Special Report: Fundraising 101 Direct Mail
— Margaret Battistelli, Editor-in-Chief
7 Rookie Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid
By George Crankovic
The Eagles were slugging it out with the Cowboys, and even if you’re not a fan of “Monday Night Football,” you couldn’t help but be amazed at what happened next.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb stepped back and launched a 60-yard missile as rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson sprinted downfield. Jackson caught the pass handily and tore off toward the goal line. Then, within a yard of the goal, he casually let the ball drop from his grasp, thinking he’d scored. He coasted into the end zone and did his dance. But his jubilation lasted only until the instant replay confirmed what everyone suspected — that Jackson had made it into the end zone, but the football hadn’t.
It was a typical rookie mistake, the embarrassing result when over-confidence collides with inexperience. But it doesn’t happen only to football players. Here are some typical rookie copywriting mistakes and how to sidestep them to produce work worthy of a pro.
Rookie Mistake No.1 — Not having a clear plan
The very first step is the one that bedevils newbies the most. They start writing furiously, or sit and wait for inspiration, or go on a week-long pencil-sharpening mission to look busy. Too bad, because creating a plan is easy — and motivating.
Sure, fundraising agencies use all kinds of creative briefs and strategy documents. Some are good, and many are quite complicated. But the essence of a sound plan is simple. Just answer these questions: Who are you writing to? Why are you writing to them? And why should they respond now? Do your research to figure that out and keep that information in front of you as you create your appeal, and you’ll stay on track.
Rookie Mistake No. 2 — Starting with the letter
While it’s true that the letter is the star of the package, it’s not the place to start — though most rookies think it is. Where do you start, then? The carrier, because it’s the first thing your prospect sees. So once you have a clear plan, it’s time to crystallize that vital information into a compelling carrier.