I sent some copy across to a client today – just tweaking existing work – and they were pleased with a small, lateral step I’d taken.
It’s very simple: I’d linked a casino night with the film Casablanca.
I thought it was a fairly obvious link to make (I almost feared it was a bit of a cliche), but the client liked it, which is good.
And it reminded me of something. My original background is conceptual: I’m a conceptual copywriter first and foremost.
This means that – as a matter of course – when I’m writing about a subject, my mind makes little lateral leaps to all of the things connected with that subject. Using ‘casinos’ as an example, my mind jumps to; Casablanca, Ocean’s 11, Casino Royale, Martinis, stag parties, Las Vegas, chips, Cadillacs, bailiffs.
This mindset allows me to think visually (handy for press adverts and posters), as well as thinking in terms of long copy/content.
Other copywriters I come across had a different way in – they were self-taught (then got commercial experience), wrote well at uni and branched out, or were journalists.
These types usually make good editorial copywriters: they’ll write crisp, clean, concise editorial copy. They’ll be good when it comes to writing brochures, press releases, articles, blog posts.
The point is, a copywriter is not ‘just a copywriter’, or – as Inspector Clouseau put it – ‘wax is not just wax’ (2:45).
This point is lost on many of my friends. Often, they’ll come across a juicy contract role and email it to me with; ‘Have you seen this, mate? Go for it!’
When I point out that I can’t go for it as it’s asking for a ‘medical copywriter’ or a ‘corporate report writer’, they get annoyed; ‘…but it’s a copywriting role – just go for it!’
(in the case of medical writer roles, you usually need a life sciences qualification, and you need to have written medical copy before: you will get rejected if you’re a general copywriter)
in fact, of the top off my head, there are;
Pharma copywriters (oh how I wish this interested me…. the money you can make in this arena…)
Fintech copywriters (financial services and technology).
… and many, many more.
This stuff is important to know if you’re looking to hire a copywriter, as you can get a better fit for the job than just hiring e.g a conceptual copywriter for a fashion brief.
It’s also why I’m amazed when I hear people say things like; ‘Dan Kennedy is the best copywriter of all time’.
No he’s not. He’s the best direct sales copywriter, or the best DM copywriter, but he only mastered that one arena.
To my mind, the best copywriter of all time was David Abbott, because he mastered nearly all media channels – DM, press, posters, TV, radio – and wrote across all sectors: he wasn’t just the master of one type of copywriting.
If you were to look at me, I’d never put myself forward as a Fintech copywriter: I can do those briefs, but they’re not a specialist area of mine.
I’d also be a poor choice if you were looking to hire a corporate copywriter / someone to write white papers. I have no feeling for that sort of writing, would take longer to do it, and would probably make a hash of it.
I also found out, through trial and error, that I cannot write trust fund applications for charities. I found the briefs too rigid, technical, and prescriptive, and you need someone who knows how to write to those in control of trust funds.
My style of copy naturally lends itself to conceptual briefs (where idea generation is needed just as much as literal copy), and to health, beauty, lifestyle, food, and fitness briefs: those which allow for the use of emotive copy, to really pull an audience in.
So, if you’re hiring a copywriter, just remember that it’s not as broad a term as you think: there are many different types of copywriter, and you’ll get better work if you find the one best suited to your project.
Take a look through their folio, to see what type of work they’ve done, and don’t be afraid to ask them, directly, what experience they’ve had of your sector.