From morning until night we are constantly being bombarded with messages, emails, tweets, promotions, anything and everything to grab our attention. Which ones you take notice of all comes down to the skill of the person who created that message in the first place. But what makes good communications in wine? Joe Fattorini reveals the six secrets you need to know if you are going to be successful in getting your own “communications” heard.
We might all think we are very individual in what we are interested in reading, watching or taking notice of, but Joe Fattorini believes there are six ways – his secrets – that will grab out attention whether we like it or not.
Still reading? Excellent. You’ve learned secret number one. The importance of a good headline.
“On average five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” That’s advertising legend David Ogilvy. Perhaps you’re thinking but I’m not writing advertisements. I’m a wine writer. Or a digital content writer. Or a trade buyer pulling together my list. It doesn’t matter. If you’re a wine communicator you’re in the business of getting read. The same as every advertiser. So put five times as much effort into your headlines as you put into your copy. Then people might read your copy.
What should your copy contain? Here’s another lesson from an adman. “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” That’s Howard Luck Gossage. I suspect you’ve not heard of him. Pity. He was a genius and tragically forgotten these days. But look him up. You won’t regret it.
What Gossage said for ads applies to every form of published copy. Nobody reads wine articles. They read what interests them. And sometimes it’s a wine article. Your wine words are competing with books and newspapers and magazines and Twitter and Facebook posts on every subject imaginable. Not to mention whatever is on television or the lure of a jog around the park or fifteen minutes fondling your partner.
So your writing doesn’t just need to be interesting. It needs to be laser-focussed on the interests of the reader. “A fascinating tour of the vineyards of Sicily”? Forget it. They’re off looking at panda tweets or back having a fumble on the sofa. “Three Sicilian wine geniuses who will change your life”. Now you’re talking. Make the reader’s life better. Don’t expect them to read how lovely yours is.
What interests people are solutions to their problems. And that’s where our third and fourth secrets come in. There lots of people today in advertising proclaimed as “the greatest”. But only one can say he’s won more Cannes Lions Awards than anyone else. He’s a softly-spoken Lancashireman called Steve Harrison.
Steve Harrison’s lessons for great ads are two-fold, and they apply to good wine copy. Create solutions to readers’ problems. And captivate them with “relevant abruption”. The reader’s problem might be that they don’t know which red to serve with supper. Or what kind of whites will thrill them. Or which producers are going to bring you commercial success in the next year. Focus on writing that solves these problems. (Ed – to hear Steve Harrison’s take on what makes good communications watch the Guardian interview in the Buyer’s TV slot in the right hand column of our home page, or click here).
Then frame your solution in a way that brings readers up short. This is ‘relevant abruption’. An abruption is a sudden and unexpected interruption. Something that breaks through the clutter of articles, tweets, posts and partner-fondling and gets your message noticed. But it has to be relevant too. It draws attention to the problem and the solution.
Let’s take an example. I don’t know… let’s imagine you’re writing an article for people who want to write wine copy. The world is full of advice. But readers don’t know who to trust and don’t have the time to read everything. Imagine you tell the reader that there are just five secrets. But unless they know these secrets, they’ll never make it as wine communicators. That’s “relevant abruption”.
You’ve got this far, well done. Most won’t. They’ll read the first paragraph and think “but I want to write about wine. This is some guff about advertising”. Rudyard Kipling recognised this insularity. “What do they know of England, who only England know?” Or for us “what do they know of wine, who only wine know?” Kipling lamented that his neighbours knew and cared so little about England’s achievements and obligations in the wider world. We should lament that the insular wine community cares so little for our obligation to make wine interesting and relevant to the wider world. You can’t make wine relevant, if all you know about is wine.
And now you’ve got his far, you can know that there’s a sixth secret. One hiding in plain sight, ignored by most. There are two words in “wine communicator” and “wine writer” and “wine blogger”. And one of them has nothing to do with wine. If your job means turning wine into words, any words, then spend time learning from people who know how words work. Turns out advertisers and poets are a pretty good place to start.
- What do you think? If you want to share your thoughts on what makes good wine writing or wine communications then email Richard Siddle on firstname.lastname@example.org.