Building authority is one of the keys to modern copywriting, but it often proves to…
Transparency in Copywriting
Transparency is perhaps one of the most important aspects of sales, yet there are clear examples of entire industries with salespeople that are stereotypes of bad transparency. Unfortunately, blogging is quickly becoming one of those industries, and it would be sad to let a few bad apples ruin the entire perception of the Internet as a learning and marketing vehicle. Let’s back up a few steps and take a look at transparency in copywriting and a few problems associated with copywriting and transparency.
What is Transparency?
Transparency is essentially a way to describe people that are who they say there are online. The problem is that many people, especially those growing up in the post 1980s corporate business culture of America, are taught something innately different. We have been taught social skills for getting jobs that results in us stuffing resumes with half-truths because we think that everyone else is doing the same, and that we must be willing to over-accentuate and exaggerate our positive attributes just to be competitive. The problem is that what employers see is not a transparent and honest image of an applicant but a carefully obfuscated version. With this level of integrity at the very bottom level of society all the way to the top, is it really difficult to fathom the current economic crisis we find ourselves in? After all, we can’t all kid ourselves all the time and keep drinking the same Kool-Aid.
This carries over into the online world too, where people who post do so with images they either bought or otherwise appropriated. Take a look at my image down at the bottom of my post. Who in the heck would WANT to look like that?! That’s all me, and that is part of what we’re talking about here. I could have uploaded photos from my wedding, which were professional, but ultimately I just chose something that was real. Why? Because I believe that transparency is important.
The Problem With Transparency and Copywriting
Copywriting is a sales process, and I cannot hammer that home enough. The problem is that one of the best sales techniques is to listen. Nearly every book or course on sales, negotiations, and/or interpersonal relationships covers this point, which only underscores just how important listening is. As previously mentioned, some industries have a reputation for a lack of listening and a constant bombardment of hard sales tactics. Take used car salespeople for example.
Why take used card salespeople? Because they represented a form of transparency that is viewed as negative, but they can follow people around a car lot unlike a webpage that is easily navigated away from. In short, we need to look at good and bad forms of transparency, because copywriting is not a salesperson and it cannot really listen. All transparent copywriting can do is try to convey a sense of honesty and integrity.
Keeping it Real
If you are building a website then the most important thing you can do is try to be transparent. Here are some steps to consider:
- Use your real image. Come on! You can’t possibly be uglier than me!
- Use your real name. Mine is Chad Weirick. Rolls off the tongue, no?
- Tell us what you really do. Let everyone else talk about being an expert in this or that, and then wonder why they cannot generate the content that backs it up. If you know how to write copy and know what you are talking about, it does not matter what is on your resume. When was the last time that you went to a website and before reading any content looked at the author’s credentials? See my point?
- Tell us what you really know. I read lots of sites dedicated to blogging, and have done so since I started my drive to learn how to write copy. I know a good deal, and I’m always learning more. This is my core competency, what’s yours? I’m always asking for feedback and trying to gather other opinions, and I feel that it makes me better at what I do and more honest at the same time.
Keeping it Real Fake
Avoid these easy pitfalls:
- Stop using fake pictures – I spend a little bit of time on Flickr Creative Commons and iStockPhoto, so sometimes I see profile pictures on websites that I have seen before. I just laugh to myself and close the page. If someone cannot even admit who they are, I have little faith in what they have to say on any subject.
- Embellish your position – People come up with all sorts of politically correct titles to make their jobs seem more interesting or important. Comedian Bruce Bruce once joked that his neighbor claimed to be a computer programmer but was actually a cashier. When confronted with the apparent dishonesty, the programmer/cashier said something along the lines of: “What do you think I’m doing? I’m programming your sales into this computer!” Real honest.
- Highlight your attributes beyond a reasonable point – Sometimes being good at what you do is less important than letting others know that you are good at what you do. But letting others know that you are an all-star but you are really more of a bench-warmer is not transparent.
Remember that transparent copy is still copy and thus needs to be magnetic. Magnetic copy does not mean that you have to hide who you are because you feel that you might be under qualified to offer advice. If people are reading what you write, then you already have some authority. There is no need to add to this authority in a dishonest way.