Lots of professional people have roles that require them to turn their hand to writing. Some are good at it, some bad, and some churn out copy that’s downright cringeworthy.
I’ve worked in both the public relations and marketing industries, and it’s made me wonder which of the creative industries produces the best stuff.
These are the conclusions I’ve come to. Get ready to disagree violently…
Marketers. Marketers promote and sell, but I’ve noticed that more and more of them are relying heavily on graphic design, forcing good copywriting to take a back seat. It might make for campaigns with ‘big art’, but if the copy misses the point it simply won’t do its job properly – selling.
Advertisers. Advertisers and marketers are in the same boat. Big budgets, CGI and well-placed explosions can make people sit up and watch, but when it’s all over I sometimes wonder what I just watched was actually advertising.
You’d think that with the amount spent on television advertising, everyone would have cottoned to the fact that conveying details about what you’re advertising (and why it benefits the customer) will sell your products – and much more effectively than pixies dancing on a car as it floats through the air.
PR Gurus. These days, public relations experts are often seen as spin doctors – but their job demands a lot more than spinning a good tale and covering up others’ errors and mishaps. They must retain their ability to communicate in a written form with ordinary people – as well as with the journalists who they hope will run with their stories.
If a PR professional can’t communicate the who, what, why, when, where and how in the first two lines of a press release (and that’s being generous), they simply haven’t done their job well enough.
Journalists. Most journalists’ work is produced to inhuman deadlines, but there’s little to beat breaking a news story – especially when the writer sinks their teeth with relish into a juicy revelation.
You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
Thank God, the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
Unbribed, there’s no occasion to! (Humbert Wolfe)
Journalists usually communicate well and, if sub-editors are to be believed, one or two can write rather nicely – sometimes unaided.
Copywriters. Copywriters have to work with all the characters listed above. Some have different specialisms, but one thing unites all the good ones – their writing is designed to sell.
Copywriting that sells is written in deceptively simple language – so simple that most people assume they can write it themselves. Once in a while that’s true, but so is this: good copywriting is never produced by committees. Find a copywriter whose work you like, and stick with them at all costs.
So, who writes the best copy?
It depends what you want the writing to achieve. But next time you read a newsletter, advert, magazine, flyer or brochure that appeals to you, ask yourself who wrote it.
Whoever it was, they’ll know two basic things – how to grab your attention, and how to talk simply and directly about benefits that are of interest to you. Those skills are an asset to any profession.
Rebecca Wheeler is a public relations and copywriting professional. After she was awarded a first class Literature degree by the University of Essex, Rebecca gained her public relations experience with an agency in Berkshire, before spending a year with one of the UK’s top online marketing agencies learning all about digital.
She is currently working in a freelance capacity on public relations and copywriting projects. Rebecca also writes her own blog reflecting on all things marketing, PR, social media and technology-related at www.marketing-and-pr.co.uk.