Does this problem sound familiar?
You sit down to write copy but don’t know where to start.
Because copywriting formulas are great, but you have to fill in the blanks with actual copy. Copy that persuades your reader to take action. (aka conversion copy)
Maybe you’re writing about your brand for the first time.
Or maybe you’re writing about your brand for the 100th time.
But each time, you’re starting from scratch, whether it’s a website, a landing page, sales page, email sequence or even a social media post.
Meanwhile, the brands you admire have something you don’t. I mean, they sound like brands. Their copy is strong. Confident. On-message.
How do they DO that?
In this tutorial, I’ll take you behind the scenes of creating a brand’s messaging. Around here, we call it a brand’s Conversion Copy DNA.
Because when we write brand messaging, we optimize it to convert. Or, in other words, to sell.
Your brand’s Copy DNA is the answer to the perennial question, “What do I write now?”
Watch the tutorial or read the (deeply edited) transcript to find out!
Rather read the transcript?
Here’s my walkthrough of this brand’s messaging + why it matters and how it’s done.
This tutorial is a follow up to tutorial blog posts I did recently on my work for a not-for-profit, Thrive For Good. And in the past post, I talked about how we developed this charity’s brand messaging.
Now, conversion copy is usually focused on writing specific assets: websites, landing pages, ads, email, etc.
But in this case, we’re using conversion copy techniques to get to brand messaging: a playbook for every piece of copy a brand creates.
Now, when I talk about writing brand messaging, I call it my client’s Conversion Copy DNA…
What is Your Copy DNA?
Your DNA is a powerful set of core messages that articulate the unique problem you solve, how you’re different and better, why that matters and more.
Now, there are a number of messages that are part of your DNA, and I’ll review those here. But I want to show you an example of the end product. The final messaging playbook.
What we include in brand messaging:
There’s a hierarchy of messages that you can see in this table of contents, in Thrive’s Copy DNA.
And whether you need to write a grant application, an email sequence, a landing page… when you have a brand messaging guide like this, you have the basis for that copywriting.
Here’s what’s included in Thrive’s Copy DNA.
Brand Elevator Pitch
And we start with the elevator pitch. It’s often a challenge for not-for-profits to articulate in a concise way what they do because their work is complicated. So, as part of this, we developed an elevator pitch.
Brand Tagline and Big Idea
We also developed their tagline, their big idea. These are often synonymous. You can learn more about these tricky elements of brand messaging in my guide to creating your own.
The Customer Problem + Your Solution
Then, we articulate the problem that Thrive solves – again, in a concise and powerful way because these problems are complicated.
Often, they can get sort of baggy and you only have so much time to capture your audience’s attention. So, we really had to drill down into the most concise statement of the problem and then link that problem to the solution, including who they serve, where they work, the core programs.
Your Brand’s Promise
The promise or outcome is a very important part of your core messaging.
You can talk about what you do, how you do it, who it’s for, but what are you ultimately going to achieve? And that’s part of the promise that you can make, the outcome that you can describe.
Your Unique Value Proposition & Positioning
Thrive’s unique selling proposition, this should be their unique value proposition (UVP). So, how are they different from other players?
Their UVP ties in with the next item in the table of contents, which is their position in the sector and their model.
People need to get a sense of, “Where do you exist in this sector? How can I place you in the category of organizations that I already know and how do you play with those other organizations?”
Vision, Mission and Values
And then they added their vision and mission and values. Again, not every copywriter will need these except to write, say, an About page.
Often, these statements are seen as internal and written in corporate speak. They should be written as persuasive, customer-facing copy that also serves to inspire internal stakeholders.
Your Brand Story
Storytelling is hot in copywriting, but it can be difficult to find your inspiring story.
(Check out the Website Copy Framework for a step-by-step guide on creating this and other key elements of persuasive website copy.)
In the case of Thrive for Good, there’s a very compelling story behind why this organization exists. And we had to get to the core of that message as well. And then, who you are, that may be part of your messaging as well.
First, we have the brand’s emotional benefits. These are very standard elements that we consider in conversion copy.
In this case, because there are at least two audiences, we have to consider the benefits for those impacted and for donors and supporters. You can see how not-for-profit messaging gets complicated.
Then we have the functional benefits of Thrive’s work. So, what does Thrive allow people to do easier, faster, more cost-effectively?
Calls to Action
CTAs can be part of your core messaging as well. I like to include these when there’s a risk that the “ask” could get diluted or miss the mark.
You’ve probably seen CTAs that just don’t inspire action. So, you may need to give these some attention and even include CTAs in your brand messaging guide.
There are a set of messages we use in sales copy that essentially seal the deal. These nudge people off the fence into saying “yes” to your CTA.
The risk of doing nothing, this is something that you see in some of the more advanced copywriting online. It answers the question for your audience, “What happens if you do nothing? Why is not taking action worse than taking action?”
‘Perfect for you if’ copy: This is another element of conversion copy that you see in sales pages quite frequently. So, this calls out to the reader to let them know whether they’re perfect for this offer or opportunity.
Reasons to believe: It’s essential to nail down the proofs that the organization will consistently use when they’re backing up their claims. We use some metrics in this case. Other reasons to believe can be testimonials, case studies, endorsements, credentials, seals of approval.
Tone, Voice, Vocabulary and Keywords
Sometimes we need tone and voice guidelines in the brand messaging, to keep copywriting consistent.
Vocabulary and keywords can be tricky in not for profit. Because you know, you have to be sensitive with your vocabulary but also high impact. So, you have to choose your words carefully.
In some brand messaging guides you see sample snippets of copy.
In this case, I included a list of possible phrases that they can use in social media, in headlines, in email subject lines.
These phrases came out of the creative process and we didn’t want to lose them even though they didn’t become part of the core messaging. They’re still very much tied in with the big idea and actually came out of brainstorming the big idea.
Okay, so here you have this finished process and in this case, it’s quite a big messaging DNA book or guide. It’s about 30 pages.
Copywriting becomes so much faster and easier when you have brand messaging
So, Thrive for Good has this brand messaging DNA. What are they going to do with it?
Well, my hope is always that organizations I work with will become empowered by their brand messaging, by their Copy DNA, to go out and write for themselves.
You may have the capacity to hire a full-time copywriter, which is great and not everyone does. And even if you do have a full-time writer, that writer needs guardrails. They need guidance.
A brand messaging gives your copywriting a guide to consistently writing a persuasive argument everywhere your audience encounters you.
With Thrive, I’m happy to say that based on the brand messaging, the executive director was able to write the entire website – and quite a substantial site – in a couple of weeks.
He was able to extract from the brand messaging playbook all of the copy or the seeds of the copy to write the entire website.
Once you have your brand messaging, it’s entirely possible to write a whole website from that DNA. You might need to massage it a bit, but you have all of the messages.
And that’s my hope for any organization that I would work with that they would be self-sufficient; that they would deeply know their own messaging and what to do with it.
Researching your brand messaging
I’m going to backtrack a little bit and tell you how we got here, through audience research.
Now, in this case, Thrive For Good doesn’t have a huge email list, a huge audience.
But we were able to pull from interviews and from surveys quite a bit of what we call voice-of-customer. That is, what people are saying about…
- what Thrive does
- the problem that Thrive solves from their perspective
- how Thrive is unique
- what’s rewarding about giving to or partnering with Thrive
- triggers or motivations to give
- proofs or reasons to believe that persuade
- doubts or reservations donors have about giving
- impact or outcomes of Thrive’s work from the donors’ perspective
- what promises inspire donors
In short, what you’re doing is gathering voice-of-customer research for all of those core brand messages.
If you’re not sure what your copy should say, listen to your ideal customers.
Go to the places where they hang out online forums and groups where they comment on blog posts. Check out social media and reviews.
Using research to find the main themes for your brand messaging
Find out what those ideal customers are saying, compile it and tag it or categorize it based on things like the problem your customer faces, how they see the solution you deliver, the outcomes that they desire, the most important benefits and features…
You’ll start to see themes. Those themes become the ideas for your brand messaging.
And then start to look for themes as well as what we call sticky copy. Sticky copy comes from things your customers say that are highly resonant, powerful and sound like persuasive copywriting.
So you’re looking for two things, themes and sticky copy.
Those are going to shape each of the brand messages I described above.
How audience research shapes brand messaging
In the case of Thrive For Good, customer research insights led to a turning point in the brand messaging.
For years, Thrive For Good talked about their four prongs. The four things that they did or the four outcomes on which they focused.
But through the research, we found that they were known for just one thing. And that one is something that no one else is doing in the same way, as well, as innovatively, at a low cost, and at a grassroots level.
So, we discovered they really had a strong point of difference in that one thing.
Now, had we not done this research, we would not have known this point of difference in the mind of the audience.
Based on that insight that we got from research, we structured the entire brand messaging playbook around that one thing.
You can see how powerful doing this research is. Insight can shape everything. It can become your big idea.
And your big idea is like this fuel behind your messaging and everything can flow from that insight.
Your entire brand messaging, the DNA of your copywriting, should come from this insight.
How is this different from traditional brand messaging development?
It’s a conversion copy approach to brand messaging.
I have worked on the other side of communications marketing where brand messaging or the big idea for our campaign came from creative people getting together in a boardroom and brainstorming the big idea.
That might be okay if those people really know the market. They may already have insights.
But in most cases, it’s a mistake to develop our messaging from the inside out by assuming that we know what will trigger our audience to take action.
Conversion copy reverses that process.
First, we go out to the market. First, we find out what people are already saying about us, about the alternatives to the solution, the service, the product that we provide.
And then, we create messaging that enters the conversation already happening in our ideal audience’s mind.
It’s the conversion copywriter’s approach to brand messaging.
If you have any questions or if you’d like to go through a messaging process like this for your own brand, please do reach out.