I love our brief. It helps us get into our clients’ heads without having to resort to mind reading. The best thing about it is how good it is at gleaning information. The whole document builds bit by bit until it leaves us with a complete picture of what our clients are after. But there is a part of it that helps us as copywriters more than any other, and that’s where we ask the client to provide a sample of writing they like. Invariably we are given the best examples that every industry has to offer. We’re talking world-class agency kind of quality. The copywriting equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. And as a copywriter you kind of just have to say, “sure I’ve got a paintbrush and a ladder I’ll give it a crack.” Because that is the kind of confidence you need, otherwise, you risk crumbling. But it’s this kind of exercise that helps us hone our skills, which is the best thing for any great copywriter in the long run.
We recently did a job for a client and they recommended a few articles that they liked the tone and style of. One was from a prestigious newspaper (they still exist) and had obviously been written by a travel writer or journalist. As a copywriter, this is the kind of challenge that gets the blood pumping. Can we replicate the tone, style and voice of this author? If we can match the skill set of the original then – the client will love the work because the writing will also meet their expectations, but if we fail it will also be quite apparent.
The best copywriters are those who are flexible enough to write about anything in any style they choose. So putting on a journalists hat for one piece of writing shouldn’t be that difficult. But a great journalist? A funny or interesting journalist? All of a sudden, it’s not so easy anymore. It’s more of a challenge, but it also lets you show off your writer chops. Because what you need to know regardless of industry is that what made that piece of writing good was how much personality there was in it – the authors personality. That means that if you are going to write like that you have to be just as engaging as they are. If copywriters have a ‘’spirit animal’’ it is the lyrebird. That great mimic that can study and produce sounds from birdsong to chainsaw. That is what is needed to succeed in copywriting, not your own unique voice, but a way to replicate the best and to do it time after time.