A well prepared Communication Brief pin-points the What to Say so any copywriter can confidently proceed to ideas making. The key proposition needs to be said plain and straight. Do not be tempted by cleverness; we’re not writing the headline yet. That What To Say has to be clear, concise and insightful — like the 10-second elevator pitch, it encapsulates and captivates.
This ah-ha moment happened in the Spring of 2002. I was reading On Directing Film: a book version of a masterclass delivered by writer/director, David Mamet, to Columbia University’s film school students. How he brought film-making to life in the classroom was a real game changer.
It all began with a queen olive. But first a little fanfare to get the story of one copywriter’s way of showing exactly how it’s done.
It’s about a writer’s tight deadline leading to serendipity. It’s about words. It’s about the small details. And it’s about a Christmas story that has grown stronger with time for those of us with ageing mamas and papas.
… ‘how do you get that sudden clarity … that ah-ha moment … that insight?’ It’s good question. Especially for those of us in the communications and copywriting business and serious about ideas, knowledge, solutions and narratives. The answer can be the difference between inspired content creation and insipid content excretion.
Can you hear the rhythm in your sentences (like the beats in a song)?
Can you hear the tonal attitude that characterizes your expressions (like the spirit of a vocalist or instrumentalist)?
Can you hear the rhetorical patterns that shape your clauses and phrases into memorable sound bytes (like the catchy riff of a melody)?
Can you feel the tension, the climax and the denouement build-up, then resolve as each sentence moves story forward?
Think of it as a spine. This is more obvious in multi-page documents like brochures and white papers, where each section is a vertebrae in the overall structure (over-arching story). However, the same metaphor can be applied to a one page, long form piece such as articles, web copy and blog posts. And that’s what we will focus on here.
Just as the opening line needs to hook the reader in with the promise of a compelling story, the closing line needs to reward the reader with a lasting gift for taking time out to read all of the text. In short, the introduction and the conclusion frame your story and provides a bridge for your reader to enter and exit.
I don’t care who you are, as long as I know your weakness I will find my way into your hard-drive and your accounts and come away with your identity. And … you’re going to hate this bit … you won’t know a thing about it. Unless, of course, you read this article from start to finish. There’s no skimming and scanning if you don’t want to get scammed …
“Friends, Romans, Copywriters! Lend me your ears …”
Copywriting those opening words is a finely crafted art of the first impression. The reader’s snap decision of that impression —”ho hum” or “oh wow!”— is crucial to the whole story. Writers call it “the opening hook”. To me, a great opening hook is like an elegantly designed door: it makes you want to have your picture taken in front of it. In other words, you want it to be in your story.