Authenticity isn’t a trick

Posted in: Copywriting

Why taking the time to identify with your subject matter is never a waste of time. 

Lego minifig performs rabbit in the hat magic trick
Authenticity in copywriting isn't a trick - it just requires you to meet the reader halfway.

Talking the talk

A recent sprint spent editing and rewriting postgraduate recruitment emails has got me thinking about the emails we all receive from organisations and companies, and specifically about the differences between those that keep our attention and those that rapidly fail to.  

I figured, initially, that the emails that succeed in keeping me reading would all share a personal touch, a bit of disarming informality and humour. And it’s true that some certainly do.  

But I’ve noticed that a good number of the emails that fail to get me on side also employ personalisation and informality but without the appeal. To put it another way, they say the right words but there’s something missing.  

What’s more, a significant proportion of the emails that work best in winning me over don’t rely on familiarity or humour at all. So, what’s the key element that the most effective emails all seem to share?  

The longer I strive to write persuasive copy, the more I’m convinced that it’s something utterly invisible – but eminently achievable; something that stands apart from design and tone of voice, but which supports both: authenticity.  

Walking the walk

Think about it. A company may say it wants to make my life better with product X and may well go to great lengths to bullet-point away my reluctance, but if the person telling me all of this doesn’t believe in product X’s benefits on some level, then subtly, inevitably, that will come through and the promises will sound hollow.  

Likewise, if an organisation - a university, say - reaches out and invites me to study there, it really matters that the copywriter that penned it believes in the university and its mission. Without that foundation in authenticity, the words – however well-crafted or personable – are just that; inert and so much less effective.  

Yes, it’s a subtle thing, and no, I’m not pretending that you’ll always believe passionately in every product/service/doohickey you’re called on to write about. But I really do believe that, if you want to engage your audience in an email, campaign or even blog post, it’s essential to find and identify with the reason you’re asking someone to spend a bit of their valuable time with you.  

Time well spent

Happily, there’s always something, some element or truth in what you’re tasked to write copy for that will resonate with you. For example, you may personally have zero plans to do an online master’s any time soon, but I bet you know what it feels like to have to try and fit something that you’re passionate about around your existing obligations. An authentic connection to your subject matter like this is everything.  

So, before you start typing, it’s never wasted time to think about the user story and find the element within it that chimes for you on a personal level. 

It’s not fake and it’s not a trick. It’s coming to the conversation between writer and reader and being human. And while the reader may not join you for the whole journey this time around, they will on some level recognise that you’ve met them halfway and, I believe, they will remember that.    

Posted in: Copywriting


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