Copywriting Mastermind: 4 Tips for Better Content Marketing In An AI-Driven World
When I was in my first week in my first professional writing position, I remember a senior editor offering some terrifying and unsolicited words of advice:
Get ready for the computers to get here. They’re gonna take our jobs.
That was back in 2014. At the time, we were hearing the very first whispers of AI’s writing capabilities.
Yes, there were a few rudimentary tools you could use to write and rewrite crude paragraphs, but they weren’t intelligent.
At the time, it seemed like AI-generated content was still a far-off fantasy.
And then, suddenly, it was real.
Earlier this year, ChatGPT grabbed headlines for its incredible accessibility, functionality, and capabilities.
And I was terrified.
Here it was: The very thing that senior editor had warned about.
But after looking under the hood at ChatGPT and similar products (and after countless conversations with my marketing peers), I realized something important:
These writing tools are simply writing tools.
They don’t quite replace the basic fundamentals of good writing, which is something I explained in the Pros And Cons of ChatGPT blog post.
With that in mind, let’s look at some tips for becoming a better copywriter—tips I’m taking from an upcoming Mastermind presentation I’m giving.
4 Tips for Writing Better Copy In An AI-Driven World
Follow these tips for better copy!
Tip 1: Don’t Be A Copywriter. Be A Poet.
This first tip might sound counterintuitive, but allow me to give you my favorite piece of writing advice from the 19th-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
“I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in their best order.”
Let’s break that down again, with some emphasis added in:
- Prose is words in their best order.
- Poetry is the best words in the best order.
As copywriters with very specific goals, we’re also after the best words in the best order.
And it makes sense. We’re constantly trying to balance a variety of influences and factors at once, including:
- Brand voice
- Audience interests
- Campaign goals
- Entertainment versus education
That might seem like a lofty goal to reach, but the results are immeasurable. When we get the best words in the best order, we create:
- Better blogs
- Better web pages
- Better articles
- Better social media posts
- Better email campaigns
Everything gets better!
Tip 2: Become A Great Editor
Coleridge’s advice is good, but it’s only a starting point for a follow-up question:
How do we get the best words in the best order?
The answer is complicated, but we can summarize it with a line from Arthur Quiller-Couch that’s often misattributed to William Faulkner:
Kill your darlings.
In other words: We have to be strong enough—as writers and editors—to recognize the excess in our writing, then immediately strip it away.
Quiller-Couch’s advice is similar to Rule 17 from Strunk & White’s famous writing guide, The Elements of Style:
Omit needless words.
This is my second favorite piece of writing advice, and I often reference it with younger writers who are looking for a way to get ahead.
Note that none of this section gets into writing style, which can be as personal and unique as the way you fix your hair, the car you choose to drive, or the house you live in.
That is a conversation for another blog entirely.
For now, it’s imperative to recognize the power of word economy—and the ability to write clearly and precisely in all marketing efforts.
As an example, take these two sentences, which were inspired by samples from The Elements of Style:
Starting Sentence (18 words)
I was unaware of the fact that he had arrived and decided to leave in a hasty manner.
Edited Sentence (9 words)
I was unaware that he arrived and immediately left.
There’s nothing grammatically incorrect with the first sentence, but the second sentence offers the same message in half the words.
And when we can do that in a blog, a webpage, a social post, or another piece of marketing copy, we can better keep our readers engaged.
But there’s another way to get words in the best order, which we’ll discuss in our next section.
Tip 3: Steal Formulas.
The great T.S. Eliot once wrote, “Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.”
We should all steal good writing formulas.
Formulas are tried-and-true and, most importantly, effective strategies for presenting content in a way that resonates with our target audience.
If you don’t believe me, ask Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut had a great lecture on the shape of stories, in which he would use a chart to graph the rise and fall of the hero’s story.
What he demonstrated was the remarkable persistence of formula even in stories we’ve heard hundreds of times before.
My favorite example: The New Testament (the life of Jesus Christ) and Cinderella contain the exact same formula.
In The New Testament, a young boy is born into poverty, becomes a lowly carpenter, then rises to fame as the son of God. Then, at his peak, he is murdered. But a few days later, he rises from the dead and eventually ascends to heaven.
Compare that to Cinderella. A young woman is forced to slave away until she sees an opportunity to attend the ball as a pseudo-member of the upper class. As the night reaches its high point, the spell breaks and she’s thrust back into her former role as a lowly member of society. Soon after, however, the prince finds her and takes her back to the castle.
From a literary standpoint (outside of the religious context), both stories follow similar character arcs and trajectories—which help elicit similar emotional reactions from readers.
And formula is especially useful in marketing, where it can:
- Drive Results
In fact, I regularly use formulas working with clients at Poetica Marketing.
This blog post, for example, contains a common blog formula: Introduction, header, subheaders, and conclusion.
Most landing pages will also have a formula, and it’s usually a bit more nuanced. Look around the internet, and you’ll probably find the same elements on each great landing page you find:
- A powerful, compelling headline
- An intriguing, compelling kicker
- A call to action (and probably more than one)
- A stat or case study
- A testimonial
Here’s an example of how these could look in a landing page encouraging people to sign up for the mastermind session this blog is based on (and we’ll focus here just on the copy—not imagery and video, which are also important):
Notice the formula:
- Quote (for social proof)
- Case study (for social proof)
In theory, this page could stretch on and on and on (and some landing pages do), with more and more social proof and more and more promises and more and more CTAs.
With each additional section, we could increase the likelihood of a reader converting!
And, at every stage, we need to talk directly to our target audience, which we’ll talk about in the next section:
Tip 4: Write For Your Audience.
In my first full-time position as a writer, I was the editor of a publication that specialized in news and best practices for Accounts Payable departments.
I combed through industry publications, scoured IRS and tax updates, and interviewed countless experts to ensure I consistently delivered great content to my readers.
But because it could get so technical, I was often faced with a multi-faceted problem.
Here I was, trying to take complex IRS regulations and turn them into something that was:
- Written in plain English
- Applicable to the reader’s day job
Oh, and in many cases, the articles I wrote had to fit into a template, which often meant I had to limit myself to about 300 words!
It could get tough, especially when I was focused on breaking it down into plain English for my readers.
Me as a young editor. They didn’t hire me for the haircut!
So here’s what I did: I printed out the LinkedIn profile pictures for a couple of my readers, and I hung them up in my cubicle.
Whenever I was struggling to explain something in written form, I’d sit and pretend that the readers in those photos were sitting across from me at the bar.
Then, I’d practice defining the new rules or regulations until I could explain them like I would if we were sharing a beer together.
In fact, thanks in part to that practice, I eventually got onto the editorial department’s “Wall of Fame” for the success of one of my publication’s issues.
Putting It To Use
You don’t have to hang up pictures of your customers near your desk, but you should keep a few things in mind while you’re writing.
- Who is my audience for this project?
- Will my audience respond well to my tone of voice?
- Am I writing this copy with enough authority? In other words: Will your readers respect you for the way you write?
- Why should my audience care about the CTA?
If you can strike the right balance, your copy will win!
How Do We Become Poets? Variables In Putting the Best Words In the Best Order
Samuel Coleridge tells us to put the best words in the best order.
But there’s so much to keep track of, including:
- Your target audience — Who are you writing for, and why should they care about your message?
- Your brand persona — What is the personality of your brand, and how should it resonate with your target audience?
- Your value proposition — What is the unique benefit, skill, or feature that helps your brand stand out from the competition?
- Your CTA — What is your call to action on this project?
- Your formula — What’s the best way of presenting your information?
- Your editing process — How will you go back and rewrite/edit your copy until you’re confident it will person?
Keeping all of these factors in mind while working will help you create winning copy your audience will love reading!
Leveraging AI In Your Copywriting
With the discussion of writing your own copy from scratch out of the way, let’s move on to writing with AI.
We’ve already talked at length about the pros and cons of ChatGPT, but here’s my general summation, which I often use when discussing ChatGPT and similar tools with my marketing peers:
ChatGPT is great at getting you a starting point. It’s not necessarily great at giving you a finished, polished piece that’s 100% ready for publication.
ChatGPT and similar tools are inherently flawed—just like you and me. They are designed to continuously learn and improve.
In some cases though, these tools go rogue.
In a recent personal injury case, an attorney tried to use ChatGPT in preparation for the courtroom. Unfortunately, the attorney didn’t double-check ChatGPT’s work, and ChatGPT actually made up facts to support the case.
Eventually, the attorney’s work was thrown out of court, and he’s now facing a hefty fine from the judge.
This is only one of many high-profile cases where factual inaccuracies were uncovered in published ChatGPT works, and that’s more than enough to create concern among responsible users!
Getting the Most Out of AI Writing Tools
If you’d like to try using AI in your copywriting efforts, consider these tips:
1. Focus heavily on your prompts. Think of using AI for writing like using data for your marketing: Your end results are only as good as what you put in.
Be specific about what you want. For example, “Write me a funny and entertaining 1,500-word blog post about the history of ice cream in the United States, and break the blog into sections separated by decade” is much more specific than “Write me a blog about dessert.”
When prompting, be sure to include factors like:
- Word count
- Call to action
- Subject matter
This will help you generate a first draft that’s relatively close to what you ultimately want!
2. Educate it on everything we’ve discussed previously. Again, your AI copywriter will respond to the data and facts you feed into it.
Teach it about:
- Your target audience
- Your desired actions from the reader
- Your objectives
- Your unique value proposition
- Your brand persona
The more your AI knows, the better it can help you reach your goals.
3. Get great at editing. This is the same tip we gave in our copywriting section above.
Even though AI is writing your copy, you still have to be a fantastic editor. You’ll want to watch for things like:
- How well did the AI follow the prompt? For example, we’ve seen AI struggle with following word count.
- How well did the AI write for your target audience?
- Are there opportunities for you to inject storytelling into the copy?
- Is the copy factually accurate?
In addition, most blog posts generated through AI are not ready to publish, especially if you’re interested in SEO performance. Before publishing, be sure you have:
- A keyword-rich title and subheaders
- A keyword-rich meta description
- Images/videos to embed
- Alt text for images and GIFs
- Internal and external links to embed
- Featured image