Who thinks their a copywriter?
When people are sick, they go to a doctor; when their car is in need of repair, they go to a mechanic; when the tap’s leaking, they call a plumber. But when they need copy written… heck, they just write it themselves.
In some areas, people are quick to recognise the value of professional services. Jobs requiring a certain amount of technical expertise – such as those above – fall into that category. Unfortunately, however, there is another category: it is ‘the jobs that people can do themselves but probably shouldn’t’. Copywriting is one of them. I may be inherently biased, but I think you’ll concede my point.
The problem is that as a society, we are essentially all literate – everyone learns how to read and write at school. This means that when something needs to be written for commercial purposes, everyone would appear qualified for the job. But consider this cute little example of a guy who’s just opened a café near my office: great fit-out (kudos to the tradies); great logo (thanks graphic designers); great food (well done, chefs)… but one wonders why he wrote the menus himself when he offers eggs benedict with ‘holiday’s sauce’. I’m fairly certain he’s not being clever and trying to conjure up memories of lazy breakfasts on windswept beaches. And no, I can’t tell you why there’s an apostrophe in there. Helpfully, it was written the same way twice under two different menu items, so we can be sure it wasn’t a careless one-off mistake either.
Generally speaking, of course, I don’t think Mr Café Owner is really in need of anyone’s copywriting services. But it’s not just the little guys that are the offenders here. Even the biggest players are guilty from time to time. A prominent Sydney billboard for Virgin Blue several years ago claimed ‘Your on your way’. How on earth did this get through the various agency people and all the in-house sign-offs? (Please don’t hesitate to email me if you’re having trouble spotting the error – note the obvious hint).
Clearly not all agencies are up to the task – just this afternoon I threw out a nice-looking pitch piece from a competitor agency with several errors on the cover letter page alone. One of the services they offered was copywriting. Sorry lads, that’s a FAIL. (Incidentally, any errors on this post are the responsibility of the editor…)
Anyway, I’m not about to tell you that I’m the only one who can do my job, nor am I going to suggest that you need to employ a copywriter for every single thing you write. All I want to do is suggest that we wordsmiths have our place with your designers when it comes to producing slick, professional communications, and we’re often underrated. Poorly-written ads, brochures, or websites reflect poorly on brands, even if the graphics are eye-candy.
So unless you’re the type to perform your own surgery, service your own car, and fix your own taps, perhaps it’s time to apply the same wisdom to your copywriting and entrust it to a professional. It may cost a little more, but modern economies were built on specialisation of labour for a reason.