Imagery and words need always to go hand-in-hand to create truly compelling content. But there are times you see examples of them being created separately and then forced together. Stories are now built up from a multitude of creative assets, including images, videos and infographics. It's an exciting time for content, but it can also be a dangerous one.
How does a content piece work? Do its separate content elements hang together? Many are briefed on different resources, maybe by different people, and often the creative providers are freelancers working alone. Sometimes, there's even the temptation to find/create the perfect imagery and then 'bung some text in' later. That's when copy – the poor old relative – falls down and can be blamed for low engagement.
Design & Message Working Together
It's important to understand how the elements work together. For example, what word count are the designers working to? Do they know how much copy is needed to tell the story? Or, on the other hand, are the copywriters aware of how much they should (or shouldn't) be writing? It's clear in the modern world of multiple calls on our attention that less is more. There's nothing worse than having to cram too much copy into a design. It ends up cramped and ineffective. There's also the danger of different elements vying individually for attention, which can be confusing and could even have a counter-effective result.
Once you have figured out the right balance of copy and imagery, beware translations. The perfect fit in one language could be tricky in another. For example, Finnish tends to be considerably longer in character length than English. So, designers could be forced to either change the design at the last minute or reduce the text size dramatically. You don't want to have to issue your readers in Finland with magnifying glasses, so it's good to bear this in mind!
'Mad Men' style traditional advertising really understood this – some of the old long copy ads are works of art in their own right. Communications have moved on – for the most part, the visuals are more dynamic and the words more sparing. But there's still a lot to be said for maintaining the right balance, so each complements the other in a kind of elegant waltz.
How do you ensure your content marries design and message effectively?
About the author: Waynne Meek
Waynne is passionate about all things content, especially how copy merges with other elements to make compelling communication. A recognised career of 20 years spanning various media has given him a useful insight into the way copy works across brands. Armed with this experience, he has delivered and managed effective copy solutions, from award-winning internal magazines to compelling brand and product messaging. Find out more about him on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/waynnemeek/, or on www.brandcopylab.com.
Copywriter [noun]: A person who writes copy for the purpose of advertising or marketing.
Today, the role of a copywriter has many nuances that are often left out of its basic definition.
Meanwhile, in less nuanced terms, we've seen the word dropped completely in favor of more (or less) creative terminology, like that of Word Ninja. But since we're not in an action movie, let's stick to the more nuanced meaning of copywriter.
Originally, the word copy came into popular use with the rise of the newspaper industry. There, publishers referred to the text to be printed as the copy and those who wrote it as copywriters and those who edited copy as copyeditors. Sounds easy, right?!
But what does the word itself really mean today?
What is a copywriter?
Many dictionaries tend to stick to similar phrasing when referring to a copywriter. However, a closer look around the Web illustrates how the meaning of copywriter has changed and expanded through the years.
It's rather a "meat and potatoes" kind of definition, but thanks to Cambridge's prestige and enduring influence, it's still one in common use.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Merriam-Webster says a copywriter is "a writer of advertising or publicity copy".
This wording gives a little bit more elbow room to what type of writing is included. And, of course, being referred to as a "writer" rather than a "someone" gives an added sense of achievement to any copywriter reading it.
Being all business, BusinessDictionary defines the word as "a professional who composes headings, sub-headings, and body copy of advertisements, brochures, catalogs, direct mail offers, product literature, etc. Some copywriters work independently while others are employed by the advertising agencies".
A very thorough and serious explanation. But perhaps it is lacking some creative oomph for any copywriter hoping to NOT put clients to sleep when describing what we do.
Check out how this real live copywriter describes himself at Snagajob: "Copywriters are the handsome, good-smelling men and women who create fresh written content for advertising, marketing and descriptive texts. Copywriters can write more creative text, like ad jingles, taglines, and other creative copy, or more research-based copy, like a job description on a website."
Now there's a description that could persuade anyone, especially if your job requires just that. Also, it is, naturally, 100% accurate.
As many copywriters and ALL copy editors like to point out, writing and editing are NOT synonymous with one another.
However, The Balance defines "a 'Copywriter' is one who writes or edits copy or written content for a living, usually ofsales generating or marketing nature."
While most copywriters today write AND edit content, perhaps the use of "or" is likely to rub a few the wrong way. Also, the added quotation marks around the word itself give the sense that the word is a concept rather than a person (or maybe that's just my own self-esteem issues).
Meanwhile, over at Urban Dictionary, an obviously millennial-minded writer sardonically defines copywriter as "someone whose work is to create texts for advertising. Normally in his/her twenties or did you ever meet a 50 year old copywriter?"
Has he or she even seen a copywriter out of a 'Mad Men' type setting?! This can be true of agency copywriters, particularly Junior Copywriters, starting out before moving on to bigger roles or leaving the agency. However, it is definitely not true of the freelancer variety—an entirely different breed that comes in all shapes, sizes and age ranges.
WriterAccess describes how "copywriters may or may not be freelancers, but a copywriter does have to be a master of writing succinctly in order to meet the client's needs".
They pretty much had me at the word "master"…
Are there different types of copywriters?
Leaving these meanings to digest, let's take a closer look at some of the different types (or specialties) of copywriters to get an even clearer picture.
Prospects describes how"as an advertising copywriter, you'll work alongside an art director within the creative department of an advertising, media or full-service agency. You'll work with client briefs to conceive, develop and produce effective advertising campaigns."
Also called the creative copywriter, this is one of the most creatively fulfilling roles one can have as a copywriter and oftentimes goes hand in hand with working for an ad agency.
Naturally, working as a copywriter for an ad agency can have many benefits—including gaining valuable experience with big-name clients. But it can also be very demanding. And those demands might mean a few too many late night deadlines, an unhealthy addiction to caffeine, and a tendency to reply snarkily to simple questions like, "Did you grab lunch yet?"
In addition to the understanding and writing skills needed for a copywriter, Neil Patel points out that "an SEO copywriter also understand[s] how Google feels about certain words and phrases, especially long tail phrases."
The downside of this specialty means that everyday conversations with SEO copywriters may include the odd bout of Google-y-ness (tending to Google everything) and requires patience as they go about choosing their words VERY carefully before they speak.
Radix Communications says that "digital copywriters are responsible for all the largely-unsung microcopy that gets website visitors and app users to click on the right things and enter the right information".
Think of all the times a website or app has gotten you to click a button…
Funnily enough, you've probably obeyed more Call to Action buttons than obeying your Mom and Dad's requests. So if anyone's more likely to get you to return a phone call or remind you to send grandma a birthday card, the odds are in favor of a digital copywriter—sorry Mom & Dad.
As StrayGoat Writing Services points out, a technical copywriter "focuses on sales content" like other copywriters, but "the technical copywriter is more comfortable with technology, especially industrial technology that you don't come across in day-to-day life (unless that's your job). Often they are experts in that technology or have some sort of background with the technology or technology that is similar."
These copywriters are often specifically used for B2B (Business-to-Business) copy, helping other members of the company or businesses in a similar industry understand their specific jargon. Basically, these copywriters let the engineers and other "techy" experts do all the talking, without letting everyone else feel like they are having to listen to engineers do all the talking.
What does a copywriter do?
"So what kind of work do you actually do?"
Even once the word copywriter is more clearly defined, there is still something elusive about what a copywriter actually does.
Of course, the work will vary depending on who they are working for, what their specialties are and so on. So, what does it really mean to work as a copywriter?
According to Mediabistro, "a copywriter creates clear, compelling copy to sell products and/or educate and engage consumers, flexing persuasive writing muscle on websites, blog posts, product descriptions, email blasts, banner advertising, newsletters, white papers, PSAs, social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, and other marketing communication vehicles."
This is a great example of embracing the full modern scope of what a copywriter can do. And, it's good copy. Where else are you going to see the words copywriter and flexing muscle used in the same sentence?!
Chegg goes on to say that, "copywriters create text for businesses. A copywriter is also a large presence in advertising agencies, but also a standard hire in many other companies including non-profits and medical organizations. And although a writer, you are no novelist: Your work as a copywriter is short and pithy. Your goal is to catch attention and be remembered."
Short and pithy, no novelist…I get the point of what is to be done, but it's not exactly getting me excited about being or becoming a copywriter.
HubSpot explains that "copywriters are trying to get people to feel, think, or respond — or, ideally, to Google the slogan or brand to learn more about the campaign."
This gives the overall work a much welcomed artistic nod, moving away from the concept of copywriters as simply selling or persuading. Yet, in the end, it also implies the ideal objective is to Google the end work. That definitely doesn't feel as creatively fulfilling (or ego boosting) as making people "feel, think, or respond".
Check out what FirstSiteGuide has to say: "Besides being skillful at researching, writing, and editing, copywriters need to master some aspects of project management as well, at least when it comes to planning and implementing marketing campaigns."
Remember the days when we were only "someone who writes the words of advertisements"?! What a giant leap we've made! This description also points out an important part of being a modern creative in general—that is, doing a bit of everything (often for the same pay) because someone has to.
WorkflowMax goes further in this direction by saying "the modern copywriter has come a long way since the newspaper days. Now, a copywriter needs to not only create stand-out copy, but he/she needs to understand how that copy should be presented and distributed."
And please don't confuse "understand" with "having the tools and training" to actually implement the presentation and distribution of said copy. Raise your hand if you have ever been asked to do "a little" graphic design, photography, etc. with copywriting or vice versa.
Meanwhile Creativepool describes how "copywriters are responsible for generating the words, slogans and audio scripts that accompany advertising visuals."
This sounds like they are only creating print ads and video commercials. Hey, that would be great, since print and video copy can often be the best paying and most creative gigs around. But it doesn't cover the full range of content work that the average copywriter usually does.
The Guardian sums up the work rather succinctly but eloquently by stating that "to become a copywriter you need to be able to work at speed as well as having a talent for sparkling prose".
Note to self: Start using the word "sparkling" a lot more when talking about what I do.
When asked to describe what he does, copywriter David Lanfair said that "…I generate keen creative solutions that help people, brands, networks, and companies solve their business and marketing challenges, and do it through the medium of writing — crafting the copy for various types of collateral: from a tagline, to a print ad, to a marketing deck, to a TV script, to an annual report, to a billboard, to a webisode series, to branded content, to naming a product or service, to writing the copy for a website, to just about anything that requires words to persuade someone to take action or spend money."
That's a mouthful—but pretty much nails it! Although, it's also fair to say that a screenwriter usually writes TV scripts and webisode series. But I'm sure copywriters and screenwriters can fight that one out amongst themselves.
All fun aside, in the world of copywriting, all meanings of the word are fair game…And, going back to Word Ninja, that too is actually quite fitting. Words are flying around us, wreaking havoc on how a brand is seen, how we communicate, and it's the copywriter who comes in (and, like ninjas, are often unseen), and whips out some mental martial art moves that result in some killer copy.
So take each definition with a grain of salt and if all else fails, try coming up with your own meaning. After all, if there's anyone suited for the task, it's a copywriter.
What does the word copywriter mean to you? Let us know!
Have you ever sat down to work on a job only to find yourself one hour later still pondering over where to begin?
Do you have difficulty in understanding why some days you can churn out the work, where 5 hours feels more like 5 minutes, while on other days you simply can't pen a coherent word?
We've all had that feeling. No one escapes it. Not even the best of us.
There is always a reason for these seemingly wild swings in our ability to produce quality work. There can be a myriad of causes, but essentially it boils down to an imbalance in brain chemistry.
Things like a healthy diet, proper sleep, a meditation practice and a low-stress lifestyle are all essential to good cognitive function. There is, however, a lesser-known way to increase brain function and ensure you can call upon that creativity, mental energy, and laser-like focus when you really need it. It is through the use of nootropics, also known as smart drugs.
Many techniques exist and in this article, we run through some common and safe nootropics that you can use to enhance not only your writing but also countless other aspects of your life such as overall mood and your relationships.
The top 5 smart drugs for writers
Most common in coffee where 2.25 billion cups are enjoyed every day worldwide, caffeine is nature's original smart drug. And contrary to popular belief, it's extremely healthy if consumed from the right source and in the right dose.
The reality is that most people simply use caffeine as a drug to get to work. On top of that, they drink poor quality coffee often laced with sugar. In short, it's a recipe for disaster, a quick boost followed by that inevitable crash. In many cases, coffee ends up becoming a crutch which ends up disrupting sleep cycles and adrenal health. There is, however, a lot more to this substance than we are conditioned to believe.
The caffeine molecule interacts with adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep as the day wears on. When caffeine interacts with adenosine receptors, adenosine can no longer have that inhibitory effect and thus wakefulness and alertness are promoted. Dopamine and adrenaline production is increased, thus providing that happy and motivated feeling.
There are countless ways to consume coffee. However, it is best taken black without milk. The casein protein in the milk binds to the polyphenols in the coffee making them unavailable and thus robbing your brain of a potent nutrient.
Choose high-quality coffee, preferably 100% Arabica. Bear in mind that coffee is one of the crops most heavily sprayed with pesticides across the world. An organic source is preferred, and if possible choose one which has been carefully processed to contain a minimal amount of mycotoxins which are alarmingly abundant in cheap coffee. Avoid instant coffee like the plague!
In recent times the craze of bulletproof coffee has taken off. Basically, it involves getting yourself some high-quality beans, brewing a coffee and blending it with grass-fed butter and MCT Oil.
Bulletproof Coffee a high-performance drink that has a massive impact on your energy and cognitive function. It has helped everyone from driven CEOs to professional athletes to busy parents increase their energy so they can do more of what fulfills them
The idea was conceived by a man named Dave Asprey who discovered it on a trip to Tibet some years ago. and further details can be found here. Coupled with intermittent fasting, it's well worth a try for the ultimate in mental clarity and a productive writing session.
Relaxation, increased creativity, lowered stress
L-theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea. It has recently become a crucial part of any biohacker's stack. It first shot to fame when Buddhist monks claimed that drinking green tea helped them maintain that "mindful alertness" during meditation sessions.
Theanine promotes relaxation by binding to glutamate receptors in the brain. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and blocking it results in a relaxed feel where anxiety levels are lowered.
So, just how does this help your writing? Several scientific studies have been carried out showing how theanine can promote alpha brain waves. These brain waves allow for increased creativity and reduced stress, both useful traits for a copywriter!
Typically theanine is consumed with caffeine in a 2:1 ratio. So a standard cup of coffee with 100mg of caffeine could be stacked with 200mg of theanine. Doses can be moved up or down until the sweet spot is found. Many people take up to 700-800mg. Everyone is different, so experiment.
L-theanine is a safe supplement and widely available. For those who claim that coffee consumption alone makes them jittery, then theanine may well be the ticket you need to obtain the benefits without having your brain revving uncontrollably in 6th gear.
If you are a creative type L-Theanine is worth your attention. Bloggers, authors and especially adcopy writers should know that…
Jonathan Roseland is well known in the biohacking and nootropics world and is a proponent of using L-theanine for writing sessions. Check out his further writings on the advantages of theanine for a more complete picture of this wonderful supplement.
Motivation, laser-like focus
Providing a natural boost in motivation and calmness, you'll wonder why something as simple as L-Tyrosine has never crossed your radar before.
An important precursor, L-Tyrosine provides your body with the main building blocks for neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These 3 neurotransmitters are burned off at a rapid rate when we become stressed and anxious. Dopamine, in particular, is of great importance to writers. It's what gives you that motivated feel to continue with a given task with increased focus.
Typical doses of Tyrosine start at 500mg and should be increased in 500mg increments until the sweet spot is found. Some people may require up to 2g or more.
N-Acetyl-Tyrosine is another form of Tyrosine with a slight alteration in the chemical structure which allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier more freely.
Increased verbal and written fluency, increased working memory
The racetams are a family of synthetic nootropics. In total there are eight. However, one, in particular, has been around for 50 years and is extremely well studied, namely piracetam. This nootropic induces a focused mindset, but more interestingly for writers, it aids in fluency in both written and spoken word.
Very often as creatives we have an abstract image, idea or some sensual entity in our minds which at times we fail to verbalise adequately. When you are on piracetam, you will often notice a subtle but distinct change in your ability to verbalise the collection of connected ideas in your mind in both written and verbal form.
Piracetam works on a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays an important role in memory formation, attention and logical reasoning. The exact workings of this nootropic are not entirely understood by science. However, it has been studied for 30-40 years in multiple human studies. Evidence suggests that not only is it beneficial, but it is also neuroprotective and helps preserve cognitive function as we age.
Piracetam is generally best stacked with a choline source to ensure sufficient acetylcholine in the brain. A typical piracetam dose may be between 2g – 4g per day. Piracetam is water soluble and can generally be expected to work for 4 hours. Choline supplementation should start at around 170mg of Alpha GPC or CDP Choline and increased until the optimal dose is found.
The smart drugs smart podcast is one of the biggest podcasts on nootropics on the internet. They dedicated a full episode to the racetams for anyone requiring further info on their mechanisms of action or curious as to what some of the more potent racetams might hold in store for you.
Creativity, motivation, increased focus
Now this one is controversial. Nicotine is commonly associated with smoking cigarettes which of course we do not recommend. The latest science, however, suggests that nicotine, when not consumed in tobacco form, may actually be quite safe and hold some potent benefits. Stephen King who quit smoking some years ago, afterwards claimed that he really noticed a decrease in his creativity after that point. It's an interesting observation which science has now substantiated.
Nicotine works on the brain by upregulating nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR). This increases the signaling of neurotransmitters and boosts alertness, creativity, and memory. Increased dopamine levels ensure that you have that motivated feel. A potent combination of benefits for any writer.
Nicotine is highly addictive so must be used sparingly and perhaps only brought out when there is a real need for a cognitive boost. Smokers won't get any benefits from taking it, but for those who don't smoke and have not built up a tolerance, the effects are a potent promotion of creativity and focus.
There are several ways to take nicotine. The two easiest ways are to use a patch or a lozenge designed for smoking cessation. Look for the smallest concentrations you can find. After 15-20 minutes you should begin to feel a light buzz, where your brain begins to light up with activity.
Based on my experience with it, and on history, I predict that nicotine (not smoking) will become much more popular for performance and cognitive enhancement
Be careful with this one! Use it sparingly! If abused, it can become a problem, but it may well be useful to have on the side for those dire situations when you are up against it.
A few things to bear in mind
A quick note to end on. For those who are skeptical, here are a few things to bear in mind. Nootropics aren't mainstream (yet). Many are skeptical of those that use nootropics. It somehow doesn't seem like a sensible thing to do all that often.
Most people who consume nootropics align themselves with a group of individuals known as biohackers. These people are in general very meticulous regarding their diet and lifestyle. Generally, they are high achievers and tend to use nootropics to enhance their already excellent brain function.
Beware of cognitive biases before rejecting the possible benefits of nootropics. Many of the heavy hitters not mentioned here can provoke unwanted side effects. However many studies suggest that responsible supplementation on top of an already healthy lifestyle can really propel you to the next level in a very safe and sustainable manner.
Eating a subpar diet and living out a lifestyle which is high in stress will do untold damage to your brain function. Bear in mind that many of the practices which are culturally acceptable, that of having a sugary coffee each morning with some toast smothered in margarine, may seem to many like a normal way to nourish ourselves. Yet the excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates and oxidised fats are hugely damaging to the brain. This is often ignored by mainstream media.
As always, do your own research before making any decisions on this form of supplementation. But please do let us know if you found find that any of the nootropics mentioned here have helped you out.
About the author: Francis Cassidy
Coffee lover, writer, vagabond, self-experimenter and recovering Catholic. Francis has travelled around for much of his adult life and made a living working online for much of that. When not working he enjoys dreaming of how cryptocurrency and blockchain tech will transform our collective future.