Why great copywriters are like great tightrope walkers

Creating great copy is a real balancing act – between the needs of the business and the needs of the user. See how well you walk the tightrope…

You have to thank the actor Ryan Gosling for this blog. I was sitting on the tube reading an interview in which he talked about his first foray into directing. ‘Great directors are like tightrope walkers; they just don’t look down,’ he said. ‘You stay focused on what’s ahead of you…’

This got me thinking about how a tightrope walker’s skills also apply to writing great copy. A tightrope walker needs to get to the other end without falling; they are performers too, so if they can dazzle you along the way so much the better. They are in charge of their own performance and if they lose concentration on the way they will slip.

To be a good copywriter you need:

A goal: What are you trying to achieve from your page? Know what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there.

Focus: You need to get your message across and get to the goal – without getting distracted. There are lots of things you could say on each web page, and messages that other colleagues might think are important but you need to focus on what that particular page needs to do and its central message.

Purpose: Just as the tightrope walker has to keep putting one foot in front of the other, you need to keep your users on track every step of the way. Make sure your calls to action lead them intuitively along a clear logical journey.

Balance:  Stakeholders can unbalance a project or a page of copy by making too many demands or distracting users getting from A to B by offering too many alternatives. Clashing egos can get in the way by changing the emphasis or order of content. Hug that tightrope.

Grace: Users get put off by copy that sells too hard and doesn’t tell them what they need to know. Make sure your copy works for the user as well as your business otherwise they’ll be out of there.

Confidence: If you have confidence in where you are going so will your users. You’ll carry them along with you.

Flair: A good tightrope walker will keep their audience engaged. Your copy needs to be good enough to keep people reading, but too many flourishes is an accident waiting to happen.

Momentum: Good copywriters stick to deadlines and always deliver on time without holding projects up.

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