December 2019

Thought leadership: think about the copywriting!

In building thought leadership, the writing is often the fundamental element, because it is that which enables the creation of quality content that is not only useful, but also captivates and pleases the reader.

However, some honest self-appraisal is also called for here, namely: “Am I ‘good’ enough at it?”

If you’re not entirely convinced, then it’s better to rely – as already mentioned – on a copywriting specialist.

But how to choose the right one?

Backstage professional, not star of the show

The copywriter must be capable of putting their entire talent and experience completely at the service of the customer, with an approach that is personalised, collaborative and pragmatic (plus, if they are also a communication consultant, they can even give important input into defining the optimum content marketing strategy).

They must make suggestions in terms of structure, angle, style and narrative devices, without, however, ever forgetting that the last word must always belong to whoever is putting their name to the piece: it is fundamental that what comes through strongly are the ideas and the personality of the official author, not the ego of whoever actually wrote the copy!

For the same reason, it is important – even if it’s also perhaps obvious – that the practitioner is able to accommodate any edits requested by the customer, to the point where the latter is entirely comfortable with them.

Straight to the point

A professional copywriter must show themself capable of rapidly understanding the customer’s vision and the key messages that are to be ‘translated’ into copy. To this end, they must also be skilled in asking the right questions.

These dialogues can take place in the form of a short telephone call or sometimes, also, a brief email exchange. It’s the consultant’s job, as far as possible, to fall in line with the customer’s requirements; at the same time, they must show themselves capable of extracting valid content from notes, presentations or whatever other material is made available to them (even if it was originally designed for a completely different purpose).

Equally, the ability to find information, data, examples and quotes to support the story being told will prove invaluable.

Ultra-specialist…. or jack-of-all-trades?

Versatility is a requirement to be considered carefully when relying on a copywriter. An example will help to explain why.

Let’s imagine that the customer for a particular copywriting deliverable is the manager of an IT company.

It could be thought – wrongly – that in choosing the copywriter, the depth of the latter’s subject matter knowledge would be the principal factor to establish. But it doesn’t exactly work this way.

If the copy were intended to address non-technical targets – an audience made up of entertainment or healthcare or finance professionals, for example – should a copywriter be sought who has expertise in all these sectors? Obviously not.

Rather, there is a need to identify consultants who are accustomed to rapidly informing themselves about and understanding specific contexts, even if new to them, and who, using proven methods, can also quickly master sector-specific terminology.

It is precisely this versatility that has enabled BMP, for many years, to be the wordsmiths behind authorship of the most diverse origins and across the most varied of themes, from transport to manufacturing, and from food to faith!

Substance + form = copy

The professional copywriter must know how to change register according to the personality of the author, corporate style, the subject being addressed and the audience they want to reach.

They must also write in a way that is accessible but not banal, colloquial but not inaccurate, informative but not schoolmasterly, and, above all, thorough but not boring!

The optimal length of the copy depends on several variables – not least, the channel through which it will be disseminated. And if there is a risk that the ideas, opinions and messages within it are too many, it is better to spread the content across several pieces of copy instead.

To immediately capture readers’ attention, tempt them to read on, and ensure that the key messages remain etched in their memory, the following must be particularly carefully executed: the choice of title and subtitles, the formulation of the opening paragraph and conclusion of the piece, and, not least, the inclusion of keywords and links – as well as the adoption of any other SEO techniques to improve search engine rankings.

Confidentiality: an obligation, not an option

The copywriter has a mandatory duty to ensure total confidentiality, refraining from publicising the work that they have done on behalf of others. They must therefore remain ‘invisible’, not only for the duration of the partnership but also after its conclusion.

The trust between client and practitioner is, in fact, the determining factor in creating a relationship that endures, and a coherent roadmap with which to build – step by step – solid thought leadership.

Experience, attention to detail, autonomy, flexibility and, not least, ethics are, therefore, criteria to be carefully considered when choosing a consultant of this kind!

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