When you have a new brand or product prime for the molding, we all want to jump ahead to trendy content. Us copywriters are constantly on the search for that elusive two-word headline, accompanied by clean design, that harkens to the “effortless cool” of Apple, Nike, or a gazillion tech startups. Equal parts mystery and wit, it’s the type of headline in a chunky font that makes an audience member look twice, or at least go “heh” whilst scrolling. And in this age, that’s all we can really ask for.
Still, during a brand’s introductory phase, we need to remember that educating audiences almost always comes first. When you’re brand new to the market — and especially when your product or organization is a little complicated for the Average Joe to comprehend — it’s important to slow down a bit and get all of the nitty gritty details out there, first and foremost. I know, I know. This means you’ll have to use a decently high word count to get it all out there, and your designer won’t love you. But, gosh darn it, the people will know what they need to know. And when you’re promoting services that help bridge equity gaps, that’s critical.
Early this year, working with Michigan College Access Network, we concepted and launched one of our most impactful campaigns: promoting the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, a brand-new source of funding for students who graduated high school in 2023 to help them pay for college. The scholarship is a massive achievement for our state, as it was established through a bipartisan bill back in October 2022, ultimately aimed at improving educational equity and boosting the state’s economy in the process. (Thanks, Gretchen!)
With the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, students who graduated college in 2023 can receive up to $27,500 to attend public colleges or universities in Michigan over the course of five years. The most interesting part of this (which I clearly fell in love with and made sure was apparent in the bulk of our copy) is that, because the scholarship isn’t merit-based and is instead determined by the FAFSA, an overwhelming 80% of students qualify. Or, 4 in 5 students. Your choice. (As you can see, I went with both.)
This absolute unit of a campaign incorporated more than 15 mediums with different design and messaging variations for each — like bus ads, billboards, paid social, and mailers — and reached students and their families in all 83 counties across the state. When you’re working with a quantity like that, consistent, educational messaging is key. Because the scholarship included a number of specific details that needed to be included, we strategically organized everything there was to know on the campaign website, getmimoney.org. The content wasn’t brief, by any means. But it said what it needed to say. Through numerous drafts, we got the website content to a point where students would have everything they needed to know, all in one place. No mystery, no elusiveness. Just the facts, and how to get their money.
Language translation also played a major role in our messaging development. To make sure we were reaching all Michiganders who needed to hear this, we incorporated Spanish and Arabic translation across nearly all mediums. This meant that headlines in translated content needed to be educational and to-the-point, free of any idioms or jargon that wouldn’t make sense in another language.
When it comes to writing content that needs to both influence and inform, it’s all about balance. Through the Michigan Achievement Scholarship campaign, we crafted messaging that put critical information first, without sacrificing an approachable, playful tone. The rumors are true: With the right content direction, you can educate, entertain, and engage.