Entries from October 2013 ↓

Advertising – a load of bull, or a worthy investment?

It’s everywhere. Advertising

From the moment you open your eyes in the morning you are subjected to a barrage of advertising. Whether it’s on the radio, in newspapers, on billboards, on the Tube, bus or train…everywhere you go, it’s staring you in the face.

But are you taking any notice of it?

Have a think about yesterday – how many adverts do you remember seeing?

I’m willing to bet not that many.

That’s quite worrying if you’re in the advertising industry.

In Dave Trott’s book ‘Predatory Thinking – A Masterclass in Out-thinking the Competition’ (well worth a read by the way), he stated that out of an annual £18.3 billion spend (that’s on all forms of advertising):

  • 89% of advertising isn’t noticed or remembered
  • 4% is remembered positively
  • 7% is remembered negatively

So that means UK businesses are wasting £17.3 billion. That’s got to hurt.

But advertising isn’t about producing something clever. Granted it needs to get you noticed (even if it as one of the 7%), but more than that, it needs to make people want to buy.

There’s a lot of talk these days about using advertising to raise brand awareness. That’s just a way for advertising agencies to produce ads that aren’t measureable.

According to Wikipedia, advertising is:

“…a form of communication for marketing…used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience…to continue or take some new action.”

To my mind that means buying.

Your advertisement, in whatever form it takes, has to sell, otherwise what’s the point?

So when planning your next advertisement project think about your customers and what will make them buy – I’m pretty sure it’s not a flash ad that doesn’t tell them anything (O2’s ‘Be more dog’ springs to mind).

  • What do they want?
  • Why do they need it?
  • What will it mean to them when they have it?

Answer those questions and you’ll be on your way to a raft of new customers.

What do you reckon?

What’s your take on this?

Is advertising too much about agencies touting for awards? Has the whole concept of advertising (i.e. to sell) been lost?

When was the last time you were sold to by an advert? What made it stand out for you?

Leave a comment below as this is a subject that needs a good debate.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos

How to Plan Your Copywriting Project

You’re probably expecting me to now tell you there is one perfect method you can use that will guarantee excellent copy every time.

You’re going to be disappointed.

The truth is there is no single way to plan.

Inverted triangle

This method is great for news articles and press releases.

It ensures the most important information is at the top (beginning of the article) and the least important at the bottom. That way, the reader gets the vital stuff straight away, so should they wander off, they’ve learnt what they needed to know.

Inverted triangle











Spider diagram

Starting with a central idea, you can use these diagrams to help structure an argument or piece of content.

They are very structured and give a visual representation of how your writing will take shape. By giving it focus in this way, you can organise your information to group like subjects together. Ideal when planning a brochure, web copy or case study.

Spider diagram








Mind mapping

A mind map is a creative and logical way of planning out your ideas.

Starting with a central topic, mind maps grow organically, helping you plan your ideas to create coherent themes. From these themes, information of lesser importance is presented as ‘twigs’ on each relevant theme ‘branch’.

Unlike the spider diagram, mind maps tend to be colourful and a mixture of text, images and symbols and can be less ‘organised’.


Mind Map

(Image courtesy of Nicoguaro)


These are just 3 examples of different planning techniques that you can use. Finding the one that suits you and the project you’re working on comes down top personal preference.

One thing is for use though, whatever you’re working on, it’s essential you plan it out before your start writing if you want a coherent and well-structured result.

Over to you

Do you use one or more of these methods, or have you devised one of your own?

Does your planning method depend on the nature of the project you’re working on?

Leave a comment below.


Do You Have a Dream Team?

No two people are the same.

We all have different strengths and weakness and excel in different areas. That’s why, for your team to be successful, you must have a wide range of people types.

That is the view of Don Fornes, CEO and Founder of Software Advice who has identified different psychological profiles, such as the ‘Giver’, ‘Champ’ and ‘Matrix Thinker’.

The one I want to look at in this post is the “Savant”.

They are amazing at what they do.

According to Don:

“Highly-functioning Savants can apply their innate ability, intelligence and determination towards the development of exceptional talent in a single field. They tend to be skilled writers, researchers and engineers.”

But at the same time they tend to be introverted and can struggle in social situations.

So what are their qualities?

Well, a Savant is usually:

  • Creative
  • Independent
  • Committed
  • A problem solver

Why does your team need them?

Simply because they’re great at what they do and because they tend to find one thing they are good at (e.g. writing, researching or engineering) they can provide your team with the expertise it needs to flourish.

Many writers show characteristics of the Savant because of their innate ability to learn and desire for perfection in everything they do.

But at the same time, these traits can cause problems. Their social anxiety can make them poor communicators, they can encounter self-doubt and depression when they discover they can’t achieve perfection in every aspect of their lives and, being non-conformists, they can challenge authority leading to clashes with management.

I’m a writer, am I a Savant?

As a copywriter, Don’s post would suggest that I am a potential Savant.

Am I creative?

Yes, I spend every day creating copy for my clients.

Am I really good at what I do?

I guess you’d have to ask my clients that one, but judging by the testimonials, recommendations and repeat business I get, then I’d say yes.

Am I focused and determined?

Most definitely, because I won’t give up until a project is complete and, when required, I can turn around work quickly.

Do I love to learn?

Considering I always have my nose in a book (when I’m not working), then yes, I do love to learn.

Am I a perfectionist?

Most definitely, in all parts of my life, I won’t let anything get the better of me. Even if it’s something I’m not the best at, I always give it my all to do the absolute best that I can. But if it falls a long way short of others, I do have the tendency to doubt myself and get very down.

What about social anxiety?

With friends and family I’m fine, but put me in a business networking environment and I clam up.

I have been working on this aspect of my personality and have started making inroads. It’s still far from my favourite activity, but I’m getting there.

Do I challenge authority?

This is where I differ from a typical Savant. Confrontation is something I avoid at all costs; so no I don’t tend to challenge authority.

What about you?

Do you recognise yourself?

Perhaps you’re one of Don’s other psychological profiles?

For any team to thrive, multiple personality types are a must. Each brings its own take on things giving a wider perspective on the project you’re working on.

What’s your take on this?

Do you believe we all have a ‘type’, or do you think we meld our personalities to the situations we find ourselves in?

Leave a comment below.


Thank you to Software Advice, who commissioned the original research, for allowing me to comment on their research.

Creative Thinking – Dare to be Different

Sally Ormond

Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd. Follow her on Twitter and Google+


Have you ever had an original thought?

Something no one else has ever thought of?

Probably not, after all, with the many millions of people in the world (past and present) it’s a tall order to come up with something completely original.

So where does that leave your marketing strategy?

Is it a bit predictable?

Well, now’s the time to do something about it.

Recently, I was lucky enough to hear Dave Trott speak at the Professional Copywriter Network conference in London.

He talked out how important it is to out-think your competitors.

For example, if your business has 8 direct competitors (your products are the same) and your campaigns are very similar, there’s nothing for your consumers to distinguish between you.

The chances are your market share has stagnated or is reducing – neither of which are good.

So what do you do?

You have to out-think your competitors.

During Dave’s hugely entertaining presentation (if you get the chance to hear him speak, grab it with both hands) he illustrated the point with an example of one of his own advertising projects.

A few years ago Dave was tasked with coming up with an advertising campaign to prevent chip pan fires.

Previously, the issue had been tackled by showing how quickly a fire could take hold, each incarnation more gruesome than the one before. But these tactics weren’t working.

It was time for someone to look at things differently.

Rather than taking the traditional view of ‘to prevent fires we must show the audience what will happen if they have a chip pan fire’, Dave opted to look at it from a different angle.

If there were lots of chip pan fires that meant the fire brigade would be called out to lots of fires. So instead of showing housewives the devastating effect of fire, Dave chose to find a way to reduce those call outs.

So Dave produced an advert that showed housewives how to deal with a chip pan fire safely, therefore reducing the number of call outs.

That’s (award winning) creative thinking.

It’s not looking at the obvious need, but instead turning the problem on its head and looking for another, possibly easier, problem to solve.

So next time you create a marketing campaign, apply a different way of thinking. Look at every aspect of what you’re trying to achieve to see if you can come up with something that’s going to make you stand out.

For more about out-thinking your competition, Dave has a ‘must read’ book out called “Predatory Thinking – A Masterclass in Out-Thinking The Competition” (link to Amazon page).


Blogging is a Complete Waste of Time

Sally OrmondAuthor: Sally Ormond, Copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd. Follow her on Twitter and Google+



Why do you blog?

Do you think it will create a steady stream of new customers?

Does it boost your ego?

Is it a way of you getting your knowledge out to the wider world?

Are you doing it purely for financial gain?

During the recent Professional Copywriter’s Network conference in London, this was a subject that came up.

During a panel discussion it became clear that blogging has Marmite qualities – you either love it or hate it.

Firmly in the ‘anti-blogging’ camp was Andy Maslen.

Andy runs a hugely successful copywriting agency and training academy. His argument was that you’d get a far better return for your time if you were to pick up the phone to companies you wanted to work with and talk to them.

That argument definitely has legs assuming you’re the type of person who doesn’t break out into a cold sweat just thinking about cold calling.

But what about using blogging as a promotional tool?

Plenty of successful writers do so – granted it won’t lead to a guaranteed flood of new clients banging on your door (mind you, there’s no guarantee calling people up will either) – but it is a proven way of driving traffic to your website.

And before you shout me down and tell me that large companies don’t ‘Google’ for copywriters, they ask for recommendations, they do – I’ve personally experienced the phenomenon on several occasions.

So is it a waste of time blogging?

No, it isn’t.


  • It is a great way to show yourself as an expert in your field (yes, there are others too, such as talking at events, but you can’t deny blogging’s ability to get your voice out there)
  • It helps you reach a vast audience
  • It’s a good way of adding fresh, high quality content to your website
  • It’s a fantastic way to grow your marketing list (by getting readers to sign up to your newsletter)
  • It’s the perfect way to add value to your customers and readers

But if you are going to blog, make sure you add value and do something different. Don’t copy your favourite blogger’s style because:

a)    You won’t get noticed

b)   You won’t be saying anything different

c)    You’ll be downright boring

Write stuff that’s useful and that people haven’t heard before.

Don’t be afraid to put your opinions out there – the more controversial the better – and get a conversation started.

And above all, if you’re going to blog for your business don’t outsource it.

An odd think for a copywriter to say, but I believe it’s vital you develop your own voice and style. Your blog is there to create a relationship – if you get someone else to write it for you it’s a bit like being married, but living elsewhere while a stand-in pretends to be you.

So should you blog?

If you have something new and interesting to day, yes you should. But make sure your marketing strategy doesn’t start and end there. If you’re business is to flourish you must adopt several different ways of marketing it – never put all your eggs in one basket.