I just wrote an online marketing plan for a client. Five years ago, half of the plan’s elements didn’t exist in any real marketing sense. And not only have the media channels changed, my client’s goals have too.
With consumers facing a constant barrage of marketing messages — and marketers struggling to make even a wisp of an impression — we’re witnessing the birth of some pretty extreme interrupt marketing techniques (including the two-second radio “shock” commercial as chronicled by Michael Stelzner).
Escalating the “shock” value of a message offers a temporary refuge, but the contact often acquires an adversarial taint. It’s little wonder marketers are looking for alternatives.
Which is where you step in. You’re the engagement copywriter.
The Rise of Engagement Marketing
Look hard at the emerging marketing arsenal: blogs, social networking sites, wikis, texting & interactive mobile, etc.
All are effective marketing tools. And all are exceptional vehicles for engagement — the loyalty-building tactic where a brand connects with customers via shared values and passions.
The key is two-way communication; not only do customers receive messages, but they respond to them (in fact, that’s kinda the point). In some cases, they generate their own brand-related content and network with other “brand fans.”
It’s an active (and welcome) alternative to traditional media channels, where customers are expected to sit idly while messages are shoved down the pipeline. Engagement isn’t a replacement for traditional interrupt marketing, but it’s an interesting (and growing) discipline that binds customers to brands.
It also expands a customer’s “acceptance bandwidth” (the amount of time they’ll invest in your message), and creates the brand loyalty so many “membership” programs strive for but don’t achieve.
The good news? You won’t have to rebuild your copywriter’s toolkit — the techniques are similar. But engagement copywriting does have its own set of rules.
The Rules of Writing For Engagement
The engagement copywriter combines the snap of the direct marketer, the charm of an entertainer, and the passion of a poet. More often than not, you’re writing a blog, e-newsletter, social network or other similar media channel (long-term gigs). So how do you do it? What are the rules of engagement?
- You’re engaging the reader around shared passions and values (which often excludes flogging product features)
- The conversation is typically “chunked” into small bites and dispensed over time
- You must be authentic — or the passion-drive partisans will sniff you out and hang your brand in effigy
- Invite your readers into the conversation; let them define the direction
Where Do Copywriters Go Wrong?
Where most businesses (and writers) go wrong with engagement is the product copy — or rather, the utter lack of it. Some of the better engagement blogs talk about anything but the products in question, and why not? If the goal is to bind the reader to the brand, then a demonstration of shared values or passions is the strongest adhesive known to the marketing world.
After all, product superiority is fleeting; whatever advantage your product enjoys today can disappear tomorrow. Engagement typically binds customers to a brand more than a product, a reality which elevates the conversation far beyond features and bullet points.
The second most common mistake? It’s not inviting participation. I’m writing an article for an online magazine about a pair of business blogs that appear to be publishing the right content, but fail badly in the “ask for a response” department.
It’s yet another way the engagement copywriter practices the same craft as the direct response writer; in both cases, you need to ask for the response you want.
In fact, the central tenets of copywriting apply to writing for engagement: be clear, be intriguing, be captivating, and be dramatic (no writer bores a reader into submission).
The Future of Engagement Copywriting
It’s tempting to declare traditional copywriting “dead” and announce the ascension of engagement writing in its stead.
Of course, it’s bullshit. A good “interrupt” copywriter will be a good “engagement” copywriter — provided you recognize the different goals and techniques.
[tags]copywriting, writing, marketing, [/tags]