International Women’s Day 2018

This year, I’ve resolved to up my networking and do more good stuff. As a creative copywriter, I think it’s important to find inspiration where you can. And while we might spend most of our lives in the digital space these days, real life is quite good too.

So, after booking onto a special networking event in celebration of International Women’s Day, I took a train to Shoreditch to catch up with She’s Back at Mother London. To be honest, I’d have gone to listen to people talk about paint drying, just to get my foot in the door of this brilliant building.

I’ve walked down Redchurch Street so many times and wondered what gems lay behind the Mother London doors of the illustrious Biscuit Building. The secret buttons that buzz to let you in through those darkened windows of an East End creative power house.

To finally be walking through those double doors was an inspiration in itself for me. I feel like I could be breaking a code of uncoolness here in saying it, but I’m going for it anyway. Mother was just as trend-setting as I’d imagined.

The walls had original artworks by the likes of Peter Blake and props adorned the entrance hall, all used in actual ads for the likes of brands such as IKEA. Staff are treated to free lunches every, single day. Not just on the Friday before pay day. They also get the day after Mother’s Day off as paid holiday. It ties in with their brand values and is frankly, an unexpected, quirky add-on. This is employee engagement with effortless ease.

If only all employers could be so forward thinking. Of the three members of staff whom we met, all three were working flexibly. Two had kids and were women, one did not and was a man, proving again that it’s not just mothers who want flexible working. Tom happens to be an ex-colleague of mine, so this was an added bonus; he uses his days off consulting with other start-up projects. Yes, I was suitably jealous and impressed by this fact, all at the same time.

Does your brand walk the talk? 

Mother London doesn’t just look good, it acts good. And as we all know, brands can often say they’re something without actually walking the talk. It’s just not good marketing. So it’s encouraging to see that the ‘world’s leading independent creative network’ as they call themselves, really are showing us all how it’s done. They’ve nailed the art of self-promotion, that’s for sure. And their work is utterly brilliant.

Right, I’ve got back up now, just had a little swoon there for a minute.

Back to the event. As a creative copywriter and brand strategist who has been working with lots of recruitment and business-to-business brands recently, I was here to get to know She’s Back, an organisation promoting women in business, and, specifically, one that’s aimed at helping women returners get back in the professional saddle. I also wanted to network and meet likeminded individuals and find inspiration to bring to my work.

Networking is work with value – unlike email 

It’s true that networking events aren’t every copywriter’s slice of shortbread, but I’m a firm believer that if you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, you’ll get something out of it.

Here are my main take outs:

  1. It’s karma not kickbacks

Networking might feel painful at the outset, particularly for anti-social copywriters, but once you start, it can actually be very rewarding in unexpected ways.

  1. Reframe your thinking

Don’t ask, what can these people do for me, but rather, how can I help these people? If a barrier is that people will just pick your brains, try to turn that around. For example, ask what younger, more junior people can do for you?

  1. Say less, say it slowly

Good presentation is just like good copywriting. If you use fewer words and take lots of breaths – full points are your friend – you’ll have more impact than if you say loads and don’t filter your message.

It was a great day but a little deflating to see that there are lots of women out there simply oozing with unfulfilled talent. WHY?

We’ve got International Women’s Day, so why haven’t we got jobs for the (senior) girls?

I’m lucky to be a freelance copywriter with lots of lovely clients, but until brands realise there’s massive potential in hiring senior professional women – women who have had their children and who want their next career break, possibly flexibly, possibly not – they’ll never quite be on the same level as the Mother Londons of this world.

Let’s face it, we might all be in the gutter together, but there are still only a few of us who are looking up at the stars.

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Happy bloomin’ November

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? No, I don’t mean the lurgies, I mean the endless comparisons between Christmas adverts bursting forth on our screens. Unavoidable clashes of colour, noise and sometimes, if we’re very lucky, daring marketing decisions.

Storytelling is always key in copywriting, and using literal fabled characters from children’s literature only brings this into sharper view. So should we judge an ad by its budget or by its familiarity (as many of us dust off our childhood copies of Mog), or even by its ability to make us cry?

That’s the beauty of a good story, isn’t it? We make of it what we want. Who doesn’t love a big idea? But what feels really clever to me, is a killer line. Not a shoehorned line that happily matches up to a big idea, but a line that was born with the idea. I like to see a copywriter taking their idea by the adjectives, the sleight of hand, the alliteration or the very punch of that eureka moment and turn it into something fantastic.

An ad is only as good as its proposition of course; there are lots of other stars that must align to make it brilliant, like the strength of the agency, the marketing department, compliance, budgets, lead times and so on. Anyway, that said, people have to like what you make.

So here’s a round up of the top yuletide lines of 2015…

“Spare the act this Christmas”
Curry’s gives you Jeff Goldblum. It’s real, punchy, direct and, dare I say, funny. I’ve put a Jeff G on my list. Everyone should.

“Christmas is for sharing – Sainsbury’s supports child literacy. Save the Children”
This is the follow up from last year’s trenches advert for Sainsbury’s. Last year, we were supporting the Royal British Legion, this year it’s Save the Children. Cue massive shoehorn time – perhaps they borrowed one from John Lewis?

“All your favourite things”
Simple, catchy, festive. A great family tune AND a killer line. Nice work Aldi.

“Whatever makes your Christmas, make it with Waitrose”
Ooohhhh. May I sigh in wonderment for a moment? Look at the way they’ve used the same word twice and got away with it! *rubs thighs*

“Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”
Nice line as lines go, but is the insight actually quite right? I mean, really right? The link I made is that we need to spend money to show people we care, and quite frankly, that doesn’t sit so well. So…no prizes for guessing the ad.

What do you think, fair reader?! Any more great lines out there? Feel free to share and comment below. Meanwhile…Happy bloomin’ November!

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Not black and white

This week’s copy conundrum came in the form of an email from an old friend. Strangely, people think that because you’re a copywriter, you suddenly know everything there possibly is to know about the English language.

I’ve had friends secretly vying to beat me at scrabble before now – albeit slightly drunken scrabble at that – just so they can say they beat the copywriter. It’s made me up my game, believe you me. Mainly because, I can’t claim any real expertise over other keen scrabble players. I’ve basically been winging it.

So how do you wing it when it comes to grammar? Well, luckily for me, my school actually taught grammar back in the day. But the English language is so wonderful and perverse, not everything follows a rule. This can sometimes come as a shock to people, as so:

Friend: Tricky!?  I thought the grammar game was all black and white!

Me: Yes Nige. It is tricky. This is why people pay copywriters to sort it out mate!

I’ve been going back to school recently through the eyes of my daughter. She is learning phonics which TEFL people may remember from their original courses. You sound out a word and hopefully it can be spelt as it sounds. Actually, this is ridiculous, because most English words don’t seem to be phonetic! Are they? Words like are and was, for example, would be spelled R and WOZ if that were true. These are what are known as grey areas (schools call them ‘red’ words and other fun things).

It’s thanks to all these numerous grey areas, that people like me can make a crust writing lovely company communications. So here’s my friend’s little copy conundrum:

“Apple was using multiple tools which were not integrated to its system properly.”

Why is it WAS and not WERE after Apple?

A good question eh? I’ll leave that one with you.

In the meantime, if you need a copywriter to be very black and white, decisive, incisive, creative and just good – as well as being a tea making machine – well, get in touch. I’d be happy to help.

Freelancing. Summer’s next big thing.

There are lots of reasons I chose to be a freelancer. For many, the road to freelance life often starts with a redundancy, a crisis of confidence and then the gradual realisation that a life as a flexible working professional could be a brilliant way forward. Some might say you’re better off progressing your career in a full-time position. I’m not so sure. I’ve managed to sidestep meetings about meetings and focus primarily on the task at hand: the craft of copywriting, and often, design.

For me, freelancing has been a one-way ticket to fast action, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, type stuff. And most copywriters love the variety their job gives them. So why wouldn’t you like that? In the past month, to name a few, I’ve written a lovely animation script for a global financial services client, a business-to-business newsletter for a world media giant and I’ve started helping a small business to get their communications off the ground. And tomorrow is sports day at school, so I’m able to nip down and cheer on my daughter’s house, before rolling back up the hill to an afternoon of long copy briefs.

So if you’re contemplating a summer of juggling out of school clubs and pick ups, or if you’re simply fed up with the same old same old, freelancing could be for you. It’s a great way to work flexibly. And yes, you can find yourself spend a lot of time chasing invoices or hunting down briefs, but everything has its downside. And now that the economy is rumbling back into business mode, things feel like they’re definitely on the up. So go on. Dive in this summer. The water’s…warm.