When you master copywriting fundamentals you acquire skills that you can take anywhere.
Take the Problem-Agitate-Solve formula for example.
The formula works like this:
- Identify a problem
- Agitate that problem
- Trot out the solution
Its applications are endless.
I learned this formula when I was a copy cub working for a world-famous televangelist. This woman toured the country every other week, held a three-day conference in a major city, and then hit the road again.
After each conference the production team flipped the audio and video files into cassette and VHS tapes. My job was to write descriptions for the product sleeves.
I was limited in space. About six sentences total. And, more important, I was limited in time. (I had poems to write.)
This meant I needed a fast way to knock these descriptions out. So I dialed into AOL and rummaged through search listings until I came across some direct-response copywriter’s email newsletter archive.
For hours I laid waste to his treasures until I emerged with what I needed: the problem-agitate-solve (PAS) formula.
So I experimented.
Insecure? You’re not alone. Millions of people admit to being insecure. Yet, remain that way and you’ll live a life in the shadows. A life on the fringe. Always wishing, never doing. Fortunately, there’s an answer.
Then I’d introduce the televangelist’s teaching for that tape, which was the solution. Worked like a charm.
How to add variety to PAS
This formula came in handy 18 months later when I was in charge of writing product descriptions for hundreds of products for an online store. At the time it was mind-numbing, but the deliberate practice made the formula part of me.
Muscle memory, champ.
It helps to mix in a little variety, though. For instance, you can ask two or three questions in your opening: “Frustrated with your job? Hate your boss? Love to work for yourself? You’re not alone.” And so on.
And this formula not only works for short-form copy, but long as well. Most successful sales letters are structured this way. Brian Clark’s Site Sensor post is a great example. He identified the dominant pain point, aggravated it, and then trotted out the solution.
It’s landing page magic.
But wait! There’s more!!!
How to share social content with PAS
This formula also comes in handy when sharing content on social platforms like Facebook or Google-Plus.
Let’s say you produced a video about subduing a grizzly bear with your bare hands. You then jump on Facebook to share it. You drop the link and hit “Share” and call it done.
You could drop the link and write something like “Check this out!”
Or you could use PAS.
Tired of girls not looking at you? You’re not alone. There are thousands of guys who are trying everything to get women to pay attention to them: wearing v-neck t-shirts, riding heavy motorcycles, running in short shorts.
But alas, at the end of the day, you just want a nice woman to hold you as you fall asleep. But that will never happen until she thinks you are a man. And that day will NEVER come unless you do something about it …
Like learn how to tame a grizzly bear. With your bare hands. Check out this video.
How to define the dominant pain
By the way, this side lesson is free: average copywriters would’ve assumed the “problem” was not being able to capture a grizzly bear with your hands.
That’s like saying the reason a man buys a drill is because he doesn’t have a drill.
In the case of subduing grizzly bears, what’s at stake is ego. Pride. Machismo. The desire for approval. The lust to impress. There is something far greater at stake than sheer curiosity.
True, there is a guy out there, probably in Florida, who is thinking: “I’ve always wondered what it would be like capturing a grizzly bear with my bare hands.” But to think that THAT is the dominant pain point for your widest reach is about as stupid as assuming there are people out there thinking, “I’ve always wondered what it’s like to own a drill.”
Yes, there are people out there who think those thoughts. They are an exception. They are not a profitable market. Make sense?
PAS saves you social sharing time
PAS gives your writing consistency, precision, and persuasion.
You’ve given people a good reason to watch your video without breaking the creation bank. And so you can go on to share more content.
This is what it means to be an efficient writer: keeping your tools handy. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every time.
When you can reduce the moves you need to make to share content, then you can share more content in less time.
PAS allows you to evaluate other people’s content
This is also a helpful way to evaluate other people’s content you want to share: as you read, listen, or watch, think about the problem it solves, how it agitates that problem, and ultimately solves it. Then write the curation post.
The beautiful thing is that this formula works for any text-based social platform: Google-Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.
Twitter? Yes, I said Twitter. Of course you’ll need to write the formula in fewer than 140 characters — actually, about 90 characters since you need space for the short link.
Girls ignoring you? Learn to live with it OR learn how to tame grizzly bears, champ. Find out here: [enter short link]
The “Find out here” is your solution in this case.
These are just a few ways your writing will improve by mastering a formula like Problem-Agitate-Solve. (I’m sure you can come up with your own list, especially in real life.)
While I’ve got your attention, why not give it a try? Share this post on Twitter, Google-Plus, or Facebook … and use PAS when you do.
And let us know here.
I’ll give you some feedback.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Flickr Creative Commons Image via Gianpierre Soto.