Write Copy as if You’re a Criminal Minds Profiler

Here’s a question for you, dear readers: would you talk to a 20-year-old male living in Los Angeles in a different manner than you’d talk to a 45-year-old woman living in a suburb of Boston? (This isn’t a trick question.)

A: Yes, of course you would. So imagine my shock the other day when I got a call from a marketer who wanted me to write a headline for a print ad, the third in a series in which he’d created the other two. I asked him where the ad would be appearing, and he told me. Then I asked for demo info on the pub. And he said, “What do you mean ‘demo’ info? Oh, you mean demographics? I don’t think you’ll need that info once you see what I did with the first two ads.”

How can I write an ad for an invisible audience? How do I know if I’m talking to the 20-year-old male living in an urban setting or the 45-year-old woman living in suburbia? I can’t. So, of course, I went to the publication’s website, downloaded the media kit, read it, and sent it to the marketer along with my suggestions on images and headlines based on the people who actually read the magazine.

(Sadly, this situation isn’t an anomaly. It happens more often than you think.)

I love the show Criminal Minds because of how the FBI agents get into people’s heads (granted, we’re talking pretty screwed up heads). When you write copy, when you create a website, a direct mail campaign, a sales letter, a radio spot, whatever…you need to profile the typical audience member with the same precision and level of detail. Really.

Blog Content Question

Dear Copy Bitch: I met a chiropractor in my local BNI chapter who is looking to possibly launch a blog. I took a look at his website today, and it seems that he has used this special web provider for chiropractors: [name redacted]. This provider provides all sorts of content with automatic content updates and a full newsletter library. The trick is, you have to be a “member” to log in and see this content.

Do you have any ideas about what benefits this doctor will get by having a personal blog that he won’t get by simply having the mass-produced content available? The one thing that I can think of is that potential customers who are just browsing for information may not want to become a member just yet, and that this requirement may send them away never to return. But I thought you might have some additional ideas.

–Addie Z.

A: Okay, if I’m reading this right, it sounds like he has a blog with automatically generated content, but people need to login to view the blog posts. If that’s the case, here’s my take: I can’t think of any business blogs where people have to register to see the content. The whole point of the blogosphere is to have immediate, relevant content at your fingertips when you need it. Many blogs require people to register in order to post comments, but I can’t think of any business blogs where you have to register just to SEE the blog (personal blogs are different; many people lock those, and for good reason). He’ll lose a lot of people right there who don’t want to bother with registration or who don’t want to surrender their info. And he’ll also lose those valuable inbound links. One reason businesses have blogs is so that people will link to their blog posts. Those links can help rankings (if the blog is integrated correctly with the website) and help drive traffic to the business site.

As for the auto-generated content, there are two issues. First, Google doesn’t like duplicate content. So if a blog post is being published on his blog and 20 others, Google doesn’t like that. No one (except the folks inside Google) can say what sort of “penalty,” if any, exists, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid duplicate content. Which brings me to the second issue. One of the other reasons to have a blog is so that you can create a community, engage with your customers or potential customers, position yourself as an expert, and give something back for free: your expertise. The best blogs do all these things.

I imagine he’s doing the auto content thing because he feels he doesn’t have enough time to devote to a blog or that he doesn’t have enough ideas. I do believe that the key to blogging is consistency; I always encourage my clients to blog at least three times a week. Blog posts needn’t be long or Pulitzer-prize worthy. They need to be real, relevant, and conversational. As a chiropractor, I bet he has a ton of topics to blog about. If he doesn’t have the time to do it, he could hire someone (like you) to ghostwrite his posts (option #1) or be his blog writer (#2). If he gave you 30 minutes of his time per week, he probably could give you enough copy points for at least three blog posts (and they don’t all need to be text heavy; you could link to interesting articles related to chiro or other forms of complementary medicine, you could have a poll or survey, you could post a relevant cartoon, you could do “video cam” posts [e.g. maybe of an exercise demonstration that helps with lower back pain]).

Encourage him to make his blog public and to create fresh, customized content.