Headlines Are Hard

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The difficulty of generating good headlines—and from there, more clicks and more conversions—is a reality that all marketing and copy writers face. There are easy ways out, of course, and often utilized. You only need to jump over to Twitter or Facebook (even with their recent crackdown on clickbait) to see swarms of headlines teasing lists of “things you didn’t know” or “things you need to know”. The number of “you wouldn’t believe who did ____” headlines I see pop up is absurd.

The thing is, even these easy-out, clickbait headlines don’t serve the same purpose as a solid, attractive sales headline. They don’t draw in customers, or convince the audience to want a product or to invest their interest. All those headlines do is pluck at the strings of curiosity—an important aspect of a good headline, to be sure, but not the whole picture.

A more complete and effective headline needs to not only establish curiosity, but promise something that compels the audience to set it apart. When there are twelve Buzzfeed lists on your news feed, it’s easy to just keep scrolling. When a compelling headline about a snazzy new product on sale catches your eye, you’re a lot more likely to give it credence, especially online, where we are inundated with a never-ending stream of advertising.

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The Importance of Revision

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While catching up on podcasts over at the excellent Social Media Examiner, I stumbled across one in particular that discussed a couple of things that have been important in my own writing processes, recently: storytelling, and revision.

While the importance of revision gets hammered home at every level, one aspect of it often goes unappreciated. The benefits of revision are obvious, of course, as it only takes one story, advertisement, email, or essay to realize that errors happen in first drafts. New or better ideas come along, and make your writing stronger. It’s a fact of every writer’s life. Continue reading

Storytelling As Advertising

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The big hubbub recently has been all about Facebook’s announcement that they’ll be limiting the visibility of posts with clickbait headlines. For the average Facebook user, this probably comes as a welcome breath of air: no more bombardment by “10 Things You Didn’t Know About ____” and “____ Did This, You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next!”

For advertisers, however, Facebook is broadcasting loud and clear: time to stop being lazy! There’s a very good reason why clickbait ads and articles are all over the place: they work, let’s be honest. However, they’re also very often the easy way out. Instead, at least when targeting an audience on Facebook, advertisers and marketers will now have to get creative.

The easiest place to start with this is by reverting to one of the simplest forms of writing: storytelling. Whether your link is leading to a product advertisement or an article, there is always a story to be told. In terms of drawing clicks through storytelling, The Onion has to be one of the best sites I’ve seen. Almost daily I see creativity in their headlines, and not just in the expected form of satirical humor. Many off their articles, fictionalized or exaggerated though they may be, tell a story.

Just last week, they re-posted an article about the new Tenth Circle of Hell.

This was one of the cleverest articles I’ve seen them do. There was of course the requisite humor: the new circle being sponsored by Blockbuster, creative new eternal tortures like the unattainable need to replace a toner cartridge, etc. What really made this article leap out, though, was the care that went into not only piggybacking on the well-known Inferno poem, but going out of their way to both craft a poignant jab at corporate greed and create entire characters (like “inferno spokesperson Antedeus” and Grogar the Malefic) to enrich the setting.

Now, obviously you won’t be coming up with demon characters to populate your product advertisements, but the spirit of that creativity needs to remain. Anecdotes highlighting the usefulness of the product are a great place to start, but possibilities abound. Keep that creativity flowing, and let Facebook’s new strictures help get advertising out of the rut of laziness.

First Steps

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It’s been an eye-opening month. With the first steps underway at Dcaf Copy, I’ve been diving into a whole new side of writing. The past few weeks have been all about email newsletters and articles promoting products—mostly books. While my feet have only just begun getting wet in this new business, one thing has begun standing out to me: prospective customer information.

Email newsletters and e-blast campaigns are all well and good, and they can certainly help drive sales; nonetheless, I’ve found the most important thing with these is getting to know your audience. Take a look into the demographics of your email list (if available), and sculpt your copy around that knowledge. Consider the products you’re trying to sell, and present them in a way that appeals to the audience. Work in a hook in the natural curiosity of the customer.

The New Dcafwriting

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It’s with a lot of excitement that I can announce some changes coming to Dcafwriting. Over the next few weeks, the site will be undergoing a design and layout overhaul, with one really big new change: Dcaf Copy.

Dcaf Copy is going to be an entire second section of this site, and a new side business I’m starting. With weekly blog posts on copywriting, web sales, and email marketing, Dcaf Copy will be the foundation for what will start off as a freelance service with an eye toward something more permanent in the future. This service will cover everything from email advertising campaigns, to web content copy, to blogging, and more.

While the focus of the upcoming changes is on Dcaf Copywriting, the creative soul of this site will remain. I’ll be streamlining the existing categories and working toward getting new, varied, creative writing in the coming months. Keep an eye out for new chapters from All Flames Cast, new short stories, and even some fresh poetry.