Want to improve the words on your blog, website, emails and social media? Swot up on our notes from Copy Cabana 2017…
Copy Cabana is a one-day copywriting conference which saw 13 speakers cover a variety of topics from the importance of understanding your audience to choosing a tone of voice. It was a great opportunity to meet copywriters from across the country and even as far away as the Netherlands where we all descended on one of Britain’s only dedicated writing conferences.
We listened to speakers from the likes of Ben and Jerry’s, OgilvyOne Business and World Vision who lead some incredible presentations packed with fantastic takeaway tips and ideas which we want to share with you…
1. Never take your copy or your brand too seriously
Ever wondered what Ben & Jerry’s HQ looks like? Imagine fake grass, milk bottle lightbulbs and fun ice cream-related nicknames. As it turns out Kerry Thorpe’s marketing team lives and breathes the brand’s fun personality, which naturally filters into their copy — from email sign offs (‘peace, love & ice cream’) to product names such as ‘Engage-mint Party’ and Son of a ‘Wich’ and their campaigns for environmental and social justice.
Ben and Jerry’s never take themselves too seriously which is why people warm to their charitable causes, they win staff to their team and customers eat their ice cream. So lighten up and don’t take your brand too seriously if you want people to relate and get excited about you.
2. Remember why you became a creative to start with
After lunch by the seafront, all eyes were on Ben McKinney. The window cleaner explained why he wanted to become a copywriter. Ben explained that after he cleans a window he doesn’t care about it afterwards. With copywriting, however, Ben does care afterwards about the people and businesses he writes for. The lasting impact that your carefully crafted words will have on a business which you can be proud of. Ben reminded all of us why we love what we do. And we’re good at it.
3. Do your research
Freelance copywriter Sarah Topping spoke about the importance of understanding what you are writing about first. Reflecting on her former role as copywriter at Puffin Books, she explained that for each book that she writes a blurb for, she will read the whole book. Thorough research allows you, the copywriter, to write confidently and convincingly about your topic.
Sarah spoke about how dedicated fans of the Harry Potter books know their stuff, right down to the finer details. Having worked on Pottermore, Sarah highlighted the importance of getting the facts right and avoiding inaccuracies. As well as reading the books and watching the films, Sarah has visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour and read multiple fan forums. Whilst at Pottermore, Sarah wrote an article entitled ‘Why our hearts belong to Hagrid’. This article intended to promote visiting Hagrid’s house at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Rather than going for the hard sell, Sarah used emotion to interact with Pottermore’s audience. To do this, research was required and Sarah visited Hagrid’s house at the attraction where she interviewed fans and got their opinions.
From time to time your copy may need to be refreshed. Whether this is to update the copy to make it more current, to mark special occasions or to appeal to a different audience.
4. Know your audience
Having an in-depth knowledge of your brand, product or service is important, but it’s also very important to know your audience. This was another take away from Sarah Topping’s talk. When writing blurbs, Sarah knows who her audiences are, allowing her to adapt her writing style to intrigue and excite them.
When writing blurbs for children’s books, Sarah reminded us that she isn’t just writing for the child who is going to be reading the book. Of course, making your writing appeal to the child who will read the book is incredibly important, but it’s sometimes easy to overlook the wider audience. Sarah makes sure that the blurb is going to appeal to the parents and guardians of children (the ones who are going to be buying the book) and librarians and teachers (the ones who decide whether the book deserves a spot on their bookshelf).
5. Tone of voice isn’t bullshit
Tone of voice isn’t bullshit, for a moment Nick Parker made us think that it was. To help us understand the differences, Nick had put together a list of 10 distinct types of tone of voice.
These were ‘playful children’, ‘fool biscuits’, ‘rebels’, ‘Ronseals’, ‘big friendly giants’, ‘purposeful’, ‘energisers’, ‘storytellers’ and ‘impersonators’. But do you have to stick to just one tone of voice? No – Nick exampled that the tones of voice can be mixed up. Earlier in the day, Sarah Topping told us that brand values shape your brand’s tone of voice so it’s crucial to consider these first.
6.Write for humans, no matter your industry
Joe Fattorini demonstrated the importance of not alienating your audience with overcomplicated copy. Joe, a wine expert, and host of ITV’s The Wine Show showed us examples of real wine descriptions, and wow – they were confusing! Cut out the things your reader doesn’t care about and speak to them as a person. We want to know which types of food the wine tastes great with and whether or not it is fruity. With this in mind, leave out jargon such as ‘full-bodied’, ‘vegetal aroma’ and ‘herbaceous’.
Using complicated words can leave your readers feeling intimidated and the prospect of buying your product daunting. Instead of forcing your reader to spend their time researching all the complicated words you’ve used, make your writing clear and inviting.
We had a fantastic day at Copy Cabana 2017, picking up lots of useful tips along the way. There was a fantastic selection of speakers and we’ll certainly be back again next year. If your copy could benefit from an overhaul, we can help. Simply get in touch.