The power
of words

Tony's picture

Tony Bartholomew

3 minute read

Copywriters are often the heroes behind some of the most influential media ever created. So, as workplace learning becomes ever more about influencing and persuading, the working practices and creative techniques used in the advertising world can provide us with a model for our client solutions.

We live in a digital age. New products and innovative techniques arrive on a seemingly daily basis. The latest theories and thinking are available on multiple channels, ready for us to consume and apply.

While it’s important to keep up – and make sure the learning and comms we produce are exploiting all this – does it sometimes feel like an endless pursuit of the next new thing? The glitzy attention grabber?

And as a result, do we end up forgetting the fundamentals?

Here at BestAtDigital, we’re finding ourselves influenced by the work of the advertising world – or more to the point, the copywriters.

Within that industry, copywriters need to be absolute masters of messaging – they’re amazing at persuasion, at influencing, and finding the quickest way possible to communicate a thought and a feeling to us. The product they’re writing for can almost feel irrelevant. Whether it’s a story, a jingle, or a simple strap line, their creations often have some kind of emotional effect on people.

So, we said to ourselves: isn’t that exactly what we try and do in our client projects? Often, what we’re creating isn’t learning per se – not in the sense that people are practicing a skill they’re trying to get better at. Quite often, what we’re creating for our clients is more akin to a set of messaging and instructions.

We’re trying to persuade a set of employees to do a certain thing, in a certain way – a new way, a better way, or a more consistent way.

Consequently, we’ve found that when we take the time to work like an ad agency team and come up with a great hook, killer strapline, or a gut-wrenching theme – ultimately, a concept unique to that project – the results with learners are so much better.

“If you can’t reduce your argument to a few crisp words and phrases, there’s something wrong with your argument.” Maurice Saatchi

For us, it’s all about trying to find that emotional connection. For example, if we’re working on a compliance piece about risk, the key question we’ll be asking is:

“What do we want the employees to FEEL when they manage risk successfully?”

While for learning trying to achieve adoption of a new process, we’ll be asking:

“How can we transform your people’s opinion of this process and get them to want to use it?”

Copywriters do the same. During the creative process, they’re trying to nail down what the industry calls “the single-minded thought” – basically, a short, pithy statement that condenses the campaign or project into one clear concept.

“No sentence can be effective if it contains facts alone. It must also contain emotion, image, logic and promise.” Eugene Schwartz

Ultimately, any project will live or die by how good the writing is. And good messaging can’t be purely factual. It just doesn’t make sense to our brains.

Words really do have the power to make a difference.

So, when it comes to working with our clients, it’s important to have time to play around with ideas, and to take them on a journey.

Opening their eyes to this power means you can point the way to creating something truly memorable.