state the dates and bare facts about a building. They dig up stories.
Carpenters Hall is a magnificent example of Georgian architecture. Many important meetings were held here.
But tourists didn’t remember those details. They loved the story of the blacksmith who was falsely accused of robbing the bank and how the true villains were caught by their own foolish overconfidence.
(2) Create a showroom, not a tea party.
Phrases like, “Welcome to my site,” and “Please look around my website” will signal, “I’m not really comfortable with marketing.”
Copy that tiptoes around your benefits will communicate, “I’m not sure I’m very good.”
Let’s face it. Your visitors know they’re welcome. They expect you to share your best qualities with confidence and pride.
They know you’re not doing this for fun. When you’re too soft and gentle, they start looking for the elephant in the room.
(3) Replace abstract phrases with concrete word pictures.
We’ve all heard “Create your perfect life,” “Take it to the next level,” and even “Boost your business.”
Those phrases will put your audience to sleep. Why not challenge yourself to get the reader involved:
“Imagine yourself in a bookstore, standing next to your published book…”
“Imagine yourself signing your first published novel in the Miracle Mile Bookstore.”
(4) Make your artwork elevate your copy, not distract from your message.
If you’re a sailing instructor, definitely include photos of sailboats, preferably with yourself in your instructor’s role.
But if you’re a business consultant, use photos of yourself working with clients — not sailboats and oceanviews.
When you’re creating content, your copywriter is like the quarterback. She gets your message moving in the direction of your sales.
Your designer is like an offensive line. He makes sure the message stays free of visual distractions that keep the ball, or message, from moving in the direction as prescribed in the copywriter’s playbook.
(5) Be professional — but be friendly and conversational, too.
Many people automatically shift to a stuffy writing or speaking style when they get in front of an audience.
The truth is, your audience expects conversation, whether you’re writing or speaking. Even left-brained, highly educated professionals have begun forsaking jargon in favor of “sounds like real life” conversation.
Some business owners choose to get really down to earth. They borrow language from Tony Soprano, sometimes enough to make a sailor blush.
And for some audiences, they’re right on target. Others will assume you’re a lazy writer who’s relying on shock effects instead of professional copy. You’ll have to know your audience.
Energy is contagious.
When you add these 5 energizing tips to your content, you’ll get a double benefit.
First, you’ll command attention.
A long time ago, someone said, “When you’re looking at a stage performance — such as a song and dance number — look for the person with the highest energy. That person will be the star.”
That’s still true. Attention naturally drifts to high-energy people. And audiences tend to focus on the person with the highest energy in the room.
Secondly, you’ll help your audience gain momentum.
They’ll pick up on your energy and become more awake and alert. They’ll actually listen to your message.
And if they’re thinking about buying, or even just wanting to get to know more about your offer, they’ll be more likely to take action instead of nodding off.