I spent a good chunk of yesterday working my way through a surprise deadline project, and at one point the client asked my why I’d rewritten a one-page pitch document to move the “peril” portion of the pitch right up front.

Do this for any length of time and you’ll come up against the same question, and — if you’re like me — struggle a bit to explain what’s better in terms the client can understand.

Phrases like “it’s more engaging” and “you need to involve them in the issue right away” are too vague.

Fortunately, my recent detour through video scriptwriting introduced me to a couple of good screenwriting blogs (here and here are now found on my RSS reader), and I found myself leveraging a screenwriting classic (which the client immediately grasped).

I simply invoked the three-act dramatic structure:
Act 1: Create the conflict
Act 2: Escalate the conflict
Act 3: Resolve the conflict (in our case, this is the call to action)

To someone who hasn’t spent a few years among the ‘persuasion by keyboard’ crowd, concepts like conflict, drama, friction and others are far more accessible — and apparently more convincing — than the “This worked better in an A/B test more than a decade ago” or even the last-gasp “trust me.”

Copywriters need to remain cognizant of useful old formulas like AIDA, but we have to talk to clients in language they understand (and appreciate).

Keep writing, Tom Chandler.