My first job in advertising was for a website called Home Made Simple. It supported some of the biggest products in home care. It was owned by Procter & Gamble and is what marketers call a lightly branded site. Kind of a Martha Stewart Living that just happened to mention Dawn, Cascade, Febreze, Swiffer and Mr. Clean over and over.
It was content marketing before that term had been coined. I'm revealing how old I am, but we sometimes referred to it as an ezine - an ancient term from the early 2000s.
The site's target audience was women, 28-45. The type of woman who does the shopping for her home, and does a fair (or unfair) bit of the cleaning as well. We had come up with a fictitious editor for the site who was supposed to represent the idealized version of our audience. Her name was Julie B.
As the primary writer on the site, I was, for all intents and purposes, Julie B.
I talk to lots of people early in their careers who want to get into copywriting at an advertising agency but don’t have any experience. Of the many pieces of advice I have for them, one of my favorites is to create a portfolio of fake work.
Fake It Until You Make It
Recently, I was talking with the CEO of a health and wellness startup who told me that he feels that writing is the most important skill a startup needs. I was surprised to hear him say that. His startup depends on the latest in wearable technology and the expertise of many fitness and nutrition professionals, so I thought he’d have other things higher on his list of importance.
Whenever I talk to someone who wants to learn about making a career writing, I always ask them what sort of career they want. Because the truth is that while there are many, many careers that require writers who think and write creatively, not all of them call for the same kind of writing.
If someone tells me they want to write, I ask them one simple question. This is a question that I wish someone had told me when I went into advertising, because I didn’t appreciate how differences in writing styles play out in different jobs. The question is:
Do you consider yourself a wordsmith or a storyteller?