We’ve been reading: five useful posts for marketing copywriters

Every week, hundreds of articles appear with useful information for marketers and copywriters looking to polish up their writing skills. Here are five that have stood out for me in the past couple of weeks.

Fast Company – Upworthy’s Headlines Are Insufferable. Here’s Why You Click Anyway

You know the type of headline: You’ll Never Believe What Happened When This One Chicken Crossed This Particular Road. Upworthy headlines are some of the internet’s most clicked and liked, suggesting that the site has hit on a magic formula for attracting attention and piquing curiosity.

This Fast Company article decodes that formula and draws on a number of psychological theories to explain why people find Upworthy’s headlines so irresistible. It’s really useful stuff for any copywriters looking to uncover the secrets to why people click.

(Part of the reason for Upworthy’s success, indicated by one of the commenters to Fast Company’s post, is that they write 25 possible titles for each article – an approach apparently borrowed from The Onion – and relentlessly A/B test, giving them an incredible amount of insight into what kinds of headline work.)

Hubspot Inbound Blog – The 7 Worst Types of Headlines (And How to Fix Them)

One of the many people who find Upworthy-type headlines insufferable (but does she click anyway?) is Hubspot’s Ginny Soskey. In this post, Ginny picks out several examples of egregious approaches to headlines and explains why you really don’t want to be writing them that way.

It’s good, basic advice for headline writers – and bear in mind that almost every piece of advice about headlines can also be applied to email subject lines – and it mostly boils down to “don’t mislead people.” Beyond that, there are some good tips for writing a good headline and some sound links to further articles on the subject.

(With thanks to Hannah Forbes-George of Capture Communications for sharing this on LinkedIn.)

OkDork – Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us

A fantastic article by Noah Kagan Henley Wing, founder of Buzzsumo.com, about the types of content that get shared most, backed up with some excellent data from BuzzSumo and substantiated by similar surveys conducted elsewhere.

While some of it is as you’d expect, there are plenty of surprises too. For example, we all know that people like to share list posts, but did you know that ‘Top 10’ lists outperform lists with any other number of elements? Or that ‘how-to’ posts aren’t as shareable as ‘why…’ posts?

And the biggest and most pleasant surprise for me: it turns out the type of content that gets shared most is long-form content (and I mean really long; we’re talking 3,000-10,000 words). We’ve said before that marketers shouldn’t abandon long-form content in favour of bite-size stuff, and here are the stats to prove it. As the post points out, fewer people are doing long-form, so there’s also less competition.

Harvard Business Review – The Indispensable Power of Story

‘Storytelling’ as a marketing buzzword seems to have taken a bit of backseat in the first few months of 2014, but this and the next article may point to a resurgence of interest in it.

One of the problems I’ve always had with the word ‘storytelling’ in marketing is that people’s interpretations of the word vary so wildly that it’s come to mean almost anything.

In this article, storytelling is taken to mean “using natural, human language to make an emotional connection”. There are some good basic pointers for marketers looking to make their content more personable, including a handy list of possible techniques: “anecdote, mnemonic, metaphor, storytelling, and analogy”, as well as some examples of the kind of ‘human story’ that interests the writer (a venture capitalist) in the companies he comes across.

Fusion Marketing Experience – The art of storytelling in 6 content marketing context questions

Storytelling is so much more than telling stories,” says J-P De Clerck, somewhat disconcertingly, in this lengthy attempt to describe how storytelling can make marketing content stronger.

Illustrated with quotes from content marketing greats like Ardath Albee, Lee Odden and Doug Kessler, the article gives a tantalising glimpse into what might be possible if we – marketers and copywriters – can get our storytelling right.

(For example: “It’s about making the story so compelling that it elevates perceptions of value and urgency resulting in more qualified leads and faster purchasing momentum.”)

It’s quite long on theory and quite short on practical advice – not to mention real-life examples, or, as you might call them, stories – but it does contain a good list of questions for content marketers to ponder as they seek to improve their storytelling skills.

As an added bonus, it also drew my attention to this fantastic Periodic Table of Storytelling by TV Tropes, which is well worth exploring.

I’m happy to see storytelling climbing back up the marketing agenda, but it would be nice to see more examples of great storytelling in action (especially in the B2B world). If you’ve seen any, let us know!

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Other posts you might like

Why everything you thought you knew about subject lines is wrong (maybe)

Storytelling in B2B: more than just beginning – middle – end


Fiona Campbell-Howes

Our founder and original managing director, Fiona was responsible for the strategic and day-to-day management of Radix, as well as working on many client writing projects. She brought long experience of marketing in the tech industry, during which time she worked with many global IT brands, including Adobe, CA, IBM and Oracle.

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