How to be a copywriter

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What Is Tone Of Voice In Copy And Why Does It Matter?

What Is Tone Of Voice In Copy And Why Does It Matter?

By Caroline Gibson on Sep 19, 2018 07:00 am
Tone of Voice in Copy
Your tone of voice: why fade away when you can stand out from the crowd?

With reviews and comments being easier to share than ever before, clients and customers have a great deal of choice these days. So how do you make your brand stand up and stand out? Through your logo? Typeface? Name???

All these elements create a valuable first impression and successful companies typically have a consistent design identity. Yet …very few manage to articulate their brand distinctively and consistently through their tone of voice (probably the most well-known examples being innocent and Pret).

That's why creating and using the right tone of voice (aka TOV) to create an outstanding – and accurate – first impression of your brand is so important. And not just in ad copy or web copy either: really clever, really sharp brands showcase their tone of voice across all touchpoints. Just look at how this packaging and signage for Brooklyn Fare sing out.

So, what is tone of voice?

A tone of voice is the way in how you speak and write, what you say and how you sound. What you say is defined by your knowledge and experience; how you sound is defined by your personality.

What's your first impression when you read these statements? If you don't know me, then any of these could be a true reflection of my personality. But which is more likely to make you pick up the phone?

  1. Caroline Gibson is an experienced freelance copywriter based in London. She's worked with a wide variety of clients and won awards.
  2. Meet Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter. Caroline's worked with zillions of different clients. She's even won awards!!!
  3. Hello, I'm Caroline Gibson. I'm a freelance copywriter and I've been fortunate enough to with just about every type of business (and even picked up a few awards along the way).


What's the difference between tone of voice and copy style?

The tone of voice is how you sound. The copy style is how you bring that sound to life through an engaging narrative, whether in an ad, brochure or on a website.

Why does tone of voice matter?

Like a person, a business has a mixture of characteristics: brand values. These guide the way you behave. And the way you're viewed by others.

They're unique to you. They help define and drive your tone of voice.

And the more consistent you are in the tone of voice and language you use, the more likely it is that customers will understand why you're unique and why they should choose you rather than your competitors.

As an example, I've picked a small American brand with just a handful of branches in Austin, Texas: Maudie's. Just like its ads, Maudie's packs a big punch. The ads look and sound distinctive, telling me the brand is confident, positive – and fun.

How do you create the right tone of voice?

As William Zinsser says so brilliantly, 'Writing is thinking on paper.'

First, you need to understand a brand. Inside and out. Yes, you may feel you already do so but … it pays dividends to get an external perspective, such as through hiring a branding copywriter or tone of voice expert.

I send potential clients a link to my copy briefing template which is a mini-interrogation so that I can understand the challenges they face, the people they want to attract and the competitors they want to beat.

I'm a great believer in providing clients with choice. (After all, you'd expect to see a few different logos or web designs to choose from for your bucks, wouldn't you?)  If you believe your brand to be 'dynamic and innovative', then great. But my interpretation of 'dynamic and innovative' could be quite different. So, I like to show a reasonably safe route (maybe something close to what you have already but neater, crisper, clearer), an option that may push you out of your comfort zone, and one that's in-between.

What's the point in saying you're dynamic if you don't sound it?

What about tone of voice guidelines?

My heart sometimes plunges when I see this section in a client's brand guidelines. The challenge with copy style guidelines is that they need to help employees feel confident about writing short pieces of copy, such as emails, but also enlighten external contractors such as freelance copywriters. Which are two quite different audiences.

The best tone of voice guidelines are short and sweet with a few guiding principles and worst vs. best practice examples.

However fancy your shiny new tone may be, good writing matters. Here are two key tips I always include so that your words are as lovely to read as they are to write:

Be human
Write like you speak, as if to a friend. And use the active voice, not the passive, as it's more one-to-one, less formal and just easier on the eye.

Here's an example:

Passive: Your email will be replied to in due course.

Active: I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Be simple
Why use ten words when three will do? Don't [use] a complicated or long word if there's a shorter or simpler one instead. Get straight to the point.

How brave do you want to be with your tone of voice?

I always encourage clients to be bold. And be different. And to really, really turn up the copy volume dial to stand up and stand out. Just like this for Bellroy (proof that product descriptors needn't be dull) …

And this for anatomicals (proof that, when a copywriter and art director – who happen to be brothers – launch a toiletries brand, you know that brand is born to be head and shoulders above the rest) …

Need a tone of voice? Then why settle for vanilla when you can go for gold?


About the author: Caroline Gibson

Caroline profile pic

Caroline has been a freelance copywriter for over 15 years, with clients ranging from international brands to small businesses looking to become big businesses.
Before then, she worked for some of London's leading ad, branding and design agencies. She has experience in every sector – from finance to health to drinks – and has won awards in every discipline.

This article was first published by Caroline Gibson

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Thursday, September 06, 2018

6 Degrees of Social Media

Advice by copywriters for copywriters
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6 Degrees of Social Media

By Kenneth Shinabery on Sep 05, 2018 07:00 am
6 Degrees of Social Media

In the digital age, the world is becoming smaller and smaller. As we begin to utilize social media we soon find out that there is less than 6 degrees of separation between most people. The more we network using social media the degrees of separation become even smaller and smaller. Ultimately there becomes a thin fine line between you, me and the rest of the world.

Maintaining your social media feed is important if you are working in the creative industry or any other industry for that matter. Also engaging those who follow you also becomes quite important. And this should not even be looked at just on a personal networking level, but also for exposure of brands.

As a creative I utilize Instagram. It has become an easy great place for me to connect with those who like my artwork or read my articles. Sometimes I will discover an artist, then randomly they will like something on one of my feeds (before I have even made contact with them). These random happenstances seem to happen more and more often.

How does this relate to marketing? Well if an average person can engage people and connect with others via social media…then it is very important for a brand to establish themselves as well via social media. However, I think with many brands it requires being clever and creating a unique social media feed. If a brand's feed comes off as too commercial…then many will disregard the feed.

Coca-Cola & Social MediaBy utilizing social media a brand can introduce their product or services to people who have yet to discover them. Thus, if used correctly the reach of the brand grows exponentially. Now if that brand engages people who engage them or for that matter engages people who do not engage them that reach doubles. Let's say you are managing the feed for Coca-Cola on Instagram. If from time to time you look up hashtags relating to Coke…and then like or comment on pictures that follow the Coca-Cola spirit. Those people who shared those images will become curious and view the companies social media feed. Then if your feed proves to be interesting or even has contests this may spark the interest of the person viewing the company's feed, which in turn may make them decide to follow the Coca-Cola feed.

GRANTED…if a company does engage the community they should do it in a sincere manner.

Also, the company cannot go and post "ENJOY COCA-COLA" as comment who those who created good images with the hashtags relating to the beverage. You need to create unique little posts that do not sound as if they were copy & pasted or as a commercial. If you engage people via social media with witty or fun or thought remarks then that will make a difference.  Simply copy and pasting the same comment every time comes off as horrible.

Example: Every time you write a Tweet to Pantone you will get something like the following: "What color are you feeling like today?".  This is the most insincere thing ever.  No one wants to read responses from a BOT!  I love Pantone, but this is one thing that they should change.


For year's the world has been experiencing a global connectivity that has transformed the world into one community. This community via social media allows one to remove the degrees of separation between other people, users and their community…thus creating new bonds and followers. Whether you are a large company or an artist or a regular person… networking via social media has its benefits if used correctly.


About the author: Kenneth Shinabery

Kenneth Shinabery

Kenneth is a creative from New York City that is currently living in Europe. He is part of several Adobe programs such as the Adobe Influencer DACH program and Adobe Community Professionals Program as well as Wacom Evangelist. As an internationally published writer and content creator, Kenneth has spoken at conferences across Europe. Topics include: Creativity, Social Media and Community Development. One of his crowning achievements is having produced two full-scale creative conferences for Adobe in Germany.
Visit Kenneth's portfolio at:
Or connect with him on LinkedIn:

This article was first published by Kenneth Shinabery 

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Has Digital Marketing Killed Off Branding & Creativity?

Advice by copywriters for copywriters
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Has Digital Marketing Killed Off Branding & Creativity?

By Caroline Gibson on Aug 29, 2018 07:00 am
Branding and Creativity
How has digital marketing affected branding? Q&A with Chris Bullick, MD of The Pull Agency.

Bill Gates – somewhat belatedly – said 'The Internet changes everything'. In reality, Microsoft was late to the party but Gates nailed it just in time. But has the Internet really changed everything for marketing? The way in which services and products are promoted and sold may be different, but are the fundamentals still the same? 

I interviewed Chris Bullick, Managing Director of The Pull Agency (which has just changed its name from Pull Digital). The agency creates brand propositions, websites and campaigns for clients that are challenger brands wanting to 'out-think rather than out-spend the competition'.


CG: So Chris, has – as Gates proclaimed – the Internet really changed everything?

CB: Having started my career on the branding side when at P&G, and therefore having been around pre-Internet, I've always been intrigued by people saying that brand is dead … it's all about Google and Search … anybody can start a business … long-term brand building no longer applies. The question, for me, is to what extent that's proved to be the case and what's the real impact of the digital revolution on the world of marketing and advertising.

I believe that, for a while, businesses felt that all that was needed for marketing was an army of geeks: I think that approach has been disproved. To my mind, the way digital has played out has proved that everything leads back to brand and that brand is still key.

CG: If a client contacts you for help with digital marketing, would you encourage them to let you evaluate their brand first of all?

CB: A lot of potential clients approach us because they think digital marketing will wave a magic wand or it's a shortcut. My argument will always be that whatever you do will be much better applied if you get your brand into shape first. So we will always try to undertake an audit of a client's brand and break that down into several components to understand what the brand narrative is, what's the awareness like, how good the brand promise and proposition are, etc., etc. There's really no point embarking on a marketing programme if those things aren't in good shape.

CG: With so much focus on attribution and programmatic solutions these days, how do companies look to measure their return on investment?  Do they want to rank at the top of Google or measure ROI in other ways? 

CB: Marketing has been always been science and art. People think building a brand is a largely creative process, but creative is just a way to address something and solve a problem. You have to prove that what you do positively impacts on the client's bottom line – and that's enabled by digital marketing.

The old joke used to be that 50% of your marketing works and 50% doesn't, and you don't know which is which. But that's changed and digital marketing lets you measure accurately – whether it's attributing sales to an e-commerce client or getting leads. If it's B2B, you can measure back to the source (so, where does that come from?). If it's organic, what keywords are responsible? If social media, which platform? You really can find the answers to those questions nowadays.

The art side is still leveraging your intuition; it's bringing creativity to bear, it's impacting the emotional pull the brand can have on the consumer. But what digital marketing allows you to do is the truly scientific part. Even when working with a client on brand building, you need to agree on a whole set of cold-blooded metrics – it might be sales, it might be ROI, it might be cost-per-acquisition, which comes from sources like Google analytics. The latest buzz phrase is 'big data' – if you collect enough data and use enough processing power, you can find the answers to everything. But I feel that approach is being discredited: again, it suggests that if you have enough processing power you don't need experienced marketers. I'm not sure I buy into that.

There's a soft creative side to brand building based on the fact that human beings are irrational and subject to emotional responses, and there's a scientific side which the digital revolution has fully enabled. If you're managing a brand well, then you've got to have a pretty good grip of both sides.

digital marketing and creativity

CG: Has measuring digital marketing caused creative work to suffer? Are advertisers and companies less adventurous?

Yes, I think marketing went through a period – the first stage of the digital revolution if you like – where geekiness and techno-crats moved in and which devalued things like copywriting and creativity. But people are now seeing the power of creativity again as technology falls to the background slightly. Clients are still looking for that emotional pull. Think about, say, the eagerly awaited John Lewis Christmas TV ads. That pull can only come out of creative work: it doesn't come from analytics.

CG: What are the major differences you've noticed about how digital marketing has affected branding?

The really big thing I've seen is how brand search has increased around tenfold in the last ten years compared to generic search. Everything's been turned on its head.

Take Wiggle, the UK's largest online provider of sports kit – especially cycling. Ten years ago the ratio of search for the phrase 'bicycle parts' versus 'Wiggle' was 10:1 in favour of 'bicycle parts'. Today, the ratio of search for Wiggle as a brand is 10:1 versus 'bicycle parts'.

So, ten years ago, if you wanted to build a business on the basis of that type of Google search result, you did everything you could to be in the number one slot for bicycle parts. You'd probably start a business called and maybe even deploy so-called 'Black Hat' SEO techniques to reach and hold that number one search slot.

However, people have now found their favourite online brands – and search for generic items has been replaced by search for brands. For consumers now, the brand name 'Wiggle' is synonymous with 'bicycle parts' so they simply type in 'Wiggle'.  Although Wiggle has invested in SEO, they've put their real effort and investment behind building the brand. That's why they're number one in their category.

Brand Analysis

CG: How has that affected Wiggle's marketing spend?

The majority of Wiggle's revenue will now come from brand-related search, and they bid on their own brand term in paid search. Type in 'Wiggle' and the first result you see is a big Google ad from Wiggle. Now it may be that half the consumers searching with Wiggle-related terms are clicking on that. The result next down from that will be the organic search result. It may seem counter-intuitive that you're forced by Google to spend on your own brand, but the reality is that the cost-per-acquisition (getting a sale from someone clicking on the Wiggle ad) is probably 30p or 40p. The cost-effectiveness of this dilutes the cost of bidding on generic search terms, so the overall cost per acquisition or ROI is much lower than that of competitors with weaker or less searched-for brands.

So the latent value of a brand can be indicated better by what used to be the slightly vague term 'brand equity', which was notoriously difficult to measure. Now, all of a sudden, you can measure that – it's a massive turnaround. For Wiggle, it means they can afford to spend an awful lot more on non-brand terms such as 'bicycle parts' because the fantastic ROI they get on a brand-name sponsored search pays for all their other advertising on Google. That's a perfect example of brand value.

CG: Lastly Chris, any predictions for the future of digital marketing?

CB: In the last year alone, I've seen Facebook come forward to challenge Google in a whole load of ways that I didn't necessarily expect. I think that Facebook, because of the way in which it profiles people, is getting stronger by the day. Google may be very good at profiling people's intentions, but it's not so good at understanding them as individuals.


About the author: Caroline Gibson

Caroline profile pic

Caroline has been a freelance copywriter for over 15 years, with clients ranging from international brands to small businesses looking to become big businesses.
Before then, she worked for some of London's leading ad, branding and design agencies. She has experience in every sector – from finance to health to drinks – and has won awards in every discipline.

This article was first published by Caroline Gibson

The post Has Digital Marketing Killed Off Branding & Creativity? appeared first on .

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Insults, Book Titles and Headlines That (Hilariously) Beggar Belief

Insults, Book Titles and Headlines That (Hilariously) Beggar Belief

By Ellie Hubble on Aug 22, 2018 07:00 am
Word Play

Words are powerful.

They can carry big and serious ideas, communicated by icons such as Martin Luther King Jr, Malala Yousafzai or Winston Churchill.

But they can also carry a healthy dose of well-considered silliness. Think Amy Schumer, Spike Milligan or Eric Morecambe.

I've been reading a lot about the English language and humour recently:
'English Is Not Easy – A Graphic Guide to the Language' by Luci Gutierrez
'English Humour for Beginners' by George Mikes
'Mangled English' by Gervase Phinn
'i before e (except after c) – old-school ways to remember stuff' by Judy Parkinson
And it's got me thinking about my favourite examples of wordplay…

Epic ways of saying someone is an idiot

Keep some of these handy for your next passive-aggressive or, if need be, just aggressive discussion.

Word Play: Insults

"One sausage short of a mixed grill"
"The hamster's dead but the wheel is still turning"
"One sandwich short of a picnic"
"The lift doesn't go to the top floor"
"One word short of a sentence"

Let me know how these go down at the next family barbecue or around the water cooler at work.

Book titles that actually exist

I can't decide which of these is my favourite, but it's between "nude mice" and "Exhibition Poultry".

Word Play - Book Titles

"The Romance of Leprosy"
"Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice"
"Erections on Allotments"
"The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry"
"Cooking with Poo"
"Handbook for the Limbless"

Definitely some titles to add to your read-on-the-tube-to-make-Londoners-uncomfortable list.

Real-life published headlines

I'd pay a lot of money to know which of these were deliberate and which were only accidentally amusing.

"Headmistress Unveils Bust"
"Spider Found in Toilet. Woman Relieved"
"Leopard Spotted In Park"
"Man At Death's Door-Doctors Pull Him Through"

Bravo headline writers!

If none of these examples of outstanding wordplay made you laugh then you're probably one word short of a sentence.

Got some weird and wonderful examples of wordplay to share? Let me know in the comments below to brighten my day.


About the author: Ellie Hubble

Ellie Hubble

Ellie is a creative strategist and writer, currently working as a copywriter for an eclectic mix of agencies and brands. When she's not writing or cooking up ideas, she can usually be found exploring the city or escaping from it to the countryside.

You can follow her latest posts at Dazed but Amused and follow her on Twitter @ellie_hubble.

This article was first published by Ellie Hubble

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Five Ways to Get Noticed Online

Advice by copywriters for copywriters
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Five Ways to Get Noticed Online

By Rick Siderfin on Aug 15, 2018 07:00 am
How to get noticed online


With over 2 million new blog posts being uploaded to the World Wide Web every single day, how on earth are you supposed to get your business noticed online?

Luckily, there are some simple strategies that are within the reach of even the smallest businesses, so don't despair. Here are five ways to get more visitors to (and ultimately more leads and sales from) your website:

One: Spread Your Net

Maximise your output – make sure you have an active online presence on social media. Wherever your target market is active is where you need to be putting out information – whether that be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even Pinterest or Instagram.

Maybe you are afraid of annoying your audience by putting out the same message across multiple platforms. Just remember, it is very unlikely people will be following you on every site so don't let this worry you. Most importantly, if they are connected with you on social media they have chosen to hear from you – so don't let them down!

The more popular websites and social media channels that link back to your website, the more your chances of being found online increase. If the sheer scale and number of social media channels are intimidating for you, focus on being really good on just two or three platforms, rather than trying to be a maestro of all the platforms.

You can always recruit outside help with social media, for a surprisingly low outlay.

Two: Stand Out
(Be Multicoloured, Not Magnolia!)

Make sure your message is unique. Why be mediocre? Using boring business jargon, buzzwords, and dull-as-ditchwater, dry-as-dust language makes you blend into the background like a camera-shy chameleon.

For written content, this can be an especially difficult trick to pull off. We have become used to sounding painfully formal in our written communications, using expressions that would sound pretentious if read out loud.

Stand Out (Online)

Just be yourself. Imagine if your prospect was sitting across the table from you. What sort of language would you use? How would you describe their problem? What colourful phrases are you known for? Write as you talk – the end result will be much easier to digest!

Online search engines have completely revolutionised the way customers find solutions to their needs. Obviously, you will need to use keywords to help your customer find you, but do so in a snappy, meaningful and interesting way to catch your customers attention and capture their business. Don't be afraid to be colourful and different.

Three: Showcase Your Solutions

No matter if you are a high street cafĂ©, window cleaner or an insurance company, you provide solutions. Don't just talk about yourself on your website and publications – talk about the problems and challenges your target market is facing, then tell them how you can help!

One of the best ways to do this is to create advice videos explaining a subject, concept or common problem and how you can help. People love videos and this is one of the easiest ways to optimise your site visits and social media followers. We have all been attracted by a catchy advert or a series of videos showing simple 'life hacks' or tips and tricks to achieve a desired result. This is content marketing at it's finest.

The good news is you no longer need a vast budget to create videos that your customers and prospects will love. Animated videos are an extremely affordable and effective way of getting your message across. No hassle with finding actors, props, or locations, simply let [them] know your message and [they] can quickly create a professional and attractive video on any subject.

You can upload the video to your website to increase visits and shared across messaging sites, YouTube and Vimeo to raise your profile instantly. Interested? Click here to learn more on this subject.

Four: Share The Knowledge, Share The Love!

In addition to your core message, keep your customer coming back by creating genuinely useful and interesting content. You could consider sharing 'Did you know?' facts on social media, post inspiring quotes, blog about events or write about lifestyle tips. You are the brand, you have the knowledge – people will look to you for advice so share what you have!

Charity events are a big draw – everybody loves to know they are helping out somehow. Choose your local or national charities to support and run competitions, blog about fundraising efforts and note on your website who you are supporting. Your customers want to know that you care, not just for them and the customers they bring, but also for the greater good.

Five: Stake Your Claim on Google Maps

This is so basic but so underused – help your customers to find you by making sure you are represented on Google Maps.
Stake your claim on Google Maps
Ensure the location for your business is correct, and update it if you move! And remember, the street view footage is often very out of date – there isn't much you can do about this but you can upload photos to your location – images of your logo and services, examples of your work, photos of your offices, display rooms, warehouse, staff – the possibilities are endless!

Don't miss out on this key step you can take to get you noticed online. You can simply go to Google Maps and then to your business address. If your business is not listed, simply click on the building where you are located, and add your business details. Then click "claim this business." Google will then send you a postcard through the post with a special code, which enables you to stake your claim and ensure another high-quality backlink to your website, and the opportunity for more people to see your brand and visit your website or your physical premises.
About the author: Rick Siderfin

Rick Siderfin

Rick Siderfin is a husband, dad of 3, and copywriter who lives and works in Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds. He is the founder of Vortex Content Marketing, a company founded with one simple objective: to help you get noticed online.

This article was originally published by Rick Siderfin

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