7 Lessons Copywriters Can Learn from Simply Listening to a Really Good Conversation

7 Lessons Copywriters Can Learn from Simply Listening to a Really Good Conversation

Reader Comments (15)

  1. I can’t reiterate more that simple words will make you able to convey more complicated messages. I read a lot and when what I read is full of fancy words that I need to check a dictionary to grasp I usually tune out and quit reading.

    Thanks for the great, inspiring and vivid article.

  2. Back in the day … of complete sentences, no dangling prepositions, never begin a sentence with And or But. Remember those? Some do and still stick to the “golden rules” of grammar and composition. But it just doesn’t work anymore. Conversation is golden. Thank you, Nick for sharing the seven lessons showing us how to make it so!

    • You’re very welcome. Mind you, I’m OK with grammar. It’s the glue that holds our words together. : ) But, yes, I’ll bend or break a rule or two if it helps me share my natural voice when I’m writing.

  3. Being able to listen is an art that most people need to master on a daily basis. It is so easy to want to talk about yourself that we forget we are in the business of helping people solve their problems not flaunt our ego.

  4. I finished reading an article about inventor Martin Cooper in American History magazine today. The article is titled “Finding His Calling” and it’s about an interview Jon Cohen had with Martin Cooper.

    When asked about the technology aspect of using cell phones, Martin Cooper responded by saying, “The biggest problem in the world today is people not talking to each other.” So, see there is a place and time for Conversational Copywriting. According to Martin Cooper, inventor of the first cellphone, that time and place is today.

    • What a great find! To my mind, it’s not so much about the frequency of people connecting, it’s about the quality of the conversations people have. I think really good conversations are rare. Mind you, they probably always have been. : )

  5. I like the part about asking questions. The other day I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to try an exercise that was new to me, a socratic walk. It requires only 2 people. Both individuals write a list related to a specific topic, maybe personal values. Then on the walk you can only ask the other person questions. No statements or giving advice.

    • That sounds fascinating. How did it go? Another small set of “rules” I like are the ones for improv comedy. When someone says something, you have to agree, say yes, and then add something new. Totally breaks the habits of “bad conversations”.

  6. Nick,

    Empathy in real-life conversations usually gets going when one person has expressed or revealed a vulnerability. In marketing, though, it can be dangerous to offer empathy based on assumptions about the audience. It can be the equivalent of offering sympathy or help to a blind person who in fact is perfectly capable of managing the situation.

    Note that in your empathy example you said, “I’m guessing.” Sometimes such a guess is presumptuous or off-target in its unconscious assumptions.

    I am thinking in particular of one case where a marketer was constantly talking about how life was hard. She did this, I’m sure, to be empathetic. In truth, she had a lot of helpful ideas to offer whether or not one felt life was hard. But because she said such things so often (much more often, I believe, than she herself realized), she drove away people like me who didn’t feel life was hard, and she probably kept the listeners who resonated with her assumption, who were in turn much less able to pay her coaching fees and more troublesome to keep as clients.

    What this taught me was that empathy has to be handled with care in marketing. It also, I believe, shows the limits of the metaphor of copywriting as conversational. Copywriting can try to be conversational, but in most settings it is missing the dynamics of actual conversation.

    • Excellent feedback, Marcia. As always!

      About the “life is hard” example, I’d put that in the “pretend empathy” bucket. Which is almost as bad as the “pretending to be your friend” bucket. If you really want to be empathetic, do it. But don’t use it as a marketing device. That’s just BS.

      And yes, conversational copywriting will always miss the dynamics of a true conversation. But I don’t think that detracts from the benefits of working with a conversational mindset and using conversational language. Conversational language signals your intention to be open, honest and transparent with your audience. And that’s worth a lot.

  7. Sooooo true Nick… and even Google agrees with you (for the most part) as they have been rewarding content that has aspects of conversational speech for some time now. Good content is often like a good conversation… with many of the points you shed light on 🙂

    • Andy, hi. Absolutely. All you need do is try voice search with Google… and you can see how advanced they have become in recognizing and processing natural, conversational language.

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