Marketing collateral may be the hardest-working member of a team, representing a park or recreation department even when its employees cannot. Therefore, it is important that the copy on websites, brochures, and mailers conveys the correct message in a clear, convincing, and user-friendly manner.
The quality of marketing copy can mean the difference between engaging readers and missing an opportunity. Here are five suggestions to revamp copy:
Know The Audience
Good copy starts with a firm understanding of the target readership, so take some time to really explore who will be reading the marketing piece. Start with market research data—if available—but then go a step further to create a fully formed mental picture of the audience.
For example, if the park is known for its exercise trails, describe a typical user:
- Is the user male or female?
- How old is the person?
- What is the job title and place of employment?
- When is the park used (i.e., after work or on the lunch hour)?
- What are the top reasons for exercising at the park rather than at a gym?
Each individual may not have a perfect description, but this exercise will provide a snapshot of the user you are trying to reach.
Also, remember that the target audience for the amenities or programs may not be the same as those reading the marketing pieces. For example, if a rec center has a climbing wall with special times for young children, the users may be elementary school-age children, but the readers are their parents who have questions about safety, supervision, and staff training.
Finally, write better copy by imagining what you would like the intended reader to do after reading the marketing piece. Whether it’s to visit the website, send an email for more information, tell a friend, bookmark the site, or make a reservation—write with that outcome in mind.
Feature The Benefits
We are often very clear about the amenities a park and recreation department offers: a wooded environment, a series of campgrounds, a wedding venue, or a robust selection of classes for all ages. However, a reader doesn’t care as much about the amenities as about their benefits.
Try this exercise: on a piece of paper list all of the amenities of a facility on one half of the sheet. On the opposite half, list the benefits of each one. For example, those facilities that offer yoga classes with certified instructors might list the benefits as the chance to explore yoga with the safety of trained supervision. Safety and security, here, are the benefits, so be sure to emphasize those in the class description.
Or, for a number of picturesque camp sites for families and groups to enjoy, the benefit may be the opportunity to build memories with friends and families. Lead with this benefit in the copy before giving any descriptions of the physical features of the campgrounds.
Tell A Story
Some marketing copy—especially that intended for pieces like email blasts—has to be short and to the point. For others, though, it makes sense to take some time to tell a story.
Once a benefit is identified, put patrons in the scene by writing a story that helps them visualize themselves there. Depending on the marketing piece and preferences, real-life testimonials may better illustrate the point.
Write For The Web First
While the techniques for writing for the web are not all that different from those for writing for print, think of the web first when crafting an integrated marketing campaign. Then the copy can be altered as needed for other types of marketing collateral.
Keep in mind that readers who access a website may be reading it from their desktop at home or at work, or they may be reading it on the go via a tablet or smart phone (a good bet if they are looking for basic information like hours of operation or admission costs). Those reading from a mobile device may be using a mobile-enabled version of the site that cuts down the amount of copy and images they can see at one time. Therefore, keep statements short and to the point, utilizing brief paragraphs and information offset by bullet points.
When writing a brochure, take the web copy and expand the sections into more complete sentences, recognizing it may be appropriate to continue to use bullet points for some content simply because they are easier to read. A longer document—such as a press release or a catalog of services—should contain even more complete information.
Ask For What You Want
Whatever you want readers to do, make it easy for them. Pros call this the “call to action,” and it is surprisingly easy to forget to write it; however, it is the most important part of the piece. A sheet of paper that notes nothing but “Reserve your child’s spot at camp today by calling …” beats the most cutting-edge design and copy on a camp brochure that gives no instructions on how to enroll.
To write an effective call to action, simply state what readers should do. “Make a reservation now.” “Download a brochure.” “Visit us this weekend.” Keep the statement simple, and be clear about the desired action and timeframe.
Then be sure to give the reader multiple ways to respond wherever possible, and make that response an easy one. An invitation to register should come with a registration URL (a hot link for those writing online copy) and at a minimum a phone number. The invitation to download a brochure should have the URL (and hot link) to the brochure, but also a notation of where visitors can pick up hard copies. An invitation to visit should include directions, a map, and hours of operation, plus a phone number for questions.
Bonus: Hire A Pro
Writing marketing copy isn’t rocket science; an intelligent person with a firm grasp of the English language and knowledge of the organization can do a good job. Someone who is overwhelmed by the idea of such a project or simply lacks the time can invite a professional copywriter to step in.
Since it might require a sizable budget for a copywriter to completely revise all marketing materials, this may be a better option for a department that is undertaking a complete rebranding project. Or consider bringing a pro in on a consulting basis to review materials and make suggestions, or to revise the one piece that needs the most work. A copywriter will be happy to tailor a package of services that gets the job done and still stays within the budget.
Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti (email@example.com) is a professional copywriter and the owner of Hilltop Communications, a firm specializing in writing, editing, and consulting. She has written copy for clients ranging from small businesses to international corporations, and has taught copywriting at a local college.
The Copy Clinic
What is the standard in determining when marketing copy needs a shot in the arm? Consider this fictitious paragraph from Acme County Park District, which offers a family nature walk in the spring:
Acme County Park District’s Spring Nature Walk is held every Saturday in April from 10 a.m. to noon. A park naturalist guides the walk through the grounds and discusses area flora and fauna. Suitable for children ages 5 to 12; must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Optional flower/leaf pressing workshop to follow. Reservations required.
Revised Short Copy (for email, mobile web, or short brochures)
Remember picking the first spring flowers and pressing them to save forever? Help your child build this memory with our Spring Nature Walk.
Weekly Saturday walks in April are from 10 a.m. to noon; meet at the guard shack by 9:45 a.m.
A trained naturalist will introduce you and your child to the plants, flowers, and small animals that appear every spring.
Children (ages 5 to 12) must bring an adult to explore with them!
An optional flower/leaf pressing workshop will follow.
Reserve your place today by calling 555-1212 or clicking onwww.fakeurl.org/reservations.
Revised Long Copy (for longer brochures, press releases, or catalogs)
Remember picking the first spring flowers and leaves as a child? From the tiniest violets low to the ground to the first green leaves uncoiling on branches, you plucked those treasures and took them home to press and save forever.
Help your child build this memory by joining us for our Spring Nature Walk, held every Saturday in April from 10 a.m. to noon. You and your child (ages 5 to 12) will explore the park trails and grounds under the guidance of a trained park naturalist, who will point out the signs of renewed growth among the varieties of flowers, plants, and animals that live in our area. (Children must bring an adult to explore with them.) Then, join us for the optional flower/leaf pressing workshop immediately following the walk, and take home a memory of your day made with your child’s own hands.
Reserve your place today by calling 555-1212 or clicking onwww.fakeurl.org/reservations. Meet at the guard shack by 9:45 a.m. on the day of your adventure.