On a gloomy day in mid-October, hundreds of copywriters from across the country battled through the rain to attend Copy Con 2023. Not even the bad weather could dampen our spirits, as we all descended upon the Royal College of Physicians in London to chat amongst peers and gain valuable insights from some leading industry experts.
While we could write a whole dissertation on all of the useful things we learnt, we’ve tried to condense eight brilliant sessions down to five key takeaways.
Beware the curse of knowledge
Sam Knowles, our first speaker, was keen to tell us how we can use data to tell stories. Data empowers us to create more interesting, meaningful narratives, but if we aren’t careful, it’s also very easy to confuse or alienate the reader. This is the curse of knowledge, the idea that, once we know something, it becomes difficult to see the world from the perspective of someone who doesn’t.
The curse of knowledge is particularly applicable to copywriters because we often have to quickly amass knowledge on a broad range of topics and explain them to those who might not be so clued up. We always have to keep in mind that the reader doesn’t know what we know, so simplicity and clarity in our writing is key.
Perfectionism inhibits creativity
Our second speaker, Lorraine Forrest-Turner, gave us a compelling talk on the benefits of embracing mediocrity, dressed in a fabulous pink suit that was far from mediocre! Now I know what you’re thinking – why choose to be average? Surely we should strive for the best in all our work? Her point was that, as copywriters, we have a tendency to fixate on every minute detail, re-reading our copy over and over until every last sentence is just as we want it.
However, dedicating countless hours to every client simply isn’t realistic, and a quest for perfectionism may hinder your creativity rather than help it. By accepting commercial reality and embracing the average, we become more relaxed, more well-rounded and, as a result, maybe even more productive. So next time you’re agonising over your tenth rewrite, remember that giving up on the pursuit of perfection may allow time for new ideas to emerge.
Offer a unique point OR a unique perspective
Tiffany Markman, a freelance writer from Johannesburg, woke us all up from our post-lunch food coma with a fascinating talk on how to generate fresh ideas. Us copywriters can sometimes feel like it’s impossible to say anything completely unique, especially if we have multiple clients across the same industry. To help combat this problem, Tiffany shared her golden rule: “Either say something no one else has ever said, or say something unoriginal in an original way”.
Instead of spending hours trying to devise an entirely new idea, why not try to reframe an existing one in a new way? By creating a unique perspective, you can breathe new life into familiar concepts and therefore capture the attention of your audience.
Stop looking for a unicorn
Orlaith Wood and Jamie Thorp, creatives at Reed Words, gave us an interesting talk about a pragmatic approach to name creation. One of their key points: stop looking for a unicorn. What they mean here is that, when trying to come up with a name, strapline or headline, don’t wait around for that elusive, perfect bit of copy – it doesn’t exist. In fact, the very idea that such a thing exists is what piles on the pressure in the first place, making it very hard to think of anything at all.
So the key takeaway? Relax, go through the process, collate all of your ideas and choose the best one. Don’t beat yourself up trying to find some absolute showstopper.
You can find the funny in anything
Our final talk was with Dave Harland, who came to tell us that we can find the funny in anything, no matter how serious or formal the topic might seem to be. While not every situation calls for a joke, humour is an extremely powerful tool that can help us cut through the noise and lodge ourselves squarely in the minds of the reader. Is humour risky? Yes. Does it always land? Nope. But if you’re willing to give it a go and it makes sense within the context of your brand, humour is an excellent way to set yourself apart from a sea of competitors who are blending in and doing things by the book.
And that’s that – another year at Copy Con done and dusted! We hope these takeaways were just as interesting for you to read as they were for us to listen to. Congratulations to all of the brilliant speakers, and thank you to ProCopywriters for organising this engaging event. Here at Adtrak, we’re enjoying putting all we learnt into practice and our team is already counting down the days until the next one!