What’s the big idea?

One World.  Just one cornetto.  One life, live it.  All for one and one for all.Golden 1

One is a powerful number.  Especially in writing.

Way back in the mists of time, when I was a wee baby copywriter (OK, I was never that wee!), I was taught about the Power of One – the single idea that runs right through your copy to get your reader to act.  It’s also known as the Big Idea or the Golden Thread.  You can add other colours to the tapestry to make the golden thread stand out better, but the golden thread is the single idea you want people to focus on, the one that everything else depends on, the whole thrust of your argument.

It’s another version of Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

If you want people to do something, tell them so, tell them why it’s a good thing to do, tell them all the research that backs up your claim of why it’s a good thing…  But all the telling must be about one thing and one thing only: the thing you want them to do.

Don’t confuse your readers with by-ways: stick to the straight, narrow and well sign-posted route.

Or to put it another way, your call to action should follow your introduction and body copy as a child follows an ice-cream van’s tinkling: single-mindedly, allowing no distractions.

So when you start writing, ask yourself these “one” questions:

  • What’s the one big idea you want to put across? (Don’t do anything until you have an answer to this one.)
  • What’s the one big emotion you’re trying to excite in your readers? (Fear, pride, loyalty, disgust, love, joy?  Desire?)
  • What’s the one powerful story you want to tell to back up your idea? (A testimonial, scientific research results, whatever you’ve got that makes your subject or product more credible.)
  • What’s the one thing you want readers to do? (Remember to tell them – so many people forget to put any call to action in their content!)

Get your answers to those questions sorted out in your head before you start writing, and you’re half-way to getting the result you want.

Sometimes it can be a slow process but don’t let that force you into starting to write until you’ve got your answers.  I know I’ve said in the past that one of the best cures for writer’s block is just to start writing, but I’ve also said that another one is to know your subject thoroughly.

Finding your four “one” answers comes under the heading of research and will make for much better content than just writing any old thing, getting frustrated because it doesn’t really hang together, and hitting Send before you can scrumple another tree’s-worth of paper into the round file (or the computer equivalent).

So that’s your challenge for this day/week/month/whatever interval you have between newsletters or blog posts: ask and answer the four “one” questions.

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