Copywriter? Or actor?

Rebecca Nicholl

Creative Concern

As you sit at your desk poring over another brief, Hollywood probably doesn’t even cross your mind. Why would it? I, for one, have the grey skies over Manchester to gaze out on. But, great news! As copywriters, we’re pretty much one step away from the silver screen.

No? Too much? Fair enough. However, there is something to say about employing acting techniques when it comes to copywriting.

When writing for brands, it’s all about creating a persona. Getting yourself in a certain mindset. Of course, there’s the fundamental consideration of ‘what do they sound like?’ But how can we get under the skin of who we’re writing for and about?

I’m working on two projects at the moment that really got me thinking about this approach – a branding project and internal communications.

Take a new brand. It’s the perfect place to create personas. Alongside ‘what do they say?’, think about ‘what would they watch, read, listen to?’ And then think about the audience. Who is the brand talking to? What language do they use? What resonates?

It’s about trying to create the conversation. For this particular project, the brand is almost circus-like… I’m the ringmaster, creating excitement through hyperbole.

A similar approach works for internal communications. If you can, it’s incredibly useful to talk to people to understand their motivations and everyday situations. How do they talk? What language crops up time after time. Use the language that resonates with the audience.

This is key for internal audiences. There may be terms that mean little to you but are understood by everyone in the organisation for which you’re writing. Don’t fight it, use it.

Of course, for some writing projects, this level of interrogation may not be needed, although I’d argue it always exists to some extent.

I’m not suggesting we all turn into method actors. With my usual projects, that would involve me cycling everywhere, foraging in forests and taking up repertory theatre. Quite frankly, I haven’t got that kind of spare time.

But it’s fascinating to take on another voice, if only for a short time. It can take you out of your comfort zone (and that’s no bad thing). And it can make you write in ways that are so far from your own voice, you don’t recognise it when you read it six months later (yes, that has happened to me).

What are your techniques for getting the right ‘voice’ in your writing? Are there any brands that do this really well… or really badly? Let us know in the comments.

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