May 4, 2010

Give Me All Your Money and No One Gets Hurt

Public Enemies







I’m fascinated by the “Bank Notes” blog. It’s a frequently updated site containing threatening notes passed to frightened tellers. The site also includes photos of the criminals and lets the reader know the success or failure of the scheme.

So, what does this have to do with writing good copy? Everything!

If you think it’s tough to get your message across with only 140 characters on Twitter, imagine how laser-sharp your writing needs to be to rob a bank. A well-written holdup note must be precise. It must make its point quickly, without any distractions from its objective: to get the bank employee to load up a bag of cash so you and your getaway car driver can hightail it to Canada before the cops hunt you down.

Like good advertising copy, the note must be compelling:

• It needs a strong, attention-grabbing headline: “This is a robbery.”

• It should be informational: “I have a gun and I will use it.”

• Most important, it needs a clear call to action: “Give me all your money and no one gets hurt.”

Now you’re ready to pull off the heist. Remember your ski mask, a bag for the cash and — just to be safe — block off about 10-20 years of your life in prison time. While in the slammer, you can work on that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

Don’t forget to check out the “Bank Notes” blog and decide which criminal deserves a gold star for the best copywriting.

Disclaimer: This blog entry was not meant to inspire you to rob a bank. It merely shows that clear, crisp writing skills can help you get your message across to readers in just about any situation. So rather than planning a heist, try renting a classic bank robbery movie like “Dog Day Afternoon,” starring Al Pacino or “Public Enemies,” starring Jonny Depp (pictured above).