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  • Writer's pictureSarah Turnbull

Yup, I'm a Feeder...

I’m a feeder. It’s true. I love to bake – mainly cakes. I also make the occasional pie and I nearly always bake for other people, very rarely for me.

I’m an absolute pain when it comes to baking, because I’m a perfectionist. I’m a pretty good baker (though shocking at cake decoration!) but I have a horror of someone being polite about my cakes, just to avoid hurting my feelings. There’s nothing worse than the fear of someone biting into a cake and saying, ‘it’s nice,’ without any enthusiasm whatsoever!

My friends here in Mauritius know there’s only a 50/50 chance of seeing a cake when I’m baking. They know that if I’m not completely happy with it, it’s going in the bin. I know that’s wasteful and I hate doing it, but I seriously don’t want to hear an unenthusiastic ‘err, yeah… it’s great.’

I’m better now after a recent trip to the UK as I picked up my trusty cake tins. I’m also getting used to different patisserie flours… with the French influence here, there are multiple options to choose from. I’m also having to get used to a different oven, so it’s all been a bit hit-and-miss.

So, what’s the relevance to copywriting? Well, I’m a bit of a perfectionist there too…

I’m still trying out a couple of methodologies. I switch from one to the other. The first is to try and do a virtually perfect run in my first draft. This take HOURS! Sometimes I get the tone right, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get the terminology right, sometimes I don’t.

The other methodology is a brain dump. Letting my pen (or keyboard) run free. I always focus on the benefits and lead with these – after all, it’s the benefits that sell – but not trying to get the perfect draft first go, and accepting this. It’s a quandary. I know the second method takes less time, but the revisions can take longer.

I always factor in a couple of rounds of amendments, but it’s still hard to know the best method of producing copy. Should I let my thoughts run free and then seek the opinion of the client – running the risk of being totally left-field? Or should I go for the perfect draft – or as close as I can get it?

Either way, the copy is ‘considered,’ but sometimes that extra input from the client after the first ‘run free’ draft is the element that gets us over the finish line much quicker.

Copywriting is as good as what’s fed in. The ingredients, if you like. With plenty of background information, tone of voice documents, input from the client and creative reviews throughout the process, it’s definitely easier to get to the bottom of what’s needed and how to address the project.

Sometimes though, this doesn’t happen. I had a project last year where the client project owner wasn’t seeking the input of other stakeholders. She was signing off what I wrote, telling me it was good to go, but when it came to the review by her peers, it didn’t hit the mark.

I was questioned about the use of specific terminology – terminology that I’d been told to use by the project owner – told not to use benefits, just talk about what the client did, not what it would mean to those they served. It was a tough project.

This was about poor communication internally and lack of a clear strategy about what was wanted from the website and tone of voice documentation with agreed language. But I learned from it. I won’t allow the mistake to happen again. If the same scenario arose, I’d have a kick off meeting with all stakeholders rather than just the designated project owner.

I’d let them go away and come back to me with a much clearer brief, better tone of voice documentation and better-defined objectives (they differed internally too). I’d not assume that the client project owner was communicating with stakeholders, even though she’d agreed to be the conduit to feed into and out of the stakeholder team. Assumption was my error, along with not enough detail outlining their responsibilities for the provision of information.

Lesson learned (and project documentation updated).

So, I’ll keep trying to hone my crafts. By tinkering here and there with my methods – both baking and copywriting – I’ll get to a point where I figure out which way things work best for me.

And when that happens, look out Mauritius, it’s going to be a cake-fest!

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