Listening to understand


A professional copywriter does several things really well:

  • Writing
  • Researching
  • Listening

It’s that last one that I want to look at.

On the face of it, listening doesn’t seem to be all that difficult, but effective listening is.

Let me explain.

In fact, I’ll let Stephen Covey explain:

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.”

During a normal conversation you take it in turns to speak and listen. As you listen you formulate your response, i.e. you’re listening to reply.

But when you’re a copywriter you have to be 100% absorbed in what the other person is telling you.

During my initial meetings with clients, I let them to all the talking. After all, the purpose of the meeting is to gather a brief for the job.

Letting the client to all the talking

Some clients think it’s strange that I just sit and listen.

They get that I need to gather information from them, but they usually expect me to fire questions at them.

I do, but that comes later.

First and foremost I listen and take notes with the intent of understanding their business, their products/services, their customers and the goals of their project.

And that’s a lot to take in.

Only once I have fully understood all of that do I start asking questions.

But my silence allows me to do more than just understand what they and their customers need; it also allows me to understand them.

What do I mean?

Well, the copy I write must reflect the values of the business. It must echo its personality and brand and the best way to do that is to listen to the way the people involved in the business speak.

This is especially true for smaller companies that don’t have brand guidelines.

For example, I meet with a business consultant who’s looking for new content for his website.

The nature of his business means he has to strike up a strong relationship with his clients. It’s a very hands on business, so it’s important his web copy reflects him as a person. Therefore, the content must ‘speak’ as he does so his personality comes through.

That can only be achieved by immersing myself in his way of speaking so his turn of phrase, vocabulary and personality are captured within the content.

You see copywriting is a lot more than stringing together a few grammatically correct sentences that satisfy your SEO goals and sell your products or services. It’s also about representing you and your business through words.

That’s why paying a few quid for a web page, email or newsletter will get you nowhere.

It’s tempting to cut corners when one quote for your five page website comes back at £250 and another at £800, but you need to look at the bigger picture.

You’re investing in the future of your business.

Do you want it to look cheap or professional?

Only you can decide.