In the marketing world there exists a secret weapon, a weapon that offers nearly unlimited power to those trained in its use. When used effectively, it provides the ability to influence emotions, shape perceptions and impact decisions—often without the conscious awareness of those affected—bringing even the loftiest marketing goals to fruition. But, if used improperly, its power can wreak total havoc, leading to public relations crises and irreparable reputation damage.
This valuable and dangerous weapon is none other than the written word, and the copywriters and public relations professionals entrusted with its use must ensure that its remarkable power works to the advantage of those they represent. To do this, they must find the perfect balance of the following elements—a balance that continually shifts, depending on individual audiences, messages and channels, as well as the images that will accompany written content.
Sometimes copywriters find themselves confined by restrictive word count requirements that seem to crush creative freedom and hamper the effectiveness of language. But, the best writers can still prevail by digging deep into the recesses of their vocabularies to select only the most dynamic words and showing no mercy in eradicating any terms not vital to the message’s survival.
Often, however, there is no limit on the number of words a writer may use. These ambiguous times call for careful consideration of audiences, channels and messages to determine the most compelling length for content.
One of language’s strangest intricacies is the way the meaning of words seems to extend beyond their dictionary definitions. The way words are understood—and the associated feelings and actions they inspire—are largely a product of the preconceived attitudes of those interpreting them. For example, the word “childhood” (literally, the state of being a child) can carry a positive or negative connotation depending on an individual’s personal experiences. The meaning of a given word can also be greatly impacted by the implications of the words and images that surround it.
True masters of the written word take the time to consider the many possible connotations a word may have in each unique context. Only then can they strategically decipher the words that will convey their intended message most precisely, thus generating the greatest impact.
A vast vocabulary—usually considered an asset for writers—is only a strength if it is used wisely. Writers may be tempted seek opportunities to use obscure or unusually long words in order to impress others with their knowledge. But knowing a lot of words is not the same as truly having a command over the language. Real wisdom lies in the ability to apply different levels of complexity to different situations, depending on the audience and type of writing project. For example, the simple, straightforward language that is ideal for most press releases is very different than the highly technical wording needed to demonstrate industry-related knowledge when answering a specific request for proposal.
Finding the right number of words, with the perfect connotations and ideal level of complexity can prove remarkably challenging. But, once the full power of the written word has been unleashed, marketing victory is imminent!