The push and pull of writing for new parents

New and expectant mothers are one of the biggest consumers of brand content, and the biggest users of social media. So what challenges does copywriting for parenting brands present? Marketing consultant and copywriter Heidi Stephens explains how the baby landscape is changing.

What’s the appeal of writing for parents?

I started copywriting for a parenting audience about six years ago, and now baby brands (across retail, fashion, feeding and parenting advice) make up about 40% of my client list. Having a baby is such a lovely subject to write about, particularly for an audience of first time parents. In many ways it’s an incredibly ordinary event, but in others it’s a hugely emotive and transformational journey.

Brands need to truly understand a parent’s needs at different stages along the way; if you get it right, you can build a meaningful customer relationship that has the potential to deliver brand loyalty and advocacy over many years. It’s a subject that’s fun to write about too, and gives me the opportunity to work with lots of passionate and inspiring people. Also squidgy babies – what’s not to love?

Clarks First Shoes ad - copy by Heidi Stephens

What are the challenges?

When it comes to having a baby, everybody has an opinion. Twenty years ago new mothers took advice from their mum or their sister, asked their midwife, or read a parenting magazine. Now midwives and health visitors aren’t always easy to access, so parents inevitably head online and find a world of information that’s often confusing and contradictory. The pressure on new and expectant mums to conform to the latest advice and ‘get it right’ is enormous, and the reality of motherhood compared to marketing utopia can leave parents feeling guilty and inadequate.

Any pitfalls to avoid?

Not all mothers are either the ‘perfect mum’ (there’s no such thing), or stressed out and struggling to cope – there’s a world of tensions and pressure points in between, and every parenting journey is different. Don’t forget that mothers are also women, women are also humans, and parents are also fathers. Remember that traditional families come in all shapes and sizes. Never use the phrase ‘yummy mummy’ or I will hunt you down with wild dogs.

Instore display - copy by Heidi Stephens

What has changed over recent years?

Social media packs a huge punch in this category, putting a massive network of parents and experts at mum’s fingertips, and making it much easier for her to share and engage others in her journey. New mothers are big mobile app and social users, and dads have started to play a much bigger role in decision-making, which brands should ignore at their peril. Mothers are getting older, and now 25% of babies born in the UK have a mother born outside the UK. The landscape is shifting quickly, and it presents interesting challenges for brands and copywriters, as well as the opportunity to do something truly different and surprising.

What does the future hold?

I have a 15-year-old daughter, and it’s fascinating to watch how she and her friends consume information and learn new skills. Video is everything – if they want to learn how to plait their hair or bake a cake, they head straight to YouTube. If they can’t find answers and solutions within seconds, they move on to something else – reading a long form article (or, god forbid, an instructional book) feels far too much like hard work. Whilst social copy and video scripts are a big part of my jobs list, most baby brands still invest a big chunk of their budget in traditional advertising, email marketing, web articles and hard copy brochures. Words and storytelling can be so evocative and inspiring in this category, and it feels important to keep that magic alive.

I imagine my daughter as a new mum in 15 or more years (please, no sooner – I’m not ready to be a granny), and wonder how parenting advice and support will need to evolve for the goldfish-style attention span of a Generation Z new parent. Or maybe she’ll just revert back to the good old days of asking her mum for advice. God help us all.

What do you think?

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