How to use KFC to improve your copywriting

by / Monday, 12 January 2015 / Published in Uncategorized

Once Colonel Sanders had perfected his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices and developed a basic cooking technique for Kentucky Fried Chicken, he was able to franchise the business and become successful.

There’s also a KFC formula for copywriting success* that combines different elements and can help you quickly create a memorable product: text that people find satisfying, which they’ll want to read and act upon. For copywriters, the letters KFC stand for Know, Feel, and Commit and they inspire three separate questions:

1. What do you want your reader to know?
Before you start, you need to figure out who you’re writing to – and why. In other words, what’s your purpose or ultimate goal? And who are you informing about it and/or persuading to act upon your message?

Once you’ve settled on these, you can figure out the facts that you need to share. These might include an acknowledgement of the reader’s situation/problem/aspirations and a logical follow-up that – respectively – reveals your empathy and support, discusses your proposed solution, and imparts some information about how best to achieve those goals.

Most organisations are very good at pushing out information to their customers and prospects. Not so many bother to filter that data before dissemination. Think about the needs and desires of your reader (remember, focus on just one reader to make your message more personal) before you jot down the most important facts from their perspective.

Then, string these facts into a logical sequence that counters any likely objections and answers every reader’s most pressing question: What’s in it for me?

2. What do you want your reader to feel?
Very few companies get this right, because they focus on the rational arguments that they believe will persuade a reader. Usually, this rational approach is all about facts and figures, so it’s covered by the answer(s) to “What do you want your reader to know?”- so long as (1) is done well.

While this may persuade the ultra-rational to respond, it’s unlikely to move a mass market to action. Even if your focus is business-to-business, there are still people within your target organisations making the decisions – and people are emotional.

Humans respond to desire, fear, greed, humour, hunger, jealousy and other powerful emotional triggers so your messages should evoke these feelings. Once you’ve identified your purpose and your typical reader, you must then decide which emotional triggers to pull upon within your text.

If you concentrate your text on answering the “What’s in it for me?” question, you’re likely to be outlining the benefits that a reader will enjoy by buying your goods or services. In turn, and perhaps without even knowing it, you’ll probably be using some of these emotional triggers.

For example, a focus on price is essentially playing the greed card – the reader saves money (benefit) and keeps more of it for him/herself (benefit based upon greed). Then again, you can put the spotlight of your message on guarantees (benefit = minimal risk), or a service level agreement (benefit = low risk and recompense if the SLA is broken), or the many other satisfied customers you have (benefit  = low risk because it’s proven/successful). With these ideas, you’re now honing in on the reader’s fears: of making a wrong choice, missing out on a good deal/not being “insured”, or lagging behind the market/their competitors.

3. What do you want your reader to commit to doing?
If your communication has a purpose behind it, you’ll want your reader to do something after seeing your message. It may be to place an order, sign up to a newsletter, or phone for more information.

Ideally, you should ask for only one thing. Once decided, make the call to action as clear and simple as possible: “Fill in the attached order form.”; “Complete your name and email address on this sign-up form.”; “Call this number:”.

You can mention the call to action more than once within your communication, and you should certainly include it at the end of your message (maybe even adding a variation of it as a “P.S.”).

* With thanks and acknowledgements to fellow copywriter and friend (and ex-boss!) Andy Maslen who first mentioned this to me way back when.

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