The 7 golden rules of writing business copy

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How to write a professional bio? What tips for writing good business copy? What does a press release look like?

These were some of the questions I was asked to answer when delivering my workshop on Business Copywriting for Female Fusion on Thursday. It was great to see a lot of the same ladies that had joined me the week previously taking their PR knowledge to the next level – maybe we’ll look at doing a few more!

During the morning, we looked at company boilerplates and web copy, biographies, press releases, media features and opeds (opinion editorials), as well as blogs and social media content. The session went down well and as a result, I thought I’d share a brief summary of the golden rules for writing effective business copy that works on and off-line. Obviously there are additional rules for the specific writing formats we’ve mentioned, however the seven below apply across the board, no matter what you are writing.

1. Be findable

You could have the best written copy in the world, but it’s no good if no one sees it… Of course, you need to think about how you are sharing and promoting the content, however there are ways you can increase the chances of your content being found in the way that you write the content itself. It all comes down to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)… This magical art uses a lot of different elements as part of the algorithm to determine whether your content appears at the top of a Google search, the main one to think about in terms of your writing is using keywords. You need to use the keywords that your audience will actually be searching for – your SEO ranking will be affected by the density and location of these keywords in the text, as well as a number of other factors, such as internal and external links. Depending on what you are writing, you may also want to think about hashtag usage.

2. Be scannable

Most of us consume content online – generally on our phones and tablets, and therefore reading is much more opportunistic. We have little time, and there are lots of distractions, so in order to ensure the reader keeps scrolling and reading – and actually registers what they are reading – we need to be concise, cutting any repetition and redundant words. In order to be visually appealing and easy to scan, think about lots of white space, with short sentences and paragraphs. To help draw attention to key words or concepts, don’t be afraid to use bold and italic, or to highlight words in colour. Structure your content clearly with subheaders, numbers and bulletpoints – don’t be afraid to create lists as these are easy to digest.

3. Be audience-led

The content you are writing needs to have come about as a result of what your audience are looking for, not the promotional information you’re keen to share. Make sure that the topics, content, tone of voice and language are relevant and appropriate for your audience – you’re wasting your time if you simply bark down a megaphone the things that you think people need to know! Be guided by your audiences, and make sure you are always topical, timely, and add value to readers. Depending on what you are writing, ensure comments are enabled and take feedback from the audience, and the results of your Google Analytics and social media monitoring onboard – if no one’s reading your content, it needs to be changed!

4. Be strategic

With the above point in mind, remember that when it comes to your business copy, you are not writing for fun, you have objectives to achieve and your writing should be tailored towards making sure that once you have an audience engaged, you actually do something with them, or drive them to do something. Make sure your language and stories are compelling and that you have a clear call to action, whether that is to sign up to a newsletter, click a link for more info, follow your social media, recommend to others, share your content, attend your event, or buy your product/service!

5. Be memorable

In order to achieve the results we have just listed, people need to do more than see and like what they read, they have to remember who you were and what you said when they navigate away from your screen or literature. You therefore need to make it easy to understand, written in simple language with no acronyms or jargon. As we’ve already mentioned, sentences should be short and specific and the entire content should focus on 1-2 key messages, not try to overload readers with everything!

6. Be credible

This helps you to be memorable, but more than that, it’s about making sure people believe and trust what you are telling them so that they can accept it. In order to do this, you will need to provide people with evidence to support the messages you are telling them. Make sure you back up any statements or stories with proof points – these can be hard (stats, awards, rankings) or soft (anecdotes, quotes, histories) - these also help to make you more memorable.

7. Be shareable/social

If you’ve followed all the rules and have a strong piece of writing, make sure it is easy to share so that you can maximise your reach with it. To be social, it needs to have a direct, succinct title and strong supporting image. Think about using hashtags and emojis, and provide links for people to read the content in full – and make sure wherever you are sharing the content has social media sharing enabled!

So there you have it – seven key rules to always be obeyed when writing for your business, if you’d like any more advice on writing (or someone to do it for you!) please email me: sam@footstepcommunications.com

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