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How to use the real power of copywriting

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Hey there from Thailand 🏝️. Still a couple of weeks left to enjoy my time here, and while I’m sitting poolside, about to get into an ice bath, I got to think about power and control. How do they relate to the copy we write and to how we influence people?

There’s a great scene in the TV show Billions, where Mike Prince shares his advice with an employee. The two had an affair, and as Mike is about to embark on his US presidential campaign, the employee is worried about the snowballing effects that event might have on her personal life.

What Prince says is a masterclass in stoicism:

“There are people that things happen to, and there are people that make things happen. And you need to land on which one you wanna be. When you do that, when you decide what you wanna feel – that is the true source of power. When you get there, people will see what you want them to see on your face. Most people never figure this pout, the ones that do, they get to run the world.”

 – Mike Prince, Billions

It’s about agency, control, and how personal choices can influence our trajectory. And that of our customers.

There’s so much to take away from this when it comes to copywriting and influence. Here are my two cents…

With lots of power comes great responsibility. With our copy we are deciding what we want other people to feel. Effective copy taps into the emotional needs and desires of our audience, and a great copywriter understands the psychology behind the choices they make. This gives us a lot of power – but we have to take responsibility for it too.

  • Good copywriting doesn’t just happen; it’s crafted. The best copywriters make things happen by deliberately and skillfully using language to guide behavior, stimulate emotions, or shift perceptions.
  • Projection & perception. When you know what you want your audience to feel, “people will see what you want them to see on your face.” We do it with our tone, language, and the context around it, including the layout and UX of your site. We dictate the emotional undertone of the message and, by extension, influence how our audience perceives our product, service, or brand.
  • Our work extends far beyond the words on a page. Understand how we can impact what people feel, gives us the power to “run the world.” A master copywriter can change the fortunes of a campaign, shift brand perception, or even set industry trends. It’s one of the reasons why I think messaging should always start with positioning.
  • Being intentional pays off. Are you someone to whom things happen or someone who makes things happen? Are you blindly following industry norms and formulas, or are you actively shaping your narrative to get the attention your brand deserves? Ask yourself this when looking at what other people in the space do.

I wish more businesses saw copywriting as the source of power it truly is.

In the meantime I can only do my best, try to do great work, and let it speak for itself.

Good questions I’m asking myself you should too, at all times:

What emotional response do I want from my clients? How am I making sure my audience sees “what I want them to see” (in my brand/service)?

📚 3 things to get better at copywriting

1. Check your information density

recent paper explores how to better use AI to summarize content. Specifically it looks at information density. In the prompts they ask AI to constantly re-write the summary while adding what they call “missing entities” to make the summary more info packed.

I found their definition of these missing entities, fascinating:

Isn’t this strikingly similar to a copy editing checklist? How can we make our copy more “dense”?

2. Are you listening?

I know I don’t do it enough. But I also know it would be a better world if we all changed our perspective on it. I’m talking about listening. Not just hearing, but actually open up our ears and mind, and take more in. Yes even at the risk of changing our opinion.

This is a great article on the topic and on the role social media has in preventing us from listening.

Most humans suffer from a lack of impulse control, ignorance, and ignorance of our (wait for it) ignorance”

– Scott Galloway
3. The shitty first draft

I have to constantly remind myself that whenever I get started with anything, it won’t probably look or feel like what I expected it to be. I’m a perfectionist and a lot of times in can be crippling. Instead I should remember that the space in between the start and the final product, is always going to be the most (sometimes subconsciously) rewarding part of the work. This is a great short piece by Ryan Holiday on our shitty first drafts.

“As a culture, we love flashes of inspiration and we love finished products. We have little interest and little understanding, however, of what goes on in between—of the essentialness of editing and improving and tweaking until whatever we are creating is just right.”

– Ryan Holiday

✅ Don’t miss it

  • When it comes to gaining power and control in your life, nothing is better than when you really experience something. Hearing it from someone else or trying to think through it alone, won’t make you an expert. Doing the thing will. I wrote a quick piece on this.
  • Do you need any copy, UX or conversion optimization help? Or maybe to work on your mindset around business and life? I just partnered with Growth Mentor to offer a couple of free coaching sessions. You can find me and book yours here.

🤔 Thought of the week

“Turning pro is a decision. But it’s such a monumental, life-overturning decision (and one that is usually made only in the face of overwhelming fear) that the moment is frequently accompanied by powerful drama and emotion”

– Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

Extreme emotions can be a signal that you’re progressing and moving past your fears. Use them as a motivation to keep you going and learn to manage them.

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