Presented live on Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
Make your blog posts, emails and sales pages infinitely more engaging with the Bucket Brigade. What’s that? It’s an old-school copywriting technique that draws your reader deeper into your copy. In this Tutorial Tuesday, Joanna shows you examples of bucket brigades she’s used. And she gives you a big ol’ handful of ideas for how you can use ’em to better your writing.
Joanna is writing in Airstory, the writing software for research-based projects.
Joanna Wiebe: Hello, hello. Joanna here from Copy Hackers and from Airstory, from all the fun things on the planet. I’m just kidding. Hello, we’ve got Sarah behind me.
Sarah Dlin: Whoop, whoop.
Joanna Wiebe: Woo, woo. We were doing a dance beforehand. We won’t subject you to it. Okay, cool. Today for this Tutorial Tuesday we’re talking about something called bucket brigades or the bucket brigade technique. I will share that with you guys. I’m not going to dance. Nils. Nils, am I saying that right? One day, one day we will figure out something cool. Yeah, we’re going to talk about bucket brigade.
Just before we get into that, little heads up on some basic housekeeping stuff. Angie’s asking me, and I think you just slacked this to me Angie but I was just getting ready to come on camera. The Twitter hashtag. Right. We have one of those. It is called hashtag … I don’t have anything. I got nothing. I don’t have a single thing, so make one up and then we’ll have one. Yay, thanks, Angie.
Yes, Todd, that is Sarah behind me.
Sarah Dlin: Hello.
Joanna Wiebe: That is. Cool. Cool.
Sarah Dlin: Cool. Cool.
Joanna Wiebe: Okay, housekeeping. One, we need a hashtag. Thank you, Angie.
Sarah Dlin: #TT.
Joanna Wiebe: Great. I’m sure #TT isn’t taken by anything else. I don’t know about that. I don’t know if I like saying it out loud. Yes. What else? What else? What else? Okay. Chat us anything that needs to be said during the talk. The tutorial today, go ahead and put that in chat. It defaults to panelists, so if you want everybody to see it, then you can switch it to panelists and attendees, I think. Then from that point on you’ll be able to … it’s a drop down. You should see that. Anyway. Or just keep going and chatting it over to us. That’s cool too.
Look at the people from Tucson, from [inaudible 00:01:53]. Sarah’s going to go on mute.
Sarah Dlin: I was on mute.
Joanna Wiebe: Is she on mute now? Yes. Okay. Awesome. Cool. Hello to everybody. I love seeing all of these places coming in. That’s awesome. Oh, Airstory tutorials Violetta says. Interesting too. Oh wow. Cool. We’ve also got the Q&A area, so if you have a question that you need to have answered and you don’t want it to get lost in learning about who’s coming in from Menlo Park and Tucson and Irvine and PA and all the cool places, then do go ahead and up that in the Q&A area. Okay. Cool.
We are recording. There will be a recording sent out after this. We do transcriptions of those as well, so if you ever do want to refer back you can go in and look at the transcript too, which will posted on the same page. I think that’s it for … yeah, for the intro.
We’re going to talk about bucket brigade today. This is going to be a pretty short tutorial. They’re usually 20 minutes and this one might be like a crap ton shorter because it’s a really straight forward concept. As I mentioned in the email inviting you to this Tutorial Tuesday, the bucket brigade technique is a way to get people to keep reading what you’ve written. This works in long form sales pages, in emails, in blog posts. Really in anything that follows a narrative format. It also can work in paragraphs for body copy to keep people reading. That’s the whole point.
All you’re really doing with the bucket brigade is you’re filling in kind of transition, almost conversational parts of what … as you’re writing you that think of as a conversation. It tends to feel very one to one. It’s often you’ll see things in the first person when we’re using the bucket brigade technique. I’m just seeing these hashtags come in. I’m digging them. Keep going. [crosstalk 00:03:54] loves it. Right?
Sarah Dlin: That’s good.
Joanna Wiebe: I know. Sarah’s agreeing with Violetta’s new option. Okay. I’m going to share something with you right now. I’ll share my screen. This is actually a really solid write up of … We’ll just do Google Chrome here. Yes. Okay. You should be seeing my screen now. Cool. Okay, so this is a really fantastic blog post on the bucket brigade. This is not ours. Website copywritingservices.com is where this comes from. The point is not to send you here, but to show you what … really where a lot of great training on this already exists, already lives. Great. This explains what the bucket brigade is. I’m going to be referencing this a bit throughout the tutorial because it’s such a good write up with so many examples, but I’m going to pop over to Airstory now.
We’re going to look at a blog post and an email that I wrote recently, both of which very lightly use the bucket brigade technique. Again, you’ll see that the point is to keep people reading, moving along to the next line. This is a post that we wrote about working with Wistia on their emails. I’ve highlighted the parts that act as the bucket brigade.
Again, it’s going to be usually … you can have multiple types of bucket brigades. You can open with one, you can use it as a transition, or you can close with them. I’m not a big fan of closer bucket brigade and I’m going to give you some examples so you know what I’m talking about, but because these are transition phrases largely or they’re ways to pull people in and move them along, closing of with them I find is usually a weak thing. I call it a Degrassi ending, for all the Canadians in the world. Anybody’s who’s watched Degrassi knows, or grew up with Degrassi, knows that their endings were horrible. They were the world’s worst endings because-
Sarah Dlin: They’re awesome.
Joanna Wiebe: … nothing was ever closed up. Right? You felt you were waiting for them to close up this story, like to conclude it properly, and they never concluded it. I grew up actually kind of liking and I think it applies well to content. When you see a conclusion at the end of a post, it’s really a killer for me, like a killer in a bad way. It sucks the energy out of the post or the email. Concluding things I don’t love doing. I don’t recommend that you conclude if you can avoid it. When I see a conclusion in a post that somebody sends to me, like for a guest post contribution to Copy Hackers, I’m usually looking to cut that conclusion unless it’s a really good summary takeaway of what followed. But I don’t ever want to see when I’m reading, when I’m editing, I don’t ever want to see you nicely tie things up in the end. It doesn’t feel real. To me, it closes off energy that should stay open. That’s my opinion at least.
We’re talking mostly about the bucket brigade technique to open your post or email or sales page. Again, this works across copywriting and content. It’s one of those things that just works well with both. And then to transition in the middle of what you’re writing. Here we’ve got a really common way to use this. A bucket brigade technique is if you see anything here with a colon that precedes a new line, like but here’s the problem and then it could be this. Those are intentionally formatted this way, so you’re pulling the reader through.
You’re setting up here’s the problem. That’s a set up for the problem that’s going to come next. Right? You’re telling them but here’s the problem. Then you’re leaving this big gap between that statement, when is a bucket brigade, that’s like the bucket that’s being passed along, and the thing that follows. A lot of times what people will do, and it’s kind of a rookie mistake, is they’ll go, but here’s the problem, too many of them are not buying. They lose … again, it’s kind of like the energy. Not that I’m woo-woo or energy or anything like that, but it does kind of suck the energy out of having this moment of this break and this pause.
Here’s one of them. The next one, it could be much simpler. It could be this. You need to keep reading with both of these statements. You can’t stop here. You can stop at the end of this. Here’s the problem, too many of them are not buying. You can definitely stop at the end of that, so we want to make sure that the line that follows keeps pulling them along. The goal with the bucket brigade technique, the reason these phrases exist is not to tell the story, to do anything that’s above plotting or pulling. It’s the only thing that they exist to do is to move people to next line. That’s it.
Okay, so I got another here. This here is how. Over on the email, this is the email that was sent out earlier today? Yes. Today. This went out today. I write a lot of emails. It’s just simply a little phrase like that. It’s called the bucket brigade, but what is it? Okay, one second. It’s called the bucket brigade. If we were to take out this little phrase, and I’m going to give you a big list of these phrases right away so just hang tight. I’m just going to show you them first, and I’ll show you a bunch of examples. Then we can go back and reference it again. But if we were to do … it’s called the bucket brigade. Commonly, what people would do is this.
It’s called the bucket brigade, which is an old school copywriting technique that does this. That’s a typical sentence, and when you’re writing things I want you to be really aware of those moments when you could introduce a phrase that will force people to keep reading versus when you are actually just telling people things flat out. This is a sentence that is perfectly fine and you’re English teacher would probably really like it. You’re using things the right way, but it’s not doing the work of pulling people along. One, it’s a complex sentence. We want to keep things nice and short and move people along as best we can, so it’s called the bucket brigade. What is it? Then you answer that. So questions that get answered are common bucket brigades too.
Now let me give you a bunch of examples. These are really examples that are pulled from that blog post that I just showed you. What I love … I want to also show you this inside Airstory because when people look at Airstory, they often don’t know what to do first. They don’t know what the cards exist for. The more you use it, the more you get it. Right? Like it is a document that I can just write something in, but I can also, as I’m out reading and learning about different copywriting techniques, anything that I might learn about on the web and clip, I can send that all to Airstory and then have instant access to it whenever I want to look up bucket brigade or copy technique or whatever. Then I can bring this up. Let’s say I’m writing this. I want to optimize this email here. I can bring these up and have a bunch of examples. We’ve got bucket brigade transitions, the leads or like the opening, so setting the scene, some questions you can ask, attention grabbers, alignment with reader.
Now let me show you what’s inside these cards and how they will be helpful to you. Let’s say that you wanted to start a blog post or you want to start an email and you don’t have a clear way in, this is a great way in. These are just a bunch of examples of how … of bucket brigades of these small phrases that are meant to pull people in. This is just a crap ton of examples that you can just go ahead and use. You can say, “Okay, cool. It’s a familiar story and it usually goes like this …” Okay, so I could rewrite this if I wanted to.
Now you can choose if you want to put a colon at the end or a period. I would opt for the colon because people have to close that loop. They have to see what follows afterward. And then rewrite going forward. Right? We could change everything that follows to work with this. It’s Amelia’s story and it usually goes like this. Read. Okay. So we could just go ahead and now we’ve opened up something that is more likely to hook people, and it’s a very simple reusable little technique. This is the part of the thing with conversion copywriting and definitely with writing content that converts too is getting stuff done on the page faster in proven ways.
A bucket brigade has been used since the beginning of advertising copywriting. It became called a bucket brigade later. This other post that I was referencing calls it greasy slider, which is possibly the worst phrase I’ve ever heard in my life so I don’t use that. It grosses me out, but bucket brigade … Sarah is grossed out behind me.
Sarah Dlin: It’s disgusting.
Joanna Wiebe: It’s a terrible phrase, so we’re going to go with bucket brigade. That’s like an opening, so you can set the scene with things like picture this, imagine this, you’re afraid that, you cower in fear. These are kinds of things that might be an opening for you. An attention grabber. You could open your post of your email with, “Look.” That could be the first line and then you have a line break, and then you write the rest of it. Check this out. We do that all the time with our emails. Fact, question, good news, newsflash, whatever it is, it’s got a colon at the end; next line is your next thought.
Again, that colon really helps pull people along, as does a question mark. Do you want to learn how to … ? So you want to … ? Want to know more about … ? Have you ever wondered why … ? These are all really good openings as well that are questions. They can be used as crosshead replacers as well when writing down the page in a sales page, in a blog post. Wouldn’t it be great if blank, could be a fantastic crosshead. Why? Because you want to read what’s next. Our goal is to get people to read the next line. If they’re not reading the next line, we have lost them. We have to work hard to pull people through. These are really nice shortcuts.
Course, if you use Airstory, and you use the researcher, then again, if you were to come across this, you could just click that, send it back to your unassigned library inside Airstory, tag it with whatever that technique is, and have it at your fingertips when it’s time for you to write. Also, another lead is alignment with the reader. So opening with something like, “We’ve all been there. I know the feeling. I’ve been there.” You can’t help but read what follows. You can’t. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Oh, let me guess. Let me take a wild guess. Be honest and so on and so forth. These are all openers. Right? We call it a lead. Of course, it’s the opening line in your advertisement. You can call it a hook too because it is part of a hook. That’s cool as well.
Transitions, there are a lot of transitions. If you go through that post … Again, I’ve got it cited here, so I can reference the post whenever I want to, it’s attached to the card. There are so, so many things that I can do throughout your blog post to keep people reading. You don’t even have to have these at your fingertips necessarily, but you should study them. So having, making sure that you’re breaking up large thoughts that could be hard to get through with little phrases like anything here. Something like this, and boom, you were there. Then it hit me. At this point you realized … For the first time it dawns on you. Still not convinced? Right? We’ve seen that in a lot of sales pages. You probably heard it in pitches. The only problem, that’s one we use a lot. So what am I taking about sounds impressive, right? These, again, are all questions that you’d want to answer or that pull you into a conversation in ways that copy that doesn’t use these tends to fail at pulling you in.
A lot of copywriters are inadvertently already using these. I didn’t know it was called a bucket brigade when I started using these. At all. I had no idea. It just felt like, “Okay, well if my goal is to get people to keep reading, I’m going to have a conversation with them using my words, and if it’s going to sound like the way I talk when I’m talking I would say, ‘Yeah, right. Sounds like I’m exaggerating but I’m completely not.'” That kind of bucket brigade that we use in regular conversation, and knowing is that the result we use constantly, almost … like constantly. There are a lot of these that you can go through and get really familiar with. Use them. Just kind of have them sitting with you. Practice using them when you’re writing anything that turns into a paragraph. For one, you very rarely want to have a paragraph when you’re formatting any copy online. Anything more than a single sentence, be very careful of it. But then really break up your thoughts with these smaller thoughts that can’t help but pull your reader along.
That’s an intro to the bucket brigade, to how it’s used on the page. It doesn’t have to be a very crazy thing. It is just a way to strategically move people through your copy rather than guessing at how you might move people through your copy. Okay? Pretty straight forward stuff. All right. I’m going to stop sharing.
I see that there is one question here. Cool, cool, cool. Sarah’s made me start saying that. “Can you remind us again how to get that post for the sections into Airstory?” Oh, like that … Okay, so how we rewrote … Cool, cool, cool, cool. I’m just kidding.
Okay, so if I’m going to go in here and I’m like, “Oh, here. Here are a few examples of really common ones: but wait, there’s more. Isn’t this one enough? We’re not through yet.” If I’ve installed the Airstory researcher, which it’s just a Chrome extension, it’s one click. I right click on that or I can just open the extension up, but I save text to Airstory. Just right click on the things that you want to. It’s going to come up now. Good. I’m done. If I want to keep adding, so if I was like, “Okay, I’m going to also add all these guys in here, and I’m going to add these ones in here.” I hit done. I adjust any word formatting that no extension can account for because websites are all built so differently. Go through there. I can take this out and say just maybe for … Well, it’s not [inaudible 00:18:16] it’s Tutorial Tuesday. I can type my tag in there. That’s like okay bucket brigade, et cetera, et cetera.
Sarah Dlin: Joanna, do you want to share your screen?
Joanna Wiebe: Oh, shit! Oh, shoot. I was not sharing my … That’s why, because I’m always shitting. Now the transcriptionist is going to have to type out, “Oh, shit,” which is awesome.
Sarah Dlin: Twice now. Congratulations.
Joanna Wiebe: Which is awesome. Okay. Hey, it’s all natural here at Tutorial Tuesdays. This is real life. Okay. I will start that again. Joanna, why did you do that? Because I did. Okay fine.
I’m going to hover, highlight the thing. It’s almost as good as the time Puff jumped up on the desk and just like fell flat down. I’m going to highlight whatever I want to click, if it’s a lesson or whatever that is. Save text to Airstory. It’s coming up. I’m done. Cool. It’s all right here. I can change out the headline, so for Tutorial Tuesdays. I can give it a tag, which would make it very easy for me to find things, bucket brigade. I can send it right to a project or I can go to unassigned. I’m going to do that because I’m going to want to use it across all sorts of different projects. I’m going to hit save. Then when I go back over to Airstory we can see it just popped up right here under unassigned. And now, tah-dah, it’s always going to be there and available for me. Okay?
Sarah Dlin: Joanna, do you share some of your … Sorry, that link that you grabbed that you showed in BB transitions?
Joanna Wiebe: This guy?
Sarah Dlin: Sure.
Joanna Wiebe: I don’t know which other one it might be.
Sarah Dlin: Anything that was on your card. Is it seen on your card?
Joanna Wiebe: Tah-dah. Okay, so now I’m showing all sorts of things. Hold on. Let me just close this out. You have to tell me, which one do you want me to share? Is it the link for that?
Sarah Dlin: Yeah, the link that was in the card that you showed with all the [crosstalk 00:20:10]
Joanna Wiebe: It is just this one, so it’s website copywritingservices/blog/ … If you just search bucket brigade it’ll come up too, so you’re good.
“Any special considerations for bucket size for mobile?” Yeah. Angie asked that question. It’s awesome. Anytime you are writing any copy, you should be thinking of that mobile experience. At this point in the history, mobile is everywhere. I think it goes without saying, but it is a great question Angie. Yeah, absolutely. If you can keep all of your copy to a single sentence, like every paragraph is its own sentence and some of those paragraphs aren’t even complete sentences like all the bucket brigades we saw, but here’s the problem, that’s a complete sentence possibly if you finish it with a period. But when you finish it with a colon it’s not, but we give it its own line anyway.
As always, be aware of people reading on their phones. If you’re writing and formatting your copy with that in mind, then you should be totally fine. Just make sure you don’t … None of these bucket brigades are really long either. Okay.
Okay let me just answer. “Will there still be a recording of this?” I will my best to cut out the part … No, I won’t. I won’t do any editing to it. It’s all going to be shared live. Okay.
“I went to website copywriting but couldn’t find the bucket brigade phrases. Is it on their site?” Yeah, seriously just Google bucket brigade.
Sarah Dlin: I just tweeted or share [crosstalk 00:21:34]
Joanna Wiebe: Okay, Sarah just shared it. Jen said, “Is Airspace …” it’s actually called Airstory “… the only place to find the recordings and transcripts of these Tutorial Tuesdays?” No. No, you can’t even find them on Airstory. They are there on copyhackers.com. If you go to copyhackers.com, it says, “Free tutorials,” up in the top header. Go on up there and have a look.
Sarah Dlin: I chatted about that [inaudible 00:21:56]
Joanna Wiebe: Cool. Sarah has chatted that out. Bridgette says, “Is using ellipse similar to the colon?” Yes. Definitely yes, except that if we’re really going to get nerdy about it, an ellipse is a slow trailing thing and it should kind of pull people down. A colon is a more immediate thing. Right? It’s like a here’s the thing and you expect something that follows. You can trail off a thought. Like you can finish an entire thought with an ellipses, but it’s very unlikely you would ever finish a thought with a colon because something has to follow it. So when we’re looking at things that we … If our goal is to get people to read the next line, what is the punctuation that is most likely to get them to do that? Now we don’t want to overuse it, so you might want to switch back and forth between colons and ellipses and so on and so forth, but yeah, you could sub that in. I would just make sure that you’re just aware of is it working as hard as it can to get the person to read the next line. Cool? Thanks, Bridgette.
Kate said, “Possible to share those …” I’m not actually sharing these cards, like they’re not in a template. I’m not going to share this project out. What I really want is whatever you’re using, whether it is Evernote or the Airstory researcher, and of course, you can import Evernote into Airstory to use those notes that you have, so you can use both if you wanted to. Whatever you’re doing the goal is to use a solution that actually makes your life easier when it comes down to it.
If you’re going to go out and learn all sorts of stuff on different blog posts, are you going to go read on Brian Dean’s whatever he wrote about whatever amazing thing that got him great results, and you want to do what he did, capture that and have it ready right by your side when it’s time for you to write. That’s what Airstory’s built for, and that’s why I’m showing that to you. I’m not giving it out in any way, I’m just really showing you hey, here’s why you should use … one use case for using Airstory. One of the reasons I built it like it is, not me coding it, but oversaw it as this is because this is how smart copywriters write, period. Yeah, I called myself smart. I’m smart.
Terrance said … Oh, nevermind. He scrapped it. Cool. Yes, the Airstory researcher is only for Chrome. “An em dash,” Don says, so maybe I believe he’s saying that instead of an ellipses or instead of a colon. An em dash is a very fun thing said the word geeks in the house. Hey, chill. I’ve got a lot of commentary happening behind me. Try it. I don’t use it, and that’s largely because em dashes don’t always convert as em dashes on different … in different places where you’re reading, so if I put an em dash in convert kit, will it hold as an em dash when you get it on your phone or in your Gmail or wherever you might get it, and if it just looks like a hyphen, if it changes, then is that a good thing or not? So, go ahead and give it a shot, but I don’t commonly use, and I actually haven’t used an em dash online in many years. I tend to default to the en dash because it’s most likely to actually stick when people read it.
Anonymous says, “How …” Oh, sorry, “What do you think about using …” Oh, yeah. Another one about ellipses. I already answered that. Cool.
“What constitute a project in Airstory’s articles you are currently writing?” Oh, sure. This is a project inside Airstory. I mean it’s a document essentially, right? It starts as a document, but the thing about an Airstory project is that everything … so you usually have a single document and you just write it out. Airstory has a lot of stuff around it, so you can put multiple tabs in. If you’re writing an ebook, you could put in each chapter as its own tab and do all of your research for that one ebook and have it all right there in the card library.
A project is what you make it. Right? If you just want to write an email in Airstory, call that a project and move on with your life, do it. If you want to write and ebook and have multiple tabs available, do it. It’s really just anything that you decide to use. What would you call a writing project? Whatever your writing project is, make it in Airstory. Okay.
Bridgette says, “Can I get more geeky and ask about em dashes?” So Bridgette followed that up. I think somebody had … so you guys were both thinking the same thing. I love the geeky talk, but I do believe it is answered sadly.
Rossen said, “Are you going to create a Firefox extension for Airstory?” Potentially. Ideally, right? We want to get the Airstory researcher to a place where it’s awesome in my opinion. It’s great right now and it’s one of our most popular features, but there are little things that we want to still do to it. Polish up look and feel, just to be transparent with you. I want to polish that up. I want to have it so that when I click this, click that. The start highlighting is your one option right now.
I also want to ability to just jot down a thought. So if I’m having a thought right now or a note to self or don’t forget. If somebody says something in a team meeting about a data point or someone to ask for like for a testimonial from, that’s something that I want to jot down as a note and send it back to myself as part of a project or whatever. We want to do more with the researcher before we say, “Okay, cool. It’s in a good spot, now let’s roll it out across Firefox and whatever other, Safari, things like that. So yes, but not yet.[inaudible 00:27:38] says, “How many do you suggest using in a single blog or email?” If you have a lot of colons showing and you do that like every four paragraphs or something, and by paragraph again, I mean a single sentence, it can start to get overwhelming. I would say when you first start using bucket brigades, just go to town with them. Just use them like crazy. Just push as many as you can onto the page. See how it feels. Like okay, did that make it more readable? Did it make it less readable? Was it too aggressive? Was it not aggressive enough?
Go through and just use them a lot, and then pull back. That’s usually a really good thing when it comes to creating anything. Push all you can into it, and then edit out. Don’t start with editing in your mind. Don’t start by thinking with limits on how many to use. Just shove them on that page and then edit. Because there’s no rule, right? You could go through a whole great long form sales page or blog post and never use one. You probably would though just naturally. It would just happen. Yeah, there’s not a number.
Okay. “Is there a Tutorial Tuesday on Airstory?” Jen asks. There are tutorials on using Airstory, but we like to keep that somewhat separate right now. I don’t want to dedicate a bunch of training just to using Airstory. I would rather do what we’re doing with Tutorial Tuesdays, which is show you how to do something. I’m doing it the way I do it, and I do it in Airstory. If you want to do it the way I do it, then cool. You’ll see how to do it in Airstory. If you don’t want to, then cool. Keep using whatever tool you want to. But we do have other ways of learning about Airstory, which I’m sure Sarah can follow up with you or you can email us Sarah@Airstory.co. She can help you with that, which is cool. Cool.
Angie, what do you mean what’s a firebox? Did you mean Firefox? Are you being funny? Okay. She did follow that up with she didn’t … Okay, cool. Cool, cool, cool. Cool, cool, cool. All right guys.
Those are a lot of questions. I’m going to stop sharing now. Yes, it’s Airstory S-A-R-A-H at Airstory.co. Cool? Anything else to cover off from these chats? Cool. Awesome. Sarah just chatted out her email address. If you have more questions about using Airstory, go to town. Email her. Bucket brigade, use it. Pay attention to how these things work. Shove them into your content. Make it far more readable and then you can pull back from there. Cool, guys?
Next week we are hopefully going to be talking about how to write an apology email. This is because we saw a really horrible apology email recently and I want to help people not do that anymore. We’re going to talk about one way to write … yeah, an apology email. All right? We’ll hopefully see you next week. Thanks everybody. Thanks for all your chats and questions. Have a good rest of your week. Bye guys.