The Police Are Better at Copywriting Than You

A seemingly insignificant story in the news made an unusually profound impact on me.  This is what I learned.

My days begin by perusing newspapers and online resources to feed my addiction to current events.  Local, state, regional, national, international, human interest, technology … it doesn’t matter.  I’ll read almost anything.

That’s how I came across the standard details of a common police operation that were run together in a story written by a nameless person whose mind was probably wandering onto his or her next story before lunch.

There were no obvious typos, such as the misspelling of “Jesus” on a Vatican coin.

This was simply an average, unexceptional formulaic report presenting the “Who, What, When, Where and Why” of arrests made as the result of a sting operation.

The police had placed an online ad offering fine upstanding citizens a chance to purchase an illegal service. The specific crime was mentioned, but it could have been anything from an attempt by law enforcement to nab bandits fencing stolen goods, entice desperadoes seeking illicit sex, trick spouses looking for a hit man or any similar offense.

Who was arrested, where it happened, when it took place or why it made the news were uninteresting, but one statistic changed my day.

Seventy-five people sought, found and responded to the ad in the first 24 hours.

I was amazed. Stunning results, if you ask me. The kind of response that people pay copywriters to achieve.

I wanted to meet the author and learn the secrets of getting readers to similarly heed my calls to action.

In this case, the police applied the basics of copywriting:

  • Know your audience.
  • Master your message.
  • Research where and when to reach your audience.
  • Understand what your audience wants.
  • Compose copy that inspires them. Flirt with them; tell them you will meet their needs. Then, convince them they’d better hurry or their lives will be nothing but worthless regret if they don’t respond promptly.
  • The online advertisement had only one goal: To evoke a response.

If a police officer can write masterpiece copy, so can you.

Once again, here’s how:

  • Focus on the primary goal of copywriting: Response.
  • Study your target audience.
  • Determine what needs or desires your product or service meets.
  • Eliminate everything that doesn’t aim your message at the primary target.
  • Edit, proofread, spell-check, reword and polish your message until it shines.

Arrest your readers. Bring them to a stop. Seize, capture and take them into custody.

Make them an offer they can’t refuse.

How will you know you’ve done your job well? Say it with me: “By the response.”


  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

Great article! – Thank you guys for all of your feedback and information you stuff into your newsletters. We sell a lot to law enforcement agencies…so this article struck me as being funny…because we’re constantly trying to “hook” them (for a sale) in our newsletters. 🙂 > Spy-Tronix – America’s favorite spy shop!

10 years ago
Reply to  Guest

Thanks for the kind words, Spy Tronix!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x