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!