The links between drama, improv and conversational copywriting, with Nancy Gettridge.

Improv, drama and conversations

In this post I get to interview Nancy Gettridge, founder and principal of Phenomenal Image.

Nancy took my course on conversational copywriting. While going through the course every student is invited to submit some homework assignments. And Nancy’s writing caught my attention for a couple of reasons. First, it’s really good. Secondly, there’s something very visual about it.

It was the visual, picture-painting aspect of her writing that prompted me to reach out and ask here about her process.

And what started as a simple email exchange quickly grew into a full-blown interview.


Nick: After you completed the course you mentioned that previously you’ve never been a big fan of sales copywriting.

Nancy: Before the conversational copywriting course, I was intimidated by copywriting. I pictured a scene worthy of Mad Men…

A bunch of men in stiff dark suits sitting around a large table in a smoke-filled conference room, yelling out ideas for pitching an ad to one of the biggest companies of that era: The tobacco industry. They finally come up with the Marlboro man. He’s the ultimate man: Attractive, Rugged, Masculine, Type-A personality. That’s who you want to be. And the only way you can achieve that is by smoking Marlboro cigarettes.

Old copywriting screamed from the top of its lungs, Do This! Buy That! Be Him! It always told me who I was, where I should be and when I should be there.

Even if I didn’t want to.


Nick: OK… I’m almost sorry I asked! Just kidding. I feel much the same way myself. So what is it about the conversational copywriting approach that makes you feel so much more comfortable?

Nancy: Conversational copywriting is so much different. This type of copy is warm, familiar. It’s refreshing – the customer is in the driver’s seat. And the copy is sharing, not demanding. As a customer, I don’t feel bad about myself when I read it. I feel enlightened…

That’s what I learned from taking the conversational copywriting course.

It allows me to channel what I learned in my drama courses.

Nick: OK… this is the part I really wanted to hear more about.

You have a style of copywriting that is very visual. It’s like you’re painting a picture and drawing the reader in. I try to do the same. And when you mentioned your past experience with drama and improv, my ears really perked up. I’m super-interested in that.

Nancy: I took two years of drama and really didn’t think much about it until I took this course.

The outcome of both drama and copywriting is pulling the customer in.

Engagement via imagery. Imagery is powerful.

The homework exercises you included in the course reminded me of what I learned in drama. Picture the scene, capture the moment and share it with your friend (customer).

Here’s how I do it:

I read the description to figure out the customer’s pain and the company’s solution. What pain does the solution solve? What’s in it for the customer?

I imagine that I’m the customer.

I picture myself experiencing the customer’s pain. Where am I? What am I doing? What do I hear? How do I feel? What physical object can I use to describe the pain?

Now I focus on the company’s solution.

How does it solve my problem (Save money, protect my family)? How does it make me feel as the customer? What words describe how I feel? Relief? Joy? Safe?

Then I look for keywords on how I felt before and after the solution.

For example, in the pool fence exercise – one of your homework exercises – I saw myself sitting on a lounger near the pool. I see thick, ugly iron bars. I see the kids and pet climbing on the fence. I pull them off of the fence. I’m frustrated. I felt like I was in prison. All I could hear is the iron gate slamming shut. Help! My keywords were prison, unsafe, miserable.

Now I’m ready to write. I pretend I’m talking to a friend.

Finally, I read it aloud to see if I captured the feelings conveyed.

You may feel weird doing this exercise, but I’ve found that it really works!

Nick: I really love that process. It’s no wonder I felt this sense that your style resonated so closely with what I talk about when teaching conversational copywriting.

For anyone reading this… whether you’re a copywriter or marketer… I’d copy and print out the process Nancy just described. Read it several times, and follow the exact same process the next time you’re tasked with writing some copy.

Nancy, I’m super-grateful for you sharing this, and I bet a lot of our readers are now going to give this approach a try.

Thank you!

Nancy: You’re very welcome! Thank you for creating the course.

Nancy Gettridge is founder and principal of Phenomenal Image, an image and leadership development consultancy in Texas, USA. Nancy’s passion is helping aspiring women leaders see themselves as qualified leaders and risk-takers (And her guilty pleasure is watching suspense thrillers). Check out her website or say hi on Twitter (@Phenomenalimage).

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