When I don my copywriter’s cap, I wonder whether there should be a big letter ‘D’ on the tallest cone in Christendom.
(For those who aren’t familiar with the dunce’s cap, it was beloved by the cartoonists in children’s comics at some indeterminate era before the 1960s!)
What has this got to do with business I hear you ask? And even more to the point, what’s the connection – if any – with copywriting?
Oh dear. I’m feeling just a little uneasy as I admit to a failing – nay, a major flaw – in the entire concept or definition of being a copywriter. Clients trust us to have some kind of insight into the world of business – manufacturing, consulting, management… you know the sort of thing.
On that basis alone, it would suggest that most copywriters are probably imposters, snake-oil opportunists who take the king’s groat without so much as a blench or a blush!
False modesty – or reality check?
To explain my thinking: the majority of copywriters are ‘generalists’ who happen to be able to turn a convincing phrase or two, wordsmiths busy making silk purses out of sows’ ears. It’s not for copywriters to worry about the sector in which a client operates. They’re hired guns – and proud of it.
The problem is, each client expects the ‘pen’ they’ve hired to be an expert in their field – or, someone whose levels of experience and insight will allow them to engage on the same level. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
You could trot out the old line about copywriters being advocates for their clients’ products and services – except we’re not out to untangle any legal niceties that would otherwise rob a guilty offender of his liberty.
The kind of advocacy expected of a copywriter is of an altogether different hue. It’s one where a client’s expectations will very likely be challenged – unless the brief is so exceptional as to hide the shortcomings in his writer’s armoury.
It’s very clear that copywriting is no substitute for business experience. It is, in fact, no substitute for anything – except perhaps a dose of reality that should have been swallowed whole during those impressionable adolescent years.
On the positive side…
Copywriters do a sterling job at providing an intelligible interface between jargon-laden companies and their customers. Looked at another way: copywriting is a shifting mass of expertise in business translation.
Geek-speak, for example, has no place in the real world. The solution, of course, is to wheel in an IT copywriter. Scientists or inventors have little or no role to play in writing marketing strategies. Administrators, almost by definition, have no creative flair, so bring on the lateral-thinking copywriter. I could go on – but you get the drift.
As a copywriter who’s been involved with aliens from many business sectors, I can state categorically that every situation will teach you something about business. On average, however, the ‘bounty’ is unprintable.
Yes, you will develop the ability to put things in context, but this is often only based on a ‘glass half-full’ brand of optimism that is essential to ensure the work is completed and a fee payment emerges from the other end of the sausage machine.
You’ve probably guessed it already… being a metaphorical translator, advocate or even a sausage-machine operative, is a far cry from being a businessman, a consultant or a leader of men.
Nevertheless, copywriters provide an essential interruption to the ‘dash to market’. They provide a breathing space between the gung-ho decision-takers and the way their products and services are served up in the market-place.
To find out more about the roles and context of copywriting, be sure to visit Buzzwords’ copywriting website.