You can always spot a copywriter…they’re the ones reading the tube ads and smiling, giving a little nod of admiration to another writer’s work. And the DLR was full of them on Friday 13th as I headed to The Crystal for Copy Con 2017, the PCN’s conference dedicated to commercial and creative copywriters.
Of course, not everyone arrived by train. Some of the brave amongst us caught the cable car over the Thames and soaked up the views of the river…complete with floating hotel. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Holland rather than Blighty, not only because of the view but the bright ball in the sky too.
It’s a day that never disappoints. The fact that it sells out is proof enough. But there’s always a buzz in the air when friends, old and new, get together to talk about writing. That’s not a typo – I should say competitors rather than friends but that’s what makes us copywriters even more special: you can be in a room full of them and feel nothing but support and encouragement rather than competitive vibes.
I could write an essay on what the PCN means to me and how valuable I think it is to be a member, but that’s a completely different blog post (watch this space).
The line-up of speakers was inspiring. With too many workshops to choose from, we were all eager to swap notes, I wished I could’ve cloned myself so I didn’t have to choose between them all but here’s my takeaways from the day – which will stay with me for years to come. Lessons learnt:
That if you want tips on presenting, contact David McGuire, Creative Director at Radix-Communications. As well as being a B2B copy badass. He also wins the award from the most enthusiastic compere and could give ‘our Graham’, Marcus Bentley, Peter Dickson and Carl the ‘happiest tube announcer’ a run for their money with a mic. Follow David @McGuireDavid
Consultant, Copywriter and natural entertainer Amy Harrison, focussed on how ‘inside out copy makes you invisible’. Amy stressed the importance of avoiding a disconnect in your copy through an effortless presentation with an immensely sharp wit. My take home from this was to remember to put the customer at the centre and let their story drive your marketing. Follow Amy @HarrisonAmy and I urge you to watch www.harrisonamy.com/amytv
Sarah Richards – award-winning Content Design expert taught us the science of ordinary words and how customers really read what we write. With a mantra of ‘less is always more’ my takeaway from her talk was to focus on one question ‘Do you want people to read it or understand it?’ and to remember that memory works based on:
• Length of time in memory
Follow Sarah @escmum
The wonderful Katherine Wildman gave an inspirational workshop on creative writing for a distracted world. She has us sniffing crayons and jumping back to childhood to evoke some valuable creative memories. Her workshop highlighted the inevitable distractions we face daily and the reality of smartphone addiction and how it’s on a par with slot machines. My takeaway from this is that it’s a bored mind that reaps creativity, not one overloaded with click-bait, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Katherine stressed how, as writers, we need to take in everything around us and use it for inspiration and content. I find trains invaluable for this and never go anywhere without a notebook, people-watching is a favourite pastime of mine and ear-wigging on trains comes a close second. And my little spec of gold dust on the DLR today was the ticket conductor who was wishing everyone a happy ‘day that comes after the 12th’ because the superstition of mentioning Friday 13th could send commuters into chaos! Follow Katherine @haydngrey
Mel Henson explained the fascinating science of CRO (that’s Conversion Rate Optimisation to you and me) and introduced to a world where copywriters are subject to optimisers (just like authors are to editors I guess) and wire frames are as much about content and architecture as they are perspective and embedded commands. My learning from this was how sentence order can boost sales and to never under estimate the power of writing in the present tense (simple or continuous). Follow Mel @FlicksAndClicks
Richard Owsley gave expert advice on how to fight the grammar pedants who tell you ‘You can’t start a sentence with and’… to simply start singing ‘And did those feet in ancient time’ …cue mass hysteria from a lecture hall instantly taken back to the days of school assembly and ironically the place where they learnt most of the grammar rules they now fight. Follow Richard @writersltd
Copywriter, strategist and ex-Viz writer Nick Parker energetically challenged us to bin the cliched writing tools of pencil, pen and keyboard and swap it all for the art (and now addiction) of writing on a banana. Never has there been so much excitement to graffiti a piece of fruit. Not only did I take away the banana (helping my five a day right there, thanks PCN!), I also took away some great advice: Don’t call yourself a copywriter, you’ll forever have to explain what you do and justify the value. You’re a writer. A term universally recognised and a title you’re worthy of. Follow Nick @nickparker
So, to Leif, Tom, Helen, Dawn and all the PCN Team – a huge thank you for an awesome day and to my fellow writers – roll on next year!