What do you get when you put a poet, a window cleaner, a Harry Potter expert and 200 copywriters all in one room? A lot of laughter and a lot of creativity.

Last week myself and Advantec’s Senior Content Marketer, Emma, headed down to Bournemouth for our (new) favourite event, Copy Cabana.

Copy Cabana brought together everyone who loves copywriting and those who will never stop being fascinated by how just a few words can build a brand, or even become its downfall.

There was plenty to take away from the ten speakers; from the power of personal storytelling to a list of the ten definitive tones of voice. Between the laughs and the coffee, these are the points I managed to note down.   

(Emma’s coffee) –

1. Read the whole book – not just the first chapter

 

One of the few notes I managed to jot down during Sarah Topping’s presentation was ‘spellbound’. I’m not sure if that had to do with her talking about Harry Potter, or my reaction to the incredible work she’s been involved with – from writing the blurbs for Roald Dahl to revising the web copy for Pottermore.

Aside from wanting to pick up my copy of The BFG as soon as I got home, Sarah’s talk reminded me of the importance of research. Your content could be wonderful, perfectly formed, but it could also be wrong.

Building her career in publishing, Sarah spoke about how it’s no good to write an entire blurb about a character who dies at the end of the chapter you stopped at. If the research is there to be done then do it, and in Sarah’s case that means read the whole book. Become the expert, because even if you only talk about 3% of all your research – at least you know what you’ve missed out.

2. Find your voice through your brand

 

Kerry Thorpe, Communications Lead at Ben and Jerry’s demonstrated the importance of brand history. Most of us have read the side of a Ben and Jerry’s tub, so we know their story – two guys opened a store in Vermont and the rest is ice cream.

Ben and Jerry’s brand is immeasurably fun. They’re playful, even when they’re tackling big issues. They aren’t afraid to talk about their failures, especially when it comes to bad flavour ideas (Coconut and pineapple..? No thank you!). And they embrace their culture to their core, meaning that every word on every tub or tweet fits with their tone of voice.  

There was a lot of inspiration to be taken away from Kerry’s presentation – and it wasn’t all just ‘I wish I could have some ice cream right now’. Mostly it was remembering the importance of brand history, and allowing this identity to lead your content.

3. The rise of AI

 

OgilvyOne started their talk with some concerning news – robots are beating us. They stay awake all night, they’re constantly developing new skills, and learning to the point that they are beating chess champions and writing poetry. It’s predicted that in just 15 years, AI will be writing content for businesses.

Worrying? Not for the speakers, Glenn Sturgess and Peter Stephen, who believe people have the edge that a robot will never have. Creativity, emotion, human experience … the list goes on.

Rather than worrying that AI will be the end to traditional copywriting, Glenn and Peter predict that we will begin to work in collaboration – mixing the two processes to create robust, next level content. As someone who is not completely clued up in the future of AI, this was a completely fascinating concept. I couldn’t help but think throughout this talk, ‘What kind of cool, futuristic world do we live in now?’

4. It’s easy to alienate  

 

As content marketers, you can come an expert in almost anything; whether that’s over a few weeks of research or from years of working with a brand. For example, here at Advantec we think we know a lot about doughnuts. Whilst knowledge is no bad thing, it’s something that can become a problem if your knowledge alienates your audience.

Joe Fattorini, ITV’s The Wine Show presenter, explained this in the context of wine. Only 5% of the population understand the technical language or know the famous names in the wine community, leaving 95% of everyone else who probably just want something nice to enjoy with dinner. It’s important then to use the right language when writing about a product, using the words that will be the most effective to the most people.  Malolactic Fermentation might be the perfect word to use for your blog post – but if no one knows what it means, it’s more than likely your readers will switch off.

5. Be aware of the bias

 

Elle Graham-Dixon, a strategy director and partner at BBH, began her presentation with a riddle;

“A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!” Explain.

These few sentence show just how easy language can create biases, and how meanings can hide behind it. As a member of the Global MD diversity board, Elle stressed the importance of noticing stereotypes when we’re creating new content.  If we start to become aware of the language we use and noticing when we’re over-representing, it’s more than likely that we will begin to change these stereotypes. Elle’s talk was one of the last of the day, and it’s definitely stuck with my since.  

(The surgeon is the son’s mother by the way…)

Conclusion:

Copy Cabana was a truly valuable day, and confirmed to us just how exciting copywriting is (not that we needed convincing). With growing awareness of equality and robots on the rise, we’re definitely excited for the future of content, both around the world and in our office.

Key takeaways;

  • Research everything you write about
  • Remember who you are as a brand
  • Don’t panic but in 20 years, the person opposite you at work might be a robot
  • Effective content is about knowing your audience, and knowing how to speak to them
  • Understand the stereotypes (…and beat them!)
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