Explaining why you do what you do is pretty important. That’s what your vision (sometimes called a mission statement) does. It’s not just another esoteric corporate-American export either, it’s genuinely useful for people to know what you believe in and where you’re going with it.
That’s why a communications agency I freelance copy write for asked me to improve the safety vision of a renewable energy provider.
Their client had already devised a rough draft in a board meeting, but as with most things designed by committee it had the grubby fingerprints of countless contributors all over it. So inevitably their copy was peppered with vague allusions and promises that could be clearer and easier to understand – critical characteristics for anything you want people to believe in.
Here’s the original (unedited) copy written by the client
Safety is core in all we do and we achieve improvements in safety by being innovative and supporting development.
Safe behaviour is expected, commended and rewarded everywhere. We look out for each other, deliver as one project and create interdependent teams that will lead us to beneficial outcomes.
It’s a good start. Granted, there’s some repetition and lazy sentence construction but broadly speaking, it’s in the right direction. My freelance copywriter’s eye immediately homed in on the ambiguities (“core” what? which “improvements”?) and twitched at the obligatory (infuriating) corporate jargon (“interdependent teams”).
Yet above all else I can’t wait to get stuck into distilling the sentiment behind those words, and help its author(s) say what they really wanted to before everything got jumbled up.
This is a common problem I see with copywriting that needs my freelance attention. Meaning gets lost in a hailstorm of words people think ought to be in there without people stopping to ask themselves: what am I trying to say and which are the clearest words to express that? And that’s especially complicated when too many egos get involved.
Copywriting edit #1: shorter and simpler
Safety is important to us. We improve it through nurture and innovation.
We expect and reward safe behaviour, look after each other and encourage cooperative teams who deliver success together.
Already things are more succinct and I’ve reduced the ambiguity. The tone of voice is active (rather than passive and unspecific about who does what) and the sentences are easier to read. I’ve made the how more obvious too – compare my revision here with what was originally said about the role of teams.
We can go one better though. I always try to give my clients extra options, knowing that any initial edit rarely hits the mark first time. It’s more constructive to think of a first attempt as food for thought, to spark discussion and feedback for even better copywriting.
Copywriting edit #2: outcome-focused
We improve safety through nurture and innovation because our staff’s well-being is important to us.
We expect and reward safe behaviour so everyone takes care of each other and cooperates to deliver more successful projects.
Now the reader knows why safety is important to this organisation (because they care about well-being). You could argue that was always implied, true, but it wasn’t explicitly stated where it should have been: in the vision.
The same goes for the second part; compare that again with the original. Now the reader has everything they need to realise why cooperation is important and what the company means by success.
Freelance copywriters help you say what you really mean
Good copywriting, especially in this context, makes the change between complex and simple, obfuscation and meaning and what people end up writing versus what they really wanted to say.
Here we’ve made something better through specificity and justification but above all else clearer language. Now readers know what’s important so they can get behind it. Doesn’t that make for a more compelling vision?