Bring in the Reinforcements

I’ve just gone through a serious health scare. My 98-year-old grandmother, Mama Da, was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

Our local family hustled to create a 24-hour care program for her. After all, why should a 98-year-old have to stay in the hospital by herself when she has children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a great-great grandson?

I got the day shift – the scariest shift of all. Nine hours when I watched Mama Da struggle to breathe – and had to listen to the doctor explain the seriousness of her condition.

Mama Da told me that she wasn’t afraid to die, and she proceeded to tell me everything she wanted done – and not done – when her time came.

I was alone in the room with her, and I was scared. I needed some backup – some reinforcements – to help me cope with this situation. So I told her that I had notified our family, and they were trying to get there as soon as possible to see her. That didn’t seem to matter to her.

Then I said, “Mama Da, Moon and Pot are getting on a flight from Maryland as we speak to come to see you.” Then a funny thing happened:

Her eyes opened up and she said, “Really? Who else?”

So I went down the list, “Shorty and Sidney are driving through the night… Gigi is cutting her vacation short in Orlando… Daty and VaVa are flying in tomorrow from Philly… Carole, Kuky, and Marley are flying in from Miami… Bibi and MaMa will be here on Saturday… Joey and Angela got one-day round-trip tickets to come and spend a few hours with you… Ferg and Chrissy are hitting the road at 2:00 a.m. and will be here by noon… and the rest of the family are calling me non-stop to let me know when they’re planning to come.”

As I ran down the list, I saw a light in Mama Da’s eyes that I hadn’t seen in the past 24 hours. She was getting excited about seeing her family. And when the kids, grands, and great-grands came to her hospital room to kiss her and talk to her, I watched her draw energy from each one of them.

In fact, she started to look and feel so good that many of our family members jokingly said that Mama Da was making up the whole pneumonia thing as a way to create an impromptu family reunion!

For several days, Mama Da’s hospital room was so full of our loud family having fun that the nurses asked us to keep the noise down!

During the nights, we had more than enough willing aunts and cousins volunteering to sleep in the room with her and stand guard.

I was very glad for the extra help. But while I was waiting for the reinforcements to come, I re-learned two very important lessons:

For one thing, my family has some really crazy names! And, most important, specificity works!

When I told Mama Da that family was coming, it didn’t register with her. But when I told her exactly WHO was coming… WHEN they were arriving… WHAT they were doing to get to her… and WHERE they were coming from… man, it really boosted her curiosity – and possibly her will to live.

That got me thinking about writing sales copy – and the importance of reinforcing your copy with ultra-specifics so you can grab your prospect’s attention and keep it.

So I want to show you two quick and easy ways for you (or your copywriter) to reinforce your copy too:

#1. Name names.

As I said, specificity sells. So build credibility in your copy by using exact names and numbers. Here’s an example from my own copy…

BEFORE: “Numerous scientific studies have shown that this remarkable ‘brain food’ can help you restore memory loss and sharpen your thinking.”

“Numerous scientific studies” is pretty lame. That’s like when I told Mama Da “Family is coming.” It just didn’t get much of a rise out of her.

I needed some specific details to put MEAT on this baby! So here’s how I changed that line of my copy…

AFTER: “Scientific research from Stanford University… Vanderbilt University… the Memory Assessment Clinic’s facility in Bethesda, Maryland now prove this remarkable ‘brain food’ can help you restore up to 12 years of memory loss and sharpen your thinking.”

See the difference? Name names and give specifics. Referencing those prestigious institutions builds credibility in the prospect’s mind – and stating that the product can restore up to 12 years of memory loss is powerful.

#2. Don’t be afraid of long headlines.

One of the first copywriting “rules” I learned was that headlines should be no more than 7 words. That way they would POP and grab the prospect’s attention. Sure, I learned the rule – but, more important, I learned when to break the rule too.

The truth is, it’s a stupid rule. The goal of your headline is to stop your reader dead in his tracks. If you can do it with one or two words – GREAT! But I’ve had many successful promotions with 20… 30… or more words in the headline. Here’s an example of how one of my headlines “grew”…

BEFORE: “Why Your Vitamins Won’t Work”

When I was telling Mama Da about all the relatives who were coming to visit her, I had no idea which ones she really wanted to see. Was it the young grandkids who would bounce on her lap… the teenagers she’d helped raise… or her own children? So I decided not to take a chance. I’d just list them all and see which ones piqued her interest.

Which brings me to my headline. “Why Your Vitamins Won’t Work” wasn’t bad – but it was too general. I wanted the prospect to stop and say, “Hey, I’m taking that stuff – so I’d better read this!” – and the best way to achieve that was to give ‘em a long list. So here’s how I reinforced the copy – and the results went through the roof…










Vitamin C




Low-fat diets

Omega 3 fish oil

Grape seed extract

Blood pressure drugs

Weight-loss supplements

Cholesterol-lowering drugs

Won’t Work

Yep! That was the actual headline! Well over the 7 word “limit,” but who the heck cares? It worked!

So don’t be afraid of long headlines. Just make sure every word you use counts.

The Lessons Go Both Ways

It’s all about communicating your message as clearly as possible. And this just goes to show how you can apply what you learn about that in your personal life to your work… and how you can apply what you learn through your work to your personal life.

PS: In case you’re wondering how Mama Da is doing, here’s an update. We brought her home from the hospital after a 6-day stay. The pneumonia damaged her heart and lungs – and she already had diminished kidney function. So with the help of hospice, we’re just going to keep enjoying her – and listening to her thousands of stories – for as long as she’s still with us.

Mama Da always told us that she doesn’t plan to leave us with a dime, but that we will be rich with her memories. She’s definitely lived up to that promise. I am so thankful to be blessed to have had her in my life for 48 years.

[Ed. Note: Carline Anglade-Cole has 20 years of direct-mail experience in mailing-list strategies, new-product development, and creating kick-butt controls. She is the author of How to Write Kick-Butt Copy: Straight Talk From a Million-Dollar Copywriter, Anatomy of a Kick-Butt Control: How to Create a Winning Promo From Start to Finish, and Which One Won? How to Write Kick-Butt Headlines and Boost Response! Contact Carline directly by visiting her website at]