The Get the Message Podcast
June 28, 2022

Copy That Connects with Scott Frothingham

Despite how things have radically changed, the importance of impactful copy has remained the same. However, it takes more than a creative catchphrase or marketing copy to connect with today's consumers. Veteran copywriter and author Scott Frothingham...

Despite how things have radically changed, the importance of impactful copy has remained the same. However, it takes more than a creative catchphrase or marketing copy to connect with today's consumers. Veteran copywriter and author Scott Frothingham joins us today to talk about the state of copywriting and how writers and brands can generate impact through copy that connects.


Scott Murray: Welcome to Get the Message.

No matter how much has changed in marketing, messaging and content today, one thing remains the same— the importance of copy.

Now, copywriting has been a big part of my career since, well really, the very beginning, back when I was writing print copy and audio scripts. Now we've got social media, blogs, videos, podcasts and yet there is still a need for written words. A need for copywriting.

The difference is the way it needs to read, communicate, and resonate. The reason why content marketing today is so hard is because we're inundated with words every day: ads, articles, promotions, text messages, emails and more.

I mean, so much that our brains have trained themselves to make instant decisions on the worthiness of the content. And much of that is in the words people use. E-mail is a prime example.

You probably make an instant judgment on an e-mail based on, not only who it's from, but maybe the subject line and then the context of the e-mail copy. When you see something come into your e-mail box, does it look like an e-mail that was spammed out to you and tons of other people? Does it read more like a radio ad or a sales pitch? We've seen those emails, right?

Or is it written in a way that makes us pause for an extra second, and perhaps not make that instant, “I've seen this crap before.”, response. Maybe it looks personalized. Maybe it's written more like a person-to-person message, instead of a copy-and-paste message created to help generate a target response rate for the sender.

I recently created a video demonstrating how you can enhance your e-mail copy from sounding like a cut-and-paste blast, or commercial, to something that might make someone feel like you're really trying to help them. And to make it a little more fun, I used Ghostbusters as an inspiration. The original movie takes place in the 1980s. There was no e-mail or social media.

It was back in the days where salesy promotional content made, well, a little more sense, I guess, because mainly there were captive audiences who consumed traditional media, like TV and radio.

And the Ghostbusters made a TV ad, and it asked consumers about potential paranormal experiences. They showcased their ghost extermination expertise and gave you a phone number, and said they were, “Ready to believe you.”

Now, if they infused that copy into an e-mail, I think you'd find that it sounds very similar to a lot of promotional emails you get today. So, let's say they sent Dana Barrett an e-mail hoping to generate some business from her. The subject line, “We're ready to believe you.”

It says, “Hi Dana. Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night? Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic? Have you or your family ever seen a spook, specter, or ghost? We have the innovative and scientifically developed tools to catch the ghost and remove it from the premises, including PKE meters, able to track and find the paranormal, proton packs, like an electric lasso to hold the ghost in place, a trap device, pulls the ghost in so we can safely remove it.

If you're experiencing paranormal activity, don't wait another minute. Call us. Our courteous and efficient staff is on call 24-hours a day to serve all your supernatural elimination needs. We're ready to believe you. The Ghostbusters, 555-2368.

Now that's an e-mail. But could also easily be a radio ad with a couple of tweaks. After all, when you read it, it's not hard to assume this was probably blasted to everybody with no real interest in Dana and her personal situation.

So, let's humanize it a bit. Let's take the subject line and give it a little bit of intrigue. Let's use her name in it. Let's use, “Dana, do you believe in ghosts?”

Now, if she's been experiencing some things, she might click on this. Or you just might be wondering, “Why are they asking this question?”

It says “Hi Dana. People can have many different reasons for believing in ghosts, but today I'd like to ask you about yours. Maybe you're hearing noises at night. Maybe you've seen something that looked like a ghost, or perhaps you get this uneasy or cold feeling sometimes. It can be tough to talk about, but you don't have to spend the rest of your life worrying or wondering.

“My name is Doctor Peter Venkman, and I am a scientist and paranormal professional. My team and I specialize in investigating and eliminating these paranormal disruptions in people's lives. We're here to listen, and our discussion is completely confidential.

“We believe in ghosts, and we're ready to believe you. Sincerely, Pete.”

Now that probably generates a little more interest, because you're kind of acknowledging this as kind of a weird thing to be thinking about or talking about, much less emailing somebody to discuss. But he kind of puts you at ease, because he says he understands, and he justifies his reasons for reaching out and says it's okay to talk to them. The other thing is, is this is personally signed by Peter.

And sometimes that can make a difference. An e-mail that has no sender at the bottom, or is coming from a team, may not resonate as much as something that came from another person. Maybe it's the CEO of your company or someone else.

I mean, the purpose of this e-mail was the same. It just sounded more like a personalized and humanized message. It read more like a genuine interest in helping Dana. I've seen a need for this in social media as well. Posts that look automated and cut-and-paste, salesy, self-serving, promotional, and a lot of people have trained themselves to block those out.


Videos can sound salesy. Blogs can be written in ways that look salesy, self-serving, boring, or generic. I mean, people want connection, relationships, proof of value, and opportunities to have conversations with other people.

And that's why we talk about changing marketing into Sparketing. But no matter how much has changed the power of copy, the power of words has never changed. We just need to change what we say and how we say it.

Like me, my guest today has a long history with the written word. And like me, his name is Scott. So today you're joining two Scotts in a conversation about writing copy that resonates.

(Show Intro)

Scott Murray: Hello, and thanks for joining me today.

Scott Frothingham is a veteran copywriter known for his goal-oriented writing that gives businesses an advantage. He is also the author of the book Instant Inspiration for Copywriters.

You can find him on LinkedIn sharing tips and advice on copywriting. Or you can find some other interesting insights on his website where he tells visitors, “You're not buying copywriting; you're buying connection and impact.” And that is the type of copy we want to discuss.

Hi Scott, thanks for joining me today.

Scott Frothingham: Hi Scott. It's very exciting to be on a podcast that I believe only allows guests named Scott. Am I correct on that?

Scott Murray: Yeah, well, that seems to be the new trend anyway. We'll see how this goes.

The other thing we have in common is we both have a lot of copywriting background. I feel like despite all the different types of content and things that I've been involved in, there's always been an element of writing. Even if it's video, there's an element of script. There's sometimes scripting in podcasting. And obviously, there's still a lot of things today that people use copy for.

But, as we've talked a lot about on this show, things have changed. The way that you need to be connecting and resonating with people today is very different than what it was even 15, 20 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago. It's changed that much even in just recent years, it feels like.

So, when we talk about how the digital space is filled with a lot of noise, I sometimes think that one of the things we're talking about are people that haven't made that transition yet. There's still a lot of that corporate speak, a lot of that copy-and-paste things that marketers just think, “Oh, I got to write it this way because it’s the marketing way to write things.” That doesn't really resonate with people.

Are you also seeing a lot of that when you meet with clients that are maybe not seeing the impact that they want, or they're just looking to you to help them make that change?

Scott Frothingham: Well, you run into many clients who have, especially if they've been established, they've had certain things established for a long time. This is our Mission Statement. This is our Branding Statement. And then a lot of the sales pieces and marketing pieces they have were written a while ago, and are a little bit stodgy, a little bit intellectual, a little bit with that, “We want to sound like the smartest people in the room”, a little bit of talking to themselves in an echo chamber.

And sometimes when you're sitting with a situation like that, you got to look across the desk and say, “I know you've built a good business on these. And these are all strong important foundations that you're building on. But we got to lighten up a little bit and communicate to people, because people don't want to be talked at. And right now, a lot of this formal, jargon-filled, impress the professor of English that your college is not resonating in communicating well with the public.”

Scott Murray: Yeah, that's definitely something that I see a lot of as well.

What do you generally start with as from a process standpoint?

I have to think it's got to be really helpful, obviously, if you're also talking to that business and they can tell you at least an adequate amount of information, if not really good information, about their audience. Because if you have kind of a general idea of what is going to resonate then you can apply that to that audience.

Would you find that some of your first steps in evolving that copy is getting to know their customer or their target audience. And then start to realize, “Okay, well, if I'm your target audience and I see this, I'm going to ignore it, or it's just going to roll past me in a feed, or it's not going to lead me to believe that I'm in the right place.” Do you find that it usually starts with kind of figuring out what's going to resonate with their audience by putting yourself in the audiences’ shoes?

Scott Frothingham:  Well, all marketing writing, whether you're writing content or writing copy, starts exactly there at the audience. We are trying to get a reaction out of the audience. We are trying to persuade the audience to understand what we're offering, or why we're offering it, or who we are, or even to make a purchase of our product. And, if we're going to persuade people, we have to do it in their language and we have to address the problems that they have.

Sometimes, and I'm sure you've run across this, the company that you're talking with is happy and excited to solve problems that maybe aren't the highest priority of the customer. They've got a new feature, the feature’s exciting, they've invested in it, and it's important to the industry. But, maybe not important to the customer.

And our job as marketing writers is to find out what's important to the customer, and then communicate with the customer in their language. So they see themselves better off with that product or service than they were prior to making a purchase of that product or service.

Scott Murray: Yeah, that's a really big part of it. And I think that that's one of the reasons why now you're seeing a lot of digital marketing consultants really start to push for this idea that you really shouldn't be working in a silo. I mean, it was already kind of a bad thing anyway. But it's really not optimal today, because there's going to be things that you can learn from like your sales team, to help build that copy that you may not know as the marketer.

And I have seen that, where a company really invests a lot of time, resources and money into messaging about some new trend or some new product and, I mean, everything's going into that. Because the marketing, or maybe the people in the C-level of the organization, have decided we need to show people we know about this, and they need to know this is happening, and that we solved that problem.

But then, when you go talk to the sales team, the sales team goes, “Yeah, they find that kind of intriguing. But they don't really understand it right now. They don't care. All they care about is how much does this cost? Can I get this? Do I have to get it all in one thing or can I customize it?”

The simple questions, it seems like, ends up being a much bigger role sometimes, and I think that is one of the reasons why it's helpful to talk to other departments. And I assume when you've got a company that has a good general, not only approach to how they market and how they communicate, but also everybody's kind of on the same page as what their customers want.

Scott Frothingham:  With that question, I always think of a story one of my old mentors told me. You know, until this moment, I didn't question the veracity of that of the story that I'm about to tell. I don't know if it's true or not. But it's stuck in my mind for years about the about the dog food company who really wanted to make big strides in the market. So, they brought in dog experts, they brought in scientists, they came up with the most nutritionally high value product they could have.

They came up with an easy-to-serve package for the people who were feeding their dogs. They came up with packaging that would attract the customer in the store. They did everything right, and the sales just tanked. And so, they did some research, and the research guys came back and said, “The dogs don't like it.”

Scott Murray: Well, there you go.

Scott Frothingham:  And I think the same thing happens to audience. That's why you say, talk to the sales department, depending on the size of the of the company. Anybody who has contact with the customer is a great asset. I like talking to the customer service folks. I like finding out the things that the customers are very happy about. I like finding out the things that the customers are not happy about and that helps direct a lot of the marketing strategy, and a lot of the copy and content that grows from that.

Scott Murray: The other thing that I see become kind of a challenge, especially when you might even have people on your staff that have agency background, is the idea that, “Okay, in order to evolve, what we really need to do is just get really creative.” And there are times where that creativity can be very powerful. But I've also seen times where the creativity ends up being just a cool sounding sentence that doesn't tell you anything. Or there are even times where it's written in a way that sounds kind of cool, but in context isn't what you know the customer, or the target audience, is going to want to experience at that point in time.

I remember talking to a company one time about some of the messaging, and this was even looking at some print materials they were going to hand out, and it talked about a journey. Well, this was a pretty important buyer's decision right at that moment, and most of what we were trying to do was talk about the simplicity of it.

And then this creative copy was written about this amazing journey, and I thought, “Okay, wait a minute, we've gone through all this stuff. They're at this point. The last thing they want is to go on a journey. At this stage of the game, they just want to close the deal and make it easy on themselves.”

But I find that things like journey and stuff are consistently part of these grandiose creative copy concepts. Again, which sometimes can work. But I'm sure you've also seen circumstances where creative copy can sound good, but still, when it comes to what we're talking about today being so important, it's not going to resonate. Because if you have to stop and think too long about what it means, or it just doesn't tell you anything, then you've got copy that your creatives like but still doesn't resonate with your audience.

Scott Frothingham:  Well, you just said it right there. If your audience has to stop and think, they're gone. Nobody has time to translate what you're writing to them. Everybody's busy, and if they say, “Oh, I'm going to have to figure out what he's saying.” No, I'm not going to bother.

I always think of Jay Abrahams, one of the great marketing minds of our time, once said, “Sometimes the best sales copy is ‘horse for sale’.” You don't have to get into details. Now, whenever I think of that, I also think about, “Okay, so the guy down the street writes a sign that says, ‘fast horse for sale’.

And so, the original guy changes that to ‘faster horse for sale’. So, the guy down the street changes that to ‘faster horse for sale, saddle included’. The next thing you know, it's 2022. We've got all this complicated offer in there, and maybe it's time to go back to ‘horse for sale’.”

Scott Murray: Yeah, that's really a good point.

But it makes me think of that scene out of There's Something About Mary when they're talking about if you're sitting in the video store and you see Eight Minute Abs, but then you’ve got Seven Minute Abs next to it. Which one are you going to take? And in his mind, it was like a brilliant idea, you know?

We talk about sales copy. I'm sure that you've had opportunities to talk to people about…we're kind of almost talking in the context of something like when they land on your website, maybe that first headline, what that says if it's too creative or if it's going to tell people exactly what they need to know. But I also see this in e-mail copy. I think e-mail is probably one of the biggest offenders of cut-and-paste, and copy that looks like an ad.

Or if you read it, it could possibly be a radio spot. And of course, when we read something, we've got our own voice in our head. I think about a popular meme I've seen being a Star Wars fan. I remember seeing these memes that pop up with the Emperor on it and it has a line on it. And then they point out, I bet when you read this, you did it in his voice. And that's true because you know his voice.

And I think sometimes, if we read something, I know I do this, if it's read in a way or written in a way that sounds very salesy or it's just typical e-mail marketing speak, you're going to disconnect. And that's assuming that the subject line didn't have that tone as well and you even clicked on it.

But you can instantly tell anymore that this e-mail, I mean almost to your point about all the different variations of ’horse for sale’, I mean, we've got all these emails that all are pretty much written the same. Because a lot of people haven't evolved their copy to sound more personal. And I bet there's a lot of that involved in your work too.

Scott Frothingham:  Well, a couple of things happen in emails. First of all, we forget that people like to buy stuff, but people typically don't like to be sold stuff.

And so, when we're writing marketing copy, we have to remember that we're bringing them along emotionally into something that's going to help them out. Not trying to sell them something that we haven't had that communication with.

One of the reasons for that is, well I think there are two things I see in a lot of e-mail copy. Number one is we have people who are using templates to write e-mail copy. They might be templates they developed themselves; they might be templates they bought by from another company. And templates are written for everybody, not for somebody.

And when a content writer or copywriter starts trying to communicate with everybody, it doesn't work. You have to focus in on a specific person and make that person feel like they're being talked to individually. And if you can get that one-on-one communication, you'll get them to stick with your message and get down to the point where they get to the call-to-action. And then do what you want them to do.

The other thing I think people forget about emails is, number one, the most important thing is who the e-mail is coming from. When you see who the emails coming from, you are going to say, “I know this person, like them, trust them, whatever. I know this person, don't like them, don't trust them, whatever. I don't know this person.” So that's a decision factor right there. You have to get beyond who is sending you the mail.

The next thing you do is the headline. And you know everybody in the writing business knows the headline is what keeps people moving forward.

Why am I going to read this e-mail, this message? Why am I going to stick with it? Am I interested? Do you have my attention? Am I curious about the next line of copy? And if you don't get the headline right or the ‘Re:’ line right, the rest doesn't matter. So, I would say that if you're writing e-mail, first get your headline right.

Second, talk to people one-on-one, and talk to them about their specific things they need to solve, things they need to grow, things they need to avoid. And let them identify with what you're offering, get them emotionally involved with it, and then tell them how to grow, avoid, or solve that problem that you've brought up in the e-mail.

It's just like any just like selling face-to-face, just like selling in copy, just like a presentation.

Scott Murray: Yeah, and I feel like there's a lot of crossover too in other areas where we would perhaps write something in a similar tone. And why that personalization is so important, and that lack of copy-and-paste look is important.

I think about those messages we sometimes get on LinkedIn after someone we don't necessarily know has connected with us. And you get that instant message, and they're already sending you a sales pitch that looks like something that they probably used with everybody else that's connected with them on LinkedIn.

But I also think about that value too, of providing something up front that already shows that you have an interest in helping versus immediately asking for something that benefits you.

I think that one of the first things that I remember learning when I first got into more of the digital marketing space, as somebody said, “If you do a really good job of providing value, maybe that's content, maybe that's insights, or videos, or any number of things, that really helps people think about what's happening in their space or how to solve their problem” If they get all this good stuff from you for free, they start to think, “Wow, how great is it going to be when I finally pay for something.”

And I even think about a situation where I did have someone reach out to me on LinkedIn one time, and I believe it was related to the podcast, and he had a podcast service that covered one specific area of podcast. But right out front he connected; he asked me about the show I was doing. And then said he listened to a few episodes and left a review, and said, “By the way you should check out some time what I do.” And I was intrigued by what he did, and I just felt, “You know what, he went and did this thing for me for nothing. He's provided me this, so I feel a little more obliged to maybe check out what he does, because he's already done these things up front.”

And I think that's one of the things that emails can really help you do is provide that value up front. Breaking down those walls of some of the cynicism that we all have when it comes to why people are emailing us. Why people are putting something in our inbox when you provide something of value, and maybe when you provide enough value you can get a little more comfortable sending that e-mail that might tell them to check something out.

Scott Frothingham:  That's one of the main reasons for content and content marketing. And I would include in that certain videos and certain eBooks that offer instruction for people.

When you do something for somebody, they naturally feel the need to reciprocate in some way. And that need to reciprocate, it's not silly. It's not, “Oh, the guy sent me a free eBook. I think I'll plunk down $10,000 in that car. I hope it's a color I like.”

People will go nuts about it, but there is that feeling of this person is not just here to sell me something. This person is here to help me, and he seems to honestly believe that this product, or service, he's selling will answer a problem, or need, I have.

And that makes me far more comfortable with the idea of letting you in to hear what you have to say. So that feeling of I think, I’ll probably mispronounce it, repri…repri…I'll call it reciprocal. I never say reciprocity.

I can't say it. I just can't say it, okay!

Scott Murray: It's a lot easier to write it than say it, right?

Scott Frothingham:  That's one of the problems with being on a podcast. I write far better than I speak.

But it's that reciprocal feeling that people have that you're talking about that's a hallmark of all good content. And if the e-mail can present that, or any other outreach can present that, at the proper point that the customer is in considering purchasing a product or service it's of key importance.

Scott Murray: I'm wondering if you've noticed that throughout your career at some point in time, while you are already a good writer and you are already going to be able to evolve that into the different types of media as times change, I was wondering if you had a point, or maybe you did this from the very beginning, this was just part of the deal, where you were even more involved in copy editing and/or enhancing.

Because I feel like that became, I think the enhancing part as I would put it, where I'm just taking existing copy and making it stronger or maybe make it resonate better than the way it was originally written. Or like, even in a case just recently where I was helping a company humanize their social media, they knew they had to do it, but these things were still written in a very marketing, corporate form. And after I tweaked it to sound more human, I don't think they even needed me anymore. They're like, “Okay, this is what it means.”

But then I started to run into something a lot more as I started to get really immersed in working with companies on messaging was, and this is an easy trap to fall into and I find that sometimes I have to catch myself doing this and make sure that I'm not wrecking my copy sometimes when I get to writing really fast, is I find that one of the paths that led me to more copy editing was I kept running into existing copy that was written in a way that would sound a lot better if you were speaking it versus the way it reads when someone's reading it.

And I feel that because, a lot of times, you have a voice in your head that's speaking, you tend to write it. Which, a lot of times, means you're probably putting punctuations there because if you're speaking at the pause, it sounds great.

But grammatically you don't want to wreck something grammatically if the public's going to be looking at it. You've got components there that have punctuation that's not working really well. Or really what ends up happening is the sentence just gets amazingly long and your brain just starts to almost feel like it's going to run out of breath; even reading it out loud, because it keeps going and going and going.

Have you found that you've had a lot of that in recent experience? Because I feel like that's been part of the editing process for a lot of companies these days and is that something that was recently new, or did you always find yourself kind of enhancing it or editing copy with those type of challenges involved?

Scott Frothingham:  Obviously, I've evolved. Because some of my work was done early on with corporate people, corporate speak. And as a young person I was told what to do, and this is how we did it, and you've got to grow out of these things. And yeah, I've written some run-on sentences in my day.

And actually, that's one of the things too, a good check to see if you're growing as a copywriter, pull up something that you wrote last year. And many times, I say, “Oh my God, I was terrible back then.” It’s like looking at a picture of yourself as a teenager saying, “Oh my God, how did I ever get a date? That was the most ridiculous looking character I’ve ever seen.”

Scott Murray: Yeah, “What was I wearing?”

Scott Frothingham:  I often wonder, am I'm going to be 90 and looking back at a picture of me now and saying, “Oh, what were you thinking with that beard? You were crazy. If I only knew what I know now.”

But yeah, there is a lot of rewriting because a lot of stuff has hung around, because this is how we've always done it, this is what we've built our business on. This is the part of it. I try and turn this, at least for me, I try to look at the rhythm of what's been written. Because I think people read to themselves, they read out loud, they speak, they sing, they communicate with the rhythm.

And so, to make rhythm work in writing, you often have to look at how many words do I have in a sentence? How many words do I have in the next sentence? Okay, I got a couple of six-word sentences, I better throw in a three-word sentence. Well, then I’ve got room for a twelve-word sentence. Let's see how the rhythm goes. How many words am I going to be comfortable with in a paragraph?

That's one of the big changes that you've seen, in the last 10 years, is that no longer do you have the big grey space of type with 15-20 lines in a paragraph. I see people knocking that back to six or seven before a paragraph break.

But it's the rhythm that you create with your writing that helps the reader read properly. So yeah, I think that level of editing is key, and most copywriters out there have had that situation where they've looked at the stuff that the company they're working for has spent a lot of time on, and said, “Well, your baby is ugly, it's time to spruce this thing up again.”

And depending on who you're talking to, you got to use your words carefully, because you are getting close to where they live. And let's not get too impressed with ourselves as copywriters.

Chances are the company that you're working for, or that you've gained as a new freelance customer, somehow has been able to make a living, and pay their bills, and pay their taxes, pay their rent, pay their employees for years before you showed up. So even though the stuff you're looking at needs to be improved, get over yourself. They're doing okay. Let's see what we can do to help them do it a little bit better.

Think of yourself in this case like a car mechanic. You want your car to go a little faster? Okay, we can adjust the exhaust system, we can put a supercharger on there, we can do some things to make you go faster. But don't take away the fact that this car is running, running quickly, doing well. You're there to enhance it and you have to give props to what went on before you. And not say that you are so smart and so talented that you can change everything and make it better.

Get over yourself. Stop believing your own press releases.

Scott Murray: No, that's a really good point. I mean, and I think especially if you're a freelancer or you're a consultant. This goes back to the message, even on your personal brand, that your message really should kind of be, “I'm not the hero of the story. You are. I'm just going to step in and help you reach this new level or this place you're having trouble getting to. But at the end of the day, it's because you got there.”

And I know that I've learned all these different things over time as well. I think that's one of the reasons why it can be so challenging sometimes to tell brands to evolve these things, to evolve this content, to evolve the copy if they're doing well. Depending on how we're going to define doing well. There are a lot of companies out there that have bad leadership and have problems in their culture, but still manage to be profitable. So, that makes it a little more challenging to go in there and say, “Hey, you need to change everything.”

Maybe the way to approach it is, “Yeah, you've gone on the Price is Right and you have a chance to win $10,000. Let's not get too excited about winning $50. Just because we won something, let's do some things where you can do better than what you're doing, and see how that plays with people.”

What about blogs? I see a lot of talk about blogs, and the other thing that's kind of interesting to me is blogs are still a relevant piece of content, but it's also a more challenging piece of content just because there's so many out there now.

It was a lot easier when blogs first started to become a thing, and then marketers figured out how to use it. Now you've got to be doing a lot more than just writing the general stuff that you can find anywhere else, including your competition. But I still see a lot of things that look alike.


And then now we have this other trend out there about SEO. Because I'm sure you remember when people would write blogs and stuff it full of keywords. And the advice back then was. “Be careful with that because the reader can tell when you're stuffing it full of keywords or forcing it in places that doesn't sound natural.”

But now it's more of, “Well great. You can write a long piece of of content as a blog.” But Google's not going to just care about, “Oh, they found you.” They're going to want to know once they got there, did it provide them any value? Did they spend any time there? Are you finding opportunities to help people on the blog front? And what are some of the challenges you're seeing there?

Scott Frothingham:  Well, the biggest challenge I see with blogs, we can get into having a content strategy, but the most important thing…well, not the most important thing. A very important aspect that people are not asking of themselves when they start writing a particular blog post is, “How am I'm going to get people to read this material? How am I going to expose it?”

So, these days if you say, “Oh, I'll write a blog post and thousands of people read it. They'll feel so good about me, they'll come and buy my product.” Well, you got to get people to read it. And one thing is proper SEO. SEO done properly can be very effective and you can get some natural readership.

But right now, anytime I'm brought in on specific content, often blog posts, my first question is, “What are you going to do to promote it?” And I'm often met with blank stares. Because it wasn't that long ago that, as you said, there were a lot more opportunities for natural visitors and for growth coming just off of the search engines, etc.

But these days, you pick your subject and find out that they're 13 million available answers for you on Google. And if you're not on the first page, or maybe on the top of the first page, you're not going to get the kind of response that you could expect before. So, the question I would say is, “I understand now why you want this information out there, what you want this information to do. What are you going to do to promote it?”

Scott Murray: And that's one of those situations too, where especially if you're in a crowded space, a crowded industry where everybody's writing a lot of the same content with the exact same messaging and keywords and “solutions”. There's probably ways to look at that competition and realize there's things they're not doing to amplify that or differentiate themselves.

And maybe that's where your opportunity is. Especially if your competition is on the first page, maybe they have that on autopilot. And the way that you can take that blog and promote it, or at least get some of the messages out there, is taking a portion of it, putting it on LinkedIn in a context that sounds like trying to provide an insight. Or maybe you turn it into a video or something like that, that at least provides other opportunities. Because the blog versus blog, in that case, is going to be quite challenging.

And I'm also wondering about if your opportunities when you work with companies, do people just see you as a copywriter or do you have some companies that will also look to you for strategy on the content side?

Because I've been in a position where I've had both. And sometimes, if I don't have the opportunity to infuse the strategist side of me, it impacts, at least I think in my experience, some of the opportunities and some of the success that the copywriting can actually have. But I've had those that have said, “Yeah, help us develop this, and figure out why, and let's get into the heads of the audience, and all that.” Versus people who go, “We're not writers. Write this, and that's all we want from you.”

Scott Frothingham:  Well, I think it depends on the customer. It also depends on the size of the customer. But as a writer, well, in business you are trying to bring value to the person who's buying your product or service. That's what comes down to it. As long as you can provide more value than what they're paying for you, you are doing your job.

If you feel that as a copywriter/content writer, that what they're asking you to do is not going to bring value, it's in your best interest to say, “I think we could make some adjustments that would position this to get you better response. You’d meet your goals faster.”

Now I'm an old guy who's been in the business for a while, so that's real easy for me to say. Right now, if a customer and I have a disagreement, I can say, “Well, I don't want to do this, because I won't feel good that I've delivered you value.” And I can step away from it.

When you're newer in the business and when you're just starting out in freelancing, all this stuff that I'm saying, that sounds good. “But I got a car payment to make. And if this guy’s going to pay me this amount to get this written. And I've been an honest broker and said I think it'll do better this way.” And the person responds, “Listen kid, I told you what I want. And I want it on Tuesday afternoon at 4:00.”

Sometimes you just swallow and say, “You're the customer. I need the money; I will deliver what you want and be done with it.” So, I think that's one of the one of the problems that guys like me pontificating on how to do it right, “And this is the way you write copy, and these are the rules you follow.”

That people who listen to people like me should understand, first of all, there are no rules. There are good suggestions that have worked well and consistently over time. And so those suggestions are worth paying for, or paying attention to, and nothing is a perfect world. So, most of the suggestions that people like me offer are, “In a perfect world it would work like this.”

Well, it doesn't always work like that, so sometimes you have to make decisions that, like I said before, you might not think you're delivering optimal value. If you're honest and you've told them you think you could do better, and they've told you what they want, they're the customer, and you can give them what they want.

We talked about building cars. I mean, if the person says, “I want a light green car with a bright orange interior”, and you say, “I don't think that's going to enhance the value of the car or the look of the car.” And the person says, “I don't care.”

You make a decision. Do I want to do that for the person or not? Chances are you going to say the customer. Well, what's that old line? The customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer.

Scott Murray: Yeah. Well, and then when he goes to resell it and they go, “Well, we're not real sure about those colors.” He thinks, “Man, I should have actually listened to that guy at the repair shop.” Late in the game.

Yeah. It's funny. I love the fact that you talk about kind of when you got to a place where you could do that. Right now, I think for a lot of people that have immersed themselves in contemporary strategy, or maybe their education is rooted in contemporary strategy. And they've been taking full-time jobs where they haven't been able to utilize it. Maybe it's just been one element of it, and they wanted so badly to infuse these things they know should be there.

But like you say, when it's your job just to do this, then that's what you’ve got to do. I know that was true for me. I had my share of jobs where I had the ability to do this. And I was always pushing, “Alright, if we do this, we have to drive it with this, or we have to approach it this way, or things like that.” But wasn't able to do it.

And at times, you would get held responsible for the other party’s strategy, or any number of other things that wouldn't work out. And after a while, I just thought I’ve got to figure out a way to find balance, or at least have some opportunity to help companies that know they need the help and want the help. So, I think in a lot of ways, after you build up, like you say, enough experience, maybe you can find a way to go that route.

I mean, I even know somebody that I met years ago that finally ended up launching her own ad agency. And we were talking about social media strategy and companies that just want to automate, do the bare minimum, and call it a day. She said, “We won't take those clients.”

She said, “We know what's worth their time and money as well as ours. And we talk about engagement, and we talk about conversations that people want. If they're not interested in that, and we know they should, then we say, ‘Look, it's better off for you not to even be a client of ours.”

But when we talk about what a company chooses to do, especially in a day and age where content is becoming so much more personalized and has to have so much more in it, where you're having conversations. You're not always pitching and selling, or you have to infuse things like empathy and proving you understand the needs of the customer. Or that it has to be out there in so many different ways: copy and video and graphics and so many other ways.

I've heard Marcus Sheridan tell people that really today you need a full-time videographer on your staff. When I talk to some of the companies I've talked to in recent years, the first thing they tell me is, “We're not writers. That's why we need the help in trying to figure out a way to advance this copy.”

Would you say that if you can, whether it's a small business or a big business, to find a way, maybe it's a freelance or maybe it's a full-timer, to at least have some experienced copywriter on your staff, considering what has to be achieved today?

Scott Frothingham:  It all comes down to economics. You've got to take a deep breath if you're in business, and I know I'm a little bit slanted towards this, but guess what? Everything in your business depends on copy. And I'll say marketing writing because that's copy, that's content, et cetera.

But if you hire the best web designer in the country to make you an absolutely beautiful webpage, but you don't have information written on there that's going to attract the customer and lead them to the action that you want them to take, you're not going to get there. The copy better be right.

And you look at everything else. You could hire the best videographer in the world, if they don't have a good script, they're not going to engage that customer and lead them to the action that you want them to do. So yes, investing in copy is usually an investment, not an expense. How much you can invest, what you can invest in, what you can invest in the next steps in terms of anything from web design to video, that's budgetary.

And those decisions are going to be made that way. But to me it all starts with copy. Now that being said, I’ve worked with some excellent designers and videographers. I will tell you all day long, it all begins with copy, and I really don't believe that. It all begins with the idea. And so, if you have a good designer and a good copywriter, a good copywriter and a good videographer, choose your combination.

If you can get those people's heads together and they can come up with a great idea everything flows from that: the design, the copy, the video. So if you can start with your team and an idea, you're in great shape. If you don't have that luxury and you had to choose one, I’d always start with the copy.

Scott Murray: Yeah, it's kind of like, because as you just said, it's very much like what we touched on the very beginning. Saying that it's amazing, just no matter all the different things you can do, how often there's an element of copy in almost all of it in some form or fashion. So, it's an important consideration to make.

And, as expected Scott, great insights today. And I think you've given people some really great things to think about. And some things to consider when it comes to how they're going to approach copy now and in the future.

And I'm going to have a link to your website, as well as your book on Instant Inspiration for Copywriters. And of course a link to your LinkedIn, because you're always very active there sharing tidbits and things that you were just talking about before. Things that you're always sharing that I think can be very valuable to people. But is there anything else you want people to find?

Scott Frothingham:  I think if they stop by the website, I know you’ll put that up there, I get a lot of positive feedback on my blog that's written for marketing writers. Again, not being totally truthful. It's written for myself. Because that's what I do. I write about stuff, and this is a chance to write about stuff I find interesting. But it also seems to be interesting to other writers.

But if you're going to spend some time not going through my stuff, read somebody else's book. And read another book on copywriting. I've got a list of those on the blog, the ones that I'd start with if I were you. And then if you're not reading writing books, read literature. The best way you can improve your writing is through reading. So, whether it's mine or somebody else's, read, read, read, write, write, write. You'll be successful.

Scott Murray: Awesome. Well, thank you again so much for the insightful conversation you gave us today on this show, Scott. I know that we'll have plenty of opportunities to cross paths, especially in the copywriting and content space. And I hope we have a chance again to talk in the show because it's a great conversation as expected. Thank you so much for being here.

Scott Frothingham:  Thank you.

Scott Murray: Think about some of the concepts we've discussed when it comes to Sparketing.

The dangers of content that comes off like it's meant to benefit the creator and not the audience. Or making sure a brand is providing their audience with content that is rooted in their needs and not what the brand wants them to need.

When you consider that, and you hear Scott talk about not creating copy that you think is brilliant, or involves something that you think the audience needs to know, it's easy to see how powerful copywriting is today. Especially when you consider how copy plays such a significant role in everything marketers do. Today it just has to connect, compel, resonate.

When all you had was TV and radio spots, like the Ghostbusters, copy just had to get attention, and maybe get someone to dial a phone number. But now it takes more time. There's more to prove. There are more obstacles to overcome, including what others write about your business. But that's another show.

As always, you will find links discussed on this episode in the show notes. Just go to the podcast tab on and find the episode with Scott Frothingham. You can find the show on popular platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you would like to reach out and share any thoughts on this show, you can leave comments on the site just by using the Contact Form. Or you can e-mail me at You can also use that e-mail to inquire about consulting needs, speaking opportunities, or if you'd like me to be a guest on your podcast.

I'd like to thank our guest, Scott Frothingham, for being on the show today. And thank you for joining me on Get the Message.

Scott FrothinghamProfile Photo

Scott Frothingham

Copywriter, Author

Veteran B2B and B2C copywriter with results-oriented marketing, content creation, storytelling, audience engagement, brand identity, customer acquisition and lead generation experience.