When you picture a copywriter at work, what do you see in your mind?
Perhaps you picture a person sitting at a desk hunched over a typewriter or keyboard tapping away as if their fingertips are playing a never-ending game of “Whack-A-Mole” with the keys. After an extensive period of nonstop tapping, he or she will stop typing and get up from their desk.
On the other hand, you may picture a very relaxed person walking around his or her home in a robe and furry slippers. He or she may have a hot cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper/tablet/smartphone in the other hand to keep them connected with what is going on in the world outside of their home office. Eventually, perhaps as they take a short break from binge-watching a popular series from their favorite streaming service, he or she will decide to do some work. After sitting at the computer for a relatively short period of time, they eventually hit “Post” or “Publish” on their work before they do a little victory dance and continue watching more TV.
Which copywriter did you picture in your mind? If you have the current need to hire a writer, which one do you think will respond to your cry for help? The “Whack-A-Mole” expert tapping typist who types without any prep time or the lazy couch potato TV addict that creates content quick and easily during Netflix binging sessions?
Brace Yourself – Here is the Reality
Here is the reality of the copywriter’s story: Neither of those pictures are accurate. However, rest assured that you have done nothing wrong. I do not blame you and neither does any true, real-life copywriter.
Perhaps part of the blame belongs to Hollywood for creating television shows and movies that make the life of content creators and copywriters seem like the life of an unemployed actor or a talkative group of friends that seem to spend more time hanging out in a coffee shop than supporting themselves and their families financially.
I also would like to shift some of the blame towards the so-called copywriters that get involved in this business with the “get rich quick” or “big money-little work” mentalities and end up putting bad tastes in the mouths of clients and customers that slipped through the fingers of real copywriters due to being outbid by lowball offers that only lead to low-quality content. Instead of investing your hard-earned money in trying to hire a writer that can exceed your expectations, you would then be completely against the possibility of going through the same nightmare twice.
However, with the increased awareness of quality content and its effect on search engine optimization, I feel as if now is the time to let the truth be heard. Everyone seems to love a behind-the-scenes featurette – such as when it is added as a special feature with a popular Blu-ray movie or viral YouTube video.
Let’s Go Behind the Scenes
Doing so will make it much easier for you to see exactly why you should hire a writer like me to handle your content. More importantly, it will help you to appreciate the value of professional content much more since you would have experienced a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse of the life lived, and the work created between the lines of published content.
Let the journey begin…
The History of the Copywriter
Before I dive into the concept, skills and “behind-the-scenes” features of the copywriter, let’s take a quick trip in the DeLorean back in time to review the history of copywriting in general. I will try to avoid the boring points and get to the juicy stuff, but there is something that you can learn from even the dullest aspects of this industry’s history. For instance, …
Use a Word, Sell a Product
At its core, the concept of copywriting has always been to sell a product or service with the artistry of words. Some reports claim that early forms of copywriting date all the way back to Babylonian times with the first printed sample of copywriting being created in the late 1400s. When the art of copywriting was first originated is not necessarily the important point that I want you to take away from this, so let’s get to the point.
“Mad Men” Was More Than a TV Show
Why is this an important point to remember? The world of copywriting was built on hard work, diligent effort, pure creativity and thorough research. I think that this art form and the work ethic on which it was built has been tarnished over the years thanks to the so-called copywriters that strive to achieve the same results without putting forth hardly any effort. On the other hand, high-quality copywriters (the true artists of the industry) know that the cornerstone elements of creativity, effort and thorough research are even more valuable today than they were in the “Mad Men” era simply because of their rarity.
Think about most of the advertisements, commercials, and standard white papers that were created 1-2 decades ago. Now, think about the ads and commercials that you have seen recently – perhaps within the last 1-2 months. Those cornerstones are missing, right? To be completely honest, it makes me sick to think of how low-ball contractors and so-called copywriters have done to this industry and the work that has been created as a result.
That is why I strongly believe you must revisit the history of the copywriter to truly understand what to look for in the future.
Who Was the First Quality Copywriter?
When you want to study the history of anything, you always pay attention to the firsts, right? The first person who walked on the moon. The first person who created a computer. The first person who created a specific sport. The first person who discovered a specific land, country or continent. The list goes on and on. Copywriting has its own set of firsts – namely, the first full-time copywriter.
Allow me to introduce (or reintroduce) you to a man by the name of John Emory Powers. John Wanamaker hired Mr. Powers back in May 1880 with the “simple” task of writing ads for a Philadelphia department store – reportedly making John Powers the very first full-time copywriter.
Powers’ work was cherished for its simple and direct use of the English language. I personally and professionally like to think that the “less is more” concept of writing quality content started with Mr. Powers – especially since most advertising copy back then was known for excessive wordiness. Reading short and punchy headlines created by John E. Powers that were seasoned with a degree of honesty that was uncanny at that time was essentially like a breath of fresh air for most consumers and forced other copywriters and agencies to drastically change their approach with hopes of achieving the same result.
Long story short, Powers was known for telling it like it was and getting straight to the point. He would identify the consumer need and customize his content to bluntly expose that need without any sugarcoated wordiness or “fluff” that still plagues the world of copywriting today. Not only did he gain the respect of consumers with his work, but he helped to create a standard for high-quality copywriters to follow nearly 140 years after he first made his mark in the industry.
What is Your History?
There are many different cases and examples that we can explore as we discuss the history of copywriting. However, I still think that the most important story to tell is always your own. What is your history in this industry? How and when did you get started? More importantly, why did you get started and whose example did you follow as you began your journey? What have you learned since the first day of your journey that has made you a better copywriter today? What bad habits have you developed for one reason or another that have hindered you from achieving the historical results that made John E. Powers a copywriting legend?
Analyzing your history in the copywriting industry will help you to better prepare for the future. Otherwise, you and your work will remain stuck in the past… and your clients will simply move on without you.
Here you go… I am now parking the DeLorean and putting the keys in your hand. What do you need to do and where do you need to go to make tomorrow a better copywriting day than yesterday?