Give Your Copywriting The Edge Advantage: Miss Congeniality Vs. Tony Soprano

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A lot of service-based business owners are so afraid of “edgy copywriting” that they go too far the other way — they’re so afraid of sounding like Tony Soprano, they develop pretty, eager-to-please websites that bore the pants off their audience (and they’d never use a word like “pants” anyway).

And many go to the opposite extreme: they’re so afraid of being Miss Congeniality, they sound like Tony Soprano on his worst day. (I know Tony is gone, but he’s an icon of modern culture and the best example I know when it comes to…well, Tony Soprano copy).

When I write copy for myself and my clients, often my first draft sounds more like Miss Congeniality than Tony Soprano. For example:

(1) A wide open opening. “If you are ready to change your life and stop making the old mistakes…” Well, who isn’t (at least some days of the week)? And what service professional doesn’t promise to help people change?

(2) A headline that’s calm and peaceful. “How to move forward with your own brilliance and creativity.” First revision: “Who else wants to explode a blah career into a blockbuster lifestyle…using creative talent you didn’t know you had?”

(3) Tired worn-out phrases. “Live the live you’ve always wanted.” “Be the person you were meant to be.”

Sometimes a cliche can be powerful because it’s familiar and it’s surrounded by original content that gets you to the edge. But usually it’s just … tired.

(4) Abstractions and 4-syllable words. Think of hitting your audience with a two-by-four, metaphorically.

Once I saw a sentence on a website, “Creativity can reduce to marginality.” I hope nobody paid for that copy.

(5) Definitions and quotes. So many websites include a definition of the services offered. “A financial planner is…” Or, “The definition of mentoring is…”

Let’s face it: who likes reading definitions? When I was a college professor, I used to mark down papers that began with a definition…and I wasn’t even a copywriter. I just like to read interesting things.

Instead of defining your services, use edgy copywriting to tell a story about what you do. For example, a real estate investment mentor (who’s a Role Model archetype) might say:

“When you hire me as a mentor, you benefit from the mistakes I made when I started out doing exactly where you are today. You won’t lose money the way I did when I bought my first rental property. You’ll get tips based on what I discovered the hard way over the past 15 years of successful investment in commercial and residential property.”

You might go on to say, “Unlike a coach, I don’t ask questions and invite you to uncover what you know already. I proactively walk you through what you need to do…”

On the other hand, some people are so afraid of being bland they turn into Tony Sopranos. The word “bada- “ has become as commonplace as “amazing.” What we used to call the F-word has become a way to say, “I’m hip! I’m with it! I’m non-judgmental!” (I’m not squeamish, but writing out these words is a good way to send your emails to marketing jail.)

Most people I know aren’t shy about using some pretty colorful language, but it just doesn’t look the same when it’s integrated into your copy. The style that makes you a good buddy to meet for coffee won’t help you come across as a credible professional.

Some audiences will relish the Tony Soprano style; some will shrug it off; and of course some will be turned away. It’s hard to predict how audiences will react: some 80-year-old grandmas are swearing like sailors and I know a 30-ish ex-marine who refuses to say so much as “damn.”

When you know how to write edgy copy with the right blend of Tony Soprano and Miss Congeniality, you turn even the dullest product into something that’s irresistible and engaging. It’s not always easy to find the right mix of edge and professionalism, and that’s where I come in. As a professional working with professionals, I help you build a message and write copy that you’ll be proud to share. Many of my clients begin with, “I can’t afford to sound pushy or sleazy;” they’re relieved that we can persuade in a style that’s totally appropriate to the way they engage with their own clients.

I’m Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. My clients come to me when they want to combine professionalism with promotion. But they (and I) refuse to believe that “professional” means being as conventional and boring as a pinstripe suit.

When you add me to your team, you get a copywriter who’s also a storyteller. And you need both.

Without copywriting, your offer is just another bright shiny object worth zero dollars … even if it does everything the client wants and more. Copywriting creates a connection between your offer and your audience…and motivates your best prospects to feel comfortable saying “yes” to you.

But without your story, your copy becomes a bunch of hard-working words that just do their job. There’s no fire. No energy. No “you.”

Your story helps you nail “that branding thing” effortlessly, so your copy sends a clear, consistent message. You become credible and likable…and your audience begins to see themselves transformed by your offer.

Would you like me to take a deep dive review into your own copy? That’s the first step to hiring me to write your copy or support your DIY copywriting with some copy coaching. Learn more about the story consultation here. Send me a message if you’d like a short email or 15-min phone conversation to set up the logistics and see if I’m a good fit for you.

Get more copywriting tips in “21-Point Checklist To Get Higher Converting Copy (Even When You Do It Yourself)” — Click here for the download.


Originally published at on October 9, 2019.

Helping entrepreneurs and independent professionals grow their businesses one story at a time.

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