|Jacks are Better: Copywriting for All Trades
By: Jerry Northup
One of the many great things about being a copywriter is that you never truly get dealt the same hand twice. I started out writing voice-over copy for realty television programs. I did a lot of it. I became very good at it, but I expanded quickly beyond it, drafting text for window-treatment companies, product-packaging businesses, energy providers, and more. In time, you learn that “yes” is the right answer to every question, even if you really don’t know the answer. As a writer, you will be called on every bluff, but you can always improve what you deal back.
There is no luck to the draw. As a creative professional, you face the mathematical certainty of being asked to do something you’ve never done before or writing content that you know absolutely nothing about. The ability to keep your composure and a steady hand — a good “poker” face, if you will — is pivotal to earning the confidence of others in the work you do. The job is always part gamesmanship, part skill, so play it calmly no matter what the odds.
I’ve tried to avoid using overly tired clichés in this article, but I have fallen victim to temptation in using the following: “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” Point is, it will rarely be an advantage to use an idea completely on your own terms. Every member of the team antes up in their own way, so make sure to listen carefully to your colleagues and share credit. They might tip your hand to a game-changing concept.
- Playing with “house” money. If you want to receive a decent payout from any client, you have to respect their calls on your creative product. Your personal favorite concept may get discarded in the process, so hold that preference close to your vest. You may get the chance to reintroduce it in a future round.
- Always have something up your sleeve. In games of chance, you don’t lead with your best hand at every opportunity. Accomplished players understand the nuances of strategy and learn to manipulate conditions to their advantage. This is not to say that writers shouldn’t lead with their strongest ideas first. They should. But in the event that nothing sticks, you’ll need to have something else to reach for when the chips are down.
- The “Ace” in the hole. By all means, try to earn points by pushing the most innovative concept in the beginning, but if that falls short, you’ll be glad you listened to the client and did exactly what they asked for — their way. Well, generally, you’ll still make it better than what they asked for. Yet, it’s not your favorite. That’s okay. Just be ready to present it should you be backed into a corner.
Ideas are wild.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.
Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.
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