Don’t Copy Your Copy: Writing for Different Media

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Don’t Copy Your Copy: Writing for Different Media

The greatest philosophical battles of our time often leave everlasting scars in the very fabric of our culture. Will Virgin ever return to the UK carbonated drinks market after Virgin Cola was annihilated by Coke and Pepsi? Why do people maintain that Jaffa Cakes are biscuits when the word cake is right there in the name? Was Homer Simpson ever the same after George Bush moved in across the road that time? But by far the most important unresolved question ever conceived is this: how important is it to vary your copy based on the medium?

Copy Comes in All Shapes & Sizes

Let’s tackle this with a hypothetical. Nikki comes over and throws a load of jobs down on my desk (this is massively hypothetical because everything’s digital now).

“Our new client, Jeremy’s Irons, has come out with an iron that fits in your pocket, doesn’t need water or electricity, and smells like strawberries,” Nikki says, “For the launch, they want a new page on their website, a leaflet, a brochure, and a poster.”

“Thanks, chief!” I reply.

“Don’t call me chief.”


So this should be a quick job, right? Carefully craft some copy that will appeal to Jeremy’s Irons’ key demographics; research the ideal tone to hook the audience in and have them foaming at the mouth to get this iron by the time they’ve finished reading; and take a look at what their competitors are doing to make sure we’re staying industry relevant. Easy!

Jeremy's Irons

Break it Down Now

Let’s start with the brochure, since that’s where we can really make the MobilePocketStrawb (MPB™) shine. We can dedicate a couple of pages to each of the iron’s USPs: from its physics-defying ability to fold up into nothing, to its Warm Comfort Technology, ensuring your shirt is just the right temperature when you slip it on, so you can pretend to feel the warm embrace of another human after your ex-wife left you and took the cats with her.

So you’ve got a good, in-depth 20-page brochure singing all the praises of the MPB™. The client’s happy and so are you, so it’s time to copy-paste it across to the other formats and go to the pub, right?

You probably know where this is going.

From Brochure to Poster

Broadly speaking, a poster will have a five or six word headline, a very small paragraph of text and then some information or contact details. How the hell do you squeeze 20 pages into that?

And this is where we start to circle the point. Each medium has definite strengths and when you approach a piece of copy, you have to play to these. Where a brochure allows you to talk about a brand, product or service at length to those who have already registered their interest, a poster is your opportunity to attract new custom with an eye-catching image and short, sharp copy.

You only have a second to grab someone’s attention, so use it wisely.

DE-CREASE YOUR WORKLOAD. The world’s first hassle-free iron from Jeremy’s Irons.

Don’t tell me you don’t really want this iron.

Turning Over a New Leaflet

In many ways, a leaflet has the toughest job of all. It’s got to balance that ‘look at me, look at me!’ vibe of a poster, but also contain enough information for the reader to make a decision there and then. So your tone has to be short and snappy (like Danny DeVito) while still being dense enough to squeeze everything in.


You Can’t Spell Website Copy Without SEO

Of course, the website is where most people are going to see your copy, so there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. More often than not, a page on the site is going to follow a similar narrative structure to what’s in the brochure, albeit a bit condensed. However, as with any online writing you can’t afford to forget about SEO. Pick one or two key phrases to scatter throughout the copy so that your site remains search engine-friendly, but don’t be a prat and overstuff it—that’s not going to help anyone, is it?

No matter what medium you’re writing in, the most important thing to remember is that you’ve got to make it interesting for another human being. You can shove in a bunch of keywords and clickbait-esque phrases if you want (11 Reasons This Iron is Better Than Sex; You Won’t Believe Number 4!), but your audience is ready to stop reading at a moment’s notice—so make that moment count.

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