Moments of Clarity @Greenbelt 2011

Last weekend (August Bankholiday) was the weekend of the Greenbelt festival.  This year was entitled ‘Dreams of Home’ and many of the charities exhibiting at the event had taken this theme to heart and expressed it through their exhibition stands.  Some didn’t bother and just went their own way.  There were even housing-related charities that didn’t bother pursuing the idea of a home-themed display stand.  Did they suffer a lower level of interest?  Not necessarily.  A catchy theme isn’t important; if it gets in the way of your message, it is actually damaging.

My copywriting service is called clearswiftcreative because I prize three virtues in writing above all others.  The first is clarity, and this is the lesson from the summer exhibition season, Greenbelt included.

Don’t try to be too clever – just say what you’re about.  Say what you’re asking.  But here’s the trick: say it in a phrase; say it in a breath.  Stick it on an exhibition display and you’ll do much better than 90% of the competition.

My old employer and client, Habitat for Humanity, was there and they made the best use of space out of everyone exhibiting at the festival.  Look at the photo and:

  1. tell me what you see.
  2. then tell me what they do.
  3. then tell me what they want you to do in response.

You see a life-sized, house-shaped frame.  You see a scattering of bricks stuck to the frame.  You might notice the shack on the banner to one side.

It wouldn’t take a genius to guess that they’re a charity that builds houses to replace shacks, and they want you to help them by adding a brick.

Of course there is much more to who they are, how they work and what you can do to help, but but but it is undeniably clear.

It is so clear, in fact, that you can see it from the other end of the field.  It isn’t subtle; on the contrary, it is very clear indeed.

This is good messaging because you understand it in a heartbeat.

Project-managing the creation of this house was one of my last tasks for Habitat for Humanity (as an employee) before I went freelance as a copywriter.  This, more than any of the busy, over-written stands in the exhibition area at Greenbelt 2011, shows the importance of clarity in messaging.

It is the kind of clarity that means you understood it the moment you saw it.  And that means you didn’t have a chance to ignore it.

About Rob Chidley

Professional copywriter, trad-published author and improvisational gardener.
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