With a degree in English Literature, a 30 year career with technology multinationals such as IBM and Siemens wasn’t the obvious path for Andrew Hyde – especially the years he spent working in procurement “by accident” before finding his true vocation in marketing communications.
However, he’s found that his experience working with both sales and procurement, plus his love of words, has helped him to carve an individual niche as a marketing and bid document writer. In 2012, he launched his own company: Andrew Hyde Business Communications Ltd, and he relishes the flexibility and variation that freelancing brings.
Recently, he spoke to fellow PCN member, Joanna Brown, about his career.
Why did you choose a career in copywriting, and how did you get into it?
It was more of an evolution rather than an original choice! My career has been spent largely in marketing communications for big corporations. When my part of the company was sold in 2011, my choice was to look for an equivalent role in another big corporate, or take the chance and set up on my own. So, I took a chance – and nearly five years later, I haven’t looked back!
What work are you most proud of?
It’s hard to pick one area of work, because I offer a range of B2B communications services. I find writing advertising copy the most creative part of what I do. It has to be imaginative and succinct. It’s a pleasure seeing the words come together with the imagery in the final piece.
What piece of copy do you really wish you had written?
That’s easy: The National Trust’s current tagline – “For ever, for everyone.” It’s so simple, but it has such a punchy and emotional appeal.
What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?
I go back to the brief and challenge my understanding of it – is it really clear what the objective is? For example, when drafting responses to procurement questions in a bid document, has the client provided me with the material to answer the question that has been asked – or to answer the question that they would like to have been asked? Also, I research around the topic, look at what other companies in that market sector are saying – and always seek to come at it from the potential reader’s / customer’s perspective.
What are your favourite and least-favourite writing related tasks?
The part I enjoy most is when the back-breaking work is done – editing is so much easier than writing! When you’ve got some copy that’s almost there, and you read it back, change a word or two, and it begins to sparkle. That’s when I can feel my writer’s skill coming through – making the words live.
The least favourite tasks are when I have edited and polished a piece of work for a client, perhaps correcting grammatical and spelling errors along the way, only to be sent updates based on an earlier version – which reiterates all the errors over again. That doesn’t happen too often, thank goodness! In any copywriting assignment, strict version control is essential to prevent this.
Any copywriting pet-hates?
The very rare occasion when a client does not accept good advice! Many years ago, I produced a document when, at the very last minute before it was to be released, some additional information became available. So, I included it as an Addendum. “You can’t do that.” the client told me. “That means we made a mistake.” I explained that if we had been correcting a mistake, it would be an Erratum – or, more simply, just a Correction. “Well, to me,” came the reply, “an ‘Addendum’ means we are correcting a mistake, so I don’t want it.”
So, I called it an Appendix, which is really something different again, but apparently, that was OK. The customer is always king, of course!
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Always strive for the best, but don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good (as Voltaire almost said!)
Completing any project – or any piece of writing – well is made impossible if you are determined to complete it perfectly. Find the right balance in whatever you are doing.
What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?
Write as widely as you can, outside your work as well as within it.
That might mean an article for the parish magazine, or a letter to your local paper: anything that helps you develop your style. Also, read the best written work by others that you find – in whatever field you specialise (or in whatever field you are ploughing a furrow at a given moment, if that’s what is paying your bills!)
The objective is not to copy other writers, but to be inspired by their writing style, by their use of language, by their imagination. If you are lucky, that inspiration will then help spark your own creative flame. The good thing is, you never know where inspiration will come from next!
What do you think is the future of copywriting?
Well, like funeral directors, we will always be needed. There is never going to be an end to the need to persuade and convince. The product and the medium might change, but the need for a skilled use of words won’t.
Thanks to Joanna Brown for producing this article for PCN.