Do you know a powerful piece of written communication when you see it? Do you know what separates poor writing from impactful writing?
In many cases, we know what great written content feels like, but we might have trouble defining what makes it better than the rest.
Scott Keyser is teaching us to know the difference—and to create our own influential written communications—in this, the second part of a three-part series on copywriting. If you haven’t experienced Part One, you can do that now at Write to Persuade and Convert with Scott Keyser.
If you’re a business owner who wants to connect with your readers and get the results you need for growth, this is for you!
You may choose to watch the entire Nail the Nasty Nine Writing Issues Brand Builders TV episode below, or just keep reading to learn about the secrets of persuasive writing in Scott’s own words.
Let’s keep learning, modelling and getting shit done. Let’s go!
More About Scott Keyser
Scott Keyser is known as The Writing Guy. He not only assists professionals in writing bids and tenders that help them to win contracts, he works with business owners to write sales pages, webpages, social media posts, blogs and other content that sells.
Scott is adamant that intellectual intelligence is nothing without emotional intelligence—if you want to persuade readers to take action.
Now get ready to learn about the planning process and how that fits in with drafting and editing. Scott is taking the knowledge he’s gathered over nearly two decades of copywriting and sharing it with you.
So, without further ado, let’s learn about how Poor or Non-Existent Planning can wreck your writing, in Scott’s own words.
Poor or Non-Existent Planning
This is a really big one. People tend to pay lip service to the idea of planning. They see it as a good thing to do, but they either don’t do it at all or they’re pretty lousy at it. Failing to plan is a great way to waste time and energy. When we don’t plan, we can undermine our own communication.
I would wager that in your typical writing day, you have to produce a vast array of documents, whether you’re a team leader or a professional business owner. These might include blogs, articles, social media posts, social media profiles, CVs, business cases, sales letters, eBooks, full-length books, brochures, onboarding documents, case studies, testimonials…the list is endless.
I would wager you need to do these things quickly, that they be clear enough that your reader understands them in one go, that they’re concise, and that they land. Everything you write needs to have impact; otherwise, why are you bothering?
The trouble is that the most common response to being under pressure to write something good quickly is to dive into drafting. I call this premature drafting. The problem with this is that when you start writing before you’re ready, you’re committing your language and words to half-baked ideas. You’ll get partway through the document and realise there are gaps in your knowledge, or that your ideas aren’t as developed as they need to be. Maybe you’ll realise you should have read that extra article or spoken to an expert. And while you’re only halfway finished, you say, “Oh no, this is all wrong.”
So you do the only thing you can do when you get to what is effectively a dead end: You turn around and start again. That, in the trade, is known as a rewrite, and it’s a disaster. It basically means you’ve wasted a whole load of time and energy ploughing a furrow that you’re not going to put any seeds into. This is one of the problems with premature drafting.
Redrafting is a very necessary part of the refinement process, but a rewrite is a disaster. It gobbles up loads of precious time and energy. It’s something we want to avoid at all costs.
Effective Written Communication Requires Planning
What is the answer to the problem of poor or absent planning? The answer is to put time aside to plan. If you don’t do that, it will never happen.
This goes back to a fundamental principle of my work, which is that there are three phases, or stages, to the writing process: Planning, Drafting and Editing. Each of those steps uses different parts of the brain and different skills.
Planning for me, which is the mode we’re in now, is basically divergent thinking. It’s broad. It’s when we brainstorm. It’s when we think about the reader.
We think about all the things we might want to put in the document, as well as the things we want to omit. When we have a plan, structure and root north through the document, then we’re ready to draft.
Then the mindset shifts to convergent thinking. We’re narrowing down the options. We’re capturing thoughts and ideas and basically nailing them to the page with our language, words, syntax, paragraphs and structures.
When we’ve done our first draft, then we pull on our editor’s green eyeshade and we start checking our work.
Persuasive Written Communication: A Proven Formula
This is really fundamental, but a lot of people don’t get this: Planning, Drafting, Editing. If you take nothing else away from this series, that would be a really useful lesson.
Imagine there’s a big block of time available to you. It’s on a graph or it’s a big box, made up of the total time available to you to produce the document, from start to finish. What is the minimum portion of that time you think you should spend planning? Is it 5% or 15%, or is it 75%? This is the minimum portion of the total amount of time that you think you should spend planning.
What I recommend, regardless of how much or how little time you have for the entire document, is that you spend a minimum of 25% of it on planning, about 50% drafting and 25% editing. If you only have four minutes to write an email, spend one minute planning, two minutes drafting and one minute editing and checking it. If you have the luxury of having four months to work on a grant application, bid or tender, spend at least one month planning, two months drafting and one month editing and checking.
Just a word of warning: I would not recommend spending more than 50% of your available time planning because you will squeeze the other two activities too much.
Written Communications with Brand Builders TV
Information for building brands doesn’t get any better than that! Scott has imparted some invaluable information, and he still has plenty to share.
Coming up next is writing issue number three, and Scott’s talking about it in Persuasive Writing with Scott Keyser. In it, he will teach us why we need to know where we’re going, and what we’re trying to prove, before we even begin writing. I think you’ll find it as fascinating and beneficial as I have.
And if you’re interested in knowing more about the Brand Builders Club, where Scott and other professionals are supporting one another, sharing wisdom and holding one another accountable for building their brands, then give it a try! You can join month-to-month, with no commitment. Or, if you’d like to join a Thinkubator, where you’ll get to put your business in the hot seat and talk about it with experienced entrepreneurs, sign up here. It’s that easy!
Welcome to another Brand Builders TV series, where you’ll gather loads of advice and wisdom from global thought leaders who just happen to be members of the Brand Builders Club. This is the first of three instalments in this particular series, in which Scott Keyser (The Writing Guy) is sharing tips on how to write to persuade our readers to take action.
Isn’t that what we all want, after all? To make our ideal client WANT to learn more? To do more with us? To buy more? And to tell others about our brands?
Well, all of that and more is possible with the written word…if you know how to use language effectively.
I am going to introduce Scott, and then we’ll dive straight into his first tip on writing to persuade.
As is the case with all of these Brand Builders TV series, you may wish to view the entire recorded episode at Nail the Nasty Nine Writing Issues, Part 1, or view it below. But if you’re more of a reader, just keep going for Part One of this three-part series.
Learn it, model it and get shit done!
Meet Scott Keyser
Scott Keyser, The Writing Guy, is a copywriter helping other professionals to write to persuade in bids, tenders, webpages, sales pages, social media and so much more.
Scott is a copywriter who writes pitches that make it utterly impossible for people not to act. That’s because he knows how to gather facts, tap into emotion and make every reader feel like he’s talking directly to them, addressing their pain and offering benefits that matter to them.
Not only does Scott perform this copywriting magic for himself and his clients—he’s teaching professionals to do it for themselves.
If you’d like to harness that power for your business, read on. Scott Keyser is teaching us how to write to persuade, in his own words.
Nail These Nasty Nine Writing Issues
Hello! I’m Scott Keyser, The Writing Guy. A little background about me: I’ve been in this game as a writer and copywriter for 16 years—training professionals in persuasive writing and showing them how easy it is to write with impact and to make their writing clear, concise and compelling.
In that time, I’ve trained over 5,000 professionals and business owners.
The nine writing issues I’m going to share with you are the Nasty Nine. They’re the nine issues that have repeatedly crossed my path. And so a couple of years ago it occurred to me that maybe I should do something about this. My argument is that if you nail these nine issues, then you’re well on your way to being a really effective and powerful writer.
The Nasty Nine:
But for now, we’re just going to focus on the first issue: We-ing All Over Your Reader.
WE-ing All Over The Reader
When we are writer-centric and not reader-centric, we might talk more about ourselves, our teams or organisations, to the detriment and exclusion of the reader. We’re given away by our language, using we, us, our and sometimes I…much more than you, your and you’re. It’s too much about yourself and not enough about the reader.
The reason this is a problem is that it creates a mismatch between mindsets. Your reader undoubtedly wants you to talk about them—their needs, wants, desires and goals. If you don’t do that, there’s dissonance and they’re going to run for the hills. You will alienate them and may lose them. And when we, as writers, lose our readers, that’s failure. We have failed as communicators.
When we “WE” all over the reader, we’re giving them the subliminal message that we are more important than them. That’s not a winning strategy.
Next, when we talk a lot about ourselves, we often highlight the features of our products and services, rather than the benefits. You and I both know that benefits are much more persuasive than features. Features are basically a description of what we do, whereas a benefit is a description of what they get. That’s an important distinction (between do and get). Your readers are much more interested in get than in do.
I was reviewing a bid the other day. Here’s the Content List and Executive Summary. Where do you think the writer’s mindset is?
Our Team and Our Approach
Our Project Management, Expertise and Resources
Our Fee Proposal
Our Supplier Service Structure
Our Value-Added Services
Our Global Network
And the body of the bid was dripping with we, us and our. No prizes for guessing the writer’s mindset. Needless to say, this particular bid did not win the contract.
Write to Persuade with Emotional Intelligence
Copywriting is not about being clever. It’s not about intellectual intelligence. It’s about emotional intelligence. It’s about shifting your mindset from being writer-centric (obsessed with your own organisation, needs, teams, gender) and shifting your focus to the reader. When we are writer-centric, when we “WE” all over the reader, the language and structure give us away. We use words like we, us and our, we use the word do and we talk about the features of our product or service.
When we shift our mindset to them, and make it all about them, everything changes—the language, the structure…and we start using the magical words you and your. What’s so great about those two little words is that they’re personal, and this is all about personalisation. It personalises your writing.
When you use you and your, it’s a magic device. It makes the reader feel as if you’re speaking to them and them alone. That makes them feel special and valued and they’ll want to do business with you. It opens them up and makes them more receptive to your message.
Typically, when we make that shift, we’ll use the word get and talk about the benefits to them.
There’s another piece of language that’s a giveaway about mindset, and I come across this a lot. Writers say they’re writing for their audience. Well, audience is not a helpful word because it suggests you’ve lumped all your readers into the same homogenous pot.
Every one of your readers is unique, individual and separate. True communicators talk about the reader. It’s about being reader-centric. Even if you’re writing for dozens, thousands or millions of people, you must understand that your words will be read by individual readers.
What can we do about this? The obvious answer is write for your reader. It’s no coincidence that in my book, rhetorica, technique number one is write for your reader. It’s simple, but not always easy.
If you’re writing a bid, tender, pitch or proposal, this comes up an awful lot. I see a lot of bids and tenders that “WE” all over the client. What that is symptomatic of is an inability, unwillingness or lack of opportunity to really understand the buying organisation and the individual buyers within it.
Poor bidders are bad at uncovering the pain points of individual buyers. Good bidders exercise the business equivalent of being reader-centric. That’s being client-centric and making every page in your bid response either about them or adding value to them.
So the answer to issue number one is write for your reader. Make it all about them, not about you.
You Too Can Write to Persuade
Ooh, how interesting was that? Scott has shared with us something that could potentially change the way we attract clients. Simple changes like not “WE”ing all over our readers could mean the difference between growth and stall or decline in our brands.
I’ll bet you want more! I sure do!
The next instalment in this three-part series, Powerful Written Communication with Scott Keyser, is going to talk about the need for planning before we write—and how doing so can save loads of time and effort.
So join us! You won’t want to miss this!
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