I have only just come across an amusing blog post written in 2011 about the death of the copywriter (business writer, marketing writer), as announced by a digital guru. It seems that social media has killed the professional marketing writer, because social media tells the truth and writers like me lie. (I do apologise for lying all these years.)
Bristol design agency Robson Dowry have just launched their new website and, unusually for a design agency, the copy takes the lead. I'm particularly pleased because I wrote the site's content. It's an interesting example of focusing very hard on what you should be saying, and then saying it calmly and clearly.
One of our biggest clients has just won Agency of the Year for their work in financial services. We're delighted, because they do great work that makes financial products fresh and attractive – and because a lot of our words go into their work, helping making those financial products clear and compelling.
The ad that News Corporation placed in British newspapers at the weekend was intriguing. It posed as a letter from Rupert Murdoch but read like what I call copywritten copy. Like something carefully composed, calculated, tuned and polished by a professional writer. Indeed, by a writer used to selling things.
What makes the difference between a clumsy, confusing piece of writing you stop reading halfway through and one that grabs you? The innate skill of the writer? A big part of it is down to the techniques the writer is using. And you can learn those techniques.
For many years big brands have made a big fuss about their tone of voice. Tone of voice is 'the secret ingredient' of powerful business writing, we have been told. Yet tone of voice is nothing without something powerful to say. The things you say are generally more important than how you say them, even though how you say them is pretty darn important too. And this is something that businesses lose sight of. Maybe they've been focusing too much on tone and not enough on content.
If you're trying to get your audience's attention, conjure up something concrete in their minds. Don't just sound like any other business in your sector, not if you want them to pick you over the competition.
'Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.'It's by CS Lewis from his book Studies in Words, and it's valuable advice for us all. Because the last few decades – maybe the last 100 years or so – have in fact seen a remarkable devaluing of powerful words. Right now, the best way to write powerfully is, if anything, to be understated.