Spring cleaning in winter, planning ahead and just doing it…

[Image courtesy of bibliojojo at Flickr Creative Commons]

It’s that time of year again when the festivities are drawing to a close, the scales tell a sorry story of a few extra pounds or kilos, and the bank balance is considerably lighter than it was a mere two weeks ago. It’s also when people decide they’re going to use that gym membership, learn Spanish, simplify their life or visit that must-see-before-you-die location. And if you’re going to use the New Year new broom to sweep clean your personal life, why not use it to dust off your copy too? Here, in no particular order, are some ideas that might get you thinking about saying it – and writing it – better in 2015:
  1. Revisit old copy. This is especially relevant when it comes to websites, where copy has an extremely long shelf life. I often speak to clients who say they’re going to put up copy ‘for a year or so’ and will then expand/revise/review it. And guess what? They rarely do. It’s not their fault, and it’s not a criticism – it’s the nature of business. Resolutionsee what’s out there and make an inventory of it. If it needs changing, change it.
  2. Create a copy schedule. It’s the beginning of a new year, so why not take a new approach to your communication strategy? What are you going to be talking about on your blog in April? What direct mail campaigns will you be running throughout the year? Email marketing? Adverts? Don’t leave it all to the last minute, or leave yourself insufficient time. Resolution: Plan ahead – it’s always more upfront effort, but frees up time down the line, and gives you the peace of mind of knowing what’s coming next.
  3. Stop procrastinating. And yes, I know that’s general advice that’s applicable to almost any scenario, but it’s equally applicable to your copy. Stop and think for a moment: there’s something you’ve been putting off for a long time, isn’t there? Something that’s too much effort, that seems too difficult, or where you can’t even see how to begin? Resolution: just make a start. Never mind if you don’t know how it ends. The simple fact of making a start – any start – will make the process easier.
  4. Ask for those case studies/testimonials. This is related to the last point, because everybody I’ve ever worked for has a plan on the back-burner to ask clients for testimonial quotes. And they’re also going to – one day, sometime in the future – get down to writing those case studies. Resolution: make that day today. Or at the very least, a day this year. Testimonials are worth their weight in gold, as they’re somehow perceived to be more credible and trustworthy. Likewise case studies, which have the added benefit that they usually describe  a scenario that the reader can identify with.
  5. Cut it down (and take a break). This is an eternal resolution, and one that I can’t stress enough. I always start off with a lot more copy than I end up with. It’s the nature of the game, so don’t fight it. The first draft will always be wordy and include too much detail. Leave it overnight, or over the weekend, or the holidays. When you come back to it, you’ll soon see what needs cutting. Resolution: Don’t just cut – pare it back to the absolute essentials. Be ruthless, and write like an impatient reader (which is just about everybody nowadays).
There was a sixth resolution (Always focus on the benefits) but you know what? Five is a magic number, and six isn’t. And in any case, I don’t need to explain that one, apart from saying this: benefits = client, features = you.  That’s an equation that everybody can work out, and one you should apply to all copy. Happy New Year.