Long versus Short copy

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I promised in the last post that I’d comment on Long versus Short copy. Well, here we go. Some of you already know the answer and if you do I’d ask you to just read this and find out if you are right.

Yes, that was a little cheeky, but they say one should start with something that grabs attention. If that didn’t grab attention then I don’t know what would!

OK, so let’s get to the core of the matter: which works best – long or short copy?

To answer that we first have to ask ourselves what is it that we are trying to achieve? My answer to that is that we are trying to attract the attention of potential customers, inform them of our expertise and abilities and to encourage them to take some action.

That action can be to buy something or register for an event or to receive some information. It can be anything, it is just the reason why we wrote the copy in the first place.

Now let’s look at the length of the story. First I’d like you to think of a movie you’ve seen or a book you’ve read that was fast-paced and excitement from beginning to end. How long was it? Now think of another movie or book of around the same length that had you yawning after the first couple of scenes.

Yes, you have figured out what I’m going to say, but just for the other people reading this: the length of the story isn’t the important part. The important part is grabbing and holding the attention of your audience until you have finished your story. Make it interesting, attractive, and inspirational. Actually make it anything you wish, just as long as it never gets boring.

Your advert must lead your target market on a journey from ‘here’ to ‘wow’! It must tell a story that shows your audience what is possible.

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The ancient Greeks honed storytelling into a fine art. They invented the Three Act Play: an introduction that establishes the current position, the body of the story where most of the detail is revealed, and the conclusion that leaves the audience where the author wants them to be. If the story is a morality tale then the audience leave educated, if it was a comedy then they leave happy and so on. If it is your advert they finish feeling the need to take the action you last described.

Here’s how the Three Act Play works for an advert:

  1. Act one attracts the attention of your target market. That’s why most adverts that you bother to read start by describing a problem that you have. “Your Business is Failing And You Don’t Know Why” kind of thing. Then it follows with an “Until Now” or “I can solve that” kind of message. In essence you have let them know that you understand their problem and that you have a solution. If done correctly then they want to know more.
  2. Act 2 is the part where you tell your story. Where you might describe your ability to solve the problem and then supply the proof that you know what you are talking about. You also might include some form of testimonial or two, and a guarantee to further reduce the perceived risk. At this point your aim is that they now know that you understand their problem and you can fix it, and they have an understanding of your ability or track record in solving this kind of problem. They have seen what other people experienced and they know that you have reduced the risk in doing business with you.
  3. Act 3 is where you ask them to take the required action. That can be to register for a report, buy your product, request additional information – whatever action you wanted to encourage when you started writing the advert. You may also add some urgency, since there may be little value to you if nobody does anything for six months and then everybody signs up. If you want specifics of what goes into a successful advert then take a look at http://amzn.to/1ctcz9L

If you follow the Three Act Play strategy then your ‘copy’ will grab the attention of your target audience and hold it until the end. They will become educated about you and your ability to solve their problem, and keen to take the action you described.

The information in your advert will be crisp and to the point. People will lose track of time when they read or watch your advert.

What does that tell you about the length? If people complain that the length of an advert is “Too long”  it really means “You lost me part way through, I couldn’t understand how it related to me”. It also probably means that the advert was not well constructed, and had not established a solid rapport with the reader/watcher.

An advert that is “Too short” is likewise probably not well constructed in that it most likely also didn’t establish a solid rapport and it may well have pieces of the story missing.

Einstein once explained his Theory of Relativity like this: If you place your hand on a hot stove for a minute it seems like an hour, and if a pretty girl sits on your knee for an hour it seems like a minute.

If Einstein is correct then it is probably the quality of the story you tell that determines if your advert is too long or too short. If that’s true then that’s good news because you can learn to tell better stories.

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