I’ve been doing a lot of reading on copywriting lately. Copywriting is about creating writing that compels people to take action on a product, service, or idea. Since most of us want to convince others to take action based on ideas, copywriting can be an important skill.
I think about copywriting the same way I think about rhetoric: useful, but not without its dangers. The Apostle Paul was trained in rhetoric, but was reticent about potential abuses of his rhetorical skills. “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” he wrote (1 Corinthians 2:4).
This gets tricky. There’s nothing wrong with writing good copy and leveraging one’s influence. It can be dangerous, though, to try to build your own platform, engage in self-promotion, and to think of creating sales funnels. None of these are wrong in themselves, but motives quickly get clouded.
I signed up for an email list last week. I know what happens when I do this. I expect to receive free downloads and special offers. In other words, I know I’ve implicitly agreed that they will market to me. This time I received a different kind of confirmation email:
My promise to you is that I have no intention of monetizing [x website]. There will be no (e)book. There will be no (e)course. There will be no coaching nor consulting or any kind of client work. Ask anyone who has ever met me and they know – that’s just not how I roll.
At the most, [x website] has opened up some fun speaking gigs (if you know of any, send them my way), but I am very serious when I say that I promise I will have nothing to sell.
Nothing against the websites that offer an ebook — my site does this, for Pete’s sake — but I found this refreshing. (Even then, I found an older email from the same guy promoting a different website. “Don’t miss out: sale ends in under 10 hours!” he wrote. Nobody’s perfect.)
People are not just markets. And we are not hucksters, even if we have websites to create and books we hope will sell. Our focus is always to serve others and not just ourselves.
John Piper gets it right: “The very process of true spreading is a process of self-denying…So I think we should get rid of the term ‘self-promotion’ and ask the question, ‘How can you pursue influence in a good and bad way?’”
This still doesn’t answer all the questions, but it helps clarify the motives. And that, I’m convinced, is where the battle will be won.