Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Words and Pictures: Combining Copywriting with Visual Media

We live in a very visual world. Even experiencing written text is a visual process (unless of course you're reading this in Braille or listening to it through your computer's voice). Marketing has always combined words and pictures to hit prospective customers from two different directions in a coordinated attack. So let's look at how a copywriter works alongside various visual artists as part of an organization's potent creative team.

Print Design

Copywriting and graphic design have always gone hand in hand in the creation of print marketing collateral such as brochures, onesheets and media kits. But how do these two forces collaborate smoothly? In my experience, that all starts with you -- or at least with your business's marketing coordinator. You must have a clear vision of the piece's objectives (brand reinforcement, promotion of a specific service), target audience, and call to action.

Once you've got that settled, it's time to call in the troops. There are times when the visual elements of a piece are intended to dominate everything else in the message, and on those occasions it will be natural for the graphic designer to take the lead, providing the writer with a concept to draw inspiration from. Other pieces may be largely driven by the text, which means that the writer takes the lead and the designer designs around the marketing copy. Plan your production and communication pipelines accordingly to ensure an efficient, non-confusing workflow.

Web Design

The relationship between copywriting and web design can prove somewhat tricker than that between writer and graphic designer. Proper website design must accommodate all sorts of variables, from the visual elements of your brand (logo, color scheme etc.) to text layout that creates maximum impact and directs the reader to click through to the next stop along your online sales funnel. This is complicated by the fact that today's commercial websites really need to be responsive in design, scaling up or down not only in size but also in the amount of content displayed on different types of screens. The copywriter must be able to provide text that can selectively "drop ballast" from one screen resolution to the next while still providing all the key points.

The balance between copy and layout is also crucial for landing pages -- those deep product or service pages where you really drive home the sales pitch. Landing pages are always text driven, but the way that text is arranged on the page can make a huge difference. You'll want to make sure that your designer has placed the text front and center, in an ultra-legible font and surrounded by plenty of white space for easy reading. The copywriter should break his content into lots of short-ish paragraphs, punctuated by dramatic headings that the designer can present in a bold, sensationalistic manner.


How does your copywriter collaborate with your video production team? First and foremost, there's the script. Even a marketing video with no dialogue or dramatic scenes needs a narrative spine, from a shot list that tells the director and videographer what to shoot to a voice-over script that makes sense of what the viewer sees. You'll want to bring your copywriter into the video production process right from the very beginning, because it's a lot easier (and cheaper) to revise a script draft, which is essentially just a blueprint for later collaborative action, than to rearrange an entire production schedule.

Once you've made your video, you still need to promote it, and here's where copywriting plays yet another essential role. If you plan on posting your video on YouTube, Kickstarter or some other online platform, your copywriter can create descriptive text to go with it on the appropriate page. This can range from a cute or exciting introductory blurb to a full page of product description and promotion. 

Anyway, you get the idea. Words and pictures go together like peanut butter and jelly in practically any marketing strategy. So assemble your go-to creative team, give them the right guidance to get them started, and then watch them deliver the total experience you need to sell your stuff!