I do quite a bit of copywriting during the day, enough to know a good sentence when I see it, but also enough to know simply being paid to write would be largely unsatisfying for me to do all on its own.
I was writing a piece for a client recently though, having been thinking about candour, how honest this client was with its audience. I’ve seen a bunch of writing recently touting context as being king; I certainly agree but I don’t think it’s anything new. Candour however people are still struggling to come to grips with
This client is about as high profile in Australia as you can get, and renowned for no small amount of pomposity. I thought long and hard about it, staring at a blank screen before furiously punching keys for 3 or 4 minutes. I turned to the room I share with everyone and read out what I’d written. When I looked up from my screen nobody said a thing, and the account manager simply stared back at me, jaw hanging loose. I hadn’t said anything offensive, I hadn’t ranted or raved. I’d spoken in the client’s voice, only I’d told the truth.
And nobody had ever heard this client tell the truth before.
My then CEO thought it was spot on, though he sided with the account manager who said “You can’t say that.” The AM knew the client would never go for it, even though it was everything that needed to be said. And it’s been bugging me ever since.
When did truth become something to fear? When did we become so shocked at hearing it we would only fall silent and squirm uncomfortably in our seats? When did it become something we got fired for?
The sad reality is the piece would barely have been a foot note had it been published. It would not have started the revolution, it would not have unleashed the barbarians at the gate. It would hopefully have resonated with the small audience who saw it before being swept under the rug, never heard again. To have stopped the people in the room with me should have been enough. But it wasn’t. And we’re all poorer for it.