An interview with Lesley Morrissey, Inside News, by Jackie Barrie, Copywriter, Trainer & Author at Comms Plus

Q. What’s your definition of copywriting?

Writing to persuade people to take action.

Q. How does business / marketing writing differ from academic / other writing?

Writing to persuade, writing to inform, writing to entertain, writing to analyse — they’re all different disciplines. Good basic skills in grammar, spelling and punctuation are not enough on their own. Business and marketing content are generally focused on what the reader wants and aims to get action to take place.

Q. How did you get into copywriting?

I wrote features for local and international publications when I was living in Dubai and then got a job with Dubai Duty Free because I could write. They wanted someone to write marketing material — as well as my other administrative role. When I came back to England I ‘accidentally’ ended up working on Ford Motor Company’s newsletters and the commercial copywriting practice was born.

Q. How would a total rookie get a start in the business?

I hesitate to make suggestions as I have quite strong opinions about the quality of work of some ‘professional’ copywriters! A good place to start is to take a look at copy that has already been written and check if it:

- Engages the reader quickly

- Is focused on the reader

- Has clear benefits to the reader

- Is easy to understand

- Is short and to the point

- Has a call to action

- Practise writing clear, concise content and either find a mentor to provide feedback and coaching or work with someone else on a contract basis.

Q. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your career?

Social media — people are so much more connected and write messages that are instantly visible to many thousands of people.

Q. What’s your copywriting methodology?

- Talk to the client; find out what they want to say, who they want to reach and what that audience wants.

- Create a proposal with a structure to carry the message whether this is a site map, a newsletter, a marketing email series, a brochure or direct mail campaign.

- If possible, talk to the designer.

- Write the copy and submit to client.

- Get feedback and revise to meet the client’s suggestions (or, sometimes, explain the reasoning behind what has been written).

Q. What’s the secret of injecting personality / sizzle into the written word?

It depends on the client — if it’s a personal service, like a consultant or coach, I aim to try to capture their voice to ensure there is no ‘disconnect’ when the client actually meets them. However, I have had clients that wanted to preserve a corporate look and feel to their material and needed it to be more formal. I try to create engagement with the headlines and they are always about the reader. If you know what the reader is trying to discover or wants to have, writing the right message gets much easier.

Q. What’s your all-time favourite quote?

“You must learn to murder your children.” Apparently this was originally said by George Bernard Shaw, but was quoted to me by my father when I was writing lots of purple prose in my early teens. It was years before I discovered that it wasn’t his original quote!

Q. What are your views on txt spk?

Hate it! I even write text messages in full with proper punctuation.

Q. Biggest frustration about being a copywriter?

It’s an afterthought for many people — they don’t value it.

Q. What are your predictions for the future of copywriting?

Copy will always be important, even with the advent of video and audio content, the message has to be crafted first. Copy is likely to get shorter as technology delivers more and more, faster and faster and the reader’s attention span shortens. For instance, web content for mobile phone presentation will dictate less content and the need to be extremely focused to get the message across effectively in fewer words.

Q. Now’s your chance to crow about your achievements / awards / accomplishments…

I’ve written a lot of management books — both published conventionally and ebooks as I was a management trainer and HR manager in another life. I launched an ebook — How to market your business better in 30 days — in August 2011 and it’s selling nicely as a result of my social media activity. I’m really proud of my feedback from clients — when I have a bad day I can take a look and it makes me feel much better, it’s good to be appreciated.

Q. And the shameless plug — is there a website, blog, book or anything that you’re promoting at the moment?

How to market your business better in 30 days

A professional copywriter, web readability and usability expert, non-fiction editor, ghost writer and speech writer Lesley Morrissey is addicted to words!

Having written hundreds of websites, SEO pages, articles, email and direct marketing campaigns, press releases, a batch of regular newsletters and edited many non-fiction books, she delivers high quality copy, supported by the team of writers.

The Lesleywriter and Inside News brands are dedicated to readability, which takes a step beyond top quality commercial copy.

Lesley’s mission is to ensure that the reader gets your message every time. www.lesleywriter.com