Copywriting Ethics - Oxymoron?

12 replies
A good copywriter trains daily to use words to make readers take action.

When you write to sell a product, your text carries a lot of power. Your copy conveys hope, a means of rescuing the readers from their problem.

After all, good copywriters train hard to write words that compel readers to act now; words that sink deep into hearts and sub-conscious minds.

I believe that with this training comes an inherent responsibility: These intoxicating skills carry an inherent responsibility to be used ethically.

You the Copywriter need to respect your target prospects. These are live human beings with sensitivities and intelligence. They also are uncomfortable, worried about something. Be gentle with their suffering.

When you introduce the product as your best solution to the prospects' problem, do not fluff it. It's much better to under-represent it. Satisfied customers are wayyyy better than disappointed ones! It's not fair to anyone if you make promises your widget cannot keep.

When you write for your clients, use your own words. More copywriters than I care to think love to "borrow" far too heavily from their swipe files. Think about it - how can you possibly deliver skillful copy if you don't even trust your own writing skills? And when you present the client's product using someone else's words, you're cheating your client.

After all, almost anyone can take a salespage and substitute words. Why should someone pay you thousands of dollars for this?

On to testimonials: one of my biggest ethical battles of all, because of their inherent trust-me factor.
*Never, ever, ever make up a testimonial cold-turkey. Illegal because you're basically committing forgery.
*Never, ever swipe someone else's testimonials. Those impromptu authors never commented on your product.
*Never rewrite someone's testimonial without running it past the author for approval. Sure, you can shorten it a bit, correct grammatical errors - but that's all.

Finally, you need to offer your prospects some kind of support for a defined time span. After all, they're trusting you enough to plunk down hard-earned money.

Services by definition are not easily guaranteed, but the client does have the right to certain expectations:
*The service be delivered in a timely manner;
*The service be provided to the very best of your ability;
*The service fulfill whatever was specified in your correspondence or contract. If possible - over deliver in some way.

Copywriting is a powerful marketing tool. As copywriters we study for years, spending thousands of our dollars to learn and hone our own skills. These awesome skills come with inherent responsibilities, rather like an expert locksmith.


Just some thoughts,
Dot
#copywriting #ethics #oxymoron #swipe
  • Profile picture of the author Greg Jacobs
    I found that keeping an iron line of honesty in the copy actually does wonders. there is a certain unspoken BS aura that people can smell without even knowing it

    sparkle, shine and suggest the truth, but also never tell an outright lie and conversions will follow with grace.
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  • Originally Posted by dorothydot View Post

    I believe that with this training comes an inherent responsibility: These intoxicating skills carry an inherent responsibility to be used ethically.

    You the Copywriter need to respect your target prospects. These are live human beings with sensitivities and intelligence. They also are uncomfortable, worried about something. Be gentle with their suffering.
    The vast majority of the money made through selling self-help products of any kind (even things like marriage helps, parenting, etc.) are sold to people who we KNOW going in are not going to make any changes in their lives. The advice they get in these materials is not truly the advice they need. The advice the vast majority of our prospects need is to stop buying "how to" and just start doing it.

    Is it then ethical to pitch the next big how-to product in virtually any niche when we know, going in, it's not going to make a damn bit of difference in the lives of the buyer?

    I have already answered these questions for myself, but I am curious how others feel.
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    • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
      Originally Posted by Kevin-VirtualProfitCenter View Post

      Is it then ethical to pitch the next big how-to product in virtually any niche when we know, going in, it's not going to make a damn bit of difference in the lives of the buyer?

      I have already answered these questions for myself, but I am curious how others feel.
      I was involved in the seminar business for several years first hocking creative real estate courses and then stock market courses and training. Before actually taking part in these presentations I attended many seminars and bought many of the products offered.

      I once attended a real estate creative financing event and asked one of the seminar folks if he knew what the percentage of people buying the how-to stuff actually put it to use. He said three percent. The rest do absolutely nothing with it.

      Later when I found myself selling from the podium I mentioned this to the owner of the company and he agreed that 3% was accurate. But then he said something that got my attention and has helped shape my attitued about all selling.

      He said, if the product is good it's not your business who uses it or who doesn't. You're never going to know who those people are and if you believe in the product you're selling to those who do take action. Since that day I haven't had any problem selling as long as the product was real. Now selling junk... That's something else all together.
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    • Profile picture of the author Greg Jacobs
      Originally Posted by Kevin-VirtualProfitCenter View Post

      The vast majority of the money made through selling self-help products of any kind (even things like marriage helps, parenting, etc.) are sold to people who we KNOW going in are not going to make any changes in their lives. The advice they get in these materials is not truly the advice they need. The advice the vast majority of our prospects need is to stop buying "how to" and just start doing it.

      Is it then ethical to pitch the next big how-to product in virtually any niche when we know, going in, it's not going to make a damn bit of difference in the lives of the buyer?

      I have already answered these questions for myself, but I am curious how others feel.
      This is true, however there is another layer of understanding one can reach to the point where you actually believe that your product can help people. I think when this comes with true belief, then the conversions will follow as belief is contagious.
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    • Profile picture of the author AnneE
      Originally Posted by Kevin-VirtualProfitCenter View Post

      The vast majority of the money made through selling self-help products of any kind (even things like marriage helps, parenting, etc.) are sold to people who we KNOW going in are not going to make any changes in their lives. The advice they get in these materials is not truly the advice they need. The advice the vast majority of our prospects need is to stop buying "how to" and just start doing it.

      Is it then ethical to pitch the next big how-to product in virtually any niche when we know, going in, it's not going to make a damn bit of difference in the lives of the buyer?

      I have already answered these questions for myself, but I am curious how others feel.
      But if a good product can make a difference, perhaps a dramatic difference in 3% of people's lives, and do no harm to the other 97% (like don't charge a ridiculous price for it), then I believe it is worth making the pitch.

      I do take offense to many copywriting practices that are common place in Internet Marketing -- the testimonial or product review from someone who has not used it -- is the one that irritates me the most. The recommendation to choose your affiliate program based on it paying a GIANT commission (which usually means it is overpriced) rather than the value it provides is the next most irritating accepted practice (to me).

      Just my two-cents. I TRY not to judge... but I also want to be true to what I believe is right.

      What good is escaping the soul-sucking corporate world, just to sell your soul for a quick buck in internet marketing!
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  • Profile picture of the author Terwill
    I've bought various products, and whereas none of them lived up to the hype, I nevertheless consider that I've gotten my money's worth from most of them. Maybe only a few will get the total promise, but what about the possibly many more who get less, but still enough to make the purchase worthwhile. I'll write for any product I believe could produce a benefit for a purchaser willing to take action and put it to use.
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  • Profile picture of the author cparizo
    I bristled a bit seeing the title. Copywriters owe it to their clients and consumers not to stretch the truth, invent testimonials, or be downright dishonest. That's a proven way to lose clients and in some cases be sued.
    Signature

    Christine Parizo
    Christine Parizo Communications
    www.christineparizo.com

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  • Profile picture of the author Stephen Bray
    Originally Posted by dorothydot View Post

    dLppsY3K

    When you write for your clients, use your own words. More copywriters than I care to think love to "borrow" far too heavily from their swipe files. Think about it - how can you possibly deliver skilful copy if you don't even trust your own writing skills? And when you present the client's product using someone else's words, you're cheating your client.
    Well, sometimes it's appropriate to use the
    client's words too, but I'm not suggesting
    they should write the copy.

    As for copywriting ethics being an oxymoron, I
    don't think so. Business owners writing their own
    copy are, in my experience, far more likely
    exaggerate claims. Professionals instead use the
    best psychological triggers for a specific audience.

    Stephen
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    Send me a DM, or visit my support desk to contact me: http://support.stephenbray.com
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    I once heard Dr. Wayne Dyer say that he was approached by a publishing
    company to write a book on Business Ethics. He said that he turned down
    the offer because he didn't think there was such a thing as "business ethics".

    He explained that ethics was something that you had or you don't.

    I think the same holds for 'copywriting ethics'. If you are a person
    of ethics then you don't need to learn anything new about
    'copywriting ethics' because you'd already know what is honest
    and what is not.

    Great post Dot.

    -Ray Edwards
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    The most powerful and concentrated copywriting training online today bar none! Autoresponder Writing Email SECRETS
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  • Profile picture of the author Johnny12345
    Originally Posted by dorothydot View Post

    When you introduce the product as your best solution to the prospects' problem, do not fluff it. It's much better to under-represent it. Satisfied customers are wayyyy better than disappointed ones! It's not fair to anyone if you make promises your widget cannot keep.
    Dot,

    I agree. I hate to see sales letters that are misleading. It not only reflects poorly on the copywriter who wrote it, but also casts a dark shadow on the entire profession.

    Contrary to popular opinion, copywriters are NOT "professional liars." Our job is to present a product in the best possible light -- not to fabricate compelling lies.

    It's easy to get high conversion rates if you're willing to lie and commit fraud -- but there are also consequences to be dealt with.

    Regards,

    John
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  • Profile picture of the author Lauryn
    I feel the best copy strikes your emotions yet remains tangibly honest.
    Signature

    I Go Hard = "Slanguage" for putting forth a lot of effort.

    Don't be an arse and try to flip something you clearly have no knowledge of against me.

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