In university, Michele PW was faced by that great dilemma familiar to many Arts students at Queen’s: how do I make money doing what I love?
People always told her to go into journalism to make money off writing, her lifelong passion.
“I didn’t really like to read newspaper articles, though, and that’s what it came down to,” Michele said. But she found herself drawn to advertising, in papers and all around her. “When I was eating my morning cereal, I was reading the back of the cereal box – which was all advertising.”
Michele’s been engaged with writing from an early age. Writing stories as a child and teen, reading books like The Shining at ten, equally out of curiosity for words and curiosity in the structure of the novels themselves.
She realized in high school that her life would be one of words, of writing. The practicality problem was solved for her at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, where she majored in English and Communications.
“I discovered the wacky world of direct-response copy when I was in college.”
Direct-response copy is advertising designed to get the reader to take an action. Whether it’s an email, an ad asking for a mailing address or something along those lines it requires the viewer to do something. “It’s been around for a hundred years, it started with direct mail…radio ads that said call now.”
This exploded in the internet era because it allowed people like Michele to write copy for smaller companies which couldn’t afford their own marketing team, or places with a really small advertising budget. The internet gave direct response copywriters like Michele the chance to reach an immense number of people, but it required the copy she wrote to stand out.
“In the early 2000s, it was mostly dominated by men [who] were primarily direct-response copywriters.”
But, with the advent of the internet, the strictures of the industry were loosened and more and more women were able to become business owners. Women like Michele, whose agency now has written copy for over $50 million of products sold.
She has a specific approach to copywriting which she has called love based.
“I realized why traditional direct-response copy feels so slimy and sales-y is because it taps into fear-based emotions.”
In other words, most marketers were attempting to persuade people using fear, shame, guilt, anger. Michele decided to focus on the love-based emotions – lifting consumers up instead of putting them down.
Much of the work she does, in copywriting, deals with the transformation industry as she puts it. Trainers, coaches, healers, etc. come to her because her approach is meant to engage the viewer on working on themselves. It’s like an early version of the self-care movement.
In addition to her career in copywriting, Michele writes creative works, connecting her career today back to her childhood love of thrillers.
While she initially started writing in this vein, she’s found that there is a lot of crossover between fiction and copywriting.
“With fiction, you have to make your characters believable,” she said. This is paralleled in how copywriting requires truth to make its point.
“You have to understand what makes your clients tick, just like you have to understand what makes your characters tick.”
In total, Michele’s written three books and has a fourth set for release November 27th. She says they are mostly psychological thrillers, akin to works like Gone Girl and those by Stephen King.
“I try to walk a line where my books could be read as there is a paranormal element or there’s not a paranormal element…to keep it as rooted in reality as possible.”