Copywriting is the cornerstone of marketing. And copy is everywhere — from ads, blogs, and product descriptions to social media posts and video scripts. It’s easy to take for granted because it’s a part of our daily lives. But a smart business owner knows the value of quality copywriting when trying to engage their ideal customers.
Copywriting itself is not only a skill but also a profession. And the best copywriters have three writing skills that intersect with each other.
First, they write material that speaks to your brand. Copywriters transform information and data about your business into well-written copy that reflects your brand’s personality and values. Copywriting is an underlying factor to building brand identity.
Second, they write content that engages your ideal customers. It’s not enough to provide quality products and services, especially since multiple things constantly grab for their attention. The best copy includes an authentic and compelling story about why and how your customers will benefit from purchasing your products and services.
Third, they write content that sells. Compelling content influences your audience to respond to your call-to-action. The best copywriters consistently write quality copy that keeps your audience engaged. This builds long-term customer trust rather than just one-time client satisfaction.
So, we know the importance of copywriting and how it can make or break your brand’s reputation. But how do you ensure you find the best copywriters for your projects?
5 traits that the best copywriters have
If you’re looking for a talented, professional copywriter to write your blogs, ebooks, video scripts and other marketing material, make sure you find one with these qualities.
1. They act like a journalist (minus the drinking)
Veteran journalist and New York Times Bestselling writer Malcolm Gladwell once said, “I have two parallel things I’m interested in. One is, I’m interested in collecting interesting stories, and the other is I’m interested in collecting interesting research. What I’m looking for is cases where they overlap.”
The cornerstones of good journalism are research and interviewing sources. A great copywriter uses both in their own copy.
Research is the process of gathering information on a specific topic. It’s important to every writer no matter their field. In the copywriter’s case, research ensures that the copy is accurate, relevant, and credible.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to conducting research:
Identify the topic: Copywriters will narrow down the scope of research to a more focused topic. Then they frame it in a question (e.g. what are the qualities of the best copywriters), or do some background reading to establish their subject matter.
Consult general sources: There’s a wide array of traditional and online resources, depending on the topic. The former includes books, academic journals, and newspaper articles that are usually indexed in libraries. The latter includes online research tools Google Scholar and Project Gutenberg that provide accessible and up-to-date materials.
Analyse source materials: Sarah Blakeslee at the librarians of California State University developed the CRAAP test. This means prioritising the source’s Credibility, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. It ensures that a copywriter’s work is based on evidence, not on someone else’s interpretations.
Evaluate findings: Ultimately, research is an aid to copywriters. Regardless of the type of content, a new piece isn’t a repetition of published articles. Copy should be fresh and memorable, and should motivate your audience to respond to the call-to-action.
Interviewing a source is also a vital skill for copywriting because it uses first-hand accounts to contextualise the subject matter. And there’s an intricate process before, during, and after the actual interview.
Here are three tips to quality interviewing:
Identify goals and formulate a question guide: Copywriters establish their goals to form a more coherent interview with clear topics. Great interviewing encourages a natural but substantial conversation, which is easier to achieve if there’s a guide of questions. Without a question guide, an interview can meander without direction. On the other hand, enforcing a rigorous set of questions rather than a guide can make an interview stilted and awkward.
Control the flow of the interview: There’s a balance between letting the interview move in unexpected but insightful tangents and keeping things on track. Copywriters know how to steer the conversation to achieve the primary interview goals.
Maximise the material: Copywriters will either do a quick or full transcription, depending on the required content (e.g. a few quotes or a longer article). They also edit the text without distorting the original meaning.
The best copywriters use research and interviews without info-dumping and sounding like they’re patronising your audience. They provide your customers informative and engaging copy that allows them to focus on your brand and products and services, rather than exiting your article to do in-depth research themselves.
2. They understand the audience they’re writing for
Great copywriters convey the intended brand message in a way that reaches your target audience. Copy is essentially a conversation with your customers. And like any conversation, it can either be boring or meaningful, depending on your copywriter’s skills.
A great copywriter strikes a meaningful connection with your customers by knowing their interests, needs, and preferences. This informs them how to appeal to your target audience with their writing.
This also involves using the right language and tone in their copy. If your target audience is real estate executives, a copywriter adopts a business tone that uses the appropriate jargon in the copy. If the audience is college students, the writing may be more casual and slang.
Great copy is relatable and targeted, and it’s always informed by a deep understanding of your audience.
3. Their writing involves a creative process
Ask your prospective copywriter what their creative process is like. If they don’t have an answer, that’s a problem.
Copywriting is a much more involved process than just writing and handing over the finished copy. The best copywriters use a creative process to study one topic from multiple angles, formulate new ideas or update old concepts, and then transform everything (from the dry materials to their own ideas) to knockout copywriting.
Award-winning creativity and marketing expert James Taylor discussed the five stages of the creative process and how it actually improves creativity.
Preparation: Copywriters prepare for a brief or a marketing campaign by reviewing published market research and conducting their own if needed; researching about their topic; studying your brand and targeted audience; and then brainstorming ideas on how to create their copy.
Incubation: This is when a copywriter processes and organises all the information they gathered during the preparation stage. It’s the starting point to constructing the main ideas of the final content.
Insight: After important ideas and information come together concisely, a copywriter outlines their content objectives, themes, main ideas, and requirements to fulfill the content brief or marketing campaign.
Evaluation: A copywriter will review their ideas and consult with the team if their proposed outline/solution is the best way of tackling the content brief. The insight is further tweaked and revised at this point so that the actual creation is sharper and more focused.
Elaboration: This is the implementation of the final idea, wherein all that hard work and creativity produces killer copy.
This isn’t always linear, and some writers may have a different creative process altogether. But having one is a mark of a great copywriter who is organised, efficient, and creative.
4. They have intricate knowledge of SEO
The best copywriters are adaptable to the current landscape of writing. And in a highly digital world, quality writing now integrates quality SEO.
SEO copywriting helps you rank higher on Google and boosts visibility to your website, while still consistently creating good content. Copywriters who successfully incorporate SEO into copy are an asset to your team.
They understand the keywords needed to make your brand more visible on search engines. They structure and format content so that search engines and, by extension, your audience can easily see what the article is about.
They consistently create engaging long-form content because they’re aware that Google prefers more comprehensive articles that contain relevant information and creative storytelling.
5. They tell powerful stories
The best copywriters are also great storytellers. People love stories because it’s impactful, immersive, memorable, and meaningful. Your content can have all those qualities too, if the copywriting includes storytelling.
Storytelling can build your audience in several ways. This includes website articles and content that contain SEO, interactive posts and stories on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, or even unique and personal cold emails.
To reach your target audience, a great copywriter can tell stories in different ways for different platforms with different content requirements. In this sense, using storytelling consistently in your content humanises your brand because it makes your business more personal and trustworthy to your ideal customer.
The best copywriters have technical skills such as researching, interviewing, and advanced SEO knowledge. They understand your brand and audience. And they utilise a clear creative process to produce storytelling content that speaks to your brand, engages your audience, and increases traffic and leads. A copywriter that has all five qualities is the key to successful content.