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From a freelance copywriter
Irreverent thoughts about Interactive Copywriting
When people say "interactive copywriter," they're usually referring to online work. Frankly,
I think that's selling both online and offline writing a little short, particularly if you're
a marketer. Because
just being online doesn't make it "interactive." Even social media isn't necessarily interactive.
And offline copy needs to be interactive, too.
True, successfully writing for the Web requires certain things. It takes a different tone
than you find in a lot of other marketing media. Not pushy, no hype. Friendly, helpful and honest. Trustworthy. It has certain
readability requirements, and you should modify your style manual to aid scannability. Some say the pages also
have to be shorter, or in bite-size bits (although I'd sometimes dispute that). It demands
content that's truly valuable to the visitor. It takes sensible organization. And the
text can't just contain links. It has to motivate the reader to use them.
But that's true of any copy-intensive medium. Good online copy
because it needs to interact with the reader. Ditto for offline. To be good, marketing copy always needs to
be valuable to the reader, personal, and motivating.
Otherwise, it's bad copy, regardless of the medium.
Granted, online is less tolerant of bad copy, for several reasons.
• One: The reader immediately
has someplace else to go if confused, offended or bored. He or she can even hop directly to the competition. A printed
brochure isn't quite so vulnerable.
• Two: The reader is more personally involved. More likely to feel it viscerally if you waste his
or her time.
• Three: Unlike reading magazines, people often visit websites to find very specific information.
If the reader came from a search engine, and your site doesn't deliver what was promised
there, that's 100% disappointment.
• Four: Conversely, you can't force your copy into the visitor's hands. Unlike other marketing media,
distribution is not fully under your control. If the spiders don't like it, if fellow
visitors don't like it, if it seems like jive for any reason at all, it won't even be seen, let alone read.
How can you sell with strong, "selling" copy if nobody visits?
• Five: Online marketing communications offer such strong potential for converting interest into
immediate action, that failure to interest and relate to the visitor seems an even more terrible waste.
So online, bad copy is risky, while offline you might get away with it. But if you've got a great copywriter,
that's not an issue. Compare good to good. A good marketing copywriter (advertising copywriter,
direct response writer, whatever your angle), with strong interest and an average amount of online browsing
experience, can do an admirable job online or off.
Just don't try to scrape by with a mediocre one.
This isn't a new issue. For decades, most advertising agency creative directors have held
that a print writer can learn to write for TV much more easily than a TV writer can
learn print. The online/offline situation is arguably
analogous -- a print writer may be able to cross over to the Web and email more easily than an
Internet-only writer can move in the other direction.
I've been working on both sides for years.
I'd be happy to demonstrate.
Or to dig right into your online content job. Please call 718-577-0005
during NYC business hours,
or write me, and let's discuss
how you might benefit by hiring a writer whose perspective is broader than some.
These pages are also web- and interactivity-related:
I wrote the underlying article yipes! more than 15 years ago. It's still online
because its premise is still valid — whether the copy is digital media or traditional,
it must interact with the reader,
by being valuable, personal, and motivating. And, for several reasons, online is less
tolerant of bad copy. (Close this update to read article)
Granted, we've reached a point where traditional networking and marketing techniques can't
match the capabilities of some online technologies. These days, the Web isn't
just a bunch of technologies; it has sculpted new social patterns.
Then, there's the more basic type of website interactivity that
traditional media can't match on the web, you can make
pages more entertaining, helpful and sticky in many ways: Personalization.
Games. Surveys. Dynamic pages.
Demonstrations. Messaging. "Stories." Etc. The possibilities are as endless as
the marketer's imagination.
But there's more to it than that.
Not every reader has had the same amount or type of online experience. While some
online entities, like YouTube and Facebook, have virtually universal
appeal, others (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) serve limited cohorts, and people who don't get
it may never care. Therefore, the user experience you give people demands "interactivity"
in that sense, too.   MORE
(Will social networking and online marketing
continue to grow? Certainly. Will
all of the communities keep growing? No. Some will grow. Membership in others will just see users revolve. And we've seen many sites fail.
Some change their business model to something less ambitious. Others, in "enhancing" themselves to have broader scope and/or a social angle
have actually made their core service or interface cluttered and less usable. And enhanced web (and mobile)
technologies and social media still aren't reaching plenty of people
who are otherwise very much online.)
That brings us full-circle. Because, at a yet more basic level,
the capabilities of any medium are
expanded by using imagination to stimulate imagination. Involve the reader/visitor.
That's the basis of all interactivity. This fundamental definition of "interactive"
is its most important . . . and will always be current.