COPYWRITING IN ACTION COURSE INSIGHT #4
How to Write a Hi-Fi Communication Brief: Identifying the Key Proposition.
Main message. Value statement. USP. Point of difference. Or, as I call it, Key Proposition. Which ever term you prefer, they all lead to the WHAT TO SAY.
Clear, concise and compelling writing always begins with clear, precise and insightful thinking. And that takes the form of a Communication Brief (one and a half pages at the most).
A well prepared Communication Brief clears and focuses the mind toward pin-pointing the What to Say (Key Proposition). This pin-pointing can take a few coffees before you suddenly identify it — the real key proposition buried under all the information. Once identified, it needs to be stated in a plain, simple and straight sentence. No cleverness required; we’re not writing headlines yet. That Key Proposition has to be like the 10-second elevator pitch — it encapsulates and captivates in one and at once.
To distil pages of data and information down to one sentence of Key Proposition requires rigour, sleuthing and often endurance. What a client thinks is a benefit may only be a feature to their target audience. What an organisation thinks is the point may only be the topic to their target audience. It takes the whole of a Hi-Fi Communication Brief (especially the Problem | Opportunity section) to clear the way (and the mind) to finding the right Key Proposition, but that will be the subject of another post. But what I will say here is that the more stakeholders are involved in preparing the CommBrief the better; it’s a marvellous bonding experience that gets us all on the same page — The Communication Brief.
In short, that key proposition is the strategy in one sentence. And this sentence is the key to starting-up the writer’s storytelling engine.
To see how this is accomplished, I’ll take you through three case studies from my Copywriting in Action Project Book, Climate of Ingenuity: Solutions Toward Climate Change. By the last case study, you will get the drift on how to identify the What To Say.
Once you know What To Say, you’re ready for the creative phase — How To Say It. These case studies show the possibilities of how to say what to say in art and copy.
CASE STUDY 1: MUSHROOM PLASTIC MAGIC
The problem: plastic waste makes up over 25% of landfills throughout the world.
The opportunity: Mushrooms can do the same job as plastic and it’s 100% compostible, which means giving back 25% of precious land to the community and the economy.
The product: MycoBond, an organic adhesive (based on mycelium, a living, growing organism) turns agriwaste into a foam-like material for packaging and insulation.
The Key Proposition?
There’s usually a process toward nailing the key proposition. It’s needs to be single minded. It needs to be clear. It needs to be tight. To illustrate this point, here are just some of the better ones class participants came up with in what was a two hour learning experience in distilling all the information into a focused one-liner:
MycoBond plastic saves the environment by reducing landfill by 25% (the cliche overshadows the fact)
MycoBond is the environmentally friendly alternative to plastic, reducing landfills by 25% (maybe but not convinced)
Mushroom plastic reduces landfill by 25% (okay but there’s no seed of a story)
MycoBond is environmentally low-impact, 100% biodegradable and renewable, and part of a healthy ecosystem (too many ideas competing with each other)
MycoBond plastic requires less energy to create than synthetics like foam, because they’re quite literally grown (useful as key point in the body copy)
And so on … there were about another half-a-dozen along the same lines as all of the above. They were all correct. They were all factual. They were all benefit-focused. But none of them carried the seed of a story that you could pitch to an attention-deficit editor/creative director and point the writer in a clear narrative direction. And so, as always in Copywriting in Action, we kept on digging and came up with this little nugget of gold:
Styrofoam waste lasts 10,000 years, plastic waste lasts 150 years, MycoBond lasts as long as needed, reducing landfill by 25%.
That’s a neat comparison with a compelling value statement we can all go into bat for. The How To Say It was textually and visually articulated with the before and after technique:
CASE STUDY 2: WAVE ENERGY GENERATION
By now you will be getting the drift of the thinking toward a key proposition. This next case studies will cut to the chase with the problem-opportunity-key proposition.
The problem: We have a scarcity mentality around renewable energy resources
The opportunity: Because 71% of the earth’s surface is water, we can tap into an unlimited power source.
The product: Wave Energy Converters.
The key Proposition: Our oceans have a renewable solution to our power needs.
CASE STUDY 3: BIO-MINING BOOM
By now you will be getting the drift of the thinking toward a key proposition. This next case study will cut to the chase.
The problem: Any new mining industry is seen as out of harmony with an already stressed planet.
The opportunity: Bio-mining is in total harmony with our earth.
The product: Bio-mining.
The key Proposition: Bio-mining has proven to be in total harmony with our planet.
NOTE: These artworks are purely hypothetical and created for educational purposes only.
The benefits of a Hi Fi Communication Brief are many. It clarifies and focuses the mind. It establishes an agreed strategy with stakeholders (which gets everybody on the same page). It directs the copywriting. If the copywriter is involved in the CommBrief process, it revs them up for the creative work ahead. What’s more, it hones and polishes their writing skills. And from concept to completion, a Hi-Fi CommBrief is an accurate measure of effective communication. But the key phrase in this story is “Hi-Fi”.
Meanwhile, my online copywriting course’s latest timetable is up and running and ready to take your booking now.