How to make your readers cry

A recent copywriting project brought me to tears.

The project was an email I wrote to raise money for charity:water, a charity that brings clean water to people in need in Africa. The content for the email, and the source of what made me cry, came from this 20-minute video that told the charity's story.

As I usually do when given a video for a copywriting project, I watched the video several times and took notes.

By the way, anytime you notice something moving you, compelling you to take an action, or simply capturing your attention β€” make a record of that fact. Often times, inspiration for copy can come from movies, conversations, and other things outside the realm of copywriting. Basically, don't stick to learning copywriting from just copywriting books and courses.

One of the big takeaways from the charity video was the structure used to tell the story. It went like this:

  • Present situation

  • Tragedy

  • Success

  • Deeper tragedy

  • Stronger success

  • Even deeper tragedy

  • Even stronger success

  • Present situation

  • Mission

  • How you can participate

I bolded the important parts, so you can see what makes the structure so powerful β€” being taken through a series of highs and lows. Similar to how a good song has a build up, a good story hits both ends of the spectrum, multiple times.

This isn't the first time I've seen this up-and-down formula. I remember watching a TED talk, many years ago, that broke down the powerful structure behind of some of the world's greatest speeches.

While neither video is directly related to copywriting, both of them have several impactful copywriting takeaways. I'm sharing them with you because copywriting isn't just about how you write β€” it’s how you think.

Raymond Duke