copywriting

Ideas On Demand // How To Be Creative When You’re Stuck In A Rut

By Alice McKenzie

For those in the creative industries, it’s a familiar feeling—you can almost hear the clock ticking down to to your deadline, but there’s just nothing going on upstairs. I’ve dabbled in writing in all of its glorious forms, with a background as a copywriter for the advertising industry.

While musicians have songs, and authors have books, my ‘creative currency’ was ideas. If I didn’t come up with a strong idea, then I wasn’t bringing the goods. Talk about pressure. But this wasn’t a problem that I was alone in facing. The more advertising folk I got chatting to, the more I realised that everyone had their little secrets to trick their brains into coming up with something surprising.

You see, the first thing to understand is what an idea really is. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every campaign. You don’t have to come up with an entire app that’s going to change the way that people see/use/buy x.

Ideas are just new ways of looking at the world, or specifically, new connections between known things. It’s the ‘known things’ part that few people appreciate. In order to really click, to get people to get it, ideas need to be partly familiar. They need to share a common thread with an audience, a requisite base from which to introduce something new.

So, what do these insights mean?

a) You can draw inspiration from the world around you.
b) Fresh stimulation is going to help you find new connections.
c) Those connections could already be lurking in your untapped subconscious.

It should be noted that while these tips lend themselves to creative copywriting, there’s wiggle room to adapt these ways of thinking to solve just about any business or branding problem. After all, advertising is just solving businesses’ problems, right? Before you can implement any of these methods, you need to be armed with a robust creative brief.

Knowing about the product/service/company is great and all, but at the heart of it should be a unique selling proposition (USP). You know the ones:
X car brings families together.
Y cologne makes you irresistible.
Z paint lasts a lifetime.

One ad or piece of writing should equal one selling point.

1. Just get it down
If you’re not afraid to feel like a total idiot, and can accept that seemingly silly steps are all part of the sacred ‘creative process’, then this one is for you. I’m a fan of the good old Sharpie and A3 sheets of paper, but use whatever brainstorming materials that work for you. Draw 10 blank boxes on your page. Don’t worry about a ruler; these are for your purposes only. Write your USP at the top of the page. This should always be displayed prominently so that you never veer too far off-brief.

Now you want to fill your boxes with the first things that come to mind for this brief, no matter how obvious or stupid. If your mind is racing, fill out 50, or 100. They could be words, drawings, whatever. Your boxes don’t need to resemble print ads; this is just to segment your trains of thought. This method has a number of benefits. Most obviously, it flushes out the cliched first thoughts. It’s a well known truth that you can’t get rid of these niggling thoughts by just ignoring them; after a few hours they’ll return and start to seem like good ideas. Just get them out and put them in the pile.

Secondly, by drawing or writing your ideas, you’re helping your mind to see them as physical things. Shape, colour, texture, spelling, placement—these things can all be the springboard for new connections, which would otherwise have been lost in the depths of your mind. By forcing yourself to fill all the boxes available, you are encouraging yourself to look at things differently. Time restrictions can be a useful (albeit stressful) tool in coming up with new connections.

2. The dictionary method
Flip open the dictionary to a random page. Close your eyes and drop your finger somewhere on that page. This word, no matter how bizarre, is now your central focus: one of your known things. Within thirty seconds of finding your word, start writing. Anything. First person, third person. Fiction, non fiction. Don’t let your pen leave the page for 5 minutes. It will feel dumb. Your writing will most likely be completely senseless, but sometimes that’s all it takes to find something new.

Wade through that shocking excuse for writing, and just see where your brain goes. A slight twist on this method is a personal favourite of mine. If you’ve been given an impossible brief, vent it out through a pen rather than bashing that precious brain against the wall. Using the same non-stop writing approach, write about why you hate your client, what they want you to do, why it’s difficult with that product etc. There’s no greater motivation to write quickly than pure rage, and you might just find that letting emotion in could be the new perspective you needed.

3. Stimulate the senses
It’s quite remarkable how much of a role our senses play in our thinking. If you’re trying to market a particular product, it is a worthwhile idea to see it, touch it, smell it. Use it how it is intended to be used. Try to understand why the USP was chosen. Reading a brief can only give you so much information. It takes a little on-the-ground research to make up your own mind, and come up with genuine ideas. If you want to help the process along, introduce new things into your routine. Walk home via a different route.

Go to a different shopping centre to do your grocery shopping. We tend to filter out the everyday parts of our lives, so stimulating your mind and body with new places can help to spark creative thinking.

4. Give up (briefly)
Only recommended after a few days of solid brainstorming, this is less of a method and more of a necessary step. You’ve been furiously scribbling, and you have piles of paper to show for it. You may have hallucinated once or twice. You’re no longer sure of the difference between a good idea and a bad idea, and oh God you need sleep.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the point where you’re officially allowed to give up. It might be a few hours, it might be a day, depending on your deadline. You’ve tuckered out your little brain with product overload, so now you need to trust it to do its thing. Do something totally unrelated to your brief. Take a shower. Read a book. Draw. Work on a menial task.

The theory here is that while your brain takes a much needed break on the surface, the cogs are still turning in your subconscious, ready to burst forth with your idea.

Alice loves ideas and hates incorrect apostrophes. She’s the one woman army behind Beetroot Creative, a copywriting service for little brands with big stories to tell. Stalking is encouraged on Facebook and Instagram, or make yourself comfortable at beetrootcreative.com.au.

5 Ideas To Inspire You When You're Struggling To Create Blog Content

By Zoe Arpin

Struggling to create blog content? Here are five ideas to get you inspired....

1. Write a list
PEOPLE. LOVE. LISTS. (You clicked on this blog post, right?!) Humans have short attention spans. Many people leave web pages in less than a minute. Receiving information in concise, bite-sized chunks is ideal. If the list is related to your business in some way, that’s great, for example “Five reasons you should start a blog”, or “Ten ways to improve your Facebook business page” But it can also be a way of sharing information about you as a person, such as “Three Netflix shows I’m loving right now”; or “Five things I did that helped me quit smoking.”

Whatever the topic, blog posts involving lists are nearly always some of the most popular on any blog.

2. Interview someone
We humans don’t just love lists: we’re insatiably curious about each other! Doing a Q&A with someone you think your audience will find interesting is always a great way to get traffic to your website. For example, if your target audience is working mums, you could feature a mum who runs their own business and get them to share tips for juggling home and work. Or if you run a blog about reading, you could interview an author (which admittedly will be easier if the author is quite early on in their career - J.K Rowling’s probably a bit busy!) You could even turn these interviews into a series and turn it into a regular feature.

The win-win about doing something like this is that the person you’ve interviewed will often promote the blog post, too. That’s double the promotion for your website and opening your business up to a whole new audience.

3. Answer commonly asked questions
No matter what your business is, I will bet that you often find yourself being asked certain questions time and time again. “How do you find inspiration for your products?” “Where do you find interesting content for your blog? “How do you find the time to run your business and look after your family?” Take your regular answer to a question you are often asked and elaborate. “I find inspiration for my products by doing X, reading Y and listening to Z.” Go into more detail on each point and you’ve got yourself a blog post.

4. Educate
By sharing your knowledge, you are not only educating your audience about a certain topic; you are positioning yourself as an “expert” in this area, and people will return to your blog when they want to learn more. Dietitian? Write a blog post advising people on how to manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Photographer? Write a post about how to best photograph a child in motion. Own a clothing line? Write a blog post about accessorising.

5. Write a “how to” post
This is a particularly popular type of educational blog post, and one which Google loves. Think about it: how many time have you typed “How to do XYZ” into the Google search bar find out how to do something? If your blog post title matches the question that someone else is looking for, your blog post is almost certainly going to be near the top of the search results, especially if it’s something specific. Illustrator and designer Sarah Renae Clark writes some really great “how to” blog posts related to illustration, such as “How to draw a rose.” Writing a “how to” blog post is just another way to position yourself as expert in a certain area in the eyes of potential and current customer.

Zoë Arpin of Teapot Communications specialises in helping small business navigate the world of marketing. She has a particular focus on copywriting, content creation and social media management. If marketing's not your cup of tea, Zoë would love to help you! You can reach her at her website, Facebook or Instagram

How to improve your copy in a few easy ways

By Rebecca Ruiz

Let’s be honest writing copy for your website and marketing material doesn’t come naturally for most people in business. I know how I felt when I started my business and my web designer asked me to submit all my copy for my brand new website including 3 new blog posts. During this time I was only working as a life coach and not a professional copywriter, which I am now. I had no clue where to start, what to say, what keywords I need to include and how to create content for my blog. I just wanted to put my hands up in the air and say this is too challenging for me.

Luckily now I know what I need to do so today I’m going to share some of my secrets with you, to start writing more professional copy for your website and marketing material. Let’s get started.

In today’s competitive marketplace there is lots of competition, which means that our copy has to stand out to grab the attention of our audience in order for us to be successful. Which most of you already know, because you are here.  What can you do to you improve or start writing amazing copy?

Be clear on your target audience

To write clear and compelling copy you need to know who your target audience is to be able to speak to them directly. This is the reason most entrepreneurs struggle with their copy, as they aren’t sure what their audience needs.

Have you spoken to your audience and asked them what they need? When I started I got on Skype with 8 different women I met online and asked them what their challenges were, their struggles and what they need the most help with. By conducting these interviews I had a better idea what my niche needed.

I then used this information to create powerful copy to speak to my audience in their own language. If interviewing doesn’t work for you there is so many other ways to engage your audience just find which method best suits you.

Write your unique copy from your heart

My next point is to speak in your voice when creating your copy and don’t compare yourself to other’s in your field. You are going to be different as your business is a unique creation from you, which is why it’s special.

Especially in a service based business your client’s want to get to know the real you, why you started your business and what you have struggled with. Yes it has to speak to your client’s directly but in order to build rapport with them they need to know the real authentic you. You want your audience to fall in love with you and your message.

If you are in a products based business tell them why you created the products you sell and why you love these products. Have fun with this, be confident with your message and go out and write your copy from your heart.

Creating powerful headlines

It’s important to create attention with your headlines when your potential customers land on your website, read your latest facebook advertisement, your new blog title or your latest webinar. You only have a very short amount of time to get their attention.

To create this powerful headline I want you to think of your client’s biggest struggle in the area you are targeting in your copy right now? Write a few of these down or brainstorm some ideas to get an idea of what your client is feeling. Now you have the ideas to create a headline from this.

I’m going to list two headlines below one that doesn’t say very much and one that speaks to my audience for copywriting to give you an idea of what I am talking about.

  • Learn how to create better copy
  • 5 quick and easy ways to create amazing copy that brings you more sales

I know which one I like more as it’s quick and easy with the potential to make more sales I’m in.

Call to action

At the end of the copy you want to give your client’s a call to action. Which means that you want to engage your audience by asking them a question or challenge them to do something. It important to engage with your audience and it’s a marketing strategy which I could write a whole another blog post about sometime.

Ask your audience an open question so they can come up with an answer. For example the question I’m going to use at the end of this blog post is as a call to action which you are getting a sneak peak to prove the point- What is your biggest challenge with writing your copy?

I have loved taking this journey with you today and talking about how to improve your copy in a few easy ways. I would love to hear from you what is your biggest challenge with writing your copy? Looking forward to hearing from you below.

Rebecca Ruiz is a certified confidence life coach and freelance copywriter for women entrepreneurs at Life Perceptions. She is an ambassador for self-esteem, confidence and finding the inner writer from within. She combines her life coaching and copy writing to create a unique package based on her clients needs to help them move forward in their business. Some areas she works on are mindset, confidence, and learning how to write and blog. She is also available as a freelance copywriter for small businesses.

When Rebecca isn’t working she is enjoying yoga, meditation and spending time with her husband. Find her on Facebook, Twitter or at Life Perceptions