Before founding Lightlabs, I created messaging and communication plans and wrote advertising copy. I still read all of my clients’ materials, both internal and forward facing, and write or edit a good deal of it myself. I also read their competition.
So...I have an opinion or seven about what separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to powerful copy. The most important one, without a doubt is this:
I don’t necessarily mean to bare your soul. If it’s on-brand for you to bare your soul, then go for it. If it’s not, then you can still be your naked and unadorned self without baring your soul.
Imagine this: You’re at a cocktail party with 150 people and everyone is naked. Nothing is different than a standard cocktail party except the lack of clothing. Just people mingling, eating, drinking, and talking.
How you carry your body and use your voice in the room is everything. There are no signals from your shoes, handbag, suit, or jewelry to tell your story. You’ve got to tell your story.
This is the kind of nakedness that makes for a powerful voice. Too many people and companies rely on writing tropes and turns of phrase that are akin to handbags, suits, dresses, shoes, or jewelry. What is on the surface distracts from what is underneath.
Every person—and company or movement—has an voice buried somewhere that is clear, honest, and full of unique personality. Whether the personality is funny or dependable or intelligent or edgy or revolutionary or authoritative or visionary or sophisticated or down-to-earth or artistic or enthusiastic or hip, or most likely a combination of many characteristics, write from that voice. Write from that voice consistently. Write from that voice unapologetically.
In-depth interviews are key to the brand and voice development processes I go through with my clients.
This interview can be 20 minutes or so. Try these questions: What do you—or your company—do? Why do you do what you do? What do you most love about what you do? What is most challenging? Tell me about your clients (or audience). What does an average day look like?
Record the interview, then transcribe it. Compare the recording and the transcript with how you write.
A written and spoken voice are different, but you want them to sound and feel like they’re coming from the same person. If yours don’t, experiment with putting more of the personality that comes through your spoken voice into your written voice. You may also discover ways your written voice is instructive for your spoken voice.
The result? You'll be able to asses how naked and authentic your written voice is, and be in a good position to work on getting even more naked and authentic.
From a brand perspective, it’s almost never a wise move to go down these roads. People and companies with a personal growth, spiritual, or philosophical undercurrent or focus tend to be particularly susceptible.
If the concept is solid, you can explain it with everyday English. Wrestle with the language as it is. It will make you better writer and communicator.
The result? We’ll be available to read every word you write and grok your authentic personality, instead of getting stuck on that made-up or woo-woo word in your second paragraph.
Exception 1: An aspect of your brand and/or mission is to shift how your audience uses language for some purpose. But then, be explicit about your choices and mindful about how you go about it.
Exception 2: You are a brilliant—and I mean brilliant—wordsmith and know how to artfully create, use, and introduce emerging language.
Exception 3: If you want to start a cult, or sound like one, definitely ignore this advice.
I mean it; be ruthless. Not one idea, sentence, or word gets through unless it is absolutely necessary to get your message across. Anything else is just noise, and will obscure what you want to communicate. Not one word...
This doesn’t mean no poetry or creative expression; not if that’s part of your voice or brand. Apply ruthless editing there as well.
The result? Every word belongs. There’s nothing in the way of communication and connection. Your naked voice comes through loud and clear.
Try these out over the next few weeks as you write for your personal or company’s brand. Let me know what you learn, what you like, what you don’t, and any questions that come up.
To your naked voice, in all its unadorned glory,
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