How My Terrible Copywriting Skills Make Me A Sought-After Marketer


There's a myth going around that you need to be a brilliant writer to build a respectable social media following but that's not how it worked for me. 

Every week I have to say no to a number of marketing opportunities, I don't know where people get hold of my email from or why someone would think I am interesting in a digital agency-type work but I have absolutely no interest in marketing a soap, drink or even new apps (as much as I might enthusiastically appreciate the insight). 

I should probably elaborate, writing = communication and all social media is about communicating with one another so it's somewhat true to say, writing = social media and vice versa. 

But this is exactly what makes me a terrible copywriter, just because you've seen me on stage speaking about social media or read my article about a similar topic DOES NOT make me a good marketer or a copywriter. Sure, I write for a living which should mean I am a pretty good writer or at least that I don't suck at it but it no way implies I could also be a good copywriter. 

Growing up, I hated the word marketing I mean any self-respecting human being wouldn't be comfortable calling himself/herself solely as a good marketer because by definition marketing means to 'sell products or services' and if you're only concerned about selling that just makes you a one-sided human being aka that old analogy of a used-car salesman who everyone evades, even now. 

I began to slowly warm up to the idea of marketing as I got older and that's not only because I needed money for food, shelter and suchlike deemed basic living nowadays. With the rise in everyday digital interactions also known popularly as 'social media' I saw another world of marketing, one that wasn't solely reliant upon shoving stuff upon people who probably didn't care that much. In fact, to me social media marketing is the very opposite of shoving stuff onto those who don't need it, it's about carefully weeding out the ones who don't need it and the ones who do need the very same products and services you're selling. This is clearly a much more interesting thing to be a part of than not-so-good old fashioned marketing. 

But it comes with it's own obstacles, because it's merely a facet one that's not emerged or rather not embraced fully within the world of marketing you're presented with yet another hurdle of recognising where you could thrive and where you'll just be beaten down by a seasoned used-car salesman master. 

What has any of this got to do with my career as a marketer? Having recognised that there was this gaping hole that many industries hadn't fully inculcated within their everyday practices I thought this was the perfect opportunity for me to make a difference. So I ventured into the fancy world of arts marketing with a Masters in Cultural Studies and as an entitled millennial, what do you mean I need an MBA to prove I know how to attract an audience? Doesn't being raised by a technology qualify me somewhat as a birth right? 

I soon realised how wrong I was, not only was I a bad marketer but a terrible one in the best of my days. What kept me going was this streak of brilliance between extravagant moments of failure, something I couldn't quiet put my finger on. After a good few years of being a miserable arts marketer who could deliver results with just as much odds as a kid in an arcade machine I took it upon myself to find what bridges most of my successes. There must be a pattern that determines if one of my brilliant campaign or strategic ideas will take off or slowly disintegrate into a chaotic PR crisis and surely I found not one but 3 factors which usually mean I have hit a goldmine.

The Friend Factor

Think about the last five new things you bought, chances are at least 50% of those things were recommendations by friends or someone you know. 

My writing often turns out pretty ineffective unless it's something I relate so closely to that I almost feel obliged, as you do in good friendships so working for a company without a face while attempting to write convincing copy is ruled out. 

The Trust Factor
This is a little bit tricky because much like honesty that I feel is the other side of coming off trustworthy, it's hard to measure the trust factor. How can you ever tell how much you trust something or someone? 

I realised that most of the copy I write were evidently very fake and unreal thereby proposing mistrust than anything. Note to self: do not try to sell something that you don't genuinely believe in because it rings off alarm bells on the consumer end. 

The Real Factor
I must give a hats off to everyone who works in agencies, even if you're doing a crappy job. I couldn't sustain myself working with different clients even when they were charities doing social good or tech companies with a serious environmental message because there were other elements within their business models that seriously unsettled me. 

If you don't resonate for the company/product you're working with then you're not going to be able to portray genuine likeness which often comes from being true to your audiences so being real and comfortable was a big part of the things that I succeeded at. 

That's just the truth, there are a lot of good writers, splendid marketers and growth hackers (a word I cringe upon...) but if you're in business for the long game, for the marathon you're better off finding someone who's not only interested in you but unusually excited which makes them perfect to market your products and services. 

This is why I could never work as a copywriter in an agency despite my love of writing because most industry-standard agency work demands strategic writing that can strip you of genuine emotions in an attempt to embed addictive ones. Because I'm a writer attuned to my sensibilities, because I know what I like thereby condone I need to find the right thing to write about otherwise I might as well be pretending to transcribe Ancient Greek. 

What does this mean for you? 
As a writer, somehow I constantly need to justify my skills to others while trying to come up with amicable ways of consoling someone when they ask, 'I'm not a writer so I couldn't do what you do, start a blog, write for publications...' and I hope this acts somewhat of a reply I can point to for a long time to come -- being a good writer is what makes me a bad writer too, I consciously acknowledge the things I could never promote or blog about so if you think you're a bad writer or a not-so-great marketer, you probably just haven't found the thing that makes you a good one yet. 

So the next time you're stuck contemplating how to 'market' your work better ask yourself 'why isn't this work inspiring me enough to show off?'

Bhavani Esapathi is the Co-Director of MOOC: Managing the Arts at The Goethe-Institut as well as a writer & public speaker on digital culture, technology and social innovation. She is also the Founder of The Invisible Labs; a social tech venture exploring digital storytelling to make invisible diseases more visible. Say hello to her on Twitter @bhaesa.