bullseye.22112600_stdBeing on tar­get [with your mes­sag­ing] is much more impor­tant than being facile with words.” — Gary Hal­bert

…sto­ries with­out words can have enor­mous power. Just look at the first acts of Pixar’s UP or WALL-E… So what if when we sat down we gave our­selves a task other than pro­duc­ing words: Chang­ing the verb from writ­ing to sto­ry­telling may change the way we think about the work.” — Brian McDon­ald

Improv­ing copy rarely comes down to improv­ing the words.  Once in a blue moon word choice proves deci­sive, but even then, what leads a good copy­writer to select the bet­ter word has noth­ing to do with vocab­u­lary size or what most peo­ple think of as word­smithing and every­thing to do with an abil­ity to match the emo­tional nuance of the word to the psy­chol­ogy of the prospec­tive cus­tomer. Even when it comes down to the words, it’s not about the words; it’s about the cus­tomer.

Cre­at­ing Copy That Is On Target

The num­ber one thing you can do to improve your copy is to ensure that it is “On Tar­get,” or to con­tinue to improve the degree to which it is on tar­get.  And by that I mean improv­ing the match-up between cus­tomer desires/motivations/expectations and the mes­sage sent by the words.  In the video below, copy­writ­ing leg­end Gary Hal­bert pro­vides a strik­ingly clear expla­na­tion [Note — Skip to the 1:40 mark if you’re in a hurry]

YouTube Preview Image

And yet, as impor­tant as this fac­tor is, most copy­writ­ers don’t have a sys­tem­atic, proven method for ensur­ing that their copy is on tar­get - mostly because they don’t have a sys­tem for mod­el­ing their client’s prospec­tive cus­tomers psychology.

I teach a fair amount of copy­writ­ing to client’s inter­nal copy­writ­ers, pri­vate stu­dents, and open classes, and by far, these are the top not-so-secret “secrets” that I teach:

  • how to model the prospect’s psychology
  • how to ensure the mes­sag­ing is on target.

And I’ll be teach­ing both of these things this Decem­ber 8th and 9th in Austin.

Writ­ing for Radio and The Internet

For­tu­nately for me, I co-teach my Wiz­ard Acad­emy Copy­writ­ing class with Chris Mad­dock, who tack­les copy­writ­ing from the other end.  He works on the sto­ry­telling aspect that Brian McDon­ald alluded to in the quote I pulled from his blog post.  By teach­ing stu­dents amaz­ingly effi­cient tech­niques for cre­at­ing grip­ping and vivid men­tal movies in the minds of their read­ers, Chris works on the student’s core writ­ing abil­i­ties — their abil­ity to gen­er­ate an emo­tional response.  I sim­ply ensure the stu­dents can direct those newly devel­oped abil­i­ties at the right target.

If this sounds like what you or your company’s copy­writ­ers need, there are still seats avail­able, and if you act soon, those seats come with free on-campus room and board.  Check it out.


  1. Brian Killian on 11.28.2010

    Images are the most con­crete and emo­tional forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Words are the next level (con­crete words not abstract words). Words are like sur­ro­gate images.

    You ever sell online courses?

  2. Jeff on 11.29.2010

    Not at the moment, Brian, but I have done them before and will be involved in a few online classes early next year. I’ll be sure to announce them on the blog when they’re ready.

    That said, I still do con­duct online classes on a cus­tom or 1-off basis, so if you’re inter­ested, please send me an e-mail and we can dis­cuss. Might be able to arrange for a group class, too, if there are enough peo­ple will­ing to join in.

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