In my 16+ years in marketing, the hardest copy I’ve ever had to write was for my own website in 2007. I was too close to the business and to the website - it felt very odd writing promotional copy about myself! It took ages!
Copywriting is not easy. Yes we all learnt to write at school; yes we wrote essays and perhaps even tried some poetry. I’m sure some of us were quite good. But the reality is that good copywriting is a skill. Even novelists are unlikely to take on a commission to write a website or brochure for someone!
Good copywriters can write a range of materials for a range of clients; writing a medical equipment brochure for one client in the morning, followed by some snappy advertising copy for a well known soda brand and finishing the day with an e-newsletter for an extreme sports centre. They have a passion for words and enjoy wordplay. It’s not easy to emulate.
The temptation of doing it yourself
Of course, all businesses need to save money where they can and where you can do something yourself, it can make sense to. But all businesses also need to entice clients and earn revenue and if you are not gifted in the craft of copywriting, please be honest and delegate it, or you will be consistently disappointed – and won’t be doing your business any favours!
DIY copywriting is fairly easy to spot as the same mistakes are made:
1. Too much jargon
This is such an easy trap to fall into and if there is one reason to pay a copywriter to write for you, it’s this. We all get so involved in our work, use shortcuts and acronyms and jargon becomes par for the course between us and our colleagues. We often don’t realise we’re using it, but it can alienate us form the very people we’re trying to reach.
2. Text doesn’t flow well
Copywriters follow rules around grabbing the attention of the reader, gaining their interest, inciting their desire and engagement and then directing them to do something. Without this ‘importance hierarchy’ we usually see clumsy, lumpy text with no natural flow or direction.
3. Spelling and grammatical errors
This point should go without saying. Grammar doesn’t come easily to everyone but when you’re presenting your business as a professional, reliable and trustworthy organisation, surely you should avoid spelling and grammatical errors? What does it say about your company and customer service, if you don’t take care over your copy? I won’t get on my soapbox about apostrophes…
4. Over-hyped, unappealing text
Inexperienced writers think ‘promote’ when starting to write and find it hard to tone this mindset down. Unprofessional writing often veers towards blatant sales messages which can be very unappealing to readers, even having the opposite effect than that intended. Professional writers know how to position an idea and entice readers to act, rather than openly sell an idea.
5. No clear, targeted message
There is often a series of mixed messages within text that has been written by a non-copywriter. Professional writers work to a brief; a clear outline of what the copy is to be used for, what the objectives of the item are, to whom they are writing and they always ask for some key points that may wither need to be included or borne in mind. From this, they can succinctly create a piece of writing that sets the scene, imparts information and knowledge and clearly directs the reader to do something.
The problem is, copy can be such a subjective thing. In the same way that everyone has a frustrated creative inside them, we all believe we can write! Of course, copywriters know they’re likely to produce a couple of drafts before the client is happy, but it’s vital that if you’ve decided to engage a copywriter, you give them as much knowledge about your business and your objectives as you can – and then let them work their magic with the words! If you feel something is missing, don’t give up; feedback and work with them.
It may sound harsh, but given the right objectives and information, a professional copywriter will always do a better job than you can.
Louise Fenwick is Director of Coalition Marketing which provides marketing guidance and knowledge through consultancy and workshops. You can follow Louise Fenwick’s marketing musings via her blog or on Twitter:
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