Jo Johnston

Why did you choose a career in copywriting and how did you get into it?

Many moons ago I was visiting a friend who was working for a charity in Peru, in Lima’s prisons and shanty towns. I was age 22 and had an epiphany –  I came home and decided I wanted to ditch my job and write about social justice issues. That translated into being a copywriter for some of the biggest non-governmental organisations in the UK for the next 13 years.

Although I’m writing about a range of topics now, I still get a kick out of selling an idea that has a positive impact on people

What work are you most proud of?

I’m proud to have been part of fundraising campaigns that have raised millions of pounds for charity, both at home and abroad.

What piece of copy do you really wish you’d written?

Can I have two please?

“Stop. Look. Listen.” Three simple words, but everyone knows the green cross code!

More controversially, “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet” (cue double bass/piano) is probably the ad I remember the most from childhood. Although it didn’t make me buy fags or cigars (thank goodness) it made a lasting impression as the ads were hilarious. I remember thinking: I’d like a job thinking of ideas like this.

What do you do if you hit a bit of writer’s block?

Go for a walk in the woods with my beloved Labrador (if there’s time), but if not I walk around the house talking to myself – going back and forth to my desk writing bits and pieces until “hey presto!” – I’ve got something.

What are your favourite and least favourite writing-related tasks?

Favourite thing: getting a sparkling endorsement from a satisfied client.

Least favourite thing:  the process of doing my tax return, but it’s also strangely cathartic as you get to review the year – it either ends with a smile or a frown.

Any copywriting pet hates?

Jumping on the bandwagon. One company uses a certain advertising style and then everyone muscles in on the action.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

Play to your strengths.

What advice would you give to people starting out on a copywriting career?

Be prepared for feast or famine.

Clients are like a London bus… three come at once or none at all.

What’s your favourite thing about being a copywriter?

Being able to turn your pen to any topic and work for vastly different clients. It means you’re constantly evolving your craft.

Where can people find out more about you?

At the local pub over a glass of the good stuff or peruse my website and share your impressions. I’d love feedback from my peers on how I market myself.

What do you think?

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