Headline above aside, over the past 20-plus years I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great copywriters.
Mary Lou who used Depak Chopra’s Creating Affluence book as the foundation of a creative direct mail campaign and compelling copy targeting universities and endowments. The effort resulted in $14 million in opportunity for an investment firm.
Diane with a degree in “creative non-fiction writing” who created awesome blog-like content to engage United Way email subscribers.
Patrick who could interview my CEO, capture his voice, and ghost write great strategic insight pieces with flair and an edge that didn’t quite cross the line.
And Kelli, an awesomely creative marcom pro who I initially hired based on a writing exercise about Kleenex and snot. Sounds disgusting I know. But she’s among the best in the biz.
(These few examples are intended to make a point. My apologies to other great copywriters with whom I’ve had the honor to work over the years.)
Then there is the other side of the coin.
Humbling though it may be, I’ll start with myself. My degree is in Marketing. I loved Marketing in college. I imagined myself working in public relations or leading strategic marketing for a company. The curriculum at the time only included the basic writing courses required for any student to graduate. Nothing specially focused on marketing writing. Hindsight 20/20 – really?
Then I entered the real world and landed myself a marketing job at an investment firm – in marketing communications. Major reality check. While I wasn’t excepted to write per se, I was expected to give concise, targeted direction and editorial guidance to our copywriting staff. I sucked at it. So much to the point that I didn’t think I would make it. So (on my on dime) I took a course in Rhetorical Writing which turned my professional career around.
I’ve always had a natural talent to write, but with the proper training and hands-on experience I now categorize myself as exceptional writer.
Over the years I’ve interviewed dozens of guys and gals with “Marketing” or “Communications” degrees. As part of the hiring process I’d ask the top candidates to complete a writing exercise: Draft a press release announcing that you’ve been hired. Write a short essay explaining your view of branding. Create a Twitter post. A few stellar exceptions aside, most failed at it miserably – lackluster writing, poor grammar, misused punctuation and typos.
I don’t have the answer. But I do have a theory. From my own experience, the college curriculum let me down. Though my overriding theory is simply that not everyone is born to be a copyrighter. It requires both talent and training.
So, is copyrighting really a lost art in marketing communications? Probably not. It is calling and a passion for a chosen few. They aren’t easy to find. But when you do it’s worth the effort.