Tag Archives: cheltenham copywriters

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.

AIDA’s dead: long live AIDA, friend to copywriters in Cheltenham

Have you heard? AIDA’s dead. Well she, or he, or it is if you believe some copywriters.  AIDA is an invaluable acronym that has underpinned copywriting for as long as I can remember – and for decades before that too.  The name comes from the first letters of the words Awareness, Interest, Desire and Conviction. It’s a handy model for structuring anything from a sales letter to a webpage. Copywriters in Cheltenham use it, copywriters in Sweden use it and copywriters everywhere else in the world use it. If you’re not using it you should be. AIDA is the de facto standard for leading a reader through a piece of copy from headline to call to action.

aida

Recently, as I’ve read various copywriting texts, I’ve discovered writers putting the case for variations on AIDA: it’s as if they’re announcing her/his/its death as they introduce the idea of AIDCA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Conviction, Action) or AIDRA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, reason, Action) like successors to the throne of well-structured marketing copy. Personally, I feel that Messrs Maslen and Gabay respectively may be complicating things a bit. They’re both super-accomplished writers, senior statesmen of the UK copywriting scene, but I believe that original and simplest remains best.

AIDA works, and the Desire section can easily encompass conviction and reason. I can use conviction to generate desire or give a persuasive reason perfectly easily within that all-embracing D for Desire. Why complicate things. Methinks that sometimes people just like to create something new and proprietary to be different. Just a thought…

And then, just to complicate things further, when you read up on who first created AIDA,  someone comes along and suggests that the first occurrence was actually different again – AIDC, or Awareness, Interest, Desire and Conviction. That would be Frank Hutchinson Dukesmith, editor, in 1904, of Salesmanship. Maybe AIDA was an imposter after all?

Anyone got any more ideas on the subject? Post a comment and a suggestion if you can track AIDA’s birth back to before 1904! Or if you know another variation on this acronym.

This Cheltenham copywriter won’t bend the facts

I enjoyed last week’s Top Gear special about the cars featured in 50 years of James Bond films. As well as reminding me that none of us get any younger, it took me back to the 1960s, Ian Fleming’s novels and being given one of the original Corgi James Bond Aston Martin DB5s. If I recall correctly, I even had a crack at writing my own Bond-inspired spy stories…

If there was ever a master storyteller it was Fleming. He was a stickler for his facts too – a rule that Top Gear’s writers occasionally seem to bend. I’m sure that the old Fleet Street adage, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, often apply to Messrs Clarkson, May and Hammond. It certainly seemed to be the case during the show when, prompted by Scaramanga’s getaway in The Man with the Golden Gun, Hammond got onto the subject of flying cars. In particular the ill-fated AVE-Mizar Ford Pinto-based aircraft from the early 1970s.

al hidden copywriter sketch of ave-mizar flying car

While describing how the car was considered for the film, the Hamster couldn’t resist graphically describing how the car separated from its wings and plunged earthwards. It may have made a dramatic story, but it isn’t the truth. If you’ve seen the official accident report (NTSB Identification: LAX74FUQ18), you’ll know that what really happened was a wing-strut failure before the complete car-aircraft combo crashed in flames.

But I digress… As I watched the programme, I started thinking that my objective, as a Cheltenham copywriter, is to maintain factual integrity while telling an authentic brand or product story.

I could be writing SEO copy or a case study that uses a customer’s story to convincingly sell your product. It really doesn’t matter. Either way, the secret lies in an engaging benefit-led tale. With good source material and skilled writing, little more is needed; it’s really not necessary to bend the facts for dramatic effect.

So, on that note, you won’t find exaggeration, fact-bending or economy with the truth when I write for you and your organisation. You’ll just get a great story about your product, company or brand.

And by the way, in case you’re wondering, I’m not the Stig.

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

Great copywriting book recommendation from Sweden

While in Norway recently, Mrs H and I met Ronja Gustafsson, a Stockholm copywriter and PR specialist currently based at the city’s Entreprenörskyrkan (Entrepreneurship Church) business centre. Ronja’s background is in international marketing and she’s been running her own PR and copywriting business since the start of 2012.

copywriters in stockholm

We were able to swap notes on the UK and Swedish freelance copywriting scenes. And because Ronja writes in Swedish, I’ve suggested that we might be able to collaborate if any of her clients have a requirement for English-language content. If the Swedish scene is anything like that in Norway, there’s plenty of demand for English language  copy. But as we noticed in locations as diverse as Alesund’s aquarium and Norwegian’s in-flight magazine, the quality of written English coming out of the Scandinavian countries often leaves something to be desired when put under the microscope by a native English speaker. That’s in no way to detract from the excellent English spoken by all but the oldest Scandinavians, but a reflection of the importance of getting any translation or copywriting done (or at least thoroughly checked) by a native English speaker.

Back in the UK, I checked out Ronja’s copywriting blog and noticed that she’d reviewed (Boktipps) The Idea Writers by Teressa Iezzi. Having just read several of John Simmons’ excellent books on branding and brand language (including We, Me, Them and it: How to Write Powerfully for Business, The Invisible Grail and Dark Angels: How Writing Releases Creativity at Work), I thought Iezzi’s book, published in 2010, would complement them well. So far, I’ve been proven right.

I’m engrossed, and thoroughly enjoying the insights and excellent writing as the author takes an in-depth look at the state of copywriting and brand creativity – albeit with a strong bias towards the more conceptual, advertising orientated side of the business. Well recommended Ronja – you may want to try John Simmons’ Writers Trilogy.

If you are looking for a PR or copywriter in Sweden, writing in Swedish, why not contact Ronja? And if you’re seeking copywriters in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire? Please contact me.

In the meantime, Hej då (as they say in Sweden).

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

A copywriter from Cheltenham fights food waste in Norway

Whenever I travel, food waste in self-service all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants breaks my heart. We’ve seen it again and again, from the UK to Cuba and around Europe. During a recent trip to Scandinavia, I did my bit to fight back…

Our trip to Norway finished with a couple of nights in Ålesund, staying at the excellent Quality Hotel Waterfront on Nedre Strandgate. It’s a Nordic gem, with a strong eco-stance and a delicious buffet breakfast. And that’s where my hackles were raised as, yet again, we watched uneaten platefuls of delicious local bread, brunost and waffles being shovelled into the garbage. Why, oh why, when they can come back again and again for food, do people pile their plates too high and then leave it?

Speaking to hotel management, I suggested a simple notice to encourage guests to waste less. The idea went down well and I was asked if I could help with some ideas. When I said I was a copywriter in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and offered to write something, guest service assistant Karoline Thorstensen (see picture below) was delighted. Mrs H and I were given free-run of the hotel bar and I set to work…

Karoline Thorstensen with Cheltenham copywriter, Al Hidden

Karoline Thorstensen from Ålesund’s Quality Hotel Waterfront and Cheltenham copywriter Al Hidden

The finished text had to be in Norwegian, German and English. I developed a copy concept around ‘help yourself to as much as you want, but help to avoid waste’. It had to be something that wouldn’t appear dictatorial, but would emphasise the benefit of enjoying as much as you want while gently reminding about avoiding wasted food.

Aware that the play on words wouldn’t translate easily, and that I’d need input from a native German speaker, I also drafted a more direct Germanic version. Karoline, who is German-Norwegian, was delighted, loved the concept and promptly emailed my copy to her mother, a native German speaker, to polish my German and draft a Norwegian variant. That happened overnight; the message was on display in time for breakfast.

Will my work help reduce waste? I hope so, and so does Karoline and the rest of the hotel’s team. We’ll be interested to check out the results next time we visit  Ålesund and stay at the Quality Hotel Waterfront. Which we will, because it’s great.

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