At the end of 2011, I published a short e-book or guide titled Find the Right Copywriter: Helpful Hints for Successfully Concluding Your Search. The idea was to help you understand that various wordsmiths are cut from different cloths, and that tooled with the right insights and knowledge you'd spare yourself the headaches symptomatic of hiring the wrong writer.
I stand by what I wrote; but, forever a stickler for detail, I'd like to update a little nugget of data. I said then that a Google search for "copywriter" retrieves 18.3 million results. Today, you'd be looking at 19.7 million.
Did 1.4 million copywriters join the ranks in 2012? It's possible. We won't dwell on the number. It's not real important. What is significant is the phenomenon behind the flurry: the wild and crazy content barrage.
Nearly everyone in marketing got the memo: Content is the treasure trove that connects customers to companies now. And where there's gold, you're bound to find miners.
The problem is that far too many will be swinging a wimpy little pickax and struggling mightily to break any ground.
Metaphor aside, a helluvalotta people will claim to offer you the writing skills you need to create new content. Few will have the skills to make you stand out among the relentless noisefest that is today's Web.
You have to be fierce to pierce.
Media is cluttered with cautiousness. The irony is thick: The more careful your content is, the greater the risk of anonymity.
"Welcome to our website" gets stepped on like a welcome mat.
If you want your brand to bust through, your pages have to pop. So beware of the wimpy web writer with a flexible little plastic pencil. Find one who wields a pen of pure steel. All glory goes to the bodacious.
So watch out for these 18 telltale signs of a wussy wordsmith:
- Clichés. Feeble writers love clichés. Readers loathe 'em.
- We-we. The more times the page says "we," the less anyone will give a damn.
- Everythingitis. When you find every single idea crammed onto the first page, it'll be the one and only page you read.
- Emotionless. Pain, frustration, anger... Excitement, anticipation, joy... If you're not feeling anything, it's because the prose has no pulse.
- Jargon. Weak writers are full of it.
- Yes man. "Yes sir, yes ma'am, yes boss." The writer who never challenges any of your ideas probably doesn't have any.
- Doesn't dig. Don't trust a writer with all the answers. The smart ones ask smart questions.
- Keywordless. You should be wary of the "SEO copywriter," a bogus term in my book. That said, don't allow your writer to wimp out on keyword planning.
- Keyword krazy. Keyword stuffers aren't keeping up with the modern ways of the Web.
- Formulas. You don't have a formula company, so don't let a writer fool you into believing some generic formulaic approach to copywriting forwards the cause.
- Bargains. Pass on the overly eager writer who will meet or beat anyone else's fees. You're likely to get even less than you bargained for.
- Punster. Use a pun, go to jail. Excessive wordplay equals weak Web pages.
- Feature fanatic. Features will fail you. Benefits bring the buyers.
- Industry expert. Be skeptical of the industry expert. A copywriting and storytelling expert is what you really need.
- Under construction. Hiring a website copywriter who has no website sounds as scary as trusting a doctor who smokes.
- Mr. Positive. Subtract points for the writer who fears negativity. The contrarian angle is positively powerful.
- Recycler. Look out for the copywriter whose idea of creativity is to recycle concepts.
- Humorless. Your scribe need not have a standup comedy act, but he or she should have a good sense of humor.
Take a stand or take a hike.
Bear in mind, the list features the common signals of softies who will do you wrong. You're welcome to argue otherwise. It's possible, for instance, you have yourself a copywriting superstar who handles puns with great aplomb (but, hopefully, uses words like "aplomb" sparingly).
All right, fine.
I don't want you to believe everything you read or agree with everything I write. That's the point. Grow a pair. Have a spine. Man up. (Excuse me, Barry, weren't you just pooh-poohing clichés?)
My take is this: With or without the handy-dandy list I've created for you here, if you were to treat one attribute as the acid test of whether or not you're working with a wimp, it'd be passion.
Fervor. Intensity. Hot mustard. Huevos.
Without a doubt, as we surf the Internet's infinite turf, the immense volume of content poses a tough challenge. Face it, though: as a consumer, you can't control that.
The real problem isn't the volume of content. It's the volume of dreadful content. As a content creator, you can control that.
Make no compromises. Find yourself a badass writer.