Why the 'P' word should never be in your copy

There are some things that all copywriters agree on. We agree that overusing adjectives is the path to atrocious copy. We agree that jargon and buzzwords are a scourge.

And we all agree that the 'P' word is to be avoided at all costs.

PASSION.

Ugh.

It’s so overused.

How many times have you read something where a person has claimed to be passionate about something. It seems to be the catch-all word for when we don't really know our true why and the value we bring.

It's just wrong. And here's why.

When you think of passion, what do you think of?

I think of a cover of a romance novel. Or that scene in Top Gun where Maverick gets it on with his teacher on the table.

Now that’s passion. I guarantee I don’t feel that way about writing.

So first of all, we need to find a better word than passion.

Say for instance I’m writing a website for a plumber. I ask the plumber what sets him apart from other plumbers? Why does he do what he does? Why is he good at it?

And he says “I’m passionate about what I do.”

And not to pick on plumbers, but are you?

Are you really passionate about sticking your arm into a toilet that has an unidentified blockage?

Do you feel a stirring desire to be around a septic system?

Probably not.

What you are passionate about is not the clump of hair in my pipe.

But passionate isn’t the right word in this context. Committed, focused, determined. They’re much better words that are deliberate about an action you will take not just a feeling you have.

Passion does not equal talent

I’m passionate about writing.

Am I though? And does being passionate about something mean that someone is good at it?

Just check out some American Idol auditions on Youtube and you'll see that passion does not equal talent.

I can hear the braying of other creatives through the screen right now. If you're an artist, a writer, a musician, a sculptor, an actor, then yes, you may very well feel passionate about your craft.

But it doesn't make you good at it. I'm passionate about creme brulee but it doesn't make me a pastry chef.

Passion doesn't make your offering worthwhile nor does it make your product or service valuable. And unless your customer doesn't care about the outcome, your passion is irrelevant.

What counts is how that passion shows itself in your work.

If you're passionate about painting then you may have spent 20 years studying different painting styles and practicing with different mediums. That's the value you offer. You have knowledge and experience and probably have a great understanding of what medium works best for what job.

If you're passionate about painting and have no knowledge and experience, then your value is in your enthusiasm, your eagerness to learn and the fact that you're not set in your ways.

Your value is not your passion! It's your talent and what you've done with that passion that counts.

But even if I can’t convince you that being passionate about what you do – whatever that is – is wrong and irrelevant, I need you to hear this next bit.

Saying you’re passionate about something is the least customer-centred thing you can write in a website.

When we write copy to win customers, we should be talking about them not ourselves! 

It’s the age old “what’s in it for me” and you being passionate ain’t it. If you love what you do that’s awesome but that needs to translate into what your customer gets.

As a customer, I care about the end result and how I’m going to feel once it’s fixed. Whether you enjoy yourself while you're doing it is way down the list of things I have the energy to care about.

If we talk about our old-mate the plumber, then their customer benefits in lots of ways. It’s not just the fixed toilet.

These are the pain points and the easy wins that your copy needs to be targeting.

Your passion is about you and it’s not relevant to your customer. What that passion – or commitment, dedication and focus – shows up as in your work is what you need to identify.

And why is that good for your customer?

That’s the sweet spot.

Keep the passion for when you binge-watch Normal People. That show is hot.

Do you agree? Or do you think passion is where it's at? Let me know!

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One comment on “Why the 'P' word should never be in your copy”

  1. I agree, which is why I wrote I'm dedicated to education, guiding and supporting women throughout their journey. That's what I do, and why? To help them become fit, functional and fulfilled.

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