Olivia Colman’s excellent copywriting advice

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Some Oscars (there should be one for excellent copywriting advice)

Olivia Colman is more than just a wonderful actor. She’s very kind and thoughtful person too. That came out in a bit of film-set advice she once gave. It’s such good advice that it can help you when you’re copywriting for your business.

Helping a fellow actor focus

I found the story of her excellent advice on Twitter, where Samuel West said:

On a recent job with Olivia Colman: tricky two-hander; new lines; big, busy set. Two takes in, it wasn’t happening; we wouldn’t get a fourth. I was nervous.

She turned to me. “Remember, it’s only us here,” she said. “Let’s just do it for each other”. Take 3 was the print.— Samuel West (@exitthelemming) February 25, 2019

“Remember, it’s only us here”

That helped Samuel West stop thinking about the director, and maybe a producer or two hovering behind her; the director of photography whispering something to the camera operator; and the lighting guys clattering around as they adjusted the lights.

It stopped him worrying about someone with a clipboard checking for any continuity problems; the other actors gossiping over a coffee, just out of shot; and all the other busy-ness that fills a film set. It’s a pretty exhausting environment to write about (and I’m sure read about too), let alone work in.

Instead, Samuel just focused on Olivia and she just focussed on him.

And they nailed it on the next take.

Why that’s such excellent copywriting advice

That piece of advice – “Remember, it’s only us here” – is excellent copywriting advice too.

If you try and write for everyone who might ever read your document, you’ll get lost. It’s like trying to plan a journey to every town you’ve ever wanted to visit at once. I can pretty much guarantee your head will explode. Mine certainly would.

Instead, take Olivia Colman’s advice and remember it’s just the two of you – you and your most important reader.

Turn it into a one-to-one conversation

Imagine the single person who most needs to read your document. Make some notes about what they’re like, what’s important to them and what motivates them. Then think through what they really need to hear from you, rather than just what you’d like to tell them.

Then write as if you’re sat quietly with them, speaking to them and them alone. Pretend you’re talking with them. Maybe even say what you need to out loud before you  write it down.

You’ll find you’re talking to someone you know and understand about something they really need to hear. There won’t be anyone or anything else to think about.

That’ll make your document much easier to write and edit.

In fact, you’ll probably end up nailing it on the next take – just like Samuel West did.

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