12 Aug The multimedia multi-personality copywriter

Why the job of copywriting is a lot more complex than it might seem

Every copywriter has that dinner party conversation. The one where you’re asked if ‘copyrighting’ involves working with patents and trademarks and stuff. And you have to explain that, well, it’s more like working with companies to write all the words for their advertising, websites, brochures and that kind of thing. Then the other person says ”Oh, interesting… what areas do you specialise in?”, and you have to say “None really, I’ve worked for construction companies, banks, tech firms, holiday firms. Anyone who needs me.” Then there’s the nod and the pause as it sinks in: What a weird way to make a living that must be…

And they’re right. Copywriting is a strange kind of profession. One where you go from persuading hard up single mums to shop at Kash Save Supermarket because of ‘Low, Low Prices Your Purse Will Love’ one moment. To schmoozing high net-worth individuals to invest in the Platinum Plus Gilt Bond Scheme because it can be opened with an initial payment of just £50,000 the next.

The fact is, copywriters have to wear a lot of different hats. And be able to switch personalities and approaches at the drop of one.

First, because of the tone of voice they need to adopt on behalf of the brands they write for. The above example illustrates just two of the many, many different audiences the copywriter has to find a way of reaching with their work. Sometimes, even, for the same brand.

At DGR, we have a client in the replacement door and window sector who markets to Installers, Homeowners and Specifiers simultaneously. That means the copywriting team tackling identical products in three different ways. Once in a no-nonsense, straight to the point manner to engage the trade. Then again in a way that plays on the emotional values of a warm and secure home. And finally, to appeal to the high-minded sensibilities of the professional architect.

Then there’s the sheer amount of stuff that copywriters have to know to do their job properly. Stuff about their client’s product and sector; about the problems their customers face that ‘New Product X’ can solve; about chemistry, engineering, psychology, regulations, cats …

Often, they have to make themselves a virtual expert from a standing start on a subject they’ve never come across before last week – let alone written about with complete authority. Of course, Google has made that part of the job a lot easier in recent years.

But it still helps to have the enquiring mind and passion for trivia that most copywriters possess. The advertising veteran John Harding described it as a ‘mental scrapbook’ of facts, or a ‘black bin bag stuffed with inspiration you can take from one job to the next’. What you put in it today may have nothing to do with the project you’re researching for tomorrow’s deadline. But one day, six weeks or six years from now, it will almost certainly resurface for use in another.

And of course, there’s the sheer breadth of channels nowadays that demand a continuous supply of content like the ‘Strictly’ wardrobe team demands sequins. Websites, blogs, press releases, videos, social feeds, e-mail marketing, trade publications … Each with its own writing conventions and disciplines that have to be negotiated and mastered.

It’s not just a matter of size and space (‘Nice 1000 word thought leadership piece. How would it look as a tweet?’). It’s a question of how informal you can afford to be in an email versus how important it is to stick the rules in a business letter. Whether humour has a place in a trade advertising campaign, or how your headline should differ between a Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram post.

The best copywriters know the answers because they practice, experiment, test, rewrite and refine until their years of accrued knowledge practically become a sixth sense for what works and what sells.

So many of today’s ‘new’ digital copywriting tools, for instance, are actually tried and tested direct marketing techniques, honed over decades by generations of copywriters. Tricks like testimonials, ‘How to’ headlines, top ten lists and social proof points.

Knowing these techniques is one thing. Knowing when, how and why to use them, quite another. If you know a copywriter that does, keep them close. (If you don’t, well, we know one or two not very far from here at all).

It may be a weird way to make a living. And it may take a certain kind of personality – or personalities – to carry it off. But ultimately, your copywriter could be the one person who holds the key to selling your services effectively. Now, that’s got to be worth raising your hat to.

The fact is, copywriters have to wear a lot of different hats

This post has been adapted from an article that appeared in our DGR copywriting and content review – DGR Ink where you will also find other copywriting guides including:-


If you’d like one of our copywriting team to cast an eye over a piece of your advertising copy and show you how it can be improved, why not send it to the DGR Copy Clinic?

Or if you have a project on your desk at the moment that you would like to discuss why not give John a call on 07976 305 118.