Method copywriting: How to get into character and write great copy

Copywriting is a strange beast. On the one hand we’re doing what we love, being creative and feeding ourselves by putting words together. On the other, very few of us have the luxury of working exclusively with one brand, in one consistent frame of mind.

Here at Sookio we’re lucky enough to work with a host of great clients across a huge range of industries. In recent months we've helped photographers, furniture salespeople, charities, academics and tour operators find their voices to name but a few.

Add onto that the dizzying range of individual projects we undertake. Site copy and blog posts are just the tip of the iceberg. We've worked on apps, Google AdWords campaigns, printed brochures and a full spectrum of promotions work including press releases.

Getting into the zone

So what happens when you've got to jump from doing blogs for a luxury wedding photographer in the morning, straight to an insurance company’s FAQ page after lunch?

It can be hard to juggle, and a loss of focus can stop you getting your head around a new project. You could end up using the wrong tone, or struggle to structure everything in the most natural way. Or maybe it all just doesn't work and frustration starts to set in.

Clear out that mental clutter

Don’t panic! The first step is to get that old project out of your head. Take a walk around the office for five minutes. Have a cuppa. Do some dusting, any menial task that takes your mind off the job you've just put behind you. If you trust yourself, spend five minutes looking at Facebook. There’s no shortage of distractions there, just be sure you don’t end up spending the rest of your day cooing at pictures of cats.

Focus on the brand

Once your head is clear, it’s time to get back into the game. Think of your next project. Ignore the people who are commissioning you and focus on the brand. What would this brand be like if it was a person?

  • What music does it listen to? Is it a luxury train operator who enjoys the sound of the classical greats, or a mobility charity that loves a motivational rock ballad?
  • What food does it eat? Trendy tech startups eat Thai food in little boxes, whereas a sewing supplies company might enjoy Mum’s hearty roast.
  • What newspaper does it read? Is this brand Guardian or Times material? (If it's a Daily Mail reader, you might want to rethink the jobs you're taking on).
  • How does it sit in its chair? Music companies slouch, finance sits bolt upright.

Make a list of questions just like these and remind yourself of the answers each time you sit down to write for someone. It’s like being an actor in a lot of ways, developing a frame of mind for each client keeps everything you do distinctive.

Once you know how a brand behaves, act on it. Position yourself how it would sit, play some appropriate music. Take a look at the day's headlines. How do you feel about them? Now how does the brand feel about them?

Envision. Imagine. Evoke.

Exercises like this are especially important for shorter-form projects like AdWords campaigns, tweets or site metadata. Here you’re so incredibly limited by a character count that every word has to be infused with your brand’s character and essence.

Building a little ritual for yourself to drop one of these personas and pick up another one might sound like the most incredible artsy-fartsy cliché, but it works and it helps you pin a brand down on the page.

Your other option is to work with an agency who recognises these principles. Someone who knows that every client has a unique voice and a unique audience waiting to hear that voice. Great writing comes from understanding.

Finding a place and a method for quickly reaching understanding will let you speak with confidence and authority on behalf of a brand, time after time.