Taglines are a real art, made especially difficult when you’re external to the organization requesting one. So where do you begin? How do you begin to narrow down an entire company you know little to nothing about into one well-crafted, compelling sentence? It’ll never be easy, but the following steps may help:
1. Ask your client telling questions: Asking them a question such as, “What are some keywords associated with your product/company?” can give you much more insight than asking, “Does the word, ___, accurately describe your organization?” Some examples of good questions to ask (courtesy of CreativeBits.org):
- Describe your company in one sentence.
- Describe your company in 3 words.
- Describe your company in 1 word.
- Describe your company in 1 letter.
- How would you explain your company/product to someone with no knowledge of your industry?
2. Research, duh! Take a look at their competitors, their suppliers, or any other entity that can be associated with them. This will give you excellent insight into the client’s expectations. If it’s an industry standard to explain what a company does in their tagline and not necessarily have a clever one-liner, the only way to know this is by diving into the industry head first. Another great resource is industry-specific dictionaries; they’ll clearly tell you which words/phrases are commonplace in the specific industry, along with their definition, so you know how to use them.
3. Ask someone in the industry: Not only does this help you to refine your research, but it also adds quite a bit of credibility when pitching your taglines to the client. Stating that you’ve run the potential taglines by a current, past, or potential client shows you’ve adequately done your research and substantiates any claims you make about the effectiveness of your tagline.
4. List out the keywords: In all of your research with clients and customers, you probably came across a boat load of information. List out all keywords or phrases you’ve come across to see them in one place. From there, it’s easy to notice patterns or synonyms and reduce your list into a few major keywords to work from.
5. Determine the audience: As simple as this step sounds, it’s also quite important. The difference between a tagline meant for a consumer and one for a business can be huge. Not only is it important to make such a distinction, but getting as targeted as you possibly will also help refine your tagline into something incredible.
6. Determine the tone: Are they a serious organization? Do they make fun of themselves? Make sure their tagline aligns with the company’s persona.
7. List anything you can think of and DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING: The worst thing you can do is to write out a potential tagline and decide at that very moment you don’t like it. Make it a point at this step to keep everything you type out. Deleting is for later once you’ve talked through all the possibilities. This is the time to write down any phrases or word combinations you can conceivably think of without any filter.
8. Create variations: Once you have a daunting list of possibilities in front of you, add more. For every phrase you’ve constructed, you now have a launching pad for several more. These variations to your existing phrases can be slight tweaks, such as adding an article, rearranging the words to make the phrase flow better, or even replacing a word with several synonyms. Example: “A tried and true software suite for the amateur web designer,” can become, “The perfect software suite for beginning web designers.” Or even, “Becoming a web designer has never been easier.”
9. Walk away: As every writing job goes, the best thing you can do is to walk away and get the project out of your mind for a while. I’m sure you can think of something to do, and everyone’s cooling off period is different. Maybe you need a day, or maybe you need an hour. Get it off of your mind, and come back refreshed and full of new ideas.
10. Narrow them down: Once you’ve had time away, come back to your exhaustive list, and begin the narrowing down process. This step is completely subjective, as only YOU know which ones you want to keep and why.
11. Give your client a few choices, but not too many: Make sure to deliver a variety of choices to your client with variations in flow, rhythm, message, and keywords, but be sure you don’t overwhelm them. Unless your client specifically stated they want 15 taglines to choose from, keep the number under ten. Keep in mind that you’ll most likely be asked to refine several of them, so if there are others you didn’t present, this is your opportunity to incorporate elements from other favorites.
12. Be confident in your delivery: You worked your butt off on this, so make a case for each and every one of them! Simply handing your client a list and walking away isn’t an option here. You’re the marketing expert that they hired, so make sure your expertise is mentioned when delivering your beautifully constructed taglines.