How Can Sixty-Five Million Readers Be Wrong?
Posted 29th January 2010
Sad to say, but American author JD Salinger died yesterday. He’s best known for “The Catcher in the Rye”, a novel about a teenager – Holden Caulfield – that seemed to speak for, and to, young people everywhere. It’s so far sold an estimated sixty-five million copies.
But what can this teach us about good copywriting? Well, quite a lot. Salinger’s narrator spoke to his audience directly, engagingly and in their own language. Above all, he sounded genuine- and hated anything “phony”.
Like millions of others readers, I felt a connection with Holden. He was honest, open and seemed to understand my own problems. And because of this, I trusted him. (Do you see where we’re going here? I thought so.)
Making your copy sound convincing – some tips
Writing convincingly about any topic involves lots of research. Find out as much as you can about your potential readers. Build up a detailed mental picture of their behaviour, problems and aspirations. Use language they’re comfortable with, and cut out all that “phony” marketing jargon.
Do this, and you’ll instantly start building genuine trust with your target audiences – both in you, and in whatever it is you’re selling.
Speak to your readers (not at them!)
Like Salinger, try and address your reader directly. Although you probably want to reach lots of people, don’t write for a group, but for one person. Imagine she is right in front of you. Be clear and concise, but don’t patronize. Make her sit up and listen, but don’t shout, and never preach. (She’ll just stop listening.)
Here’s how Salinger did it
“The Catcher in the Rye” hooks you from the very first sentence:
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me.”
Good, isn’t it? It certainly makes you want to read on. Keep this approach in mind when you’re writing copy and you won’t go far wrong.