Monday, March 23, 2009

Every BRAND knows who copywriter is

It has been my experience with clients and several independent consultants who are thinking that writing copy is near to nothing. They think that it is just a page full of words which are typed with relative ease, and it amounts to no effort on that part of the writer and does need no special skill or knowledge to do that. Especially so - if the writer doesn’t make a big deal about it – deliberately telling them it took some sleepless nights, and if s/he is unfortunately little down to earth and hungry for some good work(like me)..

It takes huge effort (years) to learn any craft…so is copywriting

They often tend to think that the words are just randomly thrown in to make sentences, and have no special purpose to them. And hence, they’re reluctant to pay and least they refuse to accept that the writer has done some substantial work to write the copy. It takes herculean efforts to painstakingly give the whole communication a voice and a personality by strategically aligning the words – into thoughts.

I have great respect for those who really are keen to see and understand how hard the job is. Yes, there are clients and people who appreciate good work and really pay handsomely to the writer besides pouring copious appreciation and accolades. Kudos to them! But majority, I don’t know why are plain indifferent to them; and let alone pay them reasonably, do not seem to acknowledge the importance of it.

I presume it’s all that they never gave a thought to the copywriter’s plight; or they were never apprised of what it is by anyone. Otherwise, they too will respect the good work and pay handsomely, I believe!

The reason why, this ranting!

Freelance copywriting needs a new lease, here

Freelance Copywriting elsewhere in the west is well appreciated and the business too is lot more organized and no assignment is taken without any agreement and everything is professionally run. Hence it’s easy for the copywriters to do their job peacefully and not to worry about the payment hassles.

But down here, if you ask a client to commit to certain conditions and seek a written agreement they take it as indifference and lack of trust; not knowing that the written agreement makes both the parties to concentrate on the work they do and have a peace of mind without other negative doubts hampering their work. And it’s a great boon for the client too, as he is assured of timely delivery. (Here again, it doesn’t apply to those who go by the rule and stick to them)

I just want to see where and how a copywriter’s job gets a beating in comparison to other professions and why. It’s just a way to show that the copywriter works really hard and goes through the grind and, s/he too aspires to be paid what is due and, if not respected for what s/he does, at least not looked down upon.
Here is a peep into the kind of work copywriter does vis a vis to any other work that is done:
Words from mind & heart, not from dictionary
The tools of a copywriter – the laptop, PC, dictionary, some books on copywriting, and other books do not make the writer, or do not make them appear physically run down unless they make a show of it; albeit mentally they are drained thoroughly, though.
Life Experience –the bank of knowledge
Writer’s biggest bank of knowledge is their experiences in life; their efforts to know the world with uncanny ability and candor. They draw from these vast reserves of knowledge of life they lived and observed from close angles – that obviously can’t be seen unless you are keen to know it.
It’s physical as well as mental
Even the write up or copy too appear some normal words on a screen or a page which do not seem to have come with some physical labour; obviously no writer likes to show them how many times s/he has drafted, redrafted it; how many hours did he spend thinking about it. It’s a mental and physical labour, though
Fruit of stinging labour, though
The reason that since the write up or copy (poor thing) appears lame sans the design as a brochure, website content, flyer, mailer etc shouldn’t be implied as worthless; often some clients feel it’s just black words on white paper and nothing else (alas!).

It’s time each copywriter gets his or her due recognition in the advertising scheme of things. Especially in this part of the world the freelance copywriters are taken for granted and end up doing drudgery.
Do you think copywriting needs any special skills …can you share your thoughts with us?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How copy can sound confident, effusive and flamboyant?

It might cost us our job, if we’re unlucky to have a hotheaded boss, and if we’re to ask for some time to write the copy (I lost one job recently…seriously!). You’re certainly at a disadvantageous position if you say you need time to do a good job, especially with some clients who want everything in a jiffy. On the top of it, the sniggers of your own colleagues - our boisterous art director friends who look to annoy the copywriters for their intellectual airs (very few come into this category, it depends on your luck factor).

And above and all, your reputation that’s tagged along with that job pulls you back cracking the copy.

It’s often debilitating to write copy that is really compelling. Perhaps the reason why copywriters – the established and renowned are respected so much; and are celebrities, in their own right! However, these techniques helped me get the flair and confidence to the fore each time I go through the process.

Know the target group

Knowing your target group is the first step to style the tone of copy. Each group has different mindsets: Students and young adults believe in fairy fantasy; Young professionals want a bit of hype and exaggeration; and mid and higher-level pros would need bare and crude information but nothing else, with some gyan thrown if possible.

Work up a tempo

We need to research on the competitors’ product and their features and the feedback of the product by the customers. At last, the final straw would be the first hand experience of the product and its specialty through some interviews. It differs from the young girls who go by their peer endorsements than their individual opinions to the older women who bank on facts and testimonials from the ones they believe and bond with.

Conviction speaks louder

Finally my conviction of the product benefits vis a vis the competition and my knowledge about the entire niche of the product category makes me more confident to talk about it without any fear and/or hesitation. The above said observations and the wide research we do on the particular target group and on the product in the internet (through research) make you imitate their tone with confidence.

The unflappable spirit

The way to the heart to any customer is through untamed spirit: straight uninhibited talk. There is absolutely no one who isn’t besotted by the infectious energy of the tone. Having the confidence that the product is way ahead of its competition (has some inherent benefits in one angle) and also with the familiarity of the person (TG) we can go ahead crafting the copy with so much nonchalance. That’s what fetches the readers’ attention. And care should be taken not to over do it, though.

We may face a stiff resistance from clients to force us to do a quick job. But that’ll be a great emotional and physical drain to do the job. Of late, I resist such temptations and stand my ground.

What are your experiences writing copy and facing some flak from the uninitiated clients and folks? I’d love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Which one has a priority – the design or copy?

Do you give copy a go-by when compared to a design?
It struck me hard when I saw a brochure for a premier educational group which has reprinted its brochure for the new academic year. The design is new, but the copy alas…is an old one. When I asked the art director he said “the client’s pushing me as he fell short of the deadline. And I too didn’t find time to get a new copy done”.

I literally felt so bad for the client who printed the brochure which would’ve cost him quite a sum. It was a huge opportunity for him/her to talk about its new vision, new dreams, and the new developments to its readers.

Many clients think it’s a waste of time and money to pay a copywriter for new copy and even the consultants too lend a deaf ear to writing a new one. I feel it’s because they do not want to part the extras money with or plain lack of knowledge what copy does for them.

How important is copy for all the communications: brochure, website, leaflet, direct mailer etc? Let’s take a look at it and find out the real purpose of it.

Every brochure, website etc – a mouthpiece, a piece of history

Brochure will always have a charm. The sensuous design on the cover really attracts every reader. Usually the ones which cross the line (away from the ordinary and expected) and showcase a theme with a good picture and the matching shade of colours takes our attention. Inside too, the seeming flow of the theme on to the corresponding pages and the final back cover which signs off, all make a good, arresting brochure which steals our interest and certainly deserve a second look.

It’s the cover headline that’s the hook.
Inside copy is the soul

“The headline is the 'ticket on the meat.' Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising”. David Ogilvy

The visual appeal sure attracts us, but what strikes the heart first is the cover headline. Which instantly lifts our spirits to know what these people are all about. This headline changes the plane of thought of the reader from whatever state of mind he/she is in.

The cover headline should intrigue and pique the interest of the reader; if not, the conceptual visual should do the job. And certainly once the inside copy is being read it should talk to him as if we’re talking to a close friend. Pouring our heart out to let the world know what we truly believe in and what the company stands for without mincing words.

Behind the cosmetic appeal, what’s the person is all about

Several individual design-shops who work for clients and who seemingly doesn’t know the importance of copy should understand it’s a precious opportunity that’s being wasted: to talk to and let the readers know the organization as a true person. It’s their professional duty to suggest the client (who’re innocent and sometimes indifferent to any suggestions), and drive home the point. Even to the point of ruffling few feathers - the importance of copy and its phenomenal role in touching the chords of readers and bring oodles of appreciation and cheers for their brand. After all, we, advertising professionals, go a length to make the organization stand in a good light (brand equity), and with it ours too.