I love being a freelance copywriter. One reason is that the hardest jobs are often the most fun, especially if they don’t end as you’d imagined in the beginning. That’s the joy of the creative process. The tough tasks throw up challenges and, once the wrestling is over, you have a stronger, fitter and more effective piece of copy at the end.
I recently co-authored an appeal with a copywriter at a prestigious media company. I’d been brought in to take the pressure off the house copywriter who had many projects to contend with. I was pleased to help: the task was to write an appeal letter and accompanying uplift leaflet to re-engage a much-neglected supporter base.
The job looked like a challenge from the outset. The client was insistent on certain trendy corporate-speak (“walk with us” etc. – not the classic 1990’s bluesky thinking, thank goodness!) which I could live with, but the client was particularly determined that we use what was, frankly, a disastrous human-interest story.
My co-writer agreed with my reservations but, as the client was not mine, I stood back and he managed the negotiation. We won some ground but in the end could not persuade the client to use a stronger story.
It goes that way some times.
Like the rest of the industry, I’m allergic to the word ‘spin’ but spin is what I did to that story. Whilst remaining firmly within the bounds of truth, I reframed it in an entirely new light, cut content and relied on the power of suggestion. The story began to work, not as well as a decent story ever would, but well enough, given the material.
I must admit I had a sense of bloody-nosed satisfaction on reading the final draft.
Life. Lemons. Lemonade.