Tag Archives: 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.

Word macros for copywriters

I discovered Word macros relatively recently. Before that, I’d always thought of them as a rather arcane, hard-to-master aspect of Microsoft’s word-processor. Having had the confidence to experiment, I’ve discovered that a few carefully selected macros make copywriting and editing easier and faster for at least one of the copywriters in Gloucestershire!

Word macros that copywriters will use every day

Between the macros I’ve tracked down online and those I’ve recorded myself, I now have a nice suite of keyboard-accessible tools. Suddenly, a whole bunch of keystrokes or mouse clicks are reduced to a simple shortcut. Applications include toggling through different highlight colours, faster Paste Special, speeding up resetting Word’s Recheck Document function and my latest acquisition, a macro that highlights sentences longer than a set number of characters in a Word document. As a complement to the built-in Readability statistics this is a boon for any copywriter where writing-time is precious and certain repetitive tasks have to be repeated again and again.

A great free resource if you need Word macros

If you need a ready source of handy Word macros, I can’t recommend Paul Beverley’s free e-book, Macros for Writers and Editors too highly. It’s a veritable goldmine of ready to use macros that Paul has painstakingly written and generously made available to the writing and editing fraternity.

Having had some dealings with Paul online (he kindly helped me with a macro application that wasn’t in his book), I can confirm that he’s an extremely clever, really decent bloke, and ever so helpful. Read more here…

Helicopters and your Gloucestershire copywriter

A recent conversation with the owner of a Cotswold helicopter business provided a great opportunity to reminisce about the time this Gloucestershire copywriter ended up flitting around the Swiss Alps with a heli-logging crew. And how I ended up in a Bell 212 that got picked up by an AWACS in the days after 9/11. And then there was the generous support that I got from local helicopter businesses such as Polo Aviation and Heliflight for my City & Guilds Technical Communication project and my (as-yet unpublished) novel.

image by al hidden, gloucestershire helicopter copywriters

One of the highlights of my freelance copywriting career to-date was the SEO copywriting I did (through two of my clients) for Staverton-based Rise Helicopters. Add all these ‘helo experiences’ up and it makes a handy ‘helicopter CV’ as background to more work for the industry. Being interested in a subject is a great starting point for writing enthusiastically about it. Having this knowledge and experience, yet being able to stand back from the day-to-day intensity of a helicopter-related business, puts one on a great position to offer fresh perspectives.

One of my objectives for 2011 is to do some more helicopter writing. I’m getting itchy keyboard fingers and the challenge of helping another helicopter firm get their bizcomms out of a low hover and transitioning into a steep climb is an exciting one. Gotta helicopter business that could use some creative copywriting? Or maybe your agency or web company has a helicopter-business client? If so, please visit my helicopter copywriters website page for more info.

Is that the sound of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (Walkürenritt or Ritt der Walküren) I can hear?…

Office seating for copywriters

Did you ever work out how much of the year you spend sat at your desk or computer workstation? If you’re like me it will be a lot of time; all the more reason to make sure you have the best possible seating – especially if, like me, you have suffered from back problems in the past.

When I set up my Gloucestershire copywriting business in 2006, I finally took the plunge and, advised by Nigel Eldridge at The Office Back Care Centre in Cheltenham, invested in some seriously good office seating from Norwegian manufacturer Håg. Several years on, this is proving to be one of my best business investments and a massive productivity aid. I’d recommend one of these seats to anyone in the creative industries – or any other office environment for that matter.

Copywriter seating: Håg 05 high back

This Gloucestershire copywriter loves his Håg 05 office seat

For more information on my experiences with my two ‘Norwegian beauties’, why not visit the office seating article on my website copywriter Resources page.

Helicopters, website navigation and SEO copywriting

I should have listened to the weather forecast this morning. But I didn’t, and halfway up the hill the drizzle was so dense that you could barely see across the valley. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of the helicopter through the gloom, a Sea King approaching slowly, just above the treeline, from over the village. For a moment I was back in the Rockies as Alpine’s Bell-212 approached our mountain eyrie… Then the yellow chopper circled slowly away over the escarpment and disappeared into the mist over the reservoir…

For the rest of my walk I thought about search engine optimisation. If we wanted to be found by a search and rescue helicopter we’d do all we could to make it easy: using hand signals, smoke flares or objects laid out on the ground. It should be the same with websites. Everyone knows the importance of keywords; but amazingly, as one of my SEO experts was saying just before I left the office, too many clients still don’t appreciate the importance of structuring their website (the hierarchy of pages, the site navigation and the consistent use of search terms) around identified search terms to lead humans and search engines to the content they want.

Too often, the site navigation is limited to ‘About Us’, ‘Services’ and similar terms that no one would ever search for. The clever people use a good SEO consultant to structure the site navigation around identified terms that searchers really use – then hire a skilled SEO copywriter to work their magic around ‘helicopter flight training’, ‘haulage contractors Cotswolds’ ‘copywriters in Gloucestershire’ or whatever’s appropriate.

It’s rather like standing in a big field, waving your arms at ‘Budgie’ and yelling ‘Come get me!’ We’d all do it if we really wanted to be found!

Post-CSR web copywriting: only one thing matters

It’s nearly two weeks since the announcement of the long-awaited comprehensive spending review (CSR). Up on the hill behind the village, little has changed except for the browning autumn leaves. And in boardrooms around the country, the lines are drawn between cautious optimists and those who see impending economic doom. Whether CSR proves to be the key to economic recovery or the trigger for the dreaded double-dip recession, the case for better copywriting is clear.

Back in the 1980s we were all advised to advertise through recession. We were told that brands that invested through the hard times would emerge stronger at the other end. This time around, online presence is the one thing that no business can afford to neglect. Is your website looking tired or underperforming in Google? Now’s the perfect time to invest in a makeover. Never got beyond a first generation site? How about going to the next level? Either way, words can work for you.

Whatever you decide to do, investing in better copy puts the perfect face on your web presence and complements the underlying design and SEO work. Poor copy is a surefire way to put-off human visitors (your potential customers) and the search engines alike. Good copy, on the other hand, is a great way to engage prospects and bots effectively.

Whether the CSR cloud reveals a silver lining or we dive deeper into recession, even a modest investment in those words has to be a good thing. If things get better you’re perfectly positioned to outgun your competition; if they worsen, to compete harder for business. Either way, from simple copy-editing of existing content to a wholesale copy revamp, words from one of the Gloucestershire copywriters could be working harder for you.