Monthly Archives: December 2012

Professional copywriters in Cheltenham aren’t the only source of inspired copy

Just before Christmas, I was seeking a few bottles of seasonal cheer on the web page for Majestic Wine Warehouse in Cheltenham when I read an inspired piece of do-it-yourself, non-professional copywriting by one of the store team, trainee manager Jamie:

Wine: it’s just a bunch of grapes. Like opera is just music and art just brushstrokes on the wall. To some it is. But for me, it is all of those things. It thrills, entertains and even saddens like an opera. It is the manifestation of man’s (and woman’s) ultimate creativity and expression akin to the walls of the Louvre and the Uffizi. It is place, time and life picked, crushed, nutured and bottled. I love it. I also like beer.

Although I’m not a great fan of beer, I liked this for the vivid picture it paints of wine appreciation. I’m no wine expert either. That’s why I trust the Majestic team’s advice – and they haven’t let me down yet. Jamie’s words seemed to capture the essence of good wine beautifully.

Later, after placing my order, I asked whether he had professional writing training and experience.  Aside from writing a few reviews on the Majestic site, he admitted, he hadn’t. All the more credit to him.

Impressive writing surfaces all over the place and it needn’t come from the pen or the keyboard of professional copywriters. However, where we do have an edge is in our ability to handle large volumes of copy, across a wide range of subjects and market sectors. And because we write day in and day out we’re usually quicker too.

Jamie found time to pen the words above. However, too often, as a Cheltenham copywriter, I see that clients don’t have the time, the specialist skills or even the inclination to craft their own copy. And where they do have writing ability, as many marketing people do, they often face other demands on their time. Demands that make it hard to find and protect the time needed to work creatively on much-needed marketing, website, technical or PR writing.

And that’s where, just as Jamie and his colleagues use their skills to help me choose my seasonal wine, I use mine to help organisations get vital copywriting off the to-do list and out in the market where it can sell, persuade and inform.

Just a thought when that deadline is approaching or you need some inspired web content in 2013.

Cheers!

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Season’s Greetings from Al, your Gloucestershire copywriter

Since becoming one of the freelance copywriters in Cheltenham in 2006 I haven’t sent hard copy seasonal greetings – my small gesture towards the environment. Instead, I make a donation to a favourite charity. Those of you who know me well are aware of the ongoing challenge that Alzheimer’s Disease poses in Jan and my lives. It’s a heartbreaking disease. That’s why, once again, I’ll be donating to Alzheimer’s Research UK instead of sending cards.

Being able to freelance from home has given me precious flexibility to support Jan as we’ve looked after her mother over the last few years. If you’ve entrusted copywriting to me in 2012, thank you again for helping to make this possible. If we haven’t yet worked together, or if we haven’t worked together for a while, I look forward to doing so – again, or for the first time.

However we’ve made contact, please accept my heartfelt season’s greetings. Whatever the season means to you and your family, I wish you an enjoyable break and a happy, peaceful, successful 2013.

Season's Greetings 2012 from Al Hidden Copywriter
is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Lord Leveson’s lesson for Cheltenham copywriters (and anyone who writes)

It was interesting to read the recent article in The Independent about content in the Leveson Report that appears to breaks a basic rule of journalism – that you always check your sources and don’t cut and paste. In the article, the UK daily claims that the judge warned about how inaccuracy in newspapers ‘caused significant concern’ – and then used incorrect facts about The Independent in his document.

In reality, it was probably a minor oversight. I doubt you’ll find a copywriter who’d put their hand up and say it couldn’t possibly happen to them. But as professional copywriters in Cheltenham, or anywhere else, we have a responsibility to take all reasonable measures to prevent this. And it isn’t hard…

Copywriters regularly use the Internet as one of their reference sources. We combine that information with our own knowledge, the results of fact-finding interviews, client-supplied source material and information from other sources. Then we create original content to do a communication job.

Use of the internet comes into its own when writing original SEO copy for landing pages, online articles and even blog posts. Why wouldn’t we, with Google at our fingertips? It’s not so much what we use, but how we use it that matters. And how thoroughly we check the information we find. This can often be validated against what we already know, or by cross-checking with other sources. As The Independent pointed out, ‘journalism students are taught at college that when researching on the Internet, they should not assume that the first site they come to is reliable’…

Of course, intelligent assessment of the quality and reliability of a chosen reference site also helps. BBC website: good. Badly written Johnny nobody’s site? Possibly not so good. With care, and alertness to the risks and hazards, the end result should be accurate content. But let’s never say never, because, just as I’d challenge you to show me a published document without a typo, accidents can happen to the best of us. As the Leveson Report reportedly confirms…

Which brings me back to cutting and pasting and the trouble that thoughtless use of Control-C and Control-P can cause. As a professional writer, I won’t cut and paste content from online sources into anything I write (I’m not including properly attributed quotes here, but general information that I might glean online while I’m researching content). I’ve found this to be a good discipline.

If anything, it’s harder and more time consuming to stitch together other people’s pasted words and writing styles than to read what they have to say and synthesise original content. (That said, I regularly have to edit copy drafted ‘by committee’. The ability to turn several people’s different styles into one consistent text is a fundamental editing and rewriting skill. Interested? Please contact me.)

Instead, I’ll do my research and immerse myself in a subject, then write an original piece based on what I’ve learned. By the time I’ve integrated this with existing source material supplied by my client, or my own knowledge, I can be sure the piece is original – and that it has my mark on it, not someone else’s.

Novice copywriters or those who churn out quick, cheap and dirty content for ‘copy mills’ may think this naïve and over-complicated – and that anything goes when you are throwing copy together for SEO purposes. I disagree, which is why I’ve always taken a pride in making sure that every SEO article or page that I write is a properly researched, structured and written piece of copy. It may cost a bit more, but that’s a small price for a client to pay for the knowledge that their content won’t get them into trouble when the plagiarism police come around. If you commission copy, especially web copy, please bear this in mind if you ever feel tempted by SEO articles or pages at silly, low prices. How do you think the copy mills can churn out 500 to 700 words for a few pounds without resorting to cut and pasting or copy spinning? But that’s another story…

On the subject of policing cut and pasted copy, and as a final check that nothing’s crept through by accident, there are always online services such as Copyscape, Plagium, FairShare and CopyGator. They are potentially useful to those seeking to identify plagiarism of their content – and copywriters wanting to avoid the embarrassment of unintentional infringement.

In the case of the Leveson Report and The Independent‘s article, I suspect that a tiny mistake was made in good faith and slipped through the editorial process on a massive document. I’m sure no-one set out to blatantly cut and paste content. And that’s the approach any writer should take – whether you’re a teenager writing this week’s homework, a freelance SEO copywriter, or a senior judge tasked with the most important review the UK press has probably ever seen.

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Copywriting, like helicopters, can be cost-effectively repurposed

lamalandingWould you like to fly with us?’ asked the orange suited pilot in heavily accented English as the cloud cleared over Bergun and we finished our morning coffee and Birchermüesli high in Switzerland’s Albula valley. I’d never flown in a helicopter, let alone a working Aerospatiale Lama like the one that was being used for helilogging that October in the late 1980s.

For a moment I imagined every fiery exploding chopper I’d ever seen in Bond movies, and how there was no way my travel insurance would cover me if worst came to worst. Then I said yes, and spent the next few days in the left-hand seat of HB-XND as we flew timber from the forested God da Speschas to the road head at Latsch. It was an experience that fired my passion for the ‘angry palm trees’ and led me to various helicopter-related writing in the years ahead: a technical communications project on safe boarding procedures for light helicopters; a helicopter-centred novel; and SEO website copy for a helicopter business since becoming one of the copywriters in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

llamacockpit

Those autumn days in Graubünden remain among my treasured memories from dozens of walking trips in Switzerland. Now, when I can’t be in my favourite alpine republic, I follow Swiss life, language and culture through radio, reading and the online SF1 Videoportal. Imagine my surprise then, when, more than 20 years after my Swiss heli adventure,  I spotted HB-XND in new (Air Zermatt instead of Air Grischa) colours during an episode of Die Bergretter, a Swiss documentary series about helicopter rescue in Canton Wallis.

And the connection with copywriting? Often with copy, rewriting saves money. Just as that Aerospatiale Lama was refurbished and reliveried for a second productive life with Air Zermatt, so tired written content can be renewed and repurposed. Okay, nothing’s as perfect as ‘from scratch’  copy, but when budgets are tight, editing and rewriting existing copy can prove an attractive, cost-effective option.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just pulling copy from an old brochure and putting it online. Different media and applications require different copywriting skills and approaches.  That’s where a skilled copywriter can help. And how, just as HB-XND got a second life, it’s possible to re-use and reinvigorate old copy or rough drafts.

lama2

 

Aerospatiale Lama HB-XND flies on, doing sterling service. And with a little bit of professional input, so can your old copy – at a fraction of the cost of new  ‘from-scratch’ copywriting.

 

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.