How Empathy Upgraded My Copywriting Skills

How Empathy Upgraded My Copywriting Skills

I was a blocked writer for most part of my life.

The seldom times I ventured to show something I wrote out into the public, it came only after rare, inspiration-filled nights.

As I started a copywriting career doing social media for a health supplement company, I learned and convinced myself marketing copywriting was all about tactics and technique.

I trained hard: SEO, grammar, CRM, CTA’s, SME. Google Reader was my best friend back in those days (And I still mourn it). After not too many months, I started hating the hashtag, keyword and synonyms game.

Things started getting bumpy with my manager at the time, as I discovered one major obstacle for my writing to be inspired and enjoyable, thus, effective. Not only  was I turned off by some deceitful company practices, I subconsciously believed marketing was about lying.

Yes, lying. Pretending to care. Pretending to know. Pretending to trick an audience into doing something.

It just didn’t feel good.

Long story short, I ended up moving on  to other things ventures; throughout the journey to where I am now, a concept kept popping up in my conversations: Empathy.

See, I’ve always been the mental, quiet observer, no-PDAs, Grinch-like persona in my teams and circles of friends. But empathy kept showing up as a lesson: Either doing workshops with gun-violence victims, being by my friends’ side on big life changes and losses, and other (dis)adventures.

My new take on writing was inspired by my enrollment in activism. I had to discover and re-polish my skills to ignite people’s mind and get them to stand behind a cause, organize and take action.

This time around, as I integrated my technical learning into things I was passionate about, I earthed down to the fact that marketing — the one I enjoy doing and care about putting out into the world — is a huge change tool, and it helps real people’s journeys and ideas come together.

And once again — in order to aid these connections — empathy resurfaced as a very important skill. So I trained myself:

  • I dedicated myself to pay attention to peoples’ stories and how they told them. Gestures, pauses, looks.
  • I started journaling and re-telling stories that inspired me to friends, colleagues and even on my sales pitches.
  • I got encouraged by my therapist to watch films in other languages without subtitles, and focus solely on voice tone and gestures to figure out what emotions were at play.
  • I jumped off the “observer” persona, and started making more questions (and less assumptions). I lingered after conferences and parties and tried to pick up conversations to note words and phrasings. I even trained a good eavesdropping skill.

(Hope everyone was comfortable with that, can’t guarantee though, lol.)

Empathy was the key to upgrade the ability of my writing to connect with an audience’s needs and desires. It taught me how to reflect on real people’s emotions.

This made it a whole other business. I now work to make sure that I’m connected and energized by what I’m writing for. I learned to see myself as a connection-enabler.

Empathy made my copywriting surpass technical expertise; I made it human, and successful.

It also made my life blossom, in every other way, and connect with a team of marvelous professionals.

Guess all of life’s core lessons are worth integrating into our craft, right?

Ask more questions and stay tuned for more soon,

Marielisa Alvarez
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