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How to Write a Tagline

Taglines are distillations of who you are and what you do, said in a way that captures people’s attention and piques their curiosity. A good tagline gets people excited, interested and wanting to know more.

Taglines are one of my favorite things to create because they bubble up whenever someone gets into the groove of talking about why they’re passionate about what they do.

Most of the time, unless we’ve had training and practice, when someone asks us to describe our mission, or what we do, or who our ideal clients are, we freeze up and either say too little or too much. Usually it’s too much as we talk around what we do and get more nervous as we push forward knowing we’re saying too many words and not really getting to the core of what we’re trying to say. Do I sound like I’m speaking from experience? I am! It took me months of training and practice to learn how to ask myself, and later my clients, the right questions and then to learn to listen to the answers for those key words or phrases that really got to the heart of what they do, why they do it and who they do it for.

Everyone Deserves to Have a Pretty Home

I was sitting at a morning networking event around a table with seven other women. Each of us had a moment to introduce ourselves and tell a little bit about who we are and what we do. One young woman started off so speaking so quietly, we had to ask her to speak up and she wandered around the description of her design business, switching back and forth between her B2B and her B2C offerings. We were a small and patient group and she finally settled down, took a breath and said, “Everyone deserves to have a pretty home. Even people who think they don’t have the money for a designer.” And there it was. Her drop of clarity in a sea of words. I told her later that morning that I thought she’d found her tagline – “Everyone deserves to have a pretty home,” and her face just lit up.

I love that moment! When a client (or anyone else) hears their own words spoken back to them and they ring true. When she realizes she knew all along exactly what her point was and why she’s doing what she does. That moment is so thrilling for me. I think it touches on the coach and yoga teacher in me. I love watching other people light up when they realize their own power and strength and innate knowing of who they are and what they’re here for.

It’s often hard to hear ourselves – there are so many voices in our heads all the time, telling us we’re foolish, or slow or we made a mistake or we should do this or shouldn’t do that. It’s a madhouse up there and most of us don’t hear the beautiful, brilliant, spot-on pieces of truth wandering around looking for the light.

Clarity in the Chaos

I was on a call with a new client a couple of days ago, getting to know her and her company. I ask a lot of questions at first so I can get a sense of who my clients are, and how they think about their business and how it relates to the world. The middle of our conversation went like this:

Me: What’s your mission statement?

Client: I don’t have a formal, written mission yet…

Me: That’s okay, part of what I do is help you create that. So tell me a little bit about what you want your company to help people do. What’s the ultimate outcome they get from working with you?

Client: We help people transition through the most difficult times in their life, we create less stress, we throw them a lifeline with clear steps to take, clear questions to ask, a clear path. We give them clarity in a place that is full of disarray.

And there it was. The perfect tagline: Clarity In The Chaos.

Turn Vulnerability Into Your Superpower

I have been known to moonlight as a leadership trainer and coach. I focus on teaching leaders that vulnerability, (thank you, Brene Brown, for putting that word on the map) is a strength, and learning to cultivate it is the soft skill every leader needs to master. As I was building that business, I sat down and asked myself similar questions to the ones I now ask my clients:

What do I want to help people do?

What is their fear or hesitation or misunderstanding about vulnerability?

How do I want them to feel about being vulnerable when they’re done working with me?

My notes: Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Understanding what vulnerability looks like in real life, in the workplace, is a surefire way to gain trust and engagement. It’s a superpower, like flying. If you can do it you can save relationships, projects, money, time. I want to shift the conversation around vulnerability. I want people to stop being scared of it. I want to turn it on its head. I circled words that stood out to me and got one of my favorite taglines ever:

Turn Vulnerability Into Your Superpower.

I got a lot of compliments and curiosity-fueled follow up questions from that tagline. It embodies exactly what I was trying to communicate.

Transform Your Space Into a Work of Art

I have an interior design client who is in love with textiles and mixing different art forms to create unique pieces. She also dreams up art installations that stand on their own or that double as functional pieces in a room. She and I would talk about why she loved her work and what she loved about it. I have two pages of notes from our conversations, with lots of little gems that made it into her final site content. In one of our conversations, I asked that same mission question and without hesitation, she said, “I don’t just bring art into your home, I create art about you, your lifestyle, your aesthetic, you unique style and I transform your space into a work of art.” And there it was. Her tagline: Transform Your Space Into A Work of Art.

Steps to Finding Your Tagline

  1. Get some paper or open a Google doc and write down everything that comes to mind when you ask yourself the questions below.
  2. Circle all the words that stand out to you.
  3. Start forming short sentences or phrases with those words that explain what you do in a way that tells them just enough to get a feel for what you do and leave them wanting more.

Why am I doing what I do?

How do I want to help people?

What do I want my clients to walk away with?

Some pointers for writing your tagline:

  • Start with an action verb: Transform, create, turn, design, launch, engage, build, you get the idea.
  • Include the solution to the problem your client has: Vulnerability as a superpower not a weakness; clarity instead of chaos; pretty instead of plain; art instead of run of the mill decor.
  • Let your personality shine. Are you direct? Are you funny? Are you a little irreverent? Are you dreamy? The more you show you clients who you are, the more they will resonate with you.

If you’re still not sure, run your tagline, or variations of it, past a few close friends, your partner, your kids or your sister’s kids. Before you do that though, let go of needing to have the perfect tagline and be open to their responses and suggestions. Most of good writing is editing, and feedback is golden to getting outside of our own perspectives and understanding how our language resonates, or doesn’t, with others.

The last how-to on writing a tagline: Be patient. Write some stuff down. Go do something else, come back to it in an hour or a day. Reread it, tweak it, play around with the order and choice of your words. Let it sit some more.

Good writing doesn’t happen all at once – sometimes grace will pop in and serve us the perfect words on a gilded platter, but not very often. Most of the time, the words come when they are ready and I believe it’s our patience in waiting for them that helps them ring true.

Published in branding

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