Introducing the Not Just About Copy framework and five pillars

Over the last few years, I’ve discovered there’s so much more to the process of small business copywriting and marketing than we ever really talk that much about. That’s why I coined the expression – ‘not just about copy’. Solid copywriting skills are foundational, but my Not Just About Copy framework also includes four other pillars or principles that underpin effective written communication and marketing.

Read on to find out what these pillars are and how to use them to your advantage.

Introducing self-expression 

Self-expression encompasses tone of voice, writing style, content themes and more – it’s about finding ‘your’ way of writing. And that’s part of what I do as a copywriting coach, supporting you to find your way to communicate.

A client said to me recently, ‘You helped give me permission to write in my own authentic voice. I didn’t know I needed that permission, and now I have it. So thank you for that.’ I wonder, have you claimed your own voice? 

Here are some questions to think carefully about:

  • What are the words you write frequently? And those you avoid? 
  • Do you know the cadence you use or the rhythm of your words? i.e. Do you consistently use long sentences or are you a short, sharp, snappy writer?
  • Could you describe your tone of voice? Is it knowledgeable, fun, sassy, warm or something else?
  • Do you create content using pillars or themes, or always on-the-fly?
  • Which content formats and channels best suit the way you enjoy communicating?

Noticing the way you write and communicate is the first step to understanding ‘your way’. What works for somebody else may not work for you, which is ‘plug and play’ templates don’t always work. Because unless you understand how to apply something to your own brand or business, it might not be super relevant. 

Leaning into a way of expressing yourself that feels authentic and easy to replicate is super important. Even if you’re leading a team, you still need to present a consistent voice. I spoke to psychologist Dr. Jacqueline Baulch in Episode 51 of Not Just About Copy, who leads a team of about 20 practitioners. In our conversation, she reflects on the challenges of finding a voice that represents the team. Ultimately what she realised is, that if she was going to be the one writing the content, it really needed to be her voice. And that just makes so much sense. 

Often this lack of clarity stems from the fact that we’re hedging our bets. We may be trying to write in a way that appeals to everybody. Unfortunately, this ‘vanilla’ approach doesn’t appeal to anybody in particular.

To help you get clear on your voice and how you want to express yourself, you also need to consider your audience. This leads us to the pillar of ‘Connection’.

Introducing connection

Connection is all about the way you communicate with your audience. It’s about deeply understanding who they are and where they hang out. It’s about knowing their challenges and building know, like and trust. And it’s also about giving clear calls to action so people know what to do next. 

The goal is to attract and nurture more aligned clients, while also being comfy repelling those who are not a good fit. And that starts with being clear on your values and your boundaries.

Here’s what connection can look like:

  • It’s more than just talking at people; it’s about having genuine two-way conversations with others.
  • If you start by being yourself, your unique voice and values will attract the people who ‘get’ you – and over time will likely become your raving fans.
  • To make these connections solid, you need to understand your audience. So, ask questions. It might feel a bit awkward, but the payoff is massive. Your content will speak directly to their problems and become super relatable.
  • Consider where your audience hangs out. Be where they are and let them know you’re there – not just in a lurking way, either. 
  • Reframe how you think about calls to action. They don’t need to be pushy sales pitches. It’s all about making it easy for people to understand how to engage with your business.

Introducing confidence

Many small business owners actually enjoy the process of writing, even if their core business is something different. But confidence is what trips so many of my clients up. The tricky part often comes when they go to share their content. Suddenly imposter syndrome creeps in and they’re left with a Google Drive folder full of words that won’t see the light of day. 

Here are some of the things I’ve heard. Can you relate to any of these?

  • I’m worried about what other people will think about the way I write.
  • I’m worried about what other people will think about what I’m saying.
  • Who am I to be talking about this topic like I’m some kind of expert?
  • There’s so much digital noise out there already. I don’t want to add to it.
  • I used to be a good writer but that was a long time ago.
  • I can’t stop comparing myself to others.

What’s stopping you from showing up consistently? Is it one of these or is it something else? There are all kinds of mindset blocks that impact copy confidence. And it’s important to get to the root of these blocks and challenge them to move forward. That’s one of the first things I often do in 1:1 Copy Coaching with clients because that frees them up creatively to explore the other pillars more deeply. And, to share that copy and content with the world.

Introducing action

Action is moving from the idea to actually getting something done. For instance, you can know all the things, but if you don’t know how to start, you’ll stay stuck. This can look like writing habits, routines, practices, systems, processes and more. Here’s an example.

A client who worked with me last year embedded a new routine of writing for two hours every Saturday morning. This allowed her to build back up the habit of emailing her community, increasing her frequency from a couple of times a year to a regular monthly newsletter. She loves the regular writing practice and says the writing itself has become so much easier and free-flowing. That’s the power of consistency – and finding a frequency that works for you.

Consider your current habits, processes and routines (without judgement!):

  • How do you kickstart the content creation process regardless of your mood?
  • Do you have a folder system to organise your content and find things easily?
  • Have you created – or could you create – reusable templates that work for you?
  • What time of the day are you the most creative?
  • What feels like an achievable content rhythm for writing and sharing content?
  • How often do you repurpose your content to make the most of what you create?

Taking the time to create processes or set up workable templates takes time, but saves it in the long run. By creating draft weekly emails and monthly wrap emails, I never need to start with a blank page. And that’s a relief because it can feel quite paralysing. Instead, the format and structure stay the same – so the bones are already there and I’m just writing new sections of content and swapping out images. In the same vein, I often have a burst of content inspiration once or twice a month. I’ll use that energy to plan out my content for the next few months and batch-create as much as I can. That way I have drafts of things in progress that I can pick up and edit on the not-so-creative days. There are all kinds of habits, rituals or hacks you can use to develop and maintain a writing practice and market consistently.

And finally, copywriting skills

Copywriting skills are important, there’s no doubt about it. Good copywriting has the power to connect, engage and convert. It has to power to build know, like and trust and establish your authority. It has the power to help your prospects understand what to do next. 

Knowing how to craft a good headline or email subject line, how to tease out features and benefits and write in an active voice. These all matter. How to structure your copy, where to put your calls to action, how to write for the ‘audience first’ – these are foundational copy principles. Think of them like your building blocks. 

How are your copywriting basics?

  • Do you know how to use your H1, H2s and H3s in website copy?
  • Do you know what to include on your home page?
  • Are you familiar with the F-shaped writing pattern and how content is consumed online?
  • What does writing audience-focused copy actually mean?
  • Why are benefits more important than features?
  • What are the different kinds of calls to action and where do they go?

You don’t need to know everything about copywriting to market your business, but having a handle on these kinds of things will give you an edge. It will help your copy to stand out in a very crowded digital space. 

But when it comes to writing and communicating in your small business, it’s about so much more than just the copy. Of course, the copy itself is a solid foundational piece. But unless you also harness and explore connection, self-expression, confidence and action, you’re only looking at one piece of the puzzle. I encourage you to take a more holistic approach.

Recapping the five pillars of the Not Just About Copy framework:

  • Self-expression
  • Connection
  • Confidence
  • Action 
  • Copywriting skills

These pillars and the framework form the foundations of all my work, from 1:1 Copy Coaching to my membership Not Just About Copy: The Community and my self-paced online course Not Just About Copy: The Foundations Course. I believe that by getting clear on all of these aspects, you’re well set up to market your business in a meaningful, sustainable way that connects with your audience.

Over to you

Would you love to know more about the Not Just About Copy framework and copy coaching? Let’s chat! 

Prefer an audio version of this blog? Listen to the podcast episode: Why it’s really not just about copy.