Tag Archives: copywriting

Vulcan XH558 takes the Gloucestershire Copywriter back in time…

It’s a short but sweet reminiscence this week, prompted by the chance sighting of our only flying Vulcan G-VLCN (military identifier XH558) as it headed for the Weston Air Festival on a recent Sunday afternoon.

Seeing  G-VLCN (I thought our personal number plate was a good one!) flying over was a wonderful experience. I only just caught her, saw her heading south from a bedroom window, rushed to grab the camera and snatched a shot at full zoom just as the V bomber was about to disappear over our neighbour’s roof.

The Vulcan took the Gloucestershire Copoywriter back in time...

Avro Vulcan XH558 about to fly into my neighbour’s open Velux window!

Why the emotion? Well, the last time I saw a Vulcan flying for real was back in the early 1960s when we lived in Bristol. I must have been about five then, when Vulcans – at that time part of our main nuclear deterrent – flew over regularly.

Seeing G-VLCN The Spirit of Great Britain again reminded me how far I’ve come in 50 years. Back then I drew and wrote little stories, made aircraft and hangers out of plasticine. Now, as well as doing all those things (!) the writing’s taken on a whole different meaning.

It’s been a fascinating journey from a Bristol childhood to working as a freelance copywriter just up the road in Cheltenham. I think back over growing up in Bristol, then in Northern Ireland through The Troubles. Then uni at Cambridge (and pistol shooting under the wing of a retired Concorde at Duxford) followed by years in technical selling, marketing, business development, technical writing,, copywriting and PR across southern England. I developed a passion for Switzerland and British Columbia, got married, got divorced, married again, wrote a novel with an aviation theme and settled under the Cotswold escarpment with the two loves of my life – my wife and my words.  It took nearly 50 years from sitting in that garden looking up at the Vulcans, but I finally got back to where I’m meant to be – a passionate creative who loves using paper and pencil (or a word-processor now) and has been known to do aviation and defence-related copywriting.

Over the years, my interest in aviation sustained, probably helped me get into an aviation tech pubs firm where I worked for Airbus (including doing my bit on the A-380 Tooling & Equipment Manual) and Rolls-Royce (manufacturer of the Vulcan’s Olympus engines) and worked alongside people who maintained and flew Vulcans in those halcyon 1960s days… including one who carried the Magna Carta to the USA aboard a Vulcan.

Vulcan XH558

Beautiful! Simply beautiful!

Looking at the Wikipedia page for G-VLCN/XH558, I see that the aircraft first flew on 25 May 1960, which makes me a few months older than her! We’re both going strong after all those years: me with my marketing, website, brochure, technical and case study copywriting; the Vulcan as the only surviving flying example of a bygone age when Britain’s airborne nuclear deterrent really was something to be respected and admired.

That particular branch of the RAF may have gone, to be replaced by a handful of sinister, prowling missile submarines. But the Vulcan continues to rouse the passions of virtually everyone who sees (or hears) her.

Talking of passions, there’s more copywriting to be done…

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

Graphic design and copywriting: a lesson from Rio’s favelas

Rio’s sprawling hillside favelas – shanty towns – are a long way from this Gloucestershire copywriter’s beat. And they might seem a strange place to find a reminder about the importance of graphic design and copywriting working together for the clearest possible communication. But that, indeed, is what I saw on an impressive BBC2 documentary last night.

The Gloucestershire Copywriter loved Welcome to Rio, Part 1 'Peace'

Welcome to Rio on BBC 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was watching Part 1 of BBC’s pre-World Cup documentary series Welcome to Rio. I’m not a massive football fan, but it looked interesting and, having recently spent a couple of days in Brazil, I decided to watch. The programme, which looked at the lives of people living in Rio’s favelas, gave a fascinating insight into the challenges faced by the residents as they survive with pirated electricity, broken white goods salvaged from Rio’s posh districts and inspiration from some of the most stunning dawn views over Copacabana beach and Corcovado.

A few words make things easier for everyone

The Cantagalo residents featured in this observational series included Brazilian ‘Banksey-style’ graffiti artist Acme. In one scene, Acme is communicating his feelings for the enforced dismantling of the favela with an impressive artwork featuring an octopus (the authorities) and a shark (the people). As he finishes the metres-long painting, a police officer asks what it is about, drags out of Acme the notion of oppressed people battling against the establishment, then suggests that a few words might make the idea easier for everyone to understand.

Get your copywriter in early

And there was the lesson. Too often, as a busy Cheltenham copywriter, I get called into a project when the brochure design is complete or a website is nominally ‘finished’. I do my best, but how much better it is for the client when I work alongside their graphic designer or website company from the start to produce a design solution where words and images complement each other and communicate the desired message.

In fact, since returning from South America, I’ve been working with Stroud-based graphic designer Sam Hemmings (Design Fibre) to create a new brochure for retail location specialist Maximise (UK) Ltd. The project was a joy, with a fantastic client and great chemistry between Sam and I as the classic copywriter-designer creative team.

When words and images work together – it’s perfect

Oh yes! As that Rio cop explained to the exceptionally talanted Acme, perfect communication comes when words and design work together. Now, let’s hope that the England team gel as well as Sam and I did when they take to the pitch in next month’s World Cup.

Let’s hope for Gol! Gol! Gol! (as they say in Rio!) And before that, there are two more episodes of Welcome to Rio to watch over the next couple of weeks…

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

Does this happen to you too? Tell the Gloucestershire Copywriter…

Do you listen to the radio while you work? Have you ever been writing or editing a document while the radio is on and noticed that a word is spoken just as you type it in your document? I’ve noticed this over the years and it’s happened enough that I’m fascinated why it occurs.

Combining background music or radio with writing or editing is a controversial and very personal subject. We all have a different view on its usefulness (or helpfulness) of background music or radio. Most of the time I’m creating new copy or editing, the most demanding thing I’ll listen to is Classic FM or Classic Radio Suisse. Often, I’ll even switch everything off and work in silence – it depends on the job. I usually reserve spoken-word radio for less demanding writing or editing because it can be distracting. But over the years I’ve noticed that I surprisingly frequently type or edit a word just as the same word is mentioned in a radio programme or podcast. Why is this?

So far, I haven’t been able to find references to this happening elsewhere on the Internet – maybe I simply haven’t been trying hard enough. I’d be interested to hear whether you’ve noticed this phenomenon or are aware of anything else that’s been written about it. If so, please tell me about it with a comment.

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

Gloucestershire copywriter spots silent assassins at tyre depot…

One of our cars needed a couple of tyres last week, so I left the email copywriting that I was doing at the time and headed down to the local branch of a well-known national tyre supplier for some new rubber.  The response to my phone call had been friendly and helpful. The same applied when I pulled up at the depot too. In the warm, clean waiting area there was free coffee and a decent pile of magazines to flick through while the work was being done in a well-organised workshop beyond the window. And a wide-screen TV was running what looked like a very professionally produced series of mini-documentaries about different aspects of tyre care and selection. All good so far…

tyre

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TV caught my attention, as it was supposed to do. I found myself engrossed in a feature on the benefits of fitting winter tyres. It was really interesting, and I was pleased to see that subtitles had been designed in for the hard-of hearing. Of course, it was impossible not to read the subtitles. And as I did, I noticed that the copywriting and proof-reading hadn’t been done well at all. For instance, the word braking appeared as ‘breaking’ and Arctic conditions became ‘artic conditions’ (and not an ASDA delivery lorry in sight!)

My attention was diverted from the (very slick) mini programme to spotting the typos in the subtitles. Worse still, I found myself wondering why, if they couldn’t write ‘braking’ correctly on a tyre-related programme, I should have full confidence in the message that was being delivered (or the brand that was delivering it to me). Some people, it’s true, might not have noticed. But others, like me,  will have done so. And others still may have been distracted by a niggling awareness that something was wrong with the text – without being  sure exactly what.

The silent assassins had struck like the gunshot that kills before the victim hears the report from a weapon. The brand had been dented and the message undermined. And the originators probably hadn’t got a clue.

And the lesson to learn? If you want to reduce the risk of ‘silent assassins’ undermining your marketing message in brochure copy, web/SEO copywriting or in client case studies, a bit of professional support could work wonders. After all, you wouldn’t dream of fitting your own tyres would you? You’d leave it to the experts.  The same applies to copywriting, copy-editing and proof-reading.

And like new tyres at the start of winter, what a difference it makes.

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

Lunch with the Gloucestershire Copywriter: Jason Ayers of MA Design Solutions

Back in the summer, I met with long-standing client Jason Ayers of MA Design in Cheltenham for a spot of lunch and a chat about business, web design and development, and copywriting. Jason also revealed some interesting things about his background – and an unexpected creative talent. Here’s how the conversation went…

Jason Ayers of MA Design Solutions in Cheltenham

Jason Ayers of MA Design Solutions in Cheltenham

AH:  So what are you eating, Jason?

JA:  Pasta and chicken with copious quantities of salad, I think.

AH:  And how’s biz? Where’s MA Design going?

JA:  Biz at the moment is good. It’s enjoyable. It’s busy, which everyone, I think, would say anywhere.

AH: And the biggest challenges?

JA: Google without a shadow of a doubt. Our little furry penguin friend causing headaches. Particularly for lots of people that we don’t work for, so that’s a good thing, because they’re getting headaches and coming to us. It’s a challenge, but I think we’re getting there slowly but surely.

AH: Remind me how you got into the business. I know your background was graphics before the web game, but I’m curious about the background. How did you get to where you are now?

JA: Chris and I started MA Design in 2001. Before that we worked together at a travel company. It was quite a large company so I used to manage their studio which was like, 12 or 13 staff and a lot of traditional printed stuff, brochures, you know that full print remit, dealing with national and local newspapers so all the adverts would go into those. It was as much a mass management project as it was looking at the design aspect of things, so that’s where it started.

AH:  Are you a designer who went into management or a marketing person who got into design?

JA:  That’s a good question. I guess I’m a bit unusual because I don’t think I excel at design but I like to think that I can cut the mustard…

AH:  Did you train in design?

JA:  No. I trained in Communication Studies which covered a lot of those areas of design principles, typography, communication, mass communication and different types of media, media history, language and even psychology. It’s stood me in good stead for the management side of things but also understanding principles behind communication. Then the design side of things started to come in with the work in the studio environment. So I’m not classically trained in graphic design or marketing but with a much broader, I guess, understanding of how people work, how communication works as well.

AH:  You’re doing all right, aren’t you?

JA:  Usually smiling…

AH:  So what’s the big secret of your success with MA Design?

JA: OK, I think one of the main things is seeing clients’ businesses through their eyes. We don’t say ‘OK, what do you think you want?’ and then say ‘Oh, well, actually, here’s what we think and it’s gospel’. We prefer to get in your head and see where you are, where you want to take the company, and what your priorities are. Everybody wants to be top of the shop, with a good logo and social media. And lots of people still want printed stuff. So it’s understanding the business rather than understanding what’s best for [us].

MA Design Solutions: website for Arden Construction

MA Design Solutions: website for Arden Construction

AH: Surely everybody says they’re trying to do that, but you’re never going to know a business as well as the owner, so how do you actually do it? How do you really get that insight?

JA:  I think you learn from what they’ve done in the past and what’s worked for them before. Then you bring your experience and your understanding with general practices and principles and see what worked for other people and other organisations. I think you’re right. I don’t think you can ever get fully immersed in somebody’s company but over time I think you can get to learn a lot of stuff about specialist subjects – such as hydraulics that I’d never have dreamt of understanding but that just came with building up a relationship with clients and going on a journey with them, spending time to understand them, where they are now and where they’re going.

AH: So how do you use freelance copywriters in your work and what are your thoughts on using them in general?

JA:  I think you could extend this to any service that we’d look to supply, to subcontract, use associates or whatever the terminology you want to use. For me, in any relationship with a copywriter, photographer or social media specialist, there needs to be a certain level of professionalism. That’s one of the big things. And their experience. If somebody is a copywriter a photographer, there are a lot of assumptions you can make if they’re in business and have been around for a certain amount of time. That’s very important, but one of the key overriding things is professionalism and trust. We need to be able to trust that person to represent our brand in the best possible way. Price comes into it, obviously, but ultimately if things go wrong, then it looks bad on us so we wouldn’t use that person any further.

AH:  What are your thoughts on freelance white labelling? Freelancers being themselves and working for you. Or a freelancer ‘being MA Design’ as it were? This must bring challenges. What are your thoughts on those two extremes?

JA:  I think it depends on our client and project. Some clients want one port of call; they want to deal with one company that’s got everything in-house. That’s how we come across. I think you’re right, there are pros and cons to both approaches. We will use people from the white labelling perspective but it can add extra admin time, misunderstandings or misinterpretation of conversations and emails and stuff. But if that’s what the project dictates, then that’s what we’ll do.

AH:  The integrity of the subcontractor comes into it as well because, at the end of the day, you need the confidence they’re not going to run off with your client and start working directly.

JA: Yeah, and I think that’s a two-way thing with the client as well. People that we work with, we’re transparent with. A lot of people understand the relationship and we’ve not had anybody try and pinch one of our partners and go direct to them intentionally. Sometimes, it does happen just naturally and we trust our providers to say, “Well, we had so-and-so, you know, one client come back and they want X, Y and Z and then, you know, it comes back under our remit.

Al Hidden, Gloucestershire Copywriter

Al Hidden, Gloucestershire Copywriter

AH: Let’s talk about the challenge of selling-in professional copywriting services to clients. Now there’s an interesting one because it’s quite a difficult area isn’t it?

JA:  Yeah, I think if you’re selling services beyond your own skill sets, that you’re not just selling yourself, then that’s a challenge. Where you’ve got clients who can see value in something it helps. So if people understand the value of a professional photographer, not just somebody just walking round with a camera pressing a button but somebody that sets a scene, strips a scene, you know, and manages everything, then that helps. Similarly with copywriting, if somebody appreciates the added value of having a professionally-written piece of copy as opposed to them just making something up, its easier than when you have to convince people, to educate people. That’s when it becomes harder.

AH: Because we’re in an age, aren’t we, where everyone thinks they can write and take pictures. Especially with the camera technology that’s available to everyone now.

JA:  with professional copywriting, I think it comes down to two areas. There’s the obvious benefit of getting the piece professionally written, well-crafted with proper English. But I think one of the big added values comes from the saving of time. That can be a really big factor.

AH:  Are you thinking in terms of getting the site going live?

JA:  No, I’m thinking more from our customers’ perspective. They can save time. So if you look at, for instance, one of the clients we’re working with at the moment, that means writing blog articles that can be repurposed so one piece does a lot of things. From that particular client’s point of view, though I’m sure he could write a very well articulated, very thoroughly put together article, he hasn’t got enough time in the day to write his blog posts…

AH:  I guess his hourly rate is going to be higher than a capable copywriter or photographer. It makes sense.

JA:  Again, I think it’s like that with lots of businesses, especially smaller businesses and owner-managers. Everybody has to be an accountant, designer, bookkeeper, marketer or social media person. You’ve got all these different things that you can do yourself but it comes to a point where you’ve got to do what you do best, do your job and grow your business. So, as I say, one of the big benefits of proper copywriting is saving the customer time which is a very big thing for us.

AH:  It used to be a challenge getting content off clients for brochures. Now it’s the same for websites and it can actually be a huge show-stopper when you are trying to get a website live or a brochure published.

JA: I think you’re right. I would say 80 per cent of delay on a website project. And it helps to have decent copy from a relatively early stage in the design process too. Loro ipsum placeholder text on the page doesn’t really give the full feel of the site at approval stage. Having personalised content, even just on the homepage, is fantastic. And the speed of completion is definitely faster when somebody is being paid to write. For the clients, there’s always a very good reason for why there’s been a delay. They’re doing their job so the last thing they want to do is to have to sit there and write two or three hundred words of content to go on each page of a website which is now growing into 10, 20 or 50 pages. That’s where professional support helps.

MA Design Solutions: website for dhp consulting ltd

MA Design Solutions: website for dhp consulting ltd

AH: A question for you: how long does it take you to write a page of content for a website?

JA:  I don’t know. No, hang on, let’s spin this one round. How about for you?

AH:  It depends. If I’ve got free rein on an SEO page that’s set out with a really good page keyword set from someone like Neil Tufano [MA Design’s SEO consultant], who you know I’ve worked with for years. Well, in that case you can probably do it in an hour. More often, for a commercial site, probably somewhere between an hour and two hours per page is realistic.

JA: I think people that aren’t trained in PR and copywriting think they can do it themselves. What makes it harder is giving them 10 or 12 SEO keyword phrases that they have to place into content which is reliant on them using that phrase exactly instead of changing things around and removing plurals and singulars and that kind of thing. I think when people sit down and try to do it themselves, they’d struggle to do it within two hours or even longer.

AH:  And you’ve also got to factor-in the preliminaries that go with the work.

JA:  Yeah, it’s interesting. People’s perception on how long these things take. I make people very aware that there’s so much work involved. It’s not just a case of, oh, I’ll just put a few words together.

AH: It comes back to making best use of your skills and the value of your time. What’s a typical hourly rate for a senior manager or director in a SME?

JA:  It’s got to be £80–100 an hour. Even more if they’re an accountant or a solicitor, I don’t know, what will their fees be charged out at? Even a junior solicitor, say, £70-80 an hour. It has to make sense to do a brief and then actually let the creator get on with it and then come back rather than having to sit there and agonise over something that maybe doesn’t come to them too naturally.

AH:  What are your thoughts on working long distance? Working remotely with, say, a London-based copywriter, compared with local copywriter? The London guys say, yeah, you can do it all by Skype and email and you don’t have to use a local copywriter or a local photographer if you’re in Gloucestershire. Yet, actually a lot of my clients say they like this face-to-face contact. What are your thoughts on remote working?

JA:  I think that from the localised perspective, it’s a massive selling point. I think that long-distance relationships can work. We work with people outside the county and there are some guys that we work with that we’ve never actually met face-to-face. But I think for something that is as personalised as copywriting, which is really reflecting your tone, that face-to-face interaction is very important. I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all but I think it’s a distinct USP over and above working with somebody that’s too far away that they can’t come across to meet for a briefing at short notice on a Friday afternoon. In any case, you’re going to pay through the nose for it and probably pay double the rate anyhow for using somebody from the Big Smoke. That’s just the way the industry is.

AH:  From your experience, are London fees still astronomically high?

JA:  Yeah, to my knowledge.

AH:  Would a London-based MA Design be horrendously dear compared to the very good value Gloucestershire-based MA Design that we know and love?

JA: I think so. You only have to look at the operational costs involved with London, if your staff are living in London and you operate in a business with business expenses in London. You’ve got to do the maths on it. It’s going to affect what you have to charge.

AH:  Moving on, have you any thoughts on the changing nature of copywriting? We’ve seen the rise in the role of the web over the last 10–12 years, but where’s it going next? Where’s the role of the freelance copywriter going next?

JA:  I think, looking at it from the commercial aspect and one of your previous questions about selling-in the copywriting, it’s a difficult thing to sell if people don’t see that they need it. But I think that there is a cost that’s associated with it and I think that the future of copywriting is probably going to involve more re-purposing than previously. People want more bang for their buck so where you’ve got social media, and I’m not just talking Facebook and Twitter, you’re looking at Google Plus now, people are expecting to be able to take one article or one page or one project and re-purpose it across several different communication channels or several different items and so I think that’s probably going to be important …

AH:  Do you sense that your clients are actually starting to get the Google message about content and quality of content and regularly updating content? You’re there at the sharp end. Have they seen the light?

JA:  I think they’re starting to. The British seem to be typically reserved, typically behind the curve, certainly from the Google perspective: build website, make website A-OK, then pay somebody to do SEO on a monthly basis. That way I, as a website owner, just pay somebody to do stuff and I don’t have to do anything. I think the way the web is now evolving, especially in response to recent penguin updates, the whole concept is shifting towards empowering website owners to produce a news-rich experience with content of their website that people will like. Content that people will want to share and find engaging. That is basically what Google’s Matt Cutts is saying: Make it good and we’ll reward you for it.

AH:  You know that. I know that.

JA:  So do the clients know that?

AH:  Are they getting it?

JA:  They’re slowly getting it, yeah, and this is again, I think, where people will always look to outsource and get people involved in helping them. And that’s where I think it comes back to the role of the copywriter.

MA Design Solutions: website for Sweeping Beauties

MA Design Solutions: website for Sweeping Beauties

AH: So what is the most important thing for you when choosing a freelance copywriter?

JA:  For us, as an agency, it comes back to my earlier point about representation and being able to deal with our clients in a way that reflects us positively. Writing skills are of course very important, but I think that is kind of an assumed; you take that for granted. You’re not a copywriter or a copywriting business for however many years if you can’t walk the walk. But for us, certainly the biggest thing is to know that when we put a freelance copywriter in touch with our client they are going to do the job and communicate with them properly. That’s certainly the biggest thing for us.

AH:  Changing tack completely, I want to ask you about something that’s fascinated me for ages. Your sister Tracey runs a local telemarketing business [Jonti Telemarketing in Cirencester] and your partner Lisa has a dog-grooming business with an online presence. You must get involved with these. Does working with partners and family create special challenges?

JA: I think it can do, yeah. There’s the level of expectations. For instance, in the case of my sister’s business, having a website delivered and two weeks later, saying ‘why am I not top of the shop in Google for all of my key phrases?’ That’s something we see a lot of with everybody and I think there’s a different kind of pressure when it’s people that are closer to you… One thing that comes out of working on those projects is that you get to see closer to home the impact and the importance of getting it right. So, with Lisa my partner’s website, for her dog-grooming business, Blossoms Pet Care, she’s now fully-booked for her services until the middle of July. She now literally hasn’t got anything left free until the August Bank Holiday with her new business, so to be moaned at that ‘I’m too busy…

AH: You get moaned at?

JA: Yes, I’ll get moaned at that she’s too busy. That’s a good moan to have, I think. If things weren’t in place that are in place, then she would quite possibly be struggling with generating new business, going round the old routine of banging on doors, pushing things through letterboxes, advertising in the local printed magazines. Yes, so it’s work, but bang for buck, when you see the enquiries that are coming through, ‘Oh, I found your website…’, ‘Oh, I’m just on your website…’ so when you see it close to home and you see what it can generate, then you realise that you’re doing the right thing…

AH: Interesting. Now, Do you fancy a bit of dessert?

JA: Oh God no, or I will be asleep, I won’t…

AH: What are you going to do when you get back to the office? Apart from have a sleep…

JA: Yeah. Have a sleep followed by check what will probably be about twenty or so emails.

AH:  So tell me, before we finish, what do you do to unwind when you’re not at work? What’s your thing? I know you like photography.

JA:  Yeah, I do a little bit, a tad…I think for me it’s music.

AH:  What, do you play? Guitar?

JA:  Turntables.

AH:  Really?

JA: As in DJ’ing, yeah. I used to own a nightclub as well

AH:  In Cheltenham?

JA:  No, in another area of Gloucestershire, shall we say? I’ve been involved with clubs since I was about eighteen. I’ve DJ’d in Greece and in Melbourne, Australia.

AH:  Did you live in Melbourne?

JA: Only for six months.

AH: Who are your musical influences, or is there no-one quite like Jason?

JA:  No, no, no.

AH: Did you DJ under your real name?

JA:  No, as Fat Boy Fat.

AH:  As distinct from Fat Boy Slim?

JA: Exactly. That was a nickname my mother gave me.

AH:  I’m guessing that was the early 90s?

JA:  Yeah, so I mean, I started in ‘89, the year before I went to Australia.

AH:  So Greece, Melbourne…when were you out in Melbourne?

JA:  ‘89–‘90. Twelve months out there. Six months living in Melbourne, five months travelling and another month back in Melbourne.

AH:  So who do you really rate in the business? Who are your influences?

JA:  That’s hard. A lot people try to pigeonhole each other. Oh and you do this and you do that…

AH:  Is that dangerous?

JA:  It can be, yeah, like with EDM in the States and the superstar DJ explosion and people jumping on the bandwagon, like David Guetta. And Calvin Harris is another example. You know, pop-wise they’ve exploded and done really well and then you’ve got others coming from a more purist sort of DJ perspective.

AH:  So it is now just for amusement and relaxation at home?

JA:  Yeah, and also, I do the odd wedding, strange as it may sound, but that’s more to do with a wedding which is dance music-orientated as opposed to classic.

AH:  What’s on your turntables at the moment?

JA:  I don’t know names of many tunes. Just if it sounds good, it goes onto a disc and I play it.

AH:  Really, as simple as that?

JA:  Yeah. I’m available to hire for weddings and bar mitzvahs. I did get asked once if I’d come to play at a funeral. Yeah, so in my spare time, playing music and relaxing.

AH:  That’s brilliant and a fascinating way to round off a very interesting insight into your world. There’s loads of great material. Thank you very much for taking time out to talk so candidly.

JA:  It’ll be really interesting to see the end result.

For more information about MA Design’s online and print design services, or their widely-acclaimed free SEO training seminars:

MA Design Solutions Limited
Cheltenham Film Studios
Arle Court
Hatherley Lane
Cheltenham
Gloucestershire, GL51 6PN

Phone: 01242 220320
Web: http://www.ma-design.biz/
Email: enquiries[substitute’@’ here]ma-design.biz

Or come along to the Gloucestershire Chamber Networking Breakfast on Wednesday 20 November 2013 where Jason will be taking his successful SEO seminar on the road and presenting Google Search, SEO and you…

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

Rumours revisited – and a great presentation by the Introverted Presenter

Do you remember Rumours by Fleetwood Mac? I’d forgotten how good this classic album is until I heard it again (on cassette no less) en route to the WinBiz networking group at Nailsworth, Gloucestershire the other morning. I was struck by how good the album sounded after nearly 40 years (yes, it was recorded in California in 1976). It got me thinking about how enduring the best copywriting and other business advice is. Then I sat down to breakfast and listened to IntrovertedPresenter, Richard Tierney expound the principles of great presentations in 10 gripping minutes.

‘Think ABC,’ said Richard: Attention, Benefits and Credentials. This is a timeless structure for a powerful presentation (or, methinks, effective copywriting) and not a million conceptual miles away from the classic Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) model that has served us copywriters since time immemorial.

Start at the end, Richard added, with the idea you want your audience to take away – or the message you want your copy to convey. Then open strongly, tell your story and end with that single powerful thought. Remember what former US president Bill Clinton said: ‘If we say two things we haven’t said anything at all.’ And the guiding principle adopted by ITV News journalists down the years, the idea of a ‘Hey Doreen!’ attention grabber…

By then, Richard’s 10 minutes were up, but his message had stuck, which is why I can remember it two weeks later as I start to plan my 10-minute presentation for this week’s WinBiz meeting – that’ll be on client case study copywriting, in case you’re interested.

Oh, how the strongest ideas and principles are often the simplest. They’re the ones that endure over the decades and still reward. Rather like listening to that old Fleetwood Mac cassette the other morning.

For more of Richard Tierney’s wealth of presentation skills expertise, visit his business presentation skills website. And please say I sent you.

 

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

Why freelance copywriters get employed

Freelancers get employed because they are expert at something. In the case of copywriters, it’s because we’re expert business writers – for website copy, brochure content, case studies, articles or other written communication that must inform and persuade. Because we’re usually available for hire on a flexible basis, there are good business reasons to use our services:

  • You can hire us on a flexible basis.
  • We bring skills that you, or your team, don’t have.
  • We give you writing capacity at times of change.
  • We inject fresh perspective, creativity and energy to your copy.
  • We provide specialist skills to help you through peaks and troughs of workload.

That’s handy. And when it comes to costs, you have plenty of flexibility too:

  • Hire a freelance copywriter according to budget.
  • Avoid the employment cost of a staff writer.
  • Avoid employment risks.
  • There’s no ongoing employment relationship.

As thousands of organisations already know, it all adds up, particularly under the challenging economic conditions prevailing in the UK as this is being written. What’s more, Not only is lots of copywriting capability available from freelancers, but some very talented writers may only be available on a freelance basis.

So what are the characteristics of a good freelance copywriter – in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire or anywhere else for that matter? In addition to being able to write fast and well, to a set tone of voice or style guideline, and to understand customer benefits, many of the key characteristics are those of any good freelancer. Read more here

 

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.

Professor Stephen Hawking…or not; good copywriting…or not?

I just heard the latest VW Up ad on Classic FM. It’s the one where the Stephen Hawking automated voice starts talking about all sorts of intellectual stuff, Higgs Boson and so on, then culminates by promoting VW’s new Up from just under eight-grand.

The ad, which is certainly attention grabbing, is already arousing a response online. Certainly the concept is a clever one and the copywriting for the script is equally clever. I’m not sure whether to admire it or condemn it – the ad has already been the subject of complaints to the ASA. I suppose it all depends on whether Professor Hawking approved of it.

If it’s actually Professor Hawking, he must have had a good reason for doing it – and maybe it says something about his sense of humour. But if it wasn’t, it could be seen as not being in the best taste and more than a little insulting to the great man.

Who knows?  Have a listen and make your own mind up here.

And while you’re at it, you can see the outcome of one designer’s complaint to the ASA. Interesting indeed. I guess Prof Hawking indeed has a sense of humour. Or he needed the cash. Or both. At least now I’ll feel better each time I hear the ad. It is rather good.

Whether I’d buy a VW Up in preference to Skoda’s Citigo, well that’s another matter. Actually, this Gloucestershire copywriter rather fancies a Yeti!

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

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.

Copywriting on radio and TV

On Radio 5 Live this morning they were talking about changes in pronunciation of English words. It got me thinking about how little talk there is about copywriting and copywriters there is on the BBC (or any broadcast media). Linguistics and phonetics get a look in every so often. And from time to time Lynne Truss or someone similar gets wheeled on to talk about poor punctuation or spelling. But there never seems to be a really good TV or radio programme about the value of copywriting, copy-editing or SEO writing for businesses. A shame really, when poor copywriting, writing style or even punctuation can be like the assassin’s gunshot that kills before the victim hears its report. Poor copy can distract a potential client (or even turn them away) from your business message without them even realising why.

Maybe, in the great scheme of things, copywriting and copy-editing isn’t seen as suitable programme material for the media. I was therefore pleased to see the BBC’s Dragons’ Den touching on the importance of good writing a few weeks ago. How did it happen? In one episode the business being pitched was a writer and publisher of children’s books. When it came to the judges, one of them picked up on the inconsistent use of a full stop after the word ‘Mrs’ throughout one of the books. It obviously set him thinking. Moments later, as I recall, and influenced by this inconsistency and what it said about the content, he announced that he was ‘out’.

When it comes to your business writing, the services of one of the more experienced Gloucestershire copywriters could give you a better chance of avoiding potential clients saying ‘I’m out too’ before you’ve had the opportunity to impress them with your offer. And on a positive note, good copywriting will do wonders for the way your business, products and services are presented to the world.