Archive for Communication


Ethical Copywriting

Where do you draw the line?

I recently had a discussion with a fellow copywriter, and the topic of ethics was brought up. Apparently, my colleague was recently presented with an opportunity to write content for a promotional brochure, and the fee was quite lucrative. They and their client had gone back and forth several times regarding the project’s details, and eventually agreed to move forward. All indications were that this would be straightforward and quite profitable.

However, after receiving the full project brief, my colleague learned that this was a promotion for an MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) program (a pyramid scheme, if we’re being honest). Luckily, after conveying their hesitation to the client, my colleague suffered no ill repercussions, and both parties agreed to an amicable departure.

This conversation really made me think; where does a copywriter draw their proverbial line in the sand? Unfortunately it seems, the less “savory” the company, the more they are typically willing to pay, which can make the choice that much more difficult.

And once we decide what we won’t accommodate, how far do we take it? For instance, if my family has a background in farming, would I write copy for Monsanto? Would I write copy for a laboratory that genetically modifies seeds? Would I choose to work with a milk producer that pumps their cows full of hormones? How about a company that treats their animals inhumanely? Or how about a non-organic operation? The choices can seem endless.

The point is that each of us will draw the line somewhere, and it will be based on very personal reasons. How long our “line” is depends on a whole variety of factors, not the least of which are how passionate we are on a given topic. Wherever our lines are drawn though, it’s important that we not take on work we’re uncomfortable with. And if we do decide to move forward with a project, that we aim at top-level work, just like we would with any other client.

I always keep the Latin phrase Primum non nocere (Do no harm) in mind. Using my colleague’s experience as an example, I could never live with myself if someone lost their hard-earned money based on something I wrote, especially if the product is fraudulent to begin with. However, I fully understand that what I may consider harmful, someone else may not. And the door swings both ways.

What are your thoughts? Where do you draw the line?

The Importance of ‘Heads Up’ Communication

Are You Conveying the Right Message?

I have a colleague who I’ve been working with for many years, but who cannot spell my name correctly.  I’ve talked with her over the phone hundreds of times, and have emailed back and forth surely in the thousands.  However, each and every email I receive from her contains one spelling variation or another of my name.

To see only if she would recognize the error, I’ve even purposely misspelled her name in a similar fashion on countless occasions.  Despite all this, she never, ever, spells my name correctly.

Granted, this person is very nice, patient, and is always a pleasure to work with.  However, the fact that she consistently spells my name incorrectly, while writing in otherwise good form, begs a couple questions:  Does she consider our working relationship unimportant?  Is she so busy that she doesn’t have the time to look at my email signature for the correct spelling?  If I were a prospective client, would I do business with someone like this?

There are literally hundreds of books on the market that speak to the importance of simple, effective business communication techniques – clearly stating what you need, and outlining the outcome you would like to achieve as a result.

This includes spelling the recipients name and company correctly, as well as proofreading for common misspellings, punctuation, and other mistakes – your versus you’re, knowing where to place commas and periods, not ending sentences in prepositions, etc.

The thing is, this colleague’s seemingly small mistake could potentially be a big one.  Communicating effectively, especially through writing, is one of the most important facets of any business.  According to Merkle’s  ”View From the Digital Inbox 2011″ (2011) study, “Email is the preferred method of commercial communication by 74% of all online adults.”

This means, when communicating with a colleague or prospective client, it will likely be done by email, and the devil is in the details.  The importance of proofreading your work prior to hitting the Send button can mean the difference between landing a new client, or having them move down the road to a competitor.

What do you think?  What are your experiences?