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What Mr Lee Kuan Yew Can Teach You about Writing Great Copy

What Mr Lee Kuan Yew Can Teach You about Writing Great Copy

Writing great copy is about persuasion to action. You can study great copy by studying great persuaders, politicians and business leaders of your time. Since I’m Singaporean, there’s no need to look further than Singapore’s first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Like him or hate him, he’s a master of persuasion.

Like it or not, you’ll need to be persuasive in how your write your content, to convert readers into buyers. I always tell my clients this as an SEO consultant. This is why I also include copywriting as a concept in my SEO course. 

Mr Lee Kuan Yew Giving a Speech: Youths Don’t Know What it’s Like to be Poor

Copywriting Skillset 1: Specific and Vivid Descriptions

Great copy relies on specific and vivid descriptions. If you noticed, Mr Lee Kuan Yew is always using specific, real life and vivid descriptions to get his message across. Instead of relying on some esoteric statistical data, he uses real life, day to day examples.

Some of his quotes from this speech:

‘Your grandfather probably worked harder than your father.’
‘Had we not had people with that ruggedness, that robust attitude, we’ll make it, do or die, we won’t have today’s Singapore.’
‘I’m not sure if I went back with 1959, and started with today’s generation, bred and brought up in comfort where there’s no discomfort with a HDB flat with an air conditioner, and there’s a covered walkway.’

Copywriting Skillset 2:  Passing the Bar Stool Test

Secondly, your copy has to pass the bar stool test. It has to be as simple as talking to a friend over a beer at a bar. Forget about writing like a professor. Write like a layman. That’s great copy.

Here are some quotes from his speech:

‘Very few people had homes of their own. In Chinatown, you have cubicles 8 or 10 people in the room sharing 4 bunks. Because they do shift work. Save money.’

‘So Lim Kim Shang, once went to a HDB cubicle and asked a man who was covering himself with a blanket. So he asked him why? He said because his friend was using his trousers.’

‘If you lived in those conditions and you get a flat with one room, communal bath room and communal kitchen, running hot and cold water. From that you go to a three and fourth room flats to executive condominiums, just like how you go from a bottom of the ship to the deck of a ship.’

‘As I flew over to New Zealand, I watched the green fields, the sheep, and the cows, and the small little houses dotted around. 3 million people there. I thought to myself, if come back in a hundred years, I’ll see the same scene.’

You can see that Mr Lee Kuan Yew uses a combination of simple and ‘big words’, with numbers, to get his message across.

Copy Skillset 3: Write to Your Reader

Lastly, you’ll need to write to your reader. Great copy uses the ‘you’, a lot more than the word ‘I’. You’ll see that in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s speech, he uses ‘you’ and ‘we’ a lot more than ‘I’.

 ‘Many of the parents who are living in the HDB flats. They understood like the people in Chinatown. They understood what it’s like to be poor. Today’s children do not understand what it’s like the be poor.’

‘And no other country does that. But we have ministers out of 3 million people who can talk  to Chinese ministers, American secretary of state, secretary of treasury or any European nation at the same level intellectually, and we’re not inferior to them.’

‘Now we need these 2 things, then you got today’s Singapore. Then we got this cultural hall. Then you can sit down and talk about what will happen in 50 years. Otherwise, you’ll be scratching a living. So please don’t forget that’.

Learning Great Copy from the Masters of Persuasion

You don’t need to be chaneling Ogilvy twenty four seven to be a good copywriter. You can pay attention to masterful persuaders all around you. One other great example is Donald Trump, who arguably persuaded his way into becoming the President of the United States.

Perhaps in a future article I’ll do a write up on how Donald Trump uses his words, and how you can improve your copy, using Donald Trump’s speeches.

What do you think? Let me know.

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