Here’s How to Pick the Perfect GIF

how to pick the perfect gif

People ask me this a lot: “Lianna, how do you sniff out the GIFs you use obsessively in every piece of content you create?”

I shake my head sadly, and think, Oh, you poor sad slob. If you don’t get it now, you never will.

Then I ride off into the sunset on my high horse.

high horse yeee

Look how condescending this horse is!

Obviously, this is a horrible and shitty thing to think or say.

So instead of saying it, I decided to examine the actual thought process I go through when picking a GIF.

And write it down for you. So you never have to hire me. ????

GIFs are the future

True fact: GIFs (graphical interchange format, for all you acronym nerds) are uniquely hilarious.

Precisely because they’re less immersive — and thus less intimidating or time-consuming to enjoy — than videos, and waaaay more visually interesting than plain ol’ paragraphs of text, GIFs fill a singular role in content.

They ask little and deliver a lot. They’re a low-tech way to entertain, illustrate a point, crack a joke, you name it. Everyone should use ‘em.


I used to pronounce GIF with a hard G. Now I pronounce it with a soft G, like the sugary, salty peanut butter my mom wouldn’t buy us.

Why? Because the guy who invented it SAYS it should be a soft G. Respect, y’all.


I’m gonna walk you step-by-step through picking a GIF for your blog or email, using THIS VERY POST as an example.

It’s so meta that we might both implode, like dying stars or Donald Trump’s colon — but let’s see what happens.

First things first: Decide where you want a GIF

To find the ideal place for your GIF, zoom out and look at the entire structure of your document. You’re looking for…

  • Walls of text
  • Spots where you’re hammering home a point
  • And any other spot where you’d like to lighten the mood or provide a moment of levity

When I finished this post draft, I set my screen to 50% so I could see where I needed a GIF. Here’s what that looked like (META WARNING):

how to find the perfect GIF

Also, as I’m writing, if I know there’s a spot ripe for a joke, I’ll add [GIF] in brackets so I don’t have to interrupt my flow to go find one.

I’ll also include any notes about what I think the GIF could be, so I don’t accidentally publish without finding the GIF. Like so:

[GIF: how dare you]

Next, head to Giphy.com

(AHEM. Another reason it’s pronounced with a soft G? Because that means Giphy.com is pronounced “Jiffy”. As in, “Find your GIF in a jiffy.” YOU’RE WELCOME.)

Now you’re here on Giphy, and you’ve gotta decide what to search. This is where it gets tricky, and where most people are just like,

huh???

uh wat

See what I did there?

The secret search sauce

And now, the secret sauce. Consider it my GIF to you. ????

Read the sentence right before the place you’ve decided to insert the GIF.

Right after you read it, imagine making a SHORT, offhanded, under-your-breath joke to a friend next to you. You’re looking for a two-to-three-word phrase, like:

  • Am I right?
  • Oh God
  • How bout them apples??!

Etc.

Then type that phrase into Giphy, and WATCH THE MAGIC HAPPEN.

Depending on how esoteric your search phrase is, you’ll get a page of either directly or tangentially related GIFs. Fair warning: at least 8% of them will contain boobs.

You can also use GIFs to finish a thought, like I did above with the poodle GIF. Advanced users only, please.

So, here I am on Giphy. I’ve decided I need a GIF to finish the sentence “This is where it gets tricky, and where most people are just like… ”

Because I know that sentence would end with “Huh???” if I were writing it, I search “Huh?” in Giphy.

I get these results:

giphy search results

So many quizzical, bemused faces!!

And I pick the poodle head-tilt GIF, as you already knew.

Why did I pick THAT one? Well, a few reasons…

Lianna’s Very Official, Extremely Important Rules for Picking GIFs

  • GIFs must be high-res. Unless they’re REALLY good. And even then, use small or low-res GIFs sparingly. Only one shitty GIF per content piece (please tweet this)
  • No esoteric pop culture or other references. While it’s so, so awesome to use a GIF from The Office because I know my readers love that shit just as much as I do, there’s always a risk of ascribing too much weight or meaning to a GIF that a reader won’t “get”.

    So aim to pick a GIF that’s funny even without knowing what show, movie, or catastrophic life event it’s from. Like this one:
  • zootopia(It’s from Zootopia, but that doesn’t matter.)

 

  • Nothing overly distracting. GIFs that loop for too long run the risk of distracting your reader, so I try to pick shorter loops. I also often eschew GIFs including text, unless the text can conceivably read like an extension of the writing.
  • Nothing racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive or marginalizing. I tend toward the absurd/surreal anyhow, but if there’s ANY chance a GIF would offend your target reader, it’s better to pick a different one.
  • Don’t settle… but also don’t overthink it. The first GIF that stands out to you and meets all these criteria is probably the right one.
  • Pick a few, then whittle it down. Not sure which GIF is right? Open a few in new tabs, and then pick your fave.

That’s it! Only 6 simple rules to keep in mind.


Six rules isn’t simple, you say? Your mind can only hold three rules at a time? Good thing you can hire me to do this for you, then.


If this process DIDN’T work for you, that’s OK. It happens. Here’s how to troubleshoot crappy or nonexistent GIF search results:

Think of a different or related phrase, and search again.

This isn’t as annoying as it sounds, because you’ll find that your first page of Giphy search results will inspire you to make different searches. Sometimes, just a slight phrasing difference (say, from “no thank you” to “no thanks” or even to “do not want”) will turn up the perfect GIF.

Like this one:

perfect gif is perfect

Try this method and tell me what happens

Especially if you’ve thought “Garsh, I just can’t pick a GIF to save my life!” Which I’m sure all of three people planetwide have thought.

ANALYSIS: How Dollar Shave Club Introduces Humor in Its Homepage Copy

Analysis_ Dollar Shave Club

YES, THAT’S RIGHT, IT’S THE SECOND INSTALLMENT OF “UNAUTHORIZED, UNASKED-FOR REVIEWS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S WEB COPY”!

I’m your host, Lianna Patch, and you can read my analysis of Purple’s Seat Cushion Landing page right here if you haven’t already.

Today I’m gonna take you through the current iteration of Dollar Shave Club’s homepage. Like Purple, DSC first went viral with a hilarious ad:

And their branding promises punchy, masculine fun in both their marketing copy and their physical products.

But when I went through DSC’s homepage this weekend, one thing struck me: They play it pretttttty slow and safe when introducing humor into their copy.

Lemme go through why I think they’re taking it slow, since, you know, this is my blog and all.

Here’s the page I’m looking at:

Dollar Shave Club Homepage (as of January 2018)

Click to view a full-size, zoomable version of the annotated page in a new tab. Then scroll down for my thoughts on what DSC is doing, what’s working, and what’s not.

Dollar Shave Club Homepage_Annotated

What Dollar Shave Club is doing on this page

First things first: DSC is currently using its homepage as a sales page for its Starter Sets.

There are 4 calls to action throughout the page. 3 of those link to a landing page with more options for Starter Sets, and one is a direct Add to Cart link.

There are a few reasons why DSC would choose to treat its homepage as a sales page:

  1. Homepages are overrated and usually poorly executed  — “Let’s put everything we do right here on the homepage and make people scroll until they get bored!!11eleventy”
  2. DSC knows most people become customers through the Starter Set, and they want to make that acquisition easier
  3. They know they can more easily show value through their actual service than here on this page, so they’re gunning to get signups/sales as soon as possible.

OR MAYBE IT’S ALL 3! Or maybe there is another Mystery Reason (TM)!

We in agreement? Cool. Let’s check out the page section by section.

Section 1 (Hero: “Experience Butter with the Classic Shave Starter Set”)

The first thing you notice when you land on the homepage is the hero section video, which I ADORE.

It very quickly turns from a standard product shot (a hand reaching for shaving cream — excuse me, shave butter) to a comedic display of what using the product presumably feels like.

AKA riding a creamy Slip N’ Slide to Shave Heaven, where a distinguished older gentleman gently and sweetly blows the beard right off your scruffy face. I’ll take it.

 

Now, this video is our first clue that DSC is aiming to brand itself with humor.

And it’s our only clue. Because the copy in this hero section is straight-up boring by itself.

Imagine the video didn’t load when you visited this page, for one reason or another.

All you’d see is “Experience Butter [with the Classic Shave Starter Set].” What does “Experience Butter” even mean?

The subhead does a good job of explaining and clarifying the offer — “Get Shave Butter and a month supply of our best razor for $5” — but that big headline is a waste of valuable space.

Regardless of the video or image in the hero section, the copy here needs to be able to stand on its own!  And right now, it’s as wobbly as a newborn fawn.

You’re welcome

Without even needing to be funny about it, DSC could have easily picked a more evocative headline; say, “Slip Into a Smoother Shave”. (Y’all can have that one. It’s free.)

So why doesn’t Dollar Shave Club go balls-to-the-wall with humor copywriting right away?

Well, because this is a homepage. They’re getting traffic from all different sources here, and not all of those visitors will know who DSC is or what they sell.

It’s better to be clear up front than potentially confusing a significant portion of that traffic — even at the risk of being boring, which the current hero section copy totally is.

Onward, noble steeds!

Section 2 (Offer: “A Starter Set is the ideal way to start”)

This section doubles down on the offer presented up top: Here’s what you get, here’s what it costs, and here’s what you’re signing up for. Pretty straightforward stuff.

Dollar Shave Club Homepage_Annotated_3

Again, there’s a wretchedly lazy header that isn’t working as hard as it could be. “A starter set is the ideal way to start.”

YOU DON’T SAY.

Quoth the Raven, “That shit was real dumb.”

To avoid this repetition (and redundancy), DSC shoulda gone with something like, “Your smoother shave starts here.” Or… “The Starter Kit is your key to a silkier shave.”

Look, I know it’s not Dickinson, but it’s better, OK?

Then we move on to a smaller section — let’s call it 2A — where readers get the deets on the Starter Kit and everything it contains month to month.

I’m not sure why there’s not more info available (like, in a hover or accordion or dropdown) about each of the included items.

Especially the Bathroom Minutes, since I’m guessing not a lot of people can intuit that that it’s a tiny, poop-pun-filled newspaper that DSC sends out with each of its cartridge refills. Why not specify?? It could be a selling point for… some people. 

But OK, they want to keep the page as uncomplicated as possible. Sure. Fine. Next.

Section 3 (Benefits: “3 reasons to try DSC”)

Another lazy swing and miss for this headline. Yes, it’s clear. But it’s also soooo boring.

A simple tweak could make this more persuasive — again, without even needing to inject humor:

“3 reasons to try DSC”  —> “Why should I try DSC?”

Putting this header in the reader’s voice helps the copy relate to what the user is probably asking him- (or her)self at that moment.

Notice how it’s “Why should I”  — not “Why should you,” which is how the original version is phrased (“3 reasons [why you should] try DSC”).

Make it about the reader, y’all

But here’s the interesting thing… this is the section where we start to see some flavor coming into the copy. Not in the headers — that might be too risky! — but in the body copy, right at the end. Just the way you might try to coax a friend into coming to a party when you know she’d rather stay at home in her footie pajamas.

We also get our first real, concrete, funny image: “level 9 yogi flexibility”.

Sadly, this is one of only three such “word pictures” that DSC paints on this page. (First person to find the other two gets a pat on the head from me and a hi-res photo of my cat lying upside down!

Actually, y’all can just have that photo now. You’re welcome.)

Such floof. Much relax!

Section 4 (The we just remembered this was a homepage, so here’s some content, we guess section: “We want more than just your body”)

Readers who have been following the thread of this homepage might do a double-take upon getting to this section, which seems like DSC’s marketing team remembered that homepages are supposed to offer something for everyone, so they threw up a bunch of blog links.

More subpar headline and subhead writing here. “We want more than just your body” is vague, awkwardly phrased, not really about the reader, and doesn’t connect with the subhead below–which is thus given the unfair burden of explaining that hey, DSC also runs a blog. 

I do like those intentionally gross blog thumbnail illustrations, though.

Section 4 (FAQ: “So what’s the catch?”)

Aha! LOOK THERE! A headline written from the user’s point of view! Thank glob.

We’ve finally reached the point where the copywriter(s) who wrote this page were allowed to start having some real fun. Either that, or they started drinking.

It’s been about 8 years. Time for another Mad Men GIF.

The way these FAQs are written is the tone we’ve WANTED from DSC, the tone they HINTED at throughout this page, dangled, and then snatched away.

Oh, to savor this major tone shift now, in the expanded accordion FAQ section! So far down the page!

Why? If someone has read this far, chances are they’re open to copy that takes a few more risks in trying to get their attention. Plus, the extra-sassy copy in some spots will feel like a reward to careful readers. 

TL;DR

Throughout the page, Dollar Shave Club graaaadually introduces humor into its copy. It gets fully up to its normal, buoyant self by the very bottom. DSC takes the conservative approach to homepage humor, and I get that.

Unfortunately, the last CTA comes in like a wet fart, with an extra line that makes the ‘Club look more anxious than confident. But hey, sometimes all you need is a good editor.

What do y’all think of this page?

And whose copy should I tackle next?

2017 Wrap-Up, Extreme Navel-Gazing Edition

*microphone feedback* Is this thing on?

Sorry, never done this wrap-up thing before.

I’d like to thank the Academy, my cat Space Ghost, and venlafaxine for getting me this far…

Nah, actually, I DO think it’s important for biz owners to acknowledge their efforts (and take stock of what’s working and what’s not) every once in a while. It’s just that I’ve never done it.

But this year, I started gaining real clarity and getting traction on the type of rewarding  nay, life-affirming  business I want to run.

So I’m writing it all down, just in case I wake up in Milwaukee in an amnesic fugue tomorrow morning.

terrence howard

Just call me “Confused Terrence Howard”.

Along with deciding in 2017 that I was going to focus on writing only emails, landing pages, and the occasional website, here’s everything I did this year and the effect it had on my business:

I spoke at things! And people listened!

This surprised no one more than me, believe me.

It was a huge honor this year to speak and/or teach for audiences at…

Lianna Patch Call to Action Conference

Look what a good time I can have with a Britney Spears microphone!
Photo of me at CTAConf by Ronnie Lee Hill Photography.

I’ve already got a couple of classes and conferences booked for 2018, and am so excited I could pee. I won’t, though. I promise.

If you want my brain, face, and body at your event in 2018, you can tell me more about it here.

I also did a fair few podcasts, which was super fun. Oh, you want me to get on the phone and dork out about comedy and copy? I’ll do that alllllll day.

These are definitely in the top 5:

I wrote a ton of articles for companies I adore

Because I generally prefer to slurp wine, watch The Crown, and avoid building my list at all costs*, I happily shared my marketing knowledge with some crazy-awesome companies this year instead of writing my own blogs.

Here are a few of my favorite guest posts:

* What can I say? Claire Foy gives a standout performance.

(OK, I did write some killers for the Punchline blog)

Not enough of them — but I see you, 2018, and I’m coming for you!

fist shaking

Here are my two best posts (*cough* only posts) from this year on my very own slice of the Internet:

And a very distant third.

I also ghostwrote a few pretty great pieces, but if I told you what they were, I’d have to kill you. And I’d rather not clean up a mess right now ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I traveled to 5 countries

First France, then Canada, then Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia! More importantly, my new passport photo is hella cute. Take that, passport control guy who told haggard, 16-year-old, just-off-a-24-hour-international-flight me that “I looked much better now” than my old passport photo. Which, I’ll be honest, was horrific.

I worked with some truly incredible clients

From shilling software to slangin’ ecommerce product descriptions, I got to work on some really big, awesome projects this year. And while that by itself isn’t 100% notable, here’s what was: I remembered why I started doing this in the first place.

To my clients: THANK YOU for trusting me with your voice and your customers! 

Thank you for letting me get weird. Thank you for being open to GIFs. Thank you for going out on a limb to make a real connection with your people!

And that’s not even to mention the clients my SNAP Copy business partner, James E. Turner and I, worked with through our joint on-demand copywriting agency. Thank y’all for trusting us with your messaging.

…and I met instant business BFFs

Fun fact: I’ve never been a girly girl. (Please try to contain your shock.)

With few exceptions, I’ve always been the person who said, “It’s just easier for me to make friends with guys. Nothing against girls, but…”

I didn’t realize that I was just waiting for 2017 to meet, like, ALL of the badass women in marketing at once. Holllaaaaaaaaaa.

Claire Suellentrop, Lianna Patch, and Jessica Best

Look, it’s me with the incredible Claire Suellentrop (#businessbae) and equally amazing Jessica Best!

2017, you were a pile of hot garbage in so many ways… but in other ways, you were just hot. Good on ya.

Cheers to 2018, y’all!

FACE PUN(CH): You’ll Never Think About Puns the Same Way Again

Humor Copywriting and Puns

There is no sweeter sound in the world than the long, sighing groan that follows a truly magnificent pun.

You lay it down. You wait a millisecond (OK, sometimes longer).

And then you get the crinkled-up disgust face and the “AUUUUGHHH.”

Puns as aggression? Nahhh

Bret is disappointed in you.

But it turns out some humor theorists (one in particular) don’t find that sound so sweet.

Let me introduce you to Charles Gruner, who literally made it his life’s work to argue that fun actually = pain.

I’m oversimplifying a bit, but basically, Gruner’s theory of humor is that jokes are a form of “playful aggression”. With the exception of what he calls “good-natured play,” Gruner suggested that humor is a contest or competition. Meaning every joke results in a winner and a loser.

no waaaay brah

Basically, Gruner saw puns as a game of intellectual oneupmanship. In this light, a post-pun groan is actually the sound of your “opponent” (or in my case, victim) audibly admitting defeat.

YEP. Sounds like a real fun guy to invite to your birthday, right?

In his excellent textbook The Psychology of Humor, Rod A. Martin explains Gruner’s theory when it comes to a “duel of wits,” like a pun:

Puns in everyday conversation may be a way of “defeating” the listener, but canned jokes in which the punch line is based on a pun are seen as a way of enabling the listener to share feelings of mastery and superiority along with the joke-teller. The ability to “get the joke” gives the listener a feeling of superiority and victory, presumably over hypothetical others who might not be able to understand it, perhaps due to their lower intelligence. Thus, according to Gruner, all jokes, no matter how seemingly innocent, contain a contest, a winner, and a loser.”

Really makes you think about all the dad jokes you grew up with, right?

ice cold, dad

That was cold. Stone cold.

As interesting as it is, Gruner’s theory isn’t the prevailing school of thought among most modern-day psychologists studying humor.

Many theorists now agree that humor plays a huge number of roles in social interaction, cognition and understanding, and emotional experience —to name just a few of its many sparkly facets.

For levity, it sure does have a heavy job to do!

*rimshot*

I heard you groan all the way over here. AND I LOVED IT.

I’ll be writing more about theories of humor and how it affects and influences us in the future. But for now, I just wanna know: What’s your favorite pun?

ANALYSIS: How This Killer Ecommerce Sales Page Uses Humor to Convert

If you’ve read a single sentence on PunchlineCopy.com, you already know I’m deeply (probably overly) invested in how humor, jokes, and personality can shape conversions and influence consumer decision-making.

TERRY CREWS Y'ALL

But recently, I thought to myself,

“Hey, you know what? Maybe other folks don’t intrinsically love this idea as much as you. Maybe you need to SHOW them how and why humor works so well in marketing.”

So now I’m going around the Internet and finding hallmark examples of brands using humor strategically.

I’m screenshotting those emails and landing pages, annotating them, and painstakingly analyzing them right here on this homely little blog — so you can start to get where I’m coming from.

First up, we’ve got Purple.

Y’all probably know Purple. It’s the super cohesively branded mattress company that went viral with ads like this:

And their landing pages don’t disappoint, either. In keeping with the brand’s zany, carefree style, Purple’s landing pages use humor in combination with tried-and-testing copywriting best practices.

Here’s the Seat Cushion page, in all its glory:

Purple Seat Cushion Sales Page

Click to view a full-size, zoomable version of the annotated page in a new tab. Then scroll down for my thoughts on what Purple is doing and why it works.

Purple's humor conversion copywriting
Click to open the image in a new tab and zoom in for the comments.

What Purple is doing right on this page

Conversion-focused writers and UX specialists will notice the page design and layout first:

  • It’s segmented into easy-to-parse sections…
  • and features not one, but TWO videos showing the product in use.
  • Bullet points and illustrations abound, making the page easy to take in. No walls of text here.

Plus, the copy asks and answers questions, showing readers that Purple truly understands its target market’s problems and has an effective solution on hand.

Check, check, check.

(As for why there are potentially distracting nav menu and footer links, the jury’s out. My guess? Purple’s analytics showed that without the opportunity to explore other pages of the site, visitors bounced — so they offered ’em the ability to click around and come back to this page when ready.)

Dig a little deeper into the copy, and you’ll notice three seriously strategic ways Purple is augmenting its already savvy presentation with humor.

How humor gives Purple the edge

1. Funny and varied word choice (plus wordplay!)

Did you even KNOW there were so many words for butts in the English language? I didn’t.

In nearly every headline and sentence of body copy, Purple says “butt” in a new and different way: derriere, tail, duff, wazoo…

They also gleefully take advantage of low-hanging joke opportunities like “pain in the butt,” and give their sentences a playful cadence by using alliteration, like “precious posteriors” and “squeeze and suffocate”.

Why does this work?

Using jokes and different words to describe the same part of the anatomy keeps the reader interested, entertained, and reading further — if for no other reason to see how many unique ways you can say “butt” (19 on this page, for the record).

2. Anthropomorphization

Wow, what a long, boring word for “attributing human form or personality to”.

Purple anthropormorphizes — what else? — the reader’s butt. We see this happen right away in the hero section headline and video, where a butt is endowed with the human emotion of sadness.

It even gets its very own “Sad Butt Diary” to catalog the many injustices that plague it.

Purple's humor conversion copywriting

A bit further down, Purple suggests that our butts have been “neglected” by uncomfortable chairs (effectively anthropomorphizing those chairs in the process, too).

Why does this work?

By mentally endowing a part of our own body with its own, distinct emotions, we can more effectively empathize with that part.

Only the most mindful among us has the elastic mental perspective it takes to examine our own thoughts, feelings, and sensations from afar — but given a little mental distance from our butts, we just might start to see them more objectively.

And thinking of your butt as a separate entity also makes it easier to rationalize giving dat booty a nice present. After all, you can deal with being uncomfortable. It’s just you (and you’ve probably dealt with worse).

But when it’s your butt that’s bummed? And that butt feels like a “precious” friend whom you’ve been overlooking?

Well, you’d be a monster to ignore your friend’s complaints, wouldn’t you?

3. Strategic deployment of humor

I saved the best for last.

One of the most common questions I hear (after “Is that your natural hair color?”) is, “But where and when should I use humor in my marketing?”

My answer is the same as it is to many other copywriting questions: It depends.

It depends on your branding, your prospect’s stage of awareness of your product, your risk tolerance for pushing the humor envelope, and a whole host of other things.

BUT(T).

In general, you want to cut “cleverness” in favor of clarity. That’s a pretty hard-and-fast copywriting rule.

So it follows that you’d want to eschew humor in the parts of your marketing that are closest to the sale.

Look at where Purple is laying off the jokes and just presenting the facts, albeit in the same lively tone:

Purple's humor conversion copywriting

Why does this work?

By avoiding potentially distracting readers with humor — or accidentally over-easing readers’ anxiety, some of which is necessary to motivate a sale — Purple keeps the focus on its… bottom line.

Got something to add? Leave a comment!

5 Things I’ve Learned Since Starting to Call Myself a Copywriter

Look, it’s the last Thursday in November in the United States!

Allow me to cram this post into a contrived Thanksgiving framework so it makes sense that I wrote and published it today:

What am I thankful for? The following 5 knowledge bombs, and the knowledge that more knowledge bombs will continue to drop as I turn into an old, wrinkly, cranky version of myself (and eventually go live on a mountaintop where people come to seek my wisdom. And bring me gifts. Preferably gifts made of simple carbohydrates.)

There! Done. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

5 THINGS I'VE LEARNED SINCE I STARTED TO CALL MYSELF A COPYWRITER

5 things I’ve learned since starting to call myself a copywriter

1. Being a good writer does not make you a good businessperson

Here’s the thing about starting a business: the better you are, the more self-conscious you are about bragging on yourself. Can literally anyone hang their shingle and say, “I’m a copywriter”? Yes. Yes they sure can. Self-doubt is the name of the game when you are a baby writer looking for any and all jobs on Elance (and Craigslist–see below).

And oh boy, if you’re ever looking for evidence that running a business is about growth, check out the first few client emails you sent.

Mine were so stiff, and yet somehow defensive at the same time. It was as if I was saying, “I’m important! I’m good at stuff! But also I am scared to death and you better pay me, or else.”

I also used to offer copy editing services on Craigslist. I wish I could say that was a learning experience.

I also used to offer copy editing services on Craigslist. I wish I could say it was a learning experience.2. You can always be a better writer

Dear First Clients and Clients Shortly Thereafter,

Do I think you got a raw deal? No. I was undercharging like crazy and doing free work all the time, and I’m 100% certain that I improved your copy.

Do I think my understanding of copywriting and sales and pretty much everything about me has improved a millionfold since then? Yes. Yes I sure do.

3. Sometimes cutting extra words is not the answer

I offered editing services–both copy editing and more substantial content editing–for a long time. Cutting copy down to its bare necessities has always been one of my strengths. But no best practice is best 100% of the time. [Click to tweet]

Long-form sales pages have been shown time and time again to be effective in many cases. Turns out that when you need to persuade folks to do something, you gotta spend some time and effort. File under #commonsense and also #notaseasyasitsounds.

4. People are irrationally attached to the words they use to describe themselves

Copywriters reading this: Ever have a client who hired you to write something for them, then changed your final draft on their own? Without giving you a chance to explain why you chose the words you did?

Or a client who turned out to be completely intractable when it came to revamping a tagline or elevator pitch, because they’d been using the same one for so long it just felt wrong and weird to mix it up?

People can be stubborn and dumb and scared, so copywriting is sometimes less about the words you use in your work, and more about the words you use to persuade them that 1) this is forward progress and 2) forward progress is good.

5. Saying no is fucking great

Everybody and their mom talks about why it’s important to learn to say no. But this is my blog, so now you have to read what I think about it.

Recently, I’ve been turning down new client inquiries left and right because I am very popular and important, according to my mom.

I’m not turning down requests because I can’t handle the work (we’re all gluttons for punishment, after all)–but because I’ve learned to sniff out a “bad client” from miles away. This is the archetypal Disney villain-cum-bullheaded-moron who simultaneously undervalues you and needs your help all the time; whose invoices are late and whose revisions are premature.

The flip side of this is that when I spy a potential client who seems to really know why they’re looking for a copywriter and the actual dollar value (in ROI) of the services I provide, I will run to that client like Forrest Gump to Jenny.

TL;DR: Today, on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for growth. And pie.

GET CREATIVES is coming to Propeller on July 13!

Hey, New Orleans business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs! I’ve been working on this thing with my talented friends Julia Sevin and Frank Aymami, and we want to share it with you.

Get Creatives is a pithy 45-minute presentation that packs in a ton of information you need to know if you’re the one who markets your business. Register now on Eventbrite, or read on for a few more reasons to join us on July 13 at 6pm!

Communication design: What it is, and why it matters

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You’ll learn how your investment in communication design (including copywriting, graphic design, and photography) actually increases your profits and positions your brand for bigger and better things.

You’ll get actionable tips on where to find “creatives”; how much to pay them; what to ask for; and what to look out for.

And you’ll learn how to scrimp smartly so you can save your marketing dollars without sacrificing the end quality of your product.

Register ahead of time >>>

Did you know…

  • 55% of your website visitors will spend less than 15 seconds on a given page
  • Your contract with an independent creative should always specify a kill fee
  • You might not own the rights to the photographs you commissioned

There’s a lot more where that came from.

We’re going through the entire process of working with a “creative”–everything from how and where to find quality writers, designers, and photographers, to contracts and taxes, to the best way to send feedback and get the results you want.

Join us July 13 at 6pm at Propeller Incubator to find out more!

What I Wear to Write

[Note: Hilary Joyner of Cutie Cameras and a few other ladybloggers invited me to do a #bloggeroutfit post today. Get ready for some serious navel-gazing. –Lianna]

 

The write way to dress

Here’s how I feel about “writing clothes”: What you wear informs your comfort, and your comfort informs the tone (and sometimes the quality) of your writing. Bear with me, because there’s a happy middle ground here.

Comfort is paramount. But being too comfortable isn’t good either. After all, I’m working. Gotta get my brain in the game.

As I write this, I’m still in my pajamas. Why? I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU, FELLOW SLOBS. But when I’m writing something important–say, a landing page to increase conversions–I’m probably going to want to wear pants.

If I have a solid writing day with no meetings (#blessed), I usually go for jeans or cutoffs, a comfy T-shirt, and flats. If I really don’t want anyone to bother me at the coffee shop (read: most days), I wear my glasses. They frame my BRF nicely.

 

You can have my T-shirts when you pry them from my cold, dead hands

You probably want one of these shirts now.
Hildegard T-shirt FTW.

I collect T-shirts on pure intuition, which has led me to acknowledge that:

1) They’re usually gray.

2) They must be insanely soft.

3) I like people to know that I know about cool things that they probably don’t know about.

My newest acquisition–this kickass band tee from my friends (and rock superstars) Hildegard–fits the bill. It’s just creepy enough, nice and long, and did I mention how soft it is? Perfect for writing. And doing everything else.

Please don’t make me take it off.

I feel naked without earrings

In high school/early college, I went through a phase wherein the bigger my earrings were, the better. I’m talking plate-sized, pressed-tin “LEO” astrology-themed danglers, big ol’ wooden circles, you name it. I loved them.

One day, something changed, and since then, I’ve preferred post earrings. Was it an invasion of the body snatchers, or my burgeoning maturity? Maybe it was Maybelline! We’ll never know.

Either way, my Etsy wishlist now bears witness to my love for delicate post earrings. And wooden furniture. And backpacks. And necklaces. OH MY GOD I WANT IT ALL.

Owl about town.
Hoooooo are you?

These adorable little owls were made by my pal Miss Malaprop, who also happens to be participating in the #bloggeroutfit post roundup! They’re the earring equivalent of a great T-shirt: cute but not too fancy, goes with everything, and can be worn multiple days in a row without anyone noticing the smell.

Flats are my jam

Look, I love heels. I have a closet full of beautiful heels that, if they could talk, would probably be croaking something like “Please…just let me die…” I bust out a pair about two or three times a year.

Maybe it’s my crippling lack of self-confidence, but most days, I’m happy being 5’8″ and walking comfortably.

eBay jelly flats!
Flat as hell and SPARKLY TO BOOT! (Get it?)

I got these insanely sparkly jelly flats on eBay for like, $5. I wear them on days when the sky is not quite ominous enough for rain boots, but you JUST KNOW that if you wear anything leather on your feet, you’ll get drenched.

Moment of silence for all the ruined suede flats out there.

Anyway, that’s usually what I wear to write! Was this the most self-indulgent post ever? If you think so, you probably haven’t read this one.

The 3 Laws of Copywriting

[Psst–this post is by Terra, the sharp-as-a-tack English Maven intern! Don’t you wish your intern was smart like mine? OK, enough bragging. Read on. — Lianna] 

Fabulous graphic goes here.

When it comes to writing for any genre, there’s a clear list of minimum required skills. You need to know how to read and write, how sentences and paragraphs work, and how to build on them to create meaning. And while anyone can apply that baseline, lowest-common-denominator skillset to just about anything written, not all wordsmiths can write copy.

Let me break that down just in case you, like me, are math-challenged: you need to know how to do much more than write to be a good copywriter. It’s not enough to be able to write a nice metaphor—great copywriters turn phrases that turn into dollars. And you can, too.

In order to harness this power, you must first understand it. The art of copywriting distinctly differs from other forms of writing. Once you learn the rules of copywriting, you can follow them, apply them, customize them, and use them to transform into the copywriter you were meant to be.

Are you ready? Let’s begin.

1. Copy sells something.

Copy is writing that businesses use to advertise a product’s market value. To effectively sell a product, copy must inform, entice, and inspire the audience to become customers. Good copy appeals to its audience, and allows readers to realize the product’s value, connect its benefits to their specific needs, and compel them to buy it by outlining how said product could improve or enhance their lives. If your writing doesn’t sell, the product won’t either. That’s it.

2. Copy targets a specific audience.

Everyone is different, but not that different. Understanding what unifies your target audience is crucial to determining its wants and needs: information you can use to better appeal to them.

Knowing your audience will also shed light on other make-or-break factors, like which publishing platform will drive the most traffic, which advertising channel will return the best results, and which tone and style resonates the most with your audience. Focusing on the customer is a huge part of that equation—by tailoring your copy to a key customer demographic or demand, you can capture their attention more fully and direct business where it matters most.

3. Copy compels its audience to take action.

If your copy doesn’t impact your bottom line, it’s your bottom on the line. Copy’s ultimate goal is to turn readers into customers; if your copy isn’t compelling, the audience won’t respond to it, period. Inciting copy allows readers to visualize the product’s benefits to their lives, which makes becoming a customer more attractive to them.

In order to spur its audience to action, your copy needs to explain why the reader should care, what to do about it, and then exactly how to do that thing. To that end, clients often work with copywriters to determine how the copy should come across to maximize results– inclusive of tone, language style, customer preferences, length, structure, content, and technicalities. Such client specifications are important for producing effective copy, but the process is by no means a one-way street: copywriting is very much a collaborative activity, one in which the customer’s needs and writer’s voice must be heard (and read) to achieve the best possible end result.

There you have it: the three tenets of copywriting that will help you drive profitable business, better communicate with potential customers, and transform your love of language into a tool more powerful than you could ever imagine. By crafting masterful copy, a writer can convey meaning and create opportunity.

But do be wary of your new powers…with great copy comes great response-ability.