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Salt, Selfridges and a new perspective on writing

What do salt, the beauty department of Selfridges and a complete stranger have in common?

They were all things I was asked to put pen to paper about during the Direct Marketing Association’s recent Writers’ Lab – an initiative created by the organisation to inspire my generation of copywriters.

It all started with a, quite frankly, bloody hilarious report entitled ‘why your copywriter is sad’. But even though I giggled my way through comments such as ‘I regularly describe myself as a track changes accepter’ and ‘it beats working in a bank’, the content hit a deep nerve.

You see, words are more than a passion for me; they’re an obsession.

Whereas most people will fire off a page of writing in half an hour, I can quite happily tinker away at every sentence for half a day – debating whether galvanise is a better word than empower and so forth.

In the day-to-day churn of business life, however, it’s easy to see writing as a commodity; deadlines, demands and business objectives can start to erode a B2B content marketing professional’s creativity. And you might not even realise.

I won’t bore you with the ins-and-outs of the DMA’s 5-week project, but the essential ethos was to take away all the constraints of our day jobs, and just get us to write.

A fake award entry for someone you’ve just met and have 7 minutes to interview.
A description of the taste of salt.
A 5-word caption for a famous painting.
A piece of content marketing for a famous beauty brand.
A story about a packet of chillies.

Suddenly I wasn’t worrying about word counts anymore; I was lost in the storytelling and free imagination. The seeds from which great commercial campaigns grow.

We were also lucky enough to have some external inspiration along the way – from some of the most experienced copywriters currently in the business, and from unexpected sources. I particularly enjoyed the insights we received from a behavioural scientist.

After deconstructing the major elements of copywriting and content creation, we were encouraged to go back to our day jobs and bring the same fresh energy to our clients’ work.

It’s been a few weeks since that moment, and I can confidently say I’m putting the DMA’s order into practice. As far as, at least!


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