Lauded by his fans as a world leading investigative journalist and condemned by critics as ‘media-hating zealot’, it’s not hard to dig out articles from Nick Davies lamenting about the rise of PR. Speaking in 2007, he commented that there was a huge increase in journalists moving to the ‘dark side’ of PR. He…
We all know how important first impressions are.
Experts believe that it only takes seven seconds for us to form an opinion when we meet someone new and the same thing can be said about customers making split decisions when they first see your brand.
The language you use on your website and in marketing collateral is important as it sets the tone for how you and your brand are perceived and shared by staff, potential customers and investors.
You can have an all singing and dancing website with high quality photography, video content and great design, but if the copy isn’t up to scratch, you risk putting people off.
Poor spelling and bad grammar suggests a lack of attention to detail which can make consumers question the quality of your products and services. Websites and social posts are often the first thing people view when they are looking for a new supplier or business partner, so if your copy isn’t up to scratch, your customers might start to question the value, or even the credibility, of what you’re offering.
But fear not, because for every company in need of winning communications, there is a copywriter armed with pencil (or keyboard) ready to set your copy straight.
So, why should you hire a copywriter?
Attention to detail
Put simply, spell check isn’t fool proof. We’ve all experienced the horror of autocorrect where a text message or email is accidentally sent with an embarrassing mistake and while you may be able to laugh it off with friends, you want to make sure there are no silly errors in your copy.
Now I must admit spell check does make our lives a little easier, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t fall foul of Word autocorrecting your brand or product names, especially if they’re unusual, to something bizarre because it can’t understand.
The antidote to this is to get a real human to proof your work. Letting a copywriter work their magic means you can be sure any duplicate words or autocorrect errors will be swiftly removed. A second pair of eyes is also useful to ensure your copy makes sense to the reader. It is important to remember who you’re talking to as acronyms and technical language might make sense to an industry expert, but may sound like double dutch to your customers.
You may have heard the phrase ‘grammar saves lives’ and it’s true. Just take Rachael Ray (below) as an example.
I’m fairly confident in saying Rachael hasn’t actually cooked her family or her dog, but this magazine cover is a great example of where a lack of punctuation can leave you at the very least feeling silly, or in the worst case, land you in hot water!
It’s a well-known fact that copywriters are sticklers for the correct use of punctuation, so to make sure you don’t end up giving the wrong impression, it’s always worth letting a professional give your copy a good read.
Do you really have the time to write all the content for your new website or complete the copy for your next newsletter on time? If you’re pushed for time and writing content in a hurry, you’re more likely to make mistakes and not show off your brand to its best.
The key to good project management is delegating, so why not let the professionals handle the copy, leaving you time to get on with all the other things on your ‘to do’ list!
So if you just can’t find the right words, or you have a whole editorial project which needs managing, just shout and a copywriter will be there to give you a helping hand.
To find out more about how we can help, or if you just fancy grabbing a coffee, get in touch
This week I go on maternity leave and the biggest ‘project’ of my life gets ever closer. In the run-up to my temporary departure from Acceleris, time has become more of a theme than usual. There’s an irony there, in that children and good time management are not natural partners (or so I deduce from the more experienced parents at Acceleris!)
Time is an essential consideration when it comes to day-to-day work at our agency. We operate in a sector that is highly creative and results-driven, but also deadlines-driven. Whether it’s plotting milestones in the run-up to a major event, or adhering to a detailed schedule to deliver a new website or publication, effective time management is vital. You’ll hear us utter plenty of mantras here to keep ourselves and our clients on track. ‘Eat that frog’ is one of our favourites, from the book of the same name, the idea being that you start your day by doing the thing you least want to do, which makes the rest of the day by comparison seem more productive. (We don’t actually eat frogs.)
There’s also plenty of time-related buzzwords flying around, such as ‘capacity’ (shudder), ‘resourcing’ (cringe) and ‘allocations’ (ouch), that are nevertheless essential aspects of effective time management.
For someone whose working life revolves around schedules and planners to ensure that client projects are delivered as required, I find the prospect of motherhood throwing time management out of the window, at least at first, refreshing. I follow a number of parent blogs, one of my favourites being Man vs. Baby by Matt Coyne, who marked his son Charlie’s first birthday with a lovely piece recently where he described his post-baby home as “a place where time is chewed up and we are spat out”. He goes on to say “who could have possibly thought that all this was exactly what our home had been lacking?” This seeming contradiction is highly reassuring from the point of view of an expectant parent!
Most of the questions in my head at the moment are about time. Will I get everything done in time? When will Oakes Junior arrive? How many hours of sleep will we get? Will Mr Oakes and I have at least some time to ourselves here and there, even if it’s just five minutes?
Preparing for parenthood fills your mind with all sorts of contradictions. For example, I’m both reluctant and willing to depart today. I’ve been with Acceleris for nearly eight years so maternity leave represents the longest time I’ve ever spent away from an office and a talented and supportive team of people that are very special to me. However, I also don’t mind admitting I’m looking forward to a few naps before our little human arrives and transforms sleep, time and life as we know it…
See you later, my dear workmates and clients. I now leave (at least for a little while) the Writers Inc. department in the capable hands of my experienced colleagues and fellow copywriters. By the time I’m back I’m sure it will feel like no time has passed at all!
I recently read a blog by The Drum contributor Andrew Boulton, boldly entitled The Psychology of a Copywriter, which endeavoured to explore and explain what exactly makes a copywriter tick. The author conceded that everyone has their own quirks and foibles so the generalisation may not apply to all, but I think he may have been onto something when he described copywriters as being prone to “a crippling, obsessive, maddening perfectionism”.
While you may think it strange for me to embrace the labelling of myself and my fellow copywriters as “obsessive” and mad perfectionists, I actually think in this profession these traits are no bad thing. At Writers Inc., Acceleris’ own copywriting division, we deal with large-scale projects on a regular basis and these “perfectionist” traits provide a great foundation for managing complex projects. This got me thinking, what are the key ingredients to managing an editorial project?
I have a natural penchant for colour coding and anyone who has visited my house is quickly aware of my love of categorising just about anything, from books, to my ever growing collection of shoes… but a natural desire for organisation serves one well when in the thick of a project.
Admittedly, the concept of organisation is relative, but in a project of any size, having a clear process for collating emails, copy, amends, etc. is essential to ensure that things run smoothly and information is easily accessible at short notice; this has been particularly essential on our current project for corporate law firm Addleshaw Goddard (watch this space for more details!).
When you’re managing a large-scale project and liaising with multiple individuals for approvals and amends, being organised becomes even more vital, as it ensures that you can give informed progress reports whenever requested. It also helps you to keep track of, and resolve, any issues which may occur in the course of the project.
- Understanding the brief and beyond
This may seem simple (of course you need to understand what the brief asks for) but it goes further than that. In an editorial project, you need to understand the core values and motivations of the organisation in order to express those ideals through the copy you produce.
Whether you are writing copy for a car manual or a charity’s annual report, you are communicating that organisation’s values to the reader through the tone of the piece and the style of the language that you use. It is also equally important to understand the needs of the audience and ensure the tone of communication is properly targeted.
We recently completed a large editorial project for national maritime charity, The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, creating a book entitled Home from Sea to celebrate the Society’s 150th Anniversary, which required close attention to both the Society’s voice, as well as addressing the audience’s needs.
The literature or website that you produce may be the first interaction that a customer or a member of the public has with that organisation, which is why it is important that values are clearly understood and communicated.
I refer back to Andrew Boulton’s article here, as I feel he effectively captures the tone of a copywriter’s communications: “The very nature of the job is to be, not the loudest voice, but the most compelling.”
As a copywriter, you need to be able to clearly and effectively communicate editorial advice to your clients, ensuring that the editorial project is smooth sailing and the brief is met, messages are communicated and it is all completed in the most time and cost effective manner possible.
So while copywriters may be prone to “crippling, obsessive, maddening perfectionism”, we do make pretty good project managers!
The end of one year and the beginning of another is always a time for both reflection and anticipation. Reflection on the successes – and disappointments – of the past 12 months and anticipation of what the coming year has in store. In an uncertain world, however, the only certainty is that events will happen that none of us can currently predict.
With a presidential election in the United States, a potential EU referendum in the UK, the continuing migrant crisis enveloping Europe and the insidious spread of terrorism, it can sometimes feel as though we are at the mercy of tumultuous events beyond our control. Institutions that once seemed to be the pillars of a stable society – Parliament, the Church, banking, the media, business and even sport – have all been mired in controversy.
So it is important at this time of year to reflect on the success of the things upon which we do have control.
In the case of Acceleris, on the verge of our 10th anniversary year, there has been much of which we can be justly proud.
We have won major national and international awards – named as ‘Large Agency of the Year’ in the UK Public Sector Communications Awards held at The Emirates Stadium in London and winner of the fiercely contested ‘Issues and Reputation Management’ trophy in the prestigious European Communications Excellence Awards in Stockholm. Such accolades are credit to the creativity, intelligence and commitment of the people who make up the Acceleris team in Yorkshire and London.
We have delivered campaigns for international clients in multiple languages in almost a dozen countries; we have launched new companies, re-branded existing ones, worked with Paralympian athlete Baroness (Tanni) Grey-Thompson to get a better deal for wheelchair users, produced our first hard back book to commemorate a charity client’s remarkable 150 year history and seen our team presented to its Patron, HRH The Princess Royal. We have seen our clients dominate the front pages of national newspapers, feature in television and radio news programmes and increase their social media profiles to positive effect.
In an increasingly ‘noisy’ world, where the amount of information is already at levels which the human brain finds hard to assimilate, the challenge for all organisations – be they in the public, private or third sector – is how to achieve ‘cut-through’ with their messages to ensure they reach the audiences they want to address.
That’s what we will be working to achieve for all our clients in 2016. We will do it by retaining a consistent desire to deliver a high quality service based on intelligence, insight and innovation allied to an enthusiasm to embrace new ideas and new thinking.
To all our clients, partners and friends, we thank you for your support in 2015 and wish you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”
In the week a Yorkshire based care home made headlines by being accused of “demeaning” its residents by calling them colloquial terms such as “love” or “darling”, I am reminded of the above quote from Romeo and Juliet which made me wonder – how much power is held in a name, and do we need to be mindful of this?
Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) clearly believe names have the propensity to cause offence as they marked down the Brackenley residential home in a report, partly because they felt the terms staff used to address people with learning disabilities in their care could potentially be construed as “patronising”.
Stephanie Kirkman Meikle, chief executive of Harrogate Skills 4 Living, which runs Brackenley, expressed surprise by this finding and insisted they would not ban staff using these affectionate terms.
“Some residents have their own terms of endearment that they asked to be called. One likes to be known as Parsnip because that’s what she is known as in her family, so that’s what we call her,” she said.
“We always discuss these things with residents and it is in their care plans. We would never call someone something they don’t want.”
This incident highlights how language, even in its most innocent form, can potentially impact on how organisations are perceived and can divide opinion.
An online poll on itv.com found 89.9% of people who voted agreed with the care home and did not find the terms “love”, “darling” and “sweetie” demeaning. The majority of online news outlets also reported in favour of the care home and this incident was largely seen as another example of political correctness gone mad.
Dr Barrie M Rhodes, a linguist and member of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, told The Telegraph: “The use of the word love is part of our heritage – God knows how many centuries it has been going on but a very long time. Why anybody in an inspectorate would bother to get their hackles up about anything like that I’ve no idea.”
As this is not the first time Yorkshire dialect has come under attack, it’s understandable that Dr Barrie was keen to defend his local tongue. Last April, a similar furore was caused when Tour de France guides in Yorkshire were banned from using certain greetings during their day-to-day role. Again, “love” and “darling” arose as possibly offensive terms. At the time, Sir Michael Parkinson, born in South Yorkshire, labelled the decision “daft” and went as far as to say the word “love” is what “Yorkshire is all about”.
I have recently relocated to North Yorkshire from London to join Acceleris and although there is the initial culture shock of being surrounded by a different accent than I’m accustomed to, I am quite endeared with the local terms up North. This, of course, could be attributed to the novelty factor involved – down in ‘Sarf’ London, I was regularly referred to as “mate” but rarely heard “love”. In both cases, I was aware that these throwaway terms hurled at me were not intended to cause upset.
It seems likely that problems with language occur when names are deliberately intended to patronise. David Cameron’s infamous “calm down, dear” gaffe is a lesson in how words take on a certain meaning depending on the situation and tone they’re expressed in. The most sensible approach to interacting with others is to use common sense. David Cameron could have avoided this PR blunder by making a better judgement call on what would be deemed acceptable in those circumstances.
At Writers Inc. we understand how crucial it is to get your language right. We are content and editorial specialists who understand how to convey your message in the best light.
Above all, it appears reasonable to try to always consider the context in which you’re speaking and, failing that, remember that words are subjective, love.
It’s not every day you get to shake hands with a senior member of the Royal Family, but Louise, Ellie and I got to do just that, when we met HRH The Princess Royal at a client event.
This was a very proud moment for all at Acceleris, for a number of reasons:
1) Princess Anne is one of the busiest royals, with a wide range of public roles. She supports or is Patron of 327 organisations (only The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales represent more). In 2014, she carried out nearly 530 engagements in the UK and overseas. She had four appointments that day alone, and reportedly shakes 300 hands a week – that’s 15,600 a year!
2) She is Patron of maritime charity The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, a long-standing Acceleris client, which this year celebrated its 150th anniversary of caring for former seafarers and their dependants. The Princess attended the anniversary event in July as the charity’s VIP guest and to present it with a new Royal Charter.
3) She was the first to receive a copy of the Society’s 150th anniversary book Home From Sea – the first book to be produced by Acceleris!
Home From Sea charts the Royal Alfred’s history from its foundation as “a hospital for worn-out and disabled merchant seamen” in 1865, to the specialist care home and housing in Surrey that it is today. The brief was specific – to produce an engaging and informative record of the organisation that should be “picture heavy, wording light and suitable for a coffee table”.
Writers Inc., Acceleris’ editorial project division, really showed its mettle during what was a rewarding but often challenging task.
Strong client relationships really bolster successful projects. As this was to be a record of its first 150 years, the Royal Alfred understandably placed a lot of emphasis on getting this project right and set up a special ‘book committee’ of trustees and staff to work with us, each with their own valuable skill sets and insight into the Society.
After initial group meetings, the production process took 18 months. Efficient management was vital, covering:
- Editorial services – working alongside co-author John Allan, a maritime historian, we wrote several chapters and edited and proofread the entire book.
- Graphic design – it was a pleasure to partner with Rebus Design on the publication’s design work. They are an efficient, professional and creative team who had worked with us on Royal Alfred previously on its Annual Report and advertising.
- Print – local suppliers Harrogate Printing did a sterling job, offering advice and support at every turn and producing a top-class product, complete with hardback, gold leaf and immaculate finishing throughout.
- Research – in addition to our own insight and information built up over seven years of working with the charity, we delved into the charity’s archive, a veritable treasure trove of old photographs, poetry, cartoons, documents, press cuttings and personal journals and recollections from key personnel going back decades.
On 26 May, our book went to print, and on 3 July, the first copy was placed into the hands of Princess Anne.
Commander Brian Boxall-Hunt MBE, Chief Executive of the Society, said: “I am immensely pleased and proud of the book, which met and surpassed our expectations. Since the launch event we have had some very good feedback from residents, relatives, staff, partner organisations and other external sources. No one could fail to like it and be impressed. We have a book of which we can be justifiably proud and a fitting tribute to the Royal Alfred.”
Hear more from Brian here:
Now we look to the future and new similar opportunities. As technology evolves and shapes the way we consume content, it is heartening to confirm that the print publication still has its place and is often the most appropriate communications tool for some organisations and their audiences. The Royal Alfred now has an attractive, visual record of its first 150 years and, with this client’s support, we look forward to building on this new specialism for the agency.
For more information on this or other projects, please contact Charley Oakes on 0845 4567251 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I start this article with a confession. I’ve fallen into the habit (and the modern stereotype) of sometimes choosing news and social media feeds over my latest C J Sansom hardback for bedtime reading. While absorbing media of all types is an essential part of any communications professional’s role, I’m not in denial – I know I must banish smart phones and computers from the bedroom and return to reading proper books! Until I invoke this technology-free zone, however, I’m trying to make my late-night browsing as useful as possible, by sharing it with others.
As copywriter at Acceleris, I’m always observing how organisations and indeed, other agencies, convey their messages in new and innovative ways and can alter emotions or perceptions as a result. Here are just a few examples I’ve spotted this week*.
1) This is the hardest quiz you’ll ever take
Our client The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society runs a specialist dementia care centre in Surrey, so a week rarely passes at Acceleris without the subject of dementia being discussed. Alzheimer’s Society, the leading UK care and research charity for people with this disease, has published a quiz on Buzzfeed. By devising questions and answers that are not as straightforward as they look, Alzheimer’s Society has shone a spotlight on how dementia can affect everyday thought processes.
2) Take the time to see the world around you, because some people can’t…
When I started watching this video, I didn’t know who was behind it or what it was for. I only know that the main message made me feel quite emotional and respectful of its creator, web content company Purple Feather. By creating a simple story about how words can change people’s attitudes, and using video as the medium, Purple Feather both entertains the viewer and subtly promotes its own services.
3) ‘Baby got books’?
This is a bookshop manager’s adaptation of a sexist and crass original rap track by Sir Mix-A-Lot, and the result, while grammatically unsound, is definitely an improvement. I also thought it was a fun and imaginative way of using modern culture references to encourage young people to read more books.
It also served to remind me that I need to restrict my iPhone addiction to daytime hours and reacquaint myself with Mr Sansom.
There are just 26 letters in the English alphabet. We make love by them; we make war with them. The ability to write effectively and appropriately for your intended audience and business is an essential skill no matter the output, whether for print or broadcast, internal or external. This is the culture of Writers Inc., the specialist editorial project division at Acceleris – why not find out more?
* These examples were spotted because they were trending or shared this week. Their original publication dates may vary
There are three special words beginning with ‘P’ that drive us at Acceleris. Two of them – Projects and People – feature prominently in our blog articles, but it occurred to me on a six-hour train ride to Plymouth, for a team that travels so widely on a regular basis, we haven’t really taken the…
There’s a definite thrill in getting on a train to meet a client knowing you’re taking part in an agency first. For the very first time, Acceleris is collaborating on the publication of a book. The client: The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society. The topic: 150 years of care for former mariners in need. The challenge:…