Copywriting: How to use the PAS formula

Communications Article
20 mins

The P.A.S. writing formula has been a favourite among advertising copywriters for generations. It’s popular because it works. Once you understand how it works, you will start to see this framework in use all over your world. 

To write copy that evokes a response, you need to connect with your reader emotionally. Understanding the problems they face is a great way to do that. The P.A.S. writing framework gives you a super-efficient way to do this. It’s a cookie-cutter formula for not only connecting with an audience but also influencing their behaviour. 

P.A.S. stands for:

  • Problem, or sometimes Pain
  • Agitate,
  • Solution.

Let’s break it down and look at each part of this model in a bit more detail so you can understand how it works.


What is their problem? Identify the critical pain point. The more vividly you identify their pain, the more you show the reader that you understand them and the better this will work. When you experience this done well, it almost feels like those behind the copy feel and understand what it is to be you.

When this happens, that is when the formula starts to work its magic. Your audience trusts their own emotions to any point of pain. The copy ceases to be something that’s on the page. It becomes aligned with their thoughts and feelings and around the pain point. 


Add in emotion to that pain point and clarify it further. Doing this creates in the audience a strong sense of your empathy for the pain you have highlighted.


We all seek resolution to our pain points. So now you need to resolve all that tension you just created. Make everything better. Reveal the Solution – your Solution! And for good measure, bind this to an easy to follow and direct call to action.

This structure works because it leverages on empathy with your reader. Readers trust empathy. Empathy binds people together at an emotional level. Empathy makes me feel. Empathy makes me sense I am understood. It creates a shared experience, albeit an entirely fictional one, inside your reader’s head. 


Target Internet’s ‘Itch, Tickle, Scratch’ Technique

A lot of writers explaining the technique use terms such a Pain and Pain points. The more we have explored examples of the formula, the more we think that pain as a concept is somewhat over the top. Marketing shouldn’t ever inflict pain, should it? 

Well, no, it shouldn’t ( at least by in our book). For the audience, the emotional experience of this technique is more akin to identifying an Itch. Instead of Agitate, we tend to think of it as tickling that itch a little and then providing the audience full-on and satisfying scratch. We know it’s just P.A.S. written out differently, but we liked the more gentle collaborative and persuasive sentiment behind it.

When to use P.A.S.

If space or copy length is minimal, this is a great formula to try out. Try using it for Social media posts/ Social Ads, Short videos or even Adwords copy. You might even try it out as a framework for a much longer piece of content, but get confident with it in its shorter forms first so you can learn your way.

See how KeySmart uses the technique to promote their product which solves the ‘big bunch of keys in your pocket’ problem. They certainly use the visual medium to really demonstrate the solution their product delivers in multiple situations. When used well, this is both subtle and powerful. Hands up, who wants one of these


Want to take things to the next level? We loved a suggestion by Copywrite Matters blogger Belinda Weaver who adds an outcome to the end of the formula. It’s a great way of demonstrating an actual resolution delivered by your solution. 


Customer Testimonials?

In some cases, but not always, you might even go as far as backing it up with customer testimonials that add further evidence and testimony. We’ve seen this poorly done, and the effect can be to increase your audience’s disbelief. That said, we think any technique can be poorly implemented. Blame not the tool but the craftsperson wielding it! Something you might try out as part of an A/B conversion rate optimisation test and settle that argument.

So be on your guard for P.A.S. in all its various forms ( or even I.T.S. should it ever catch on.) It’s out there in volume, just waiting to sell you something you never even realised you needed. When you see it done well, marvel at and learn from the copy craft behind the work. When you see it done clumsily, clock it and learn a little how not to wield this powerful copywriting technique. Certainly, try it out from time to time to see if it helps generate results. This technique could be the breakthrough writing formula your marketing results have been waiting for you to discover.

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