“We want our copy to be edgy and different but we don’t want to put people off.”

That’s just one paraphrased example from the sometimes perplexing copy briefs I get from apprehensive clients. Other favourites us freelance copywriters hear include “we want to sound unique like [competitor]” and the timeless “can you make us sound funny but serious at the same time?”

I’ve just submitted some copy to a client. It ticks every box for a good press release: punchy with a great hook and an interesting and factually representative story. But like every contentious client they still feel nervous about publishing it without unpropitious amends.

I think I know why and the reasons apply to other copy formats too.

Graffiti that reads "damned if you do, bored if you don't"

Photo by otherthings

The argument for risk-averse copy

My client is afraid of negative perception in the eyes of their customers. They’re afraid that by standing out, they’ll somehow scare away new business, attract the wrong kind of attention and ultimately fail.

The premise of their argument in favour of risk-averse copywriting is that by being bold they won’t appeal to everyone. The impact is that they’ll put off a section of society who won’t choose their product or service.

The argument against risk-averse copy

I believe that diluted mediocre copy which tries to appeal to everyone has a more detrimental impact than carefully crafted copy with the needs and priorities of a specific group of customers in mind.

I acknowledge the risk that targeted copy by virtue of not attempting to appeal to everyone will also not appeal to some sections of society. But is the time and attention of those people really as much of a priority as attracting the type of customers we really do want to do business with? Probably not, so why try and make everyone happy at the expense of reaching out to the people who you really want to build better relationships with?

Why sound like everyone else?

There’s another problem lurking in those paraphrased quotations at the beginning of this article. That’s wanting your copy to mimic your competitors on the premise that you can replicate their success or steal their customers.

In response, I reiterate my argument ‘for’ above. Better to choose specificity because that’s where you find uniqueness and identity. That’s your edge.

Plus (if for one moment you don’t mind indulging what really presses my buttons) why write lifeless copy that merely bloats the omnipotent homogenous corporate diatribe already out there that unscrupulous copywriters think passes for good content?

Say what everyone else says and you sound like everyone else.

That’s boring. Let’s promise never to do that. OK?

The best kind of copywriting

Is about what style suits your most important type of customer and resonates with their needs and priorities. When appropriate tone of voice, strong brand identity and the right sort of responsible freelance copywriter blend together harmoniously to engage with the reader that’s success worth taking a risk for.