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The 60-Second Copy Lesson

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 by Bobbie

Back in the 90s, it was my voice that told you the Cellular One number you called was out of service. Sorry about that. I was a professional voiceover actor. You may have heard me on radio commercials for Spiegel, the San Francisco Ballet, Brita Water Filters, and Union Bank, and on computer games, including Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Interestingly, while I was busy reading someone else’s copy for the airwaves, I learned a few lessons about creating great marcom materials for print.

Don’t be dull: We almost always expect radio and TV commercials to entertain us. In fact, we only pay attention for a scant few seconds. If it doesn’t pique our interest, the button gets pushed. It’s not that different during the first few seconds of reading a white paper, case study, brochure, or other marketing collateral. If you bore ’em right away, you’ve lost ’em forever.

So how do you grab the elusive reader’s attention in print copy? It starts well before the writing stage, by honing your marketing message. Focus on your prospect. What are the pain points? How does your product solve them? Clear marketing messages make for clear, compelling copy. State your case up front in an interesting way, and you’ve got a good chance of getting—and keeping—the reader’s attention.

Have a strong voice: When the copy called for a warm, loving “mom,” I could pretty much nail it. That was my most bankable voice. Other actors I knew got hired specifically to do “sexy” or “sassy and sarcastic” reads.

Having a distinctive voice also pays off in corporate communications. Think of it this way: every newsletter, white paper, or brochure that your company produces is a continuing conversation with your customers and prospects. You want to keep them engaged. Having an authentic corporate voice communicates your company’s identity and culture and sets you apart from the competition.

Clearly, radio and print are two vastly different media animals. But no matter how your customers get your message, the 60-second rule applies. A compelling voice, backed by a well-executed marketing strategy, keeps the audience from pushing the button.

is a member of the Content Bureau editorial team.

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