Copywriting

Storytelling with Lizzy Goodman

by John Grimshaw



Also Watch: Copywriting with Lizzy Goodman

Video Highlights:
0:25 – Lizzy Goodman has reached the pinnacle of journalism
1:02 – Lizzy describes how she got to where she’s now
1:50 – For a while she wrote anything for anyone
2:07 – There’s no shame in Hard Work
2:56 – Stories create engagement
3:22 – What constitutes a good story?
3:50 – The bottom line is Authenticity
4:11 – Ezra shares a trick he uses when communicating
4:41 – Lizzy on the Golden Rule of journalism
5:30 – Language is powerful and can transport a reader to a different place
6:26 – How to write a good piece
7:44 – Don’t be afraid to ‘cheat’
8:29 – Use the medium that works best for you
8:48 – Why people fail at writing
9:34 – If you stop getting nervous, something is wrong
10:30 – The goal is to produce good content
11:04 – You Can Do This
11:25 – Do I need a formula? (And why you’re the perfect person for the job).
12:58 – Ezra had a hard time writing
13:35 – Remember: you are just communicating
14:00 – What if I don’t have anything to say?
14:55 – Writing about your offer can be very revealing
15:40 – www.boombycindyjospeh.com and www.new.smartmarketer.com are great examples that work!
16:40 – You can find Lizzy Goodman on www.new.smartmarketer.com

Click Here For Video Transcript


Ezra: Hey, Ezra here from The Tank in Brooklyn with one of my best friends in the world, Lizzy Goodman.

Lizzy Goodman: Hey Ezra.

Ezra: Hey Lizzy, how are you?

Lizzy Goodman: I’m doing very well.

Ezra: Awesome. Welcome back.

Lizzy Goodman: Thank you very much.

Ezra: We actually are shooting this right after we shot our last video, so you haven’t gone anywhere.

Lizzy Goodman: I don’t just wear this dress everyday but lots of days I do wear it though.

Ezra: So Lizzy is a writer for a New York magazine, Fast Company, Elle, Rolling Stones. You’ve really reached, and I said this in the last one, the pinnacle of journalism, in my opinion, if you’re writing, if you are contracted to write for those publications, you’re a badass.

Lizzy Goodman: If you say so.

Ezra: Yeah, I think so.

Lizzy Goodman: I appreciate that thought.

Ezra: Well just two seconds again on your experience of ascension in that field in that community. Like how long did it take you to be getting calls from New York Magazine? What was that experience like of now, all of the sudden, these big publications, these like world renowned publications want your voice to speak for them?

Lizzy Goodman: It definitely didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t feel like all of a sudden. The kind of trajectory went during college I got interested in, I was always interested in writing and then during college I got interested in music, the contemporary music world. And I realized that there was a space available to be able to kind of use the energy and excitement I was feeling about witnessing these bands that I felt represented my generation coming into their own, to merge that with my interest in writing. And I started interning at Spin Magazine and then I kind of freelanced a lot. I wrote for Interview. I wrote for Nylon.

You kind of bang down any door that will have you and it’s certain no one’s calling you. You do all of the legwork yourself and you’re willing to write anything for anyone basically for a lot of years. And eventually, I got hired at Rolling Stone and that was a big deal, and kind of the beginning of my real professional career in a lot of ways. And that was about seven years ago. But it took four years to get there.

Ezra: Well they talk about this, Gladwell will talk about this in his books, the Beatles, they played all of those shows in Liverpool, hundreds of hours of shows before they kind of hit their…

Lizzy Goodman: Three sets a night, like, you just do it.

Ezra: So they did the work. And the reason why I’m bringing that up is if you are working really hard in your business and you’ve got offers out there and you’ve got stuff that you’re doing, that is not bad if you’re not where you want to ultimately go. It means that you’re doing well, that you’re working hard. Like there is no shame in hard work. One of the things that you mentioned just now was that you witnessed this thing and then that kind of inspired your writing, so we want to talk today about storytelling, because my viewpoint and I think your viewpoint, maybe not, you can tell me, is that stories are what sells. Stories are what engage. Stories are get people to hear you and see you and engage with you, and then ultimately take you up on the offers that you’re making so how do you tell a good story?

Lizzy Goodman: You tell the truth. I mean I really think this is one of those things that, like many important things in life, incredibly simple and incredibly hard to do. But the good news is that it’s simple. It’s not complicated. I mean a good story is when you are being authentic and honest about whatever you’re telling, like whatever you’re talking about. In my line of work, I’ll struggle sometimes with being willing to say the whole truth about what I think about a particular profile subject or a particular album that I’m writing about, or whatever it is. If it’s a personal essay, that’s especially hard, because you’re trying to figure out how to tell the whole truth about yourself.

But in any case, the bottom line through line for a good story, I think, is authenticity. And if you think about films, movies, when you’re not into a movie or a book, a novel, fiction of any kind, it’s usually because you’re sitting there going this just doesn’t feel true. I just don’t buy this.

Ezra: One of my little tricks for telling the truth is to, and I write a lot for content like this, like blog post content and story content, but also offers. Like this is the thing that I’m trying to sell someone. I want someone to buy something from me and the way that I do that is I tell them what the sensual experience will be. So you will see this, you will feel this, you will hear this. Do you use the five senses?

Lizzy Goodman: Oh yeah, absolutely. One of the sort of golden rules of journalism is describe everything you see, hear, taste, everything. Those kinds of details, the way that this gets said from your editor or other writers is put the reader in the room. You’re opening up a piece of paper or magazine and it’s got, that’s not a very…

Ezra: Coffee stains on it.

Lizzy Goodman: Yeah, it’s like totally…

Ezra: Someone drooled on it. Someone is asleep on the newspaper.

Lizzy Goodman: Your magazines are experiencing a really interesting life. No, but I mean, yes, whatever.

Ezra: I drool on mine. I do sometimes.

Lizzy Goodman: I haven’t thought of the drooling thing, but perhaps your magazine has been drooled on in which case you’re like, in other words the experience that you’re trying, you know that people are going to receive this information from you in a medium that’s maybe not that fun. It’s not that sensual. But through language, I mean language is incredibly powerful. You can transport someone to backstage at a rock show. You can bring them to Wimbledon. You can bring them a Nascar race. These are just examples.

And to do that, it really is like sensory communication. You kind of want to highjack the rational, immediate scenario that someone’s in using words and take them synaptically into this space that only you have seen.

Ezra: A writer. That’s a good word. I wouldn’t have used that word. I’m just teasing you now.

Lizzy Goodman: It’s like the thing that you have, everybody has this if you’re trying to write something. You have knowledge about whatever you’re trying to write, whatever story that you’re trying to tell that your reader does not have. So give them that knowledge. And the trick of writing is figuring out what details will communicate that. So you have to ask yourself those questions.

Ezra: Do you put those all down and then you kind of whittle it down?

Lizzy Goodman: That’s my system. I think this is the kind of thing where it does help to do some of the practices we’ve talked about in previous posts like just letting yourself go free and then editing down from that. When you’re first starting out, I think that’s really helpful. I know plenty of writers who just put one sentence down at a time, and they just think a lot about each sentence. I’m a little messier than that.

Ezra: I’m fully…

Lizzy Goodman: I like to just let it go and then I write. I’ll probably cut. You know, don’t be afraid. There is this great Hemingway quote about how every great novel, I’m paraphrasing, that every great piece of writing essentially involved the loss of a good piece of writing. Like do not be afraid to leave a lot of stuff you like on the floor essentially, but write it first so that it’s out there.

Ezra: And it really is a good strategy. For those of you, a lot of you email me and say, “Hey, I’m having trouble writing my sales page or writing my Amazon description or writing my video sales letter for my event or for my product.” and like the easiest way to get started is just to do it. Just start talking about whatever it is that you want to talk about. And there may be different structures that you want to follow for different offers. In an Amazon description, you’re going to need a good intro and then you’re to need your features and benefits. So whatever the structure is, just like get started.

Lizzy Goodman: And know, you were talking about this earlier, don’t be afraid to essentially cheat. Like if you know you’re really comfortable speaking with a particular friend about your business or about whatever story you’re trying to tell, have a conversation with them and record it. Talk into your own iPhone about something that you want to express and you have a hard time expressing. If it’s not, I had mentioned this before, but if it’s just the formality of writing on a computer that’s freaking you out, you kind of just sit there and go, oh no this is like official writing. I can’t write. None of that matters.

Hijack your own brain to get to a place where you can express using language in some way what you’re trying to express, and then worry about the other stuff.

Ezra: And you know, there are people who can take what you have said, and put it into writing for you. So if you find that it’s easier, and a lot of people find this, to communicate your thoughts, ideas, viewpoints by talking, just talk and then have it transcribed, and then you can have someone or you can do it yourself, craft it into an offer. So one of the things that I want to talk about is why people fail at writing. I have some viewpoints of why some people fail. The first is that they don’t even try, because they’re so freaked out by it, you know what I mean? It’s a really confronting process like we talked about last time, now are you going to tell people what you think and that’s scary.

So Number One, they don’t get started. Number Two, and I’ll let you do Number Two. Do you have a Number Two?

Lizzy Goodman: I think fear of being wrong is a big one. That’s related to Number One. Maybe I’m just projecting here, but I do think that there is a lot of sort of…

Ezra: Do you still experience that?

Lizzy Goodman: Oh my God, every time. Like absolutely every time.

Ezra: So you don’t get out of being this fancy, established writer.

Lizzy Goodman: No.

Ezra: I know you don’t like fancy and that sort of thing so I shouldn’t have done that. So you still have that experience every piece?

Lizzy Goodman: Yeah, and I think, you know, you ask actors what it’s like to, they’re like, you sort of say, “Hey, you must not get nervous the first day of the shoot, or before going on stage anymore.” They’re like, “Are you kidding.” or musicians. If you stop getting nervous something is wrong. I think in my experience, as my career has gone on, the progression or the maturing as a professional has been in accepting that fear as a part of what I do. It is never, some writings claim otherwise, but I don’t believe this entirely. I think that if you are not, that anyone who sits down in front of an open page that’s blank, and doesn’t have like a certain sense of butterflies in the stomach or a certain insecurity like I can’t do this. I don’t know what to say.

That happens to me every single time I have to write something whether it’s a small little blurb at the side of a piece that I’ve already done, or it’s a massive feature in a big magazine. And that’s okay. The point of the lesson is not letting that…

Ezra: You’re not trying to get out of that.

Lizzy Goodman: Yeah, exactly.

Ezra: The goal is not to not feel uncomfortable. The goal is to produce good content, and you might feel a little uncomfortable.

Lizzy Goodman: You push through that. And the experience is valuable, because the reason that your advice and our advice which is just start, just write something, whether you have to speak it into the microphone or what, just create content, is that the only way that you learn how to get through that fear is by continuing to do it and then you just start to go, oh yeah, I feel really weird right now. Okay, anyway, onwards.

Ezra: You can do this. That’s what I want to communicate to you is that really you, you can do this. You are good enough. You are smart enough. You know enough about how you want to communicate, what you want to sell to be able to pull this thing off. And I would love to see your sales. I’m not going to critique it or anything, but I would love to see it. Send it over to me. I’ll take a look through it. I think another reason that people fail is that they feel like they need a formula. Everyone just wants to be told what to do. They want someone else to say, “Hey this is how it should be.” If you don’t have a formula for your offer, just create it yourself. You don’t need a formula, I think.

Lizzy Goodman: Well, that follows what you were just saying which is people, not only can you do this, but you are the only one who can do it in a certain way. There’s no, that’s what I mean by there not being a right answer.

Ezra: It would be inauthentic if it’s someone else, someone else trying to communicate your offer.

Lizzy Goodman: Right. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help, or you can’t hire people to help you with this. But at the end of the day, in my industry, we call it our byline. If something appears under my byline, if something appears as representatively belonging to me, it has to belong to me. And only one person can create what belongs to you which is you. So it’s not just you can do this, but it’s like you are the only one who can do this. And the fear of it somehow not being right is really especially ironic when you consider that. Like that it’s supposed to be someone else who’s telling you what to do. That is the first way for this to definitely not go well.

Ezra: And do you know what, this is one of the things that you should do in your business. You should communicate your offers. You should do your writing, because, you know, there are a lot of things that you can outsource, but one of the things that are good to keep in-house is like the main communication to the group of people who’s engaging with your offer. And you can be the one who does that. Now I have had this viewpoint in the past, because I was a guy who thought I can’t write. I just can’t do it. I can talk really well. I can really express myself well verbally, but writing is just not my thing.

And one of the reasons why I thought I can’t write is because I do not have good grammar. Whatever part of school that was, I was not paying attention. I’m really good at spelling. I used to win spelling bees and stuff.

Lizzy Goodman: I’m terrible at spelling, so…

Ezra: So there we go.

Lizzy Goodman: There we go.

Ezra: So if you can’t spell, that’s fine. If you don’t have good grammar, fine. You don’t need that stuff to communicate your offer, to communicate whatever it is you want to say to people. Ultimately, what you are doing, and I keep coming back to this, because I strongly believe this is communicating. You’re just telling people what you think and why you think it. And frankly, if you don’t know why what you are trying to get someone to buy from you is good, you should not be selling that thing.

Lizzy Goodman: Exactly.

Ezra: You should not be selling that thing. So if you don’t have anything to say about this thing that you’re selling, then stop selling it.

Lizzy Goodman: Totally. Well, I mean, in the writing thing one of the scarier moments, I think, is in figuring out what you have to say because, if I think the secret threat is what if there is nothing there? What if you don’t have anything to say? There is one of my favorite writers, Joan Didion, talks about how she writes to find out what she thinks. I do think that’s a part of what haunts people. It’s like, well, what if I don’t have anything to say? What if there is no story here? And that is a kind of like boogeyman fear. But you’ve got to face that, because first of all, it’s not true. You have something.

Ezra: You think something. It’s in there. You do.

Lizzy Goodman: You think something. And maybe and one of the advantages, if you’re trying to represent and be in charge of representing how your product or however, whatever offer you’re making is coming across is maybe confronting exactly what you have to say about this thing that belongs to you. What you have to say about that to all of these people who might be consuming it.

Ezra: And that’s scary.

Lizzy Goodman: That’s a super terrifying moment, but it could also be really revealing and beneficial in terms of letting you in on what’s great about what you have to offer, and what you might want to change about what you have to offer. I definitely know this from my own experience where I’ll sometimes sit down to write something and I’ll think, this brings us back to Joan Didion, yeah, I totally know what I think about this and I’ll start writing, and I’ll realize there’s some alterations just from having gone through the process. And that sounds like a really terrifying thing, because you’re being confronted with new information about yourself, but it’s actually really liberating.

Ezra: So I want to point you into the direction of a couple of resources that you can go and and consume to kind of see what I would consider good writing. So Boom by Cindy Joseph.com. I have now proven with Smart Marketer.com, with Boom by Cindy Joseph.com and I’ve got a mastermind group, Blue Ribbon Group, that has several favorite business owners who do this same kind of copywriting, and it works really, really well. I’ve proven that conversational expression in offer pages and in content posts, and in like, go to Boom. Look at our blog post.

Look at our product sales video. Look at our post opt-in videos telling people to like our Facebook page. Look at the content that we produce on Smart Marketer and Boom which are our public websites where we share this stuff. And kind of see where we’re communicating and expressing, because that style of copy and that style of communicating which is what we’re talking about here is really natural, really authentic. Just saying what you feel is super effective and you can get some ideas from it. So Lizzy Goodman, thank you for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.

Lizzy Goodman: Thanks for having me.

Ezra: Lizzy Goodman, does not have a website yet, so you can find her on new.smartmarketer.com. We’re going to get her one. I’ll see you on the next one.

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