What did we learn at #CopyCon15?

Friday 9 October saw more than 150 copywriters descend on Haberdashers’ Hall, London, for a packed day of talks, workshops and relaxed networking. It was CopyCon 2015, brought to you by the Professional Copywriters' Network and the Sookio gang were there to soak up the creative atmos.

I could easily fill this recap with a detailed breakdown of the fantastic hospitality provided by the team at Haberdashers' Hall. Suffice to say that a full day of writery fun can make one a trifle peckish and there wasn’t a moment where they didn’t have us covered with all kinds of tasty refreshments, many thanks to those guys!

No sooner had we helped ourselves to a seriously satisfying breakfast than we were guided into the main hall for the first of three keynote speeches.

David Levin, Co-Founder of That Lot and one of the chaps behind one of my personal favourite Twitter feeds, Have I Got News For You, talked about the evolution of professional tweeting.

David broke down what makes a great tweet. To him, it’s about a fun tone of voice, a liberal dose of puns and bags of character… up to 140 of them. The talk was peppered with examples of his favourite tweets…

…And emphasised just how much you can actually do within the limitations of the platform. Creativity, to Mr Levin, is critical.

Then it was time for Laura Jordan Bambach of Mr President and D&AD fame who spoke on the idea of copywriting as a dying art. It was refreshing to hear someone with such a prestigious résumé talk so honestly about the value of creativity in an industry where ‘copy by committee’ often robs our work of personality.

Examples like Cards Against Humanity and This Girl Can were used to show how brands trusting their creative teams results in engaging copy which ultimately does more than just describe a product.

The conference then split up into four breakout sessions. I sidled my way into Tim Fidgeon’s excellent talk on the principles of user experience (UX) and how they apply to copy.

Tim is a fantastic speaker and made some quite geeky design principles relatable and really made me think about how much UX work goes into web copy nowadays. Everything from structure and layout to the way we interact with designers has data supporting a certain method. Even if there’s no data yet, you can get it yourself with regular AB testing, a go-to tactic for Tim.

Meanwhile, our Director Sue was running her own workshop on how to make content super-shareable. In her own words…

"In my workshops we focused on the whole cycle of shareable content - from making it social media ready to talking about the best wording and layout to ensure your posts get all those lovely clicks, shares and comments.

"It was great fun to be among fellow copywriters - we could take it as read that everyone in the room shared the same delight in using language for maximum effect."

One (delicious) lunch later and we were back into session two. In my case with the talented Liz Doig of Wordtree as she took us through ways we can revive our creativity at times when copywriting can feel like just another job. In many ways this was a logical follow-up to Laura’s presentation, with a series of hands-on exercises to get us fired up about writing again.

With demand for this session unexpectedly high, Liz and her team maintained an open, interactive atmosphere. Everyone could take part and we headed off with a fresh perspective for the next time they need to spend all day writing about accountancy legislation or paint-drying apparatus.

Finally, CopyCon 2015 came together for a show-stopping headline presentation from Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners: ‘Why the fuck would you swear in your copy?’ Doug is a rockstar when it comes to taking a contentious subject and breaking it down into simple, logical terms.

Doug had the stats to prove that we are, as a species, sweary people. That being said, why shouldn’t our marketing reflect the way real people speak? We were taken on an engaging journey through the power of potty-mouth and heard about profanity’s ability to:

  • surprise
  • boost confidence and authenticity
  • resonate with like-minded people
  • add mojo to your voice.

As before there were examples from big-name brands who trusted their creative teams to push the boundaries like Paddy Power and Kmart.

Overall, CopyCon was another smash success for the organisers with plenty for the delegates to take away and a cheeky couple of pints at the pub afterwards. What more could we possibly want?

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