As part of a branding brief, have you ever had to write small sections of copy that align with your brands identity - if so, do you have any tips for how to do this well (aside from engaging someone else to write it for you)?
I know someone who did that, let me contact him, I’ll reach out to your Pluto.
Of course the mechanical stuff—grammar, spelling, structure—has to be impeccably clean and correct. Aside from that, the other basic advice I’d give is don’t over-write it; no superlatives or hyperbole; don’t add prepositional phrases just to get buzzwords in. It’s always obvious and lame when someone tries too hard.
In every CD job I’ve had, one of my first hires has always been a copy editor who could also write. Few things undercut good design more than bad writing.
As for doing it yourself, copywriting/editing is a skill developed over many years. It’s probably unreasonable to expect to become proficient without a similar amount of effort put into it.
However, some good grammar checkers exist that catch mistakes and suggest changes. The better ones, such as Grammarly, cost money. They’re not ideal substitutes for a good writer, but they’ll help prevent amateurish mistakes.
This reminds me of the Mad Men series. They had an entire team of people that only wrote copy.
At the newspaper where I worked, around a dozen copy editors (the copy desk) did nothing but write headlines, cutlines and proofread the writing of reporters and columnists. Some of the best reporters were not especially good writers. The copy desk would clean up everything to ensure it conformed to standard U.S. English and the AP Stylebook.
The copy desk would have heated yelling matches over the most obscure and arcane things. One day, a copy editor named Tom stood up, screamed a string of obscenities at the copy desk chief, grabbed his landline telephone, then hurled it across the newsroom, yelling, “I don’t give a flyin’ &#$ what the &#@!-$# Associated Press says, email needs a %$!#in’ hyphen. I’m sick of dealing with this GD #&^@!in’ pig sh*t.”
Hardly anyone blinked an eye except those in the path of the flying telephone. They just kept working while he retrieved his phone and sat down to do some more editing. There was a similar incident involving Tom and his phone when he called his bank to enquire about an error on his checking statement, but that’s another story.
Sounds like Tom’s phone needed hazard pay
I love hearing your stories Just-B
That’s really kind and thoughtful of you Alexis , but I’m not really needing the services just yet, have recently been reading about writing copy and am curious how other designers approach the subject.
@HotButton those are some solid pointers, thanks for that!
Interesting, how do you do it with your current practice?
When you’re passing a project off to copywriter, how do you ensure that they get the voice, personallity and messageing aligned with the rest of the brand?
Thanks for the Grammerly recommendation, I could probably use it for my posts here , considering how frequently I miss out words and make mistakes.
This is something I do fairly regularly. I have one particular client who sends me their ‘final’ copy. I always end up editing / re-writing it for both grammar and tone of voice. We’ve done it long enough now that they accept it. At first it’s often a fairly sensitive thing to approach, as everyone thinks they can write and don’t like to have this idea challenged.
I am fortunate enough that my ex-wife is an editor, writer, journalist and translator, so I managed to learn a fair bit from her. If I have any extensive copy to write, I’ll usually commission her to do it, but brochures, small websites, etc. I will usually do myself. (Given the typos I make posting here, it’s hard to believe, I know!).
In addition, a good few years ago, I used to be the European editor of a, now defunct, online publication about the state of the design industry, so I gained experience both editing and writing articles. Looking back I have no idea how I ever found the time to do this on top of client work, but it was invaluable experience.
As to getting a copywriter to ‘voice’ a piece; this is about both finding a good one and building a relationship with them, so you both know what each other requires – you don’t always have to marry them, but it helps.
I want to back up a little to a broader perspective that serves as a preface to answering your question.
I’ve spent most of my career in creative teams, so I tend to look at design problems as part of larger marketing and communication problems that involve disciplines that extend beyond just design.
Creative directors typically come from two different professions: writing and graphic design. I’ve never looked into it, but my guess is that most come from writing backgrounds.
I mention this because good writing and good design go hand-in-hand. A lead writer and a lead designer are probably the two most important components of most effective creative teams. Each tends to approach the same problems from different directions, which typically results in well-rounded, nearly bullet-proof solutions to creative problems.
Copywriters and, especially, copy editors tend to be somewhat analytical — more so than most designers. They tend to analyze, drill down, pick apart and identify problems, then carefully build solutions from the ground up. This step-by-step, incremental process usually focuses on simplicity, clarity, and effective communication with the carefully analyzed target audience in mind.
With that preface out of the way, I usually didn’t pass projects to copywriters/editors. I included them as an essential part of the process from the very beginning. I never met with clients without the lead writer on the project being part of the conversation. After the meetings, we’d always follow up with a team meeting where we’d discuss what we had just found out to make sure we all understood the problems and the concerns related to them.
In other words, I’ve never regarded the writers on a team as subordinate specialists — they’ve always been essential partners — from the initial discovery process all the way through to the final solution.
As for what I do now that I’m working in a one-person shop, I’ve narrowed down the job to my core specialties that don’t involve expertise that I don’t possess.
Luckily, I learned a great deal about writing, editing, and writers’ thought processes through 30-some years of working closely with these people. I can usually write and edit competently with some effort. I might not be great at it, but as often as not, excellent writing isn’t critical to the jobs I’m accepting. When I do run into projects where good writing is a key ingredient, I usually team up with one of the writers I know. Quite often, it’s writers I’ve worked with in the past who are my current clients.
Volkswagen Beetle Think Small advertising comes to mind. It’s all about the copywriting.
Here’s a great documentary. Part of it covers what happened in the ad business when the copy writers and artist started working together. Very interesting and highly recommended.
Thanks mate - looks interesting, will watch it tonight !
I write all of the copy for the company I work for, including website, blog posts, wine labels, social media captions, and ads. I’m not a trained writer by any means, but I’ve always been an avid reader and grammar enthusiast so I can at least spell things coherently and correctly.
My advice would be to really have a good grasp on what the brand is all about- the values, target customer, tone, mood, etc. Our brand has a persona, basically an imagined person who matches our brand values. I try to think how she would think, and by extension write how she would speak. That helps me match my tone to our target audience.
It also helps to think in terms of what your brand is NOT. For example, my brand is high-end but not stuffy, it’s fun-loving but not silly, it’s accessible but not simplistic, etc. This helps me to know what phrases and words to avoid.
The too main elements in copywriting is spealing and grammer.
Was a good watch, really liked the Ronald Reagan “It’s morning again in America” commercial:
How do you think they were able to create that emotional response you experience when you watch this commercial?
Thanks mate, these are some great recommendations!
That’s an interesting question because you are looking at it completely out of the social / political context of 1980 — you’re looking at at as a standalone ad. I’d say it’s a lot of elements coming together: Hal Riney’s voice over is superb (IMO), the copy, cinematography, the cadence of the ad, and the cadence of the scenes being depicted all seem to work together.
I agree with @Steve_O that analyzing the ad is difficult without considering the American psyche during the early 1980s.
During the preceding Jimmy Carter administration, the country was still recovering from the aftereffects of Watergate and Viet Nam. The economy was stuck, inflation was out of control, and the unemployment rate was high. On top of that was the ongoing saga of American diplomats held hostage in Iran, and Carter seemingly unable to do anything other than tell people to endure the pain.
Ronald Reagan was someone everyone knew from movies and television. He was fatherly, comforting, disarming, and engaging. He promised a new beginning that would leave everything I just mentioned behind on a journey into a better future. Whether Reagan should get credit or not, the first four years of his administration were years in which most everything in the country improved.
The Morning in America ads were an important part of Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984. The commercials were reminders of how things had improved and that the country was on the mend.
In the commercial was the unspoken message that although a new day had dawned, there was still unfinished work. The commercials subliminally implied that voting for Reagan’s opponent, Walter Mondale (Jimmy Carter’s vice president) threatened to bring back the gloomy darkness of the Carter administration.
I don’t think there’s any secret formula in creating a sentimentally powerful commercial that conjures up good feelings of warmth and comfort. I think the genius of that commercial was in the ad agency’s realization that America was ripe for hearing it and that re-electing Ronald Reagan could bring the vision of a new day in America to fruition. This television ad was probably one of the most effective commercials ever made — Reagan won by a huge landslide.
You’re both right that I am looking out of context, looking at it 30+ years later from an entirely different country and mindset, albeit I still couldn’t help but be a little moved watching it, it made me feel nostalgic, optimistic and hopeful.
True, though I think it comes from having a good understanding of your audience, what they’re feeling and knowing how to speak to that in way that resonates.