I had a job interview recently – and it was for a position I wanted rather badly.
And a question thrown at me, stopped me dead in my tracks.
I was as bewildered as the first person to discover milk comes from cows, before the question that left me befuddled.
And it wasn’t because the question was too technical.
It wasn’t because it asked my brain to perform acrobatics it wasn’t capable of.
It certainly wasn’t because I was unprepared – I had more notes written down than Nadine Dorries has love letters to Boris.
It was because the question was something I hadn’t been asked before – but I really should have been.
“So, Dan, when you’re writing something from scratch rather than editing – how much time do you dedicate to research?”
Instead of cracking off a smooth answer, I gurned a bit, rubbed my beard and made a sound that was a little like that noise when you squeeze the nozzle part of a balloon.
And it left me questioning myself for hours afterwards.
Copywriters are expected to come equipped. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never invested in hedge funds before, or sampled the latest in drainage clearing equipment, you’re expected to create content that speaks to a desired market.
And there’s been plenty of copy I’ve written where I have very little idea about the company and its products.
And so, research is key.
And have I gone overboard at times, spending half a day on looking into different bore attachments for tunnel boring?
Did it affect the copy in a huge way? Not directly. I suppose I felt a little more confident when writing it, but it’s important to give you some context.
And also to put my mind at rest.
Research is critical, of course. But if I’m writing a landing page or some social posts, I don’t need to have consumed hours worth of info before I write it.
If I’m writing a specific blog post, whitepaper or a case study? Then there needs to be more technical data. So research is different for every piece of content you produce.
The main part of info that needs to be present? Who’s attention am I trying to grab? Who needs to read this?
Once I have that, sprinkle in a few keypoints, keywords and drizzle liberally with a punchy paragraph or two and bon appetit – you have yourself some real fine dining.
Don’t get bogged down in the minutiae of details. Use the hours you would spend boning up on subject matter, to come up with headline alternatives. Or a snappy CTA.
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