Jack, my 3 year-old son, has two moms, he calls us Ma J (that would be me) and Mama. And he has learned to lie recently. Though, sadly, he has only has one lie in his repertoire, he just varies it from situation to situation.
When ‘Mama’ isn’t around, he whines pathetically at me:
“Mama said I could have ice cream! Mama said I could!”
“Mama said I didn’t have to go to bed! Mama said I didn’t!”
“Mama said I get to sleep with my Lego guy. Mama said I get to!”
Let’s be clear, he doesn’t lie well. I mean, I hesitated the first time – but it’s been straight down hill from there, for him. He’s lacking in creativity, yes? Clearly, he needs to expand his game.
Why do people lie?
It’s upsetting that he’s learned to lie, of course, and it’s made me think about lying in general and why people lie. I think it’s about fear. And need. And control. And survival. In his case, he lies to get what he thinks he desperately needs for his survival – like ice cream or his favorite Lego guy. Basically, people lie because they don’t have confidence that their truth is going to get the job done.
So, why is lying Reason 930 to hire a copywriter? Surely, not because I want people to lie! But, because I want them to do the exact opposite. We all have these deep needs and fears and the desire for control and survival – and so, sometimes, you watch companies lie (badly) to try to convince people to use their product or hire them – because of their terror that no one will – which will mean that they’ll go out of business, lose all of their money and die. They’re afraid their truth is not enough.
As a copywriter, I don’t think you need to lie in order to run a successful business. In fact, I think people, potential customers, can smell your desperation and your disingenuousness. And what many people don’t realize is that they don’t have to lie. They have a great story, they have a great platform – something that makes them worth buying, something that makes them stand out from the crowd. But, they can’t see it and don’t know how to say it.
We know how to ask the right questions, listen to what you have to say and then pull out the gems and build the story. It’s what we do. We see your truth, write it and make it sound fetching, irresistible.
Because, you know, most liars get caught…and it’s just terrible.
It happened to Jack the other day. There he was, not wanting to get dressed for the day, on the verge of a break down, when he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his go-to trick: “Mama said I didn’t have to get dressed! Mama said I didn’t have to!” Only this time, whoops, he was talking to – yes, you guessed it – Mama.
The moral of this story: don’t lie to your customers. Be proud of who you are and what you do. If you can’t make it sound just right, hire a wordsmith to help you.
And, also: never, ever lie to your mother.
Image credit: Denis Giles
Join the discussion 6 Comments
“They’re afraid their truth is not enough.”
See, that’s how a writer nails it. Now if you can write the magic words that slaps them upside the head to recognize the ROI of hiring a writer we can all get some great work done.
I recently met with a potential client. Told him that the copy on his site would need to be re-written if we went ahead with a redesign. In fact it was just as important as the design. His response? “I think we’ll let Dina (our graphic designer) handle it.”
Yeah, I’m convulsing. Why do they think this is a solution!!!!
I have this terrible problem about not being able to lie, that I am too honest. I am a horrible, horrible liar! So how do I resolve this? I don’t lie! And those times when I should lie (hey I work in marketing, it happens) I figure out a way to do it so it is very, very close to the truth.. So I guess I can lie, but I just suck at it!
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Again, Julie, you have slyly slipped life lessons into a simple post about business writing. If our truth is enough for our business, shouldn’t it be enough for our very being?
I feel all warm and inspired now. Time to meditate and off to bed. Thanks for the most excellent nightcap!
I’ve written resumes for people since 1993, and it never fails to amaze me how often they lie. I think it’s because they don’t think what they’ve actually accomplished is good enough to make them stand out. What I do is help them identify their standout accomplishments–something that’s very difficult to do on your own unless you have a very good sense of self (most people don’t). It ticks me off when I see these people ripped off by other “resume writers” who basically format the information the clients fill out online. I charge more but I have never had a client complain because at the end of our business transaction, they understand that they don’t have to lie about what they’ve done because they now have the words of a professional, trained writer to help them describe it.
I love this entry. I think you got right to the heart of the skill of a great copywriter – to see the best in a company/product and help them express it.
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