It was Summer 2007.
I was sporting a side ponytail, gobs of SPF45, and the freshman (sophomore) 15. And I was absolutely loving life.
Because I was working at a spot we lovingly dubbed “the happiest place on Earth” — nope, not Disney World. International Sports Training Camp in the Pocono Mountains of PA.
If you’ve ever been to summer camp, you know that you bond with people really quickly. You’re all thrown into this brand new, kinda scary but totally fun situation together and you become intensely close in a matter of weeks.
That fast-track to closeness led me to do something pretty stupid.
Every week at our camp, our roles rotated. Sometimes I’d be a full-time lifeguard, sometimes I was a counselor in the cabin with kids, sometimes I’d be scheduled for odd jobs in between. It was always exciting to find out what you’d be doing the next week and who you’d be working with.
About halfway through the summer, I was finishing up a week of full-time lifeguarding — which was fun enough, but it wasn’t my favorite. Mainly because there was this guy I liked who wasn’t a lifeguard. So when I was at the waterfront all day, I didn’t get to see him.
It was like, the worst.
I was anxious to get back into counseling so my path would start crossing with the cute English guy’s again.
My friend Jodie worked in the scheduling department and I was HOUNDING her for intel about the next week’s calendar. She was sworn to secrecy by the higher-ups not to tell a soul.
Buuuuuut we were best camp friends, after all. So she eventually caved and spilled the beans…that I was scheduled to full-time lifeguard again.
I. Was. Crushed. Crushed enough for my people-pleasing self to request a meeting with my boss the next day.
“Um, hi. Please don’t be mad at Jodie, but she told me next week’s schedule. If you really need me to full-time lifeguard again, I’ll take one for the team. But is there any way I can counsel instead?”
My boss replied with a casual, “Oh, sure. We’ll put Corinne in your place for lifeguarding next week. No worries.”
Great, right? That should have been where it ended. Whitney goes back to her little wooden cabin, happy that she got what she wanted.
…Except that Corinne was also one of my best camp friends. (Remember the intense closeness?) And I felt this terrible guilt because I knew she didn’t want to full-time lifeguard either. I felt an obligation to tell her the truth.
The next morning, I told Corinne what went down, thinking she’d be bummed about having to lifeguard but would deal with it.
I was wrong.
Corinne freaked out, threw a bit of a fit to our bosses, cried, and refused to lifeguard. I forgot about her flair for the dramatic — one of the reasons she was such an entertaining (best) friend.
And it turned into this whole thing that got me, Jodie, and Corinne in trouble and made me feel like an immature tattletale.
It was one of the first times I realized that telling the truth can sometimes do more harm than good.
In looking back, so many problems could have been prevented if we all just kept our mouths shut.
If I had kept the lifeguarding swap from Corinne…
If Jodie hadn’t shared the scheduling assignments with me…
If my boss didn’t tell me that she was going to pull Corinne for lifeguarding…
We all could have gone about our happy summer camp lives and avoided unnecessary drama.
How this relates to copywriting…
You knew I’d bring it back around eventually, right? 😉
You don’t need to share every bit of you in your copy, friend.
We all want to be honest. We want to be authentic. We want to show our true selves.
But you don’t owe your audience 100% of your truth.
You don’t need to share every personal detail, event in your life, or facet of your business to be authentic.
Good copywriting is about looking at all those facets together and figuring out which ones are the MOST powerful — which will connect in the most meaningful way with the person you want to reach with your words.
That’s where the strategy comes in.
Powerful copy doesn’t include all 382 selfies in your camera roll. It pulls out only the best shots, blows them up in crisp high res, wraps them in gorgeous, vintage bronze frames, and hangs them up in a cozy little gallery.
It highlights the parts of your story that will resonate with your ideal readers and support a strong central message…while gracefully omitting the unnecessary truths that don’t add meaning.
Now, just to be clear, I’m certainly not saying you should lie or present any false fronts.
I AM saying to be intentional with the truths you share.
Which parts of your story you tell on your about page.
Which features of your product you play up in your sales emails.
Which glimpses of your personal life you share on social media.
You don’t have to cram everything into one piece. In fact, telling too much truth at once is overwhelming, confusing, and it slopifies your message.
When I sit down to work with a new client, I dig up allllllll of the details of her brand / business / offer.
And then based on who she wants to reach, I decide which parts to juice up and which parts to downplay. In the final copy, I only include the parts that contribute to the main message she wants to share.
Doing so makes for more impactful and meaningful copy. It creates a strong impression precisely because it doesn’t overwhelm. It’s still honest and authentic because we’re sharing the truth — just a curated, tailored, un-sloppified version of it.
Bottom line: you have the power to selectively share your truth.
Don’t feel like you need to jam everything into your copy. Give yourself permission to keep some of those truths to yourself, if they’re not moving you toward the goal of connecting with your readers.
Telling Corinne about the lifeguarding situation didn’t move me toward my goal of having a fun, easy breezy summer with ample opportunities to flirt with foreign guys.
Lesson learned: Not all truths need to be shared.
If you need help deciding which facets of your story to share to connect with your ideal customers, download my ABC Workbook below! It’s the exact process I use with my one-on-one clients to help you understand what your ideal customer likes, wants, and needs…so you can speak to that in your truth-filled copy. 🙂
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