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Destructive copywriting

By Ash Ogden

B2B copywriting suffers from an image problem. It’s dry. It’s dense. It speaks of processes, not people. So go the accusations.

Is this a good attitude? Even if there is plenty of stale corporate copy out there, should a writer let those examples define the craft?

No. Clearly not.

So, I’m going to explain why copywriters try to destroy everything that’s in front of them.

Bear with me.

Writers have to boil it down to basics. Who are you talking to? What do you want to say to them? We will sit down, imagine a member of the target audience across the table and try and explain the benefits, new features or whatever it is that is worth telling them about a company.

Now, this is all well and good in theory. Please think of us like this. It’s the ideal that all writers aspire to.

Now, what actually happens in practice?

No writer is working from the ground up. A company’s communications are a patchwork, built up by various people over time. It’s all well and good to speak of a direct and pioneering message, but it is likely that the companies we are writing for have stressed many different messages in their time, and those messages have been written by many different people.

The easy way out? Create a generic tone of voice that you and future writers can easily conform to.

Job done.

We’re all familiar with the results of this approach, and it’s what gives a negative image to B2B copywriting.

The role of a good copywriter is to take the hard way out. Do the research. Sift through a company’s previous communications. Dig down through the terminology. Find the message and find the personality. And once those precious nuggets have been found, scrap everything else that doesn’t do them justice.

This is not copywriting. This is throwing away writing.

In the process, your copywriter becomes a researcher. The closer they can get to the client the better. In the absence of face-to-face meetings, the writer must find as much written material by the company as possible, and find the common thread that runs through it all. At this stage, we’re actually chasing ideas, not words.

The idea and the voice are the only two things that are needed. Once everything else is stripped away, we try to communicate the idea, using that voice, to an imagined member of the target audience. And that’s the constructive part.

I’m writing this to stress the amount of work that goes into breaking down copy, as well as building it up. If a writer heads in all guns blazing, their tone is likely to be way off. If they copy the tone without question, the message may be lost.

So, think twice the next time you refer to your copywriter as a creative. It’s only one half of their job.

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