The millions of words I have written over the last 23 years as a lawyer have all been written with one core goal: to advocate my client’s position in the most persuasive and accurate manner possible.
And this is the thing about writing persuasive and accurate legal briefs: you have to write them in a way that “sells” your client’s position. To that end, a brief must:
- create a stellar first impression with clear, concise, error-free language;
- provide a meaningful and consistent message;
- establish trust;
- reflect compelling values, purpose, and credibility;
- instantly connect with the audience and encourage them to pay attention;
- simplify issues to their most persuasive essence; and
- solve a problem and compel action.
Sounds a lot like what you need to do to write great copy, doesn’t it?
Like great brief writing, great copywriting:
- must create a stellar first impression; it should work hand in hand with your brand visuals to hook your audience.
- must establish trust, authority, and credibility; your audience should never doubt that you are the truth teller that will guide them to the right decision.
- is simple (but not simplistic); your writing should explain all issues (or product/service features) in an easy, simple way without sacrificing substance.
- is efficient; your audience has a short attention span, so your copy should use the fewest words needed to convey your compelling message.
- is error-free; multiple errors in punctuation and grammar are at best distracting and, at worst, fatal to establishing credibility.
- has a clearly-defined frame; it is difficult to convey a compelling, credible, efficient, and simple message when that message is unclear to begin with. You should have a concise message.
- tells a story; the most compelling writing uses story to connect with your audience’s emotions and experiences.
- makes a connection; great writing (and great branding) connects on many levels: emotionally, intellectually, experientially.
- solves a problem; your audience has a problem and they are looking to you for a solution. Your writing should help solve their problem.
- compels action; your audience should have no doubt what you want them to do.
And just as brief-writing mistakes can mean the difference between failure and justice for a client, copywriting mistakes can mean the difference between an audience that buys and an audience that bounces.
Unfortunately, the failure to accomplish one or more of the objectives in the list above are mistakes that happen all the time in brief writing and copywriting.
What are the mistakes you should work to correct right now? Start with these:
Failure to Connect
Brief writers and copywriters often fail to make a connection with their audience. This problem arises from a failure to understand their intended audience.
Writers must understand who their audience is, what they want, and what they need. And importantly, they must know how their audience “talks” about their issues and concepts. Brief writers and copywriters alike must speak their audiences’ language to connect with them.
Failure to Simplify
Brief writers and copywriters often fail to simplify their writing. This problem includes poor word choice, poor sentence and paragraph length, and poor structure. It also can include poor organization and formatting. The problem is often cured by ruthless editing.
Failure to Focus
Failing to have a clear, concise focus can often derail a brief. We call this a failure to have the right frame. All writers, whether brief writers or copywriters, must have a clear, concise frame with every piece of writing.
Writers who don’t know exactly what their goal or purpose is can’t create the proper frame, won’t be able to simplify their message, and won’t connect with their audience. Focus should start even before the writing begins, with goal setting and outlining.
(And of course, if you see other mistakes—like punctuation, spelling, and grammar—don’t forget to fix those too.)
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The writing elements necessary for drafting winning legal briefs are remarkably similar to the elements necessary for creating winning copy. I’ve won many cases in my legal career by following these principles and, on the business side, I’ve used these techniques over the years to help write persuasive copy for use in our firm marketing materials.
Incorporating the elements discussed in this blog post in all your writing will set you on the right course for writing winning copy for your website, blog, emails, and anywhere else your persuasive copy appears.