Episode 34: Write Like Your Reader Has to Pee
In this episode, JT tells you how to get the readers’ attention, make them stop scrolling and get interested in your content because it speaks to them, personally. We also discover how content should be presented and why short paragraphs are king.
You can listen to the episode right here. The transcription is below the player. Feel free to add your comments using the comment section below.
Episode 34 Transcript
Note: Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and humans, as such, it may contain errors. Please, double-check the audio file before quoting anything from this page.
Special note: This podcast is about copywriting content. It isn’t advised to use this content writing method for novels, where readers expect a bit more from you.
00:00 [JT Pledger] Good Morning, kids! Today I want to continue with last weeks’ topic on copywriting and explain the best way to write copy for a client. This will pertain to catching the reader’s eye, important headlines and snappy copy. Stick around, we will cover all of that.
00:44 [JT] It has been said (by many) and I forget where I first heard the phrase. It might have been Gary Halbert or David Ogilvy, I forget which. Anyway, they said, “write like your reader has to pee.” The turn of phrase has been used many times since, some adding their own flair to it (they are about to pee their pants, etc.). As soon as I read it, I fell in love with the idea.
Get to the Point
01:15 If you can’t tell, the phrase means to get to the point. Don’t fluff your work with pointless dribble and don’t add adjectives when you don’t have to. Just tell it like it is. You want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible.
01:37 The fine line, so to speak, is that a lot of writers get this message and then write like they have to pee. It is one thing to get to the point and it is a completely different thing to rush your words. So let’s take a moment and break down a winning recipe for a blog post or review article.
Start With the Headline
02:03 The first stop is the headline. In today’s age, our readers are there for instant gratification. If they click (and that is a big if) they will want to know the answer right away. Before we get to the answers, we have to make them want to click, though.
02:29 If you haven’t heard of the Upworthy Method, where you come up with 25 different article titles, I suggest you look it up. In the meantime, let’s get one thing out of the way. Your headline or title should evoke a question to the reader, make a promise and offer a solution to a pain point. All of that in about seven words or so.
03:00 The headline has 1 main job. That is to get the reader to want to read more, so, they click the link. If you figure that most people will be looking at your title on their phones, on a Google search result page, or on Facebook, they are going to be scrolling. You have to make them stop scrolling and the best method to do this is through a bright, fun image.
Content Must be Relevant
03:31 Don’t forget that sex sells, but if your article has nothing to do with bikini-clad women, don’t include them in your image. Keep it fun, but relevant. For example, if you are writing an article about dogs, your image can be a Beagle puppy in a Bowler hat. That’s fine.
03:55 Now we have them stopped in their thumb scrolling so we have to get their attention with the headline, or title. There are no hard and fast rules, but if I were you I would stick to a title that is 7 to 12 words long. It is long enough to give you some wiggle room, but not so long the reader loses interest.
Trigger Words are Key
04:22 There are certain words that trigger a response, things like “best,” or “new.” Another thing to consider is that numbers convert well. If you start your title with a number, make it an odd number. Instead of writing about the 10 best things, write about the 11 best, or the 7 best. For some psychological reason, humans click more when odd numbers are involved.
04:54 Next, your title must identify a pain point that the reader has. A pain point is another way of saying that they have a problem, or they have an area they are struggling with. For example, when it comes to copywriting, you listening to me right now may have a problem finding new clients.
05:15 If I were to write an article about finding new clients, I may state something in the title that will (triggle?) trigger this pain point in you. For example, I could say “7 New Methods to Secure Dream Clients You Haven’t Thought About, Yet.”
05:34 Obviously that title needs a little work, but for something that just came off the top of my head, it will do. With that headline, I have given you a number (it’s odd) to let you know this will be a concise article. I could give you 135 reasons, but while that sounds highly informative, it also sounds quite long. Instant gratification folks won’t click on a link they think will be a long read.
06:10 Next I’ve identified your pain point. If you struggle landing big-name clients, the headline feels like it is talking directly to you. Now I have started gaining your trust subliminally, which I will further establish in the first paragraph of the text after you click. Finally, I offer the little keyword “yet” at the end. A lot of writers don’t like words like this, but I personally love them.
Your Client has an Ideal Customer (and Content) in Mind
06:46 Think about your client for a moment. Who is their ideal reader? They want someone that is engaged in the content, someone that is interested in what they have to say. Your job is to get that potential customer to stop scrolling, click a link and read the article. It is also your job to present the client as a trustworthy person; someone that is on their side. You want them to be a friend.
07:24 Simply by saying “yet,” it puts a little nugget in the back of the reader’s head that says “Yeah, I’m smart enough that I would have gotten here on my own, eventually, but since you already did the hard work for me, let me take a look.”
Head Games are Fun!
07:43 If you know anything about me, I love the cerebral assault. In my novels, I love the psychological thrillers. My horror novels are scary because… “shit, this could happen to me.” I am also known to write in a style that offers my readers a chance to think and contemplate how they would address the situation, and often times the result is scarier than anything else.
08:18 In copywriting, I am not trying to scare the reader. But the mental gymnastics are the same. If I can identify with you on a subliminal level right from the start, then you are hooked until the end where the call to action is just dangling there waiting for you to click it. Now I have a reader that turns into a customer and a very happy client. So yeah, I’ll continue to use words like “yet” when others won’t.
Back on the Content Track
08:51 So where were we? We stopped the potential customer from scrolling with a nice picture. We enticed them with an excellent headline. They clicked the link to read more. Now, our job really begins.
09:06 When it comes to writing copy there are some rules. I use the term “rules” lightly, of course. In short, though, let’s look at the list. Your paragraphs should be short, and no more than four visible lines. I will also throw in that those writers that put one sentence per line with a space between each, you fucking annoy me. Paragraphs are your friend. Use them. Otherwise, you just sound choppy and off-putting.
Short, not TOO Short
09:41 Short paragraphs attract attention, make the text look smaller than it is, and it is easier to read. The words in those sentences though needs to resonate. The first time you go overboard, off-topic or don’t add anything valuable, they stop reading.
10:02 There are only two reasons you want a potential customer to stop reading your copy. First, is that they are so excited they skip ahead to the next call to action so they can become a customer. The second time is when they have reached the end of the copy and there is nothing left to read. If they stop reading for any other reason, you lose.
Write Content Like Your Reader Has to Pee
10:30 This is where the advice to write like they have to pee is important. Think about your words and your paragraphs. Have you expanded on the title? Have you given them all of the promised information? Do they have a call to action to act upon? Good. No go back and read through it all, this time, try to get away.
10:58 What I mean by “trying to get away” is to pretend you have something going on. Perhaps the commercial break on the Monday Night Football game is almost over, or dinner is about to burn, or, yes, even pretend that you have to pee really fucking bad.
11:17 If you miss the kick-off, burn dinner or piss your pants, your copy wins. Simple as that. Otherwise, you have some work to do.
A Final Recap
11:30 Keep your words concise. Make your paragraphs snappy. Give the information in as few words as possible without cutting so much out you end up with more questions than answers. Finally, identify the pain point, solve the pain point and offer to do even more with your call to action.
11:58 Manage to do all of that and you will quickly earn the rank of elite copywriter. I will leave you with that for now. Don’t be afraid to get in touch to learn more. Follow the link in the show notes to get to the transcript post. There you can leave a comment, ask questions or get more information.
12:23 Until next week, have fun; write words