B2BQ&A 109: What’s the worst thing about briefing a B2B copywriter?

What do B2B marketers find frustrating about the writers they work with, and how can we make things better? We ask Sophos marketing director Sally Adam and guest co-host Harry Kapur.

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In an ideal world, a B2B copywriter can read your mind and conjure up the most perfect piece of content you could ever dream of. But here in the real world, there’s briefing to be done.

And in this episode we answer a question from freelance B2B writer (not to mention Radix founder, and original host of this here podcast) Fiona Campbell-Howes, about what happens when briefings go wrong:

“We hear lots on social media about what writers find frustrating about their clients. But I’d be really intrigued to hear things from the client side: what do marketers find frustrating about writers that they work with? And what can we do to make things better for them?”

We put Fiona’s question to Sally Adam, Marketing Director at the cybersecurity company Sophos. And, as you’ll hear, she gave us a brilliant and unflinchingly honest answer. Plus, four anonymous B2B marketers each get their own personal copywriter gripes off their assorted chests.

Also in this episode, Ettie Bailey-King joins us for the final instalment of her inclusive writing advice, and Vikki Ross shares a classic pro tip from copywriting legend David Abbott. And to help us navigate it all, we get fabulous insights and lots of laughs from our guest co-host Harendra “Harry” Kapur (whom you can also find on Twitter here).

You can read a full transcript of this episode at the bottom of this page.

How can copywriters make life better for B2B marketers?

Let’s be clear: Sally considers copywriters to be “hugely, hugely valuable”. But that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Writers can often give marketers a frustrating time – and usually, it’s when we forget the basics:

Actually listen to the customer

Copywriters are full of knowledge, enthusiasm, and good ideas – and usually that’s a good thing. But if it means you start to make assumptions about the brief, or you’re too keen to show off what you know, that can cause issues.

“The copywriter goes off and puts a load of effort in,” says Sally. “And you’re excitedly waiting for the piece because you’ve got a deadline. But when it comes back, they’re not matching up.”

Check our creative ideas

Often, a copywriter has creative ideas that go beyond the brief. And that can be great. But if you try to spring surprises on the marketer, that can be as bad as not listening in the first place. Instead, a quick call or email can confirm you’re on the right track.

“Do check in,” Sally explains. “Sometimes the answer is ‘No, that’s not relevant here,’ and sometimes it’s ‘Wow, brilliant connection; I hadn’t thought of that myself.’ But as someone who’s doing the briefing, you’d much rather have someone ask that question than go to all the effort of creating a piece that misses the mark.”

Brush up our soft skills

If the brief involves interviewing a customer or senior leader, the writer’s behaviour reflects strongly on the marketer. And impressions really matter.

“I’m putting you in the hands of a valued customer, whose business we really value,” Sally says. “You’re representing me. We can work on the actual copy that comes back, but the experience the interviewee has with the copywriter is not going to change. That can make or break relationships and have a wider business impact.”

We’ve packed a lot into this episode. Here’s where to find it all…

0:59 – Meet the hosts: David McGuire and Harendra Kapur
2:44Vikki Ross shares her favourite copywriting tip
3:39 – Radix founder Fiona Campbell-Howes asks this month’s question…
4:39 – …And Sally Adam answers it
15:09Harry and David discuss [checks notes] …the Kama Sutra?
21:08 – Four anonymous marketers share their pet copywriting hates
29:58Ettie Bailey-King talks person-first and identity-first language

All it takes is a little voice memo

To have your burning B2B question naswered, just send us a voice memo at podcast@radix-communications.com. And if there are any other thoughts you’d like to share, you can find us on Twitter @radixcom.

How to listen: 


  • Thanks, Fiona Campbell-Howes, for the question (and, you know, everything).
  • And thanks to Sally Adam, for answering it in such an honest and insightful way.
  • Thanks too to our four anonymous marketers. Chickens.
  • We’re grateful to Vikki Ross for the pro tip, and especially Ettie Bailey-King for all your inclusive writing advice over the last six months.
  • Cheers, Harry Kapur, for being an excellent co-host. Come back anytime.
  • And thank you, for listening.

Podcast editing and music by Bang and Smash.

Transcript: B2BQ&A 109: What’s the worst thing about briefing a B2B copywriter?

Fiona Campbell-Howes: What do marketers find frustrating about writers that they work with, and what can we do to make things better for them?

Harendra “Harry” Kapur: Oh, can’t wait to get into this one. Let’s ask Sally Adam from Sophos.

David McGuire: Hello listener; you are excessively welcome to B2BQ&A, the podcast where we go in search for an answer to your question about B2B content writing. This is episode 109.

Harry: In a few moments, we’re going to hear from Sally Adam, content and marketing leader at Sophos, as well as a few other B2B marketers. And they’re going to be telling us about the most annoying thing about briefing a copywriter, and what we can do about it. We’re also going to hear a copywriting pro tip from Vikki Ross, so good for you. And we will get some inclusive writing advice from Ettie Bailey-King.

David: Before all of that though, who the hell are we? Well, I’m David McGuire, Creative Director at Radix Communications, the B2B tech writing agency. And our guest co-host for this episode is a B2B tech writer, consultant, speaker, all round agent of chaos, Harendra Kapur. Harry, welcome.

Harry: Hey man, thanks for having me on.

David: Hey, how you doing? For the listeners who don’t know, you were Head of Copy at Velocity, and doing your own thing now, right?

Harry: Yeah, just freelancing my little butt round town. That’s kind of what I’ve been up to. And, yeah, it’s gone much better than I thought. Because it’s like, leaving a successful agency with this fancy title and stuff in the middle of a pandemic, maybe recession type of deal. When I did it, it just felt like…

David: Perfectly sensible.

Harry: Yeah, like this could go horribly wrong. And it hasn’t. And I’m very grateful for that. So yeah.

David: I’m glad to hear it’s going well. Couldn’t happen to a nicer chap. But before we get on with this serious business of answering the question for the episode, would you mind doing your first duty as co-host and telling the listener how they can get in touch with us?

Harry: Yeah sure. So listener, if you have comments or suggestions you can find Radix on LinkedIn or Twitter @Radixcom. But if you want us to answer your question on a future episode, then record a quick little voice note and send it by email: podcast@radix-communications.com.

David: That’s perfect, thank you very much.

Vikki: Hello, my name is Vikki Ross, and I’m a copywriter. One of my favourite copywriting tips is something David Abbott once said. He was one of the best copywriters in the world, so he knew what he was talking about. He said, “sometimes the best copy is no copy”. I say, that’s absolutely true, that sometimes you need a copywriter to say so. I hope that helps you when you’re writing, or when you’re telling someone why you don’t need to write anything.

Harry: Love that from Vikki. So much of the best stuff a copywriter does on any kind of project is wordless and invisible and choosing not to do something. And so it’s really good of her to call that out because so much of this is about restraint even. But anyway, let’s get to the Q&A part of B2BQ&A. We’ll start with a very familiar voice.

Fiona: Hi, Radix. It’s Fiona Campbell-Howes here, freelance B2B tech content writer. So, we hear lots on social media about what writers find frustrating about their clients. But I’d be really intrigued to hear things from the client side. What do marketers find frustrating about writers that they work with? And what can we do to make things better for them?

David: Hello, Fiona, how lovely to have your voice back on the show. Listener, in case you’re new around these parts, Fiona actually founded Radix and used to co-host this very podcast. And as you’d expect from Fiona, this is such a good question. The only issue is who’d be bold enough to talk to a copywriter about the most annoying things that copywriters do? Well, actually more people than you might think.

To start with, I spoke with Sally Adam, who’s content and product marketing leader at the cybersecurity company Sophos, and I asked her Fiona’s question, what do you find the most frustrating thing when you’re briefing a copywriter?

Sally: I think the most annoying thing is when the copywriter doesn’t listen to what you are looking to achieve with the piece. Usually, you’ve got a lot of goals, or the things you want to do with it. And sometimes you can see the copywriter isn’t really listening and when the piece comes back, you can see it’s a case of, “okay, I had this thing that I knew on this topic that I wanted to write about. And I’ve just written what I wanted to say on this topic rather than what we needed to achieve with this particular piece of work”.

David: Why do you think it is a copywriter would do that? Are they just trying to kind of add value, ironically? Or are they trying to kind of show off how much they know? Or do they think they know better than you?

Sally: I think it’s probably a bit of all of those. Often when you’ve been writing on a topic for a while you build up your own knowledge, your own experience of the topic, and suddenly your mind runs away. And you’re thinking, “okay, actually, I’ve got some experience here. I’ve already done this, I feel comfortable writing about this particular element because I’ve done it before”.

And so there’s a bit of a case of, “okay, this is an area where I’ve got some expertise that I can bring in, or I enjoy writing about that”. But also, I do think there’s a piece of, “okay, this could be helpful, or I can use my knowledge here to extend the piece”. And sometimes that’s great.

What is wonderful with a copywriter is when they’re joining together the different briefs you’ve done over a period of time, and they’re linking up and thinking, “okay, well, we actually did this piece. And that ties in with something she’s mentioned, let me ask her if it’s worth us joining these together, or should I reference them”.

And I love that, when people are piecing the puzzle together and helping extend the story and connect elements. The challenge is when there isn’t the check. And the copywriter goes off and puts a load of effort in and you’re excitedly waiting for the piece because you’ve got a deadline. And when it comes back, they’re not matching up.

David: So the thing there that the copywriters should be doing, but they’re not doing is to check with you. Is that really what you’d like you’d like to happen in that situation?

Sally: Absolutely, yeah. So, play back the brief. And I try and do that myself when I’m getting tasks at work is, play back and make sure I’ve understood correctly what we’re being asked for.

But, and also, as you have other ideas, if you have thoughts of connections, or ways it could go, do check in. As someone who’s doing the briefing, you’d much rather have someone ask that question and say, “is this something we can join in together?” Then them go to all the effort and the time of creating a piece that then is missing the mark.

David: And sometimes I guess people don’t feel like they’re allowed, because they know that you’re busy or whatever. But I suppose in the long run, that will save you time.

Sally: Yeah, absolutely. And I think for us who are briefing, we need to make sure that we give the copywriter the time, we give them those opportunities to ask the questions, because otherwise, we’re putting them in an impossible situation.

So yeah, very much there’s a responsibility on the briefer to support and enable and to allow the person – and to help them also feel good about asking the questions. Sometimes the answer is “no, that’s not relevant here”. And sometimes it’s “wow, brilliant connection. I hadn’t thought of that myself.”

But as with all things, it’s fine to ask the question, and we need to make sure that the copywriter feels comfortable, and isn’t going to be made to feel stupid or anything for asking that question.

David: So do you then find things tend to go better where it’s a written brief, or if it’s a briefing call, or a combination of the two? How do you prefer to work and which gives the most opportunity for that clarification?

Sally: I think both are good. And quite often, it’s good to do both together. So maybe start with a written brief so the copywriter gets a chance to think with a little bit of calm and to maybe formulate some questions that they want to ask, and some initial ideas. And also then give something for everybody to go back to when you’re just wanting to refresh yourself when you’ve been doing a different job, and writing about a different topic.

But having the opportunity to speak and explore in person, and I think explain perhaps in a bit more detail than you would do in an email is also really helpful. But also you have to ask the copywriter what would they prefer because I suspect different copywriters prefer different approaches. Some may prefer to just start with the conversation, some may want to have a really detailed written brief.

David: Can I ask about the amends process, when a piece may be hasn’t hit the mark? Is that something where when you go back with that feedback, do copywriters kind of get defensive at all, or is it kind of alright for them to sort of push back if you or stakeholders have suggested changes?

Sally: I think it’s probably true for copywriting as much as any other job. If somebody is giving you quality feedback that they’ve properly taken the time to consider and to convey back then it is a gift to take.

Now, there’s sometimes feedback that is just a personal opinion. And I think we need to make clear when we’re giving feedback if something is a personal opinion, or if it’s just experience, or if it’s a factual thing. And then maybe sometimes as a copywriter, you’ve got expertise.

Certainly, I’m sure every copywriter’s grammar is better than mine. And so do push back, if it’s an area where you feel you are the expert. But generally, if it’s good and quality, considered feedback, then hopefully it’s something that can help with the final piece.

And probably the longer that you work with an organization, the better you’ll get to know them. You’ll be able to get to know their style, and the type of topics that they cover, and the approach they’re looking for. So in my experience, the longer we work together, the fewer the amends as we go on.

David: Do you find yourself sometimes sort of stuck in the middle between a copywriter and a stakeholder, or stuck between a copywriter and a subject matter expert who are sort of at loggerheads. Sometimes I kind of feel for the marketer being stuck in the middle there. What’s that like?

Sally: That’s where you have to say, “okay, my job, my expertise is to be the person in the middle and to be the person who is representing the audience we want to reach”. And that’s the hat I need to wear, “what is going to resonate with the audience?” And that’s where I can add value between the subject matter expert and the copywriter is going “okay, great. You’ve both got really informed and interesting positions here. But let me play the role of the audience”. And that’s my part in the process, that’s the value that I bring.

David: How can a copywriter best help you at that stage of the process?

Sally: Perhaps through explaining why they’ve done something in a particular way. If there’s a stakeholder and in our case, quite often a very technical stakeholder, who is saying something, it can be really valuable to have the outsider in terms of the copywriter, share their opinion:

“I don’t know that term, that is not something that is commonly understood, that is really valuable feedback,” or “the reason I structured this particular part in this way is because of ABC”. So yeah, explaining their reasoning because there’s a lot of skill and thought and expertise that goes behind those words. And that also helps communicate and convert to the subject matter expert.

David: So, comments in the margins, that kind of thing that will kind of help you and kind of inform that conversation. Is there anything else that you finally wish that, while you have the ear of copywriters, is there anything else you wish they did differently?

Sally: So copywriters are hugely, hugely valuable. They create wonderful pieces, they turn thoughts and ramblings into coherent stories that really help get across what we’re about. So great copywriters are fabulous.

I think the final thing I’d sort of say is that when we’re briefing a copywriter, particularly for an interview situation, where it’s going to be interviewing, perhaps colleagues, perhaps its customers, perhaps it’s other people in the wider industry, you’re representing me. I’m putting you in front of senior leaders in my organisation, I’m putting you in the hands of my customer, whose business we really value and whose business we really wish to maintain. You are the representation of me.

And I know that is widely understood. But I think it’s probably worth emphasising because I think that’s probably the nervousness from my side, more than anything else. The actual copy that comes back, we can work on that. But the experience that the interviewee has with the copywriter, that’s not going to change. That’s the impression that they’re going to walk away with. And that is, therefore, probably the thing that is most important, because that’s going to make or break other relationships and perhaps will have a wider business impact.

So I’d say just bear in mind you’re representing the person who briefs you, you’re representing their organisation as well. So we’re placing a huge amount of trust in you. And it’s almost always repaid 100-fold, but you are being entrusted with our perspectives and our representation.

David: Thanks, Sally. That is a really helpful and balanced response. And there’s loads of practical input for all the copywriters listening. Harry, I know you’ve got to have some views on this. So what stood out for you there?

Harry: Well, I mean, having managed writers in my life, I know how annoying we can be. But I think Sally’s definitely clocked the most annoying thing about briefing copywriters. And it’s really, when you just don’t listen. I’ve been this guy more times than I’d care to admit.

And I think generally speaking, when a copywriter’s going into a briefing, it’s a moment of high excitement for them on multiple different levels. You might be really nervous about, “I don’t want to say something stupid in front of the smart person”. Or you might be like, “I’m really excited to talk about this brief, because I’ve got some ideas that I want to pitch the client that would fit this brief, and I can’t wait to tell him or whatever”.

And actually, I think, really, the important thing, and you just learn this over the years from doing it time after time, is just put all that stuff aside, and just go into the room, and listen, and just sit there and be a dummy. The other ones in the room is by definition smarter than you. That’s why they’re briefing you, because they know more than you do. And so just like let it in, hear it the way they’re saying it, don’t hear it the way you wish it was.

These are all obviously really hard things to do. And you get better at doing them over time. But I think, really, the big thing is just, enjoy being the dummy. Just chill. Just ask your stupid clarifying question or, test, “I thought this would be a good thing that we could do.” Just say the things that you need to say, because I think, if you spend 20 minutes really doing someone that courtesy of listening to them, they’ll listen back. They’ll be happy to talk to you about the thing. It’s a lot easier that way. But it can be hard and definitely the most annoying thing I think that copywriters can do.

David: Yeah, I mean, I think Katherine Wildman, I think in a previous episode was kind of – shared a tip about intelligent naivety. Which I think is great – actually pretending you’re dumber than you are. Just to be that blank canvas, to represent the audience.

Harry: Yeah, exactly.

David: Which is a really tricky thing to do, particularly in an area like ours, where you’re aware that they’ve hired a specialist B2B writer or a specialist B2B tech writer for a reason. Because they don’t want to have to go right back to zero and so you kind of want to show that you know the area and that there’s a real balance there because you don’t want to cross pollute with too many of your own ideas.

Harry: Exactly.

David: There’s that idea from the – is it from the Kama Sutra? – of the beginner’s mind. I think it applies here. The stuff from your old partners should not colour the stuff with your new partners. I think it’s the same with clients a little bit.

Harry: You’ve got to do a thread on what B2B marketers can learn from the Kama Sutra. Make that happen!

David: You haven’t heard my ebook about that? That’s a whole different podcast series.

Harry: I think really the challenging thing, I think that – in an ideal world, the client and the copywriter, and really any other creative representative involved in the briefing, you’re all trying to shape something together, that fits obviously the client’s vision of reality, and what will pan out and all that stuff, but then also all your own little weird, artistic, “this is a good way to say that”, or whatever your thing might be.

And you’re trying to get to that place where you’re shaping it together. And I think ground zero and that is that when the other person’s briefing you, you hear what they’re saying, even if it isn’t in the words they’re saying. You’re really trying to understand the intent behind the briefing as well.

And so listening, it’s not just sitting there thinking nothing. It’s really paying close attention to what they mean, and what they’re prioritising and all this invisible in-between-the-line stuff, all the good stuff.

David: And being that – Sally was saying that she’s the avatar kind of for the audience, for the reader. That’s really important. All the time, sitting in their seat. It’s so important.

Harry: Correct. Yeah. And there’s obviously at the end of the spectrum, there’s another kind of like, weird little issue that comes up. Which is you can know a client so well, that you have an amazing shorthand with them. And you have these awesome fluid four minute briefing sessions where they just go, “ebook, top of funnel, difficult,” and you go, “I know what you mean”.

And you go ahead and make this thing, and it’s that thing of the avatar for the customer or the prospect, I think is – so much of that is that they don’t have any other context. They don’t know what you’re talking about. They have no – they don’t know where this company is coming from, where the stuff that they’re preaching is coming from, where the best practice advice is coming from, any of that stuff. And so you do have to – you need to be able to both go down to zero and think about it like a smart prospect would be thinking about it, and how they would be approaching it.

David: Absolutely. Sally’s not actually the only person to have answered this question for us. I think we alluded to this earlier. I got a whole bunch of – Sally was the only one that was brave enough to put a name on it – but I did get a whole bunch of anonymous responses as well.

It seems there’s actually quite a lot that annoys marketers about copywriters. So we picked the best few. We’ll play those in and you can tell me what you think just off the top of your head. Okay?

Harry: Cool.

Anonymous marketer #1: I wish B2B copywriters understood that people in B2B are still people. They may not be in their primary role as a consumer when they are reading the copy you’ve written, but we can talk to them as if they are. They’re still humans. They don’t need dozens of fluffy buzzwords to understand a concept or engage with your content. Without dumbing it down or doing your content a disservice, write as a human to another human in a conversational and human way.

Harry: That’s hard to argue with. I mean, I do feel sure that we can be more annoying than that. We can be worse than that. There’s worse things copywriters do.

David: You don’t think that’s the worst thing?

Harry: No, no.

David: Okay, this is the top four.

Harry: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we need a good top three. We need to burn this into people’s back’s or something.

David: The thing that’s interesting about this is a – it’s like a B2B tech writer that’s gone native, right? I think every B2B tech writer comes into it, trying to weed out the buzzwords and trying to get away from that stuff. And probably at the end, just the whole career of having to get things signed off. In the end, they just assume that they have to write that way. I think there’s a switch that gets flicked.

Harry: No, definitely, definitely. It’s kind of like an ocean, right? It’s like the national gravity in the space is that – and this is the uncomfortable thing. If you want to efficiently work with many different clients in B2B, actually, the consequence of that might be that there’s a whole lot of buzzword nonsense in your thing, because you just split writing. Your audience is the marketing department paying your bills, and that’s kind of the extent of it. But no, writing for humans, definitely good. I’d love to see a B2B company try to talk to people as if they were cats. I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe – imagine if that works. Imagine if that’s amazing!

David: B2B catnip. You heard it here first. Okay, the next one.

Anonymous marketer #2: My pet hate is briefing an agency that then subs out copywriting to someone who wasn’t in the room.

Harry: Oh, okay, okay, now we’re talking. Now we’re getting into some really good stuff. Because I’d like to say this first as like a very small point of defence on behalf of agencies. Because I’ve been in that situation, I’ve been in every version of that situation. I’ve been the guy outside the room, I’ve been the guy telling the guy inside the room to give it to the guy outside. I’ve been through all permutations of this.

And it can work. I’ve seen this work. There are times when there’s someone who’s outside the room, who you’ve never spoken to, and you didn’t expect them to work on it, and then they do something and it blows your mind. That can happen. And I think actually a lot of the magic you’re paying for with an agency is that possibility that that could happen.

Now that said, this is the worst thing. I hate this one. It’s so irritating, it’s so frustrating to – especially I think when clients really do the agency the kind of courtesy of bringing their best self to the briefing. They’re prepared, they’ve thought about the session, “I’ll explain this, then I’ll explain this and he’ll get it,” you know, whatever. They’ve really thought about doing the briefing well, and then they do the briefing, and then it’s some random who didn’t even clock all the important stuff they we’re talking about in the brief. That’s the worst, it’s so annoying. So really hard.

David: I love it. The worst thing about briefing a copywriter is when the copywriter is not there.

Harry: Yeah! What’s the point of that?

Anonymous marketer #3: When the individual hasn’t understood the client’s tone or style of writing and so returns with the monotone or “off-voice” style. Take more time to review the client’s historic style and tone please.

Harry: Yeah, that’s just basics man. That’s the – it’s basics and you’d hope that every copywriter’s doing this kind of a thing, but I think it’s really good to hear this from the horse’s mouth, from the mouth of someone who’s annoyed and irritated by it.

Because I think, especially with younger writers, I think there’s a part of us that believes that this client doesn’t know what they want. “Once I make this thing, they’ll understand how good it is like, they’ll see it in the finished product, I’ll blow their mind and it’ll be amazing”.

And I think that’s an important part of you to keep, you should always be trying to do that for the client. But really the first audience you need to know, we talked about knowing your audience and stuff, the first audience you have to know is the dude or lady who at 6:17pm on a Friday is saying to her office friends, “no, you guys go to the pub, I’ll catch up with you later,” or whatever. “I’m going to open this document that the stranger has sent me. And I’m just really desperately hoping that what’s in this document isn’t professionally embarrassing to me. It just a little looks like it’s coming from someone who doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” or whatever.

And that’s the first hurdle you have to clear as a copywriter. That’s the first person you’ve got to be empathetic to I think, definitely on the B2B side, but I think that’s true on the B2C side as well. Maybe a lot more deferential out there. It’s really annoying. You need to know how the person you’re working for wants to represent themselves and no idea you have is more important than that.

And that’s the first hurdle you have to clear as a copywriter. That’s the first person you’ve got to be empathetic to I think, definitely on the B2B side, but I think that’s true on the B2C side as well. Maybe a lot more deferential out there. It’s really annoying. You need to know how the person you’re working for wants to represent themselves and no idea you have is more important than that.

Anonymous marketer #4: I have experienced two recurring issues. One: not being able to speak the language of the target audience or decision makers. We had a Gen Z copywriter who was writing content directed at senior C suite executives, 50-60-year-old mostly male individuals. This doesn’t necessarily mean jargon but definitely some corporate terminology that CHR or CFOs would relate with: increase revenue, decrease costs in some way or the other.

We had to go through a few rounds and I had to describe our audience in detail for them to do a good job to the whole features instead of benefits angle. Quite a few times content and copy would be about what we provide rather than intelligently talking about the value add and when this was explained most copy was a direct “here are five benefits of ….”, which in my opinion doesn’t really work.

Harry: That sucks. If you keep coming across that’s awful, that’s really bad. I mean, I guess, obviously, all that tells me is that like the most annoying thing is bad copywriting. Nothing beats bad copywriting.

David: I think there’s an element of this and it’s maybe something we should talk about on the show that I know that Leif Kendall at Pro Copywriters has for a while been talking about the idea of “do we need some kind of accreditation for copywriters?” Because at the moment anyone can stick a shingle outside their door and say “I’m a copywriter.” And the more people who do that, who don’t really embrace the craft, the more it undermines the rest of us.

Harry: Yeah, I think so. I mean, it’s a weird one as well, because at least in the years I’ve been doing this… Over the years, you sort of tried to collect as many absolute truths about the craft as you can. And I’ve got an empty bag. I can never find anything that pervades all industries and all contacts and all situations, because B2B, we don’t hang out because we like talking to companies, we hang out because we don’t sell shampoo.

We’re united by what we don’t do. And that’s about the extent of it, like a service company and a SAS company. It’s fundamentally different business models, and the way they approach markets are going to become completely different, the way they talk to people is going to be different. And so it’s hard, but it is a little frustrating when someone has worked with seven bad copywriters in a row and then they go “ah, marketing doesn’t work” or whatever.

And it’s like, “no, you hired bad people.” And I don’t know how to convince them of that. I don’t know how to demonstrate that to someone. Maybe accreditations would be good. But yeah, maybe it’s good that Leif’s talking about this because I really couldn’t think of many people who would take on something like that, but maybe Leif’s the guy though.

David: Yep, absolutely. Leif, the ball’s in your court. You make it happen and we will support you.

Harry: Good luck dude!

David: Okay, it is almost time for us to wrap up. But first we do have our final inclusive writing tip from Ettie Bailey-King.

Ettie Bailey-King:  You’ve probably heard people talking about person-first language or identity-first language. So what does this mean?

Person-first language would put somebody’s name first. And they might say “Ettie has depression.” That’s person-first language because the person’s name, or perhaps the pronoun talking about them comes first. You might say “she has depression”. And person-first language is really popular with a wide range of identities, and often marginalised experiences.

In many cases, we want to be referred to using person-first language because it puts the person back in the frame. I’m not defined by my depression, I’m still a real person with a full and rich identity separate from that. But many people actually want identity-first language. So what does identity-first language look like?

Well, that might look like saying, “I’m autistic,” “I’m schizophrenic,” “she’s disabled”. And in some cases, that community of people really, really wants to use identity-first language. It’s really important that we find out what people’s preferences are.

So in the example of autism, many, many autistic people say that they really want their autism to be considered part and parcel of who they are. It is not a separate trivial detail of their identity. It’s absolutely integral. And that’s why many autistic people will really, really want that language to be used.

And if we don’t respect that wish, then were really undermining their right to express themselves and to be taken seriously given their identity. So what’s the lesson that we can draw from this? Well, unfortunately, there isn’t one simple tip as to whether you should always use person first or always use identity first. Brings us back to tip number one, which is that you must always ask.

If you’re looking for a rough rule of thumb, it’s typically the case that identity-first language is popular with people who have physical, motor and sensory disabilities. So for example, many deaf people want to say “I am deaf”, they won’t say “I am a person with deafness”. So you can keep in mind that frequently identity-first language is popular with certain physical motor and sensory disabilities. But you always need to check.

David: That’s actually the last in the series of these tips. Etiie, we are really grateful to you for sending them in. They’ve been so practical and thought provoking over these last few months. And listen, if you want more information on inclusive and anti-oppressive language, you can find Ettie at fightingtalk.uk or on Twitter @ettiebk.

Harry: And of course, we also want to thank Fiona Campbell-Howes for asking the question that kicked this whole thing off. We hope you feel like you were satisfied by the answers that we came across, that we did surface the annoying things about briefing copywriters. And so, of course, we would really like to thank Sally Adam from Sophos for such an honest, thought provoking, good, correct answer, I think, to a difficult question – we appreciate that. And obviously, thank you to everyone who anonymously sent in their comments. And, of course, the great Vikki Ross, for her pro tip.

David: Thank you, Vikki. And thank you, Harry, you have been a fabulous guest co-host once again. I hope you’ll come back again?

Harry: Oh, it’s been my pleasure. I would absolutely love to.

David: Awesome. We’ll look forward to that. In the meantime, if the listener wants to get in touch with you and find out more about the wonderful world of Harry Kapur, where can they do that?

Harry: You can reach me, the quickest way to reach me is probably on my Twitter, which is @rupees1hundred, probably easier to just search my name. But also if you want to work with me, then probably best to find me on LinkedIn.

David: Great, and we’ll put a link in the show notes as well. Remember listener, it could be your question we answer in a future episode. If you have a question for B2BQ&A to answer email, a voice memo to podcast@radix-communications.com. Or find us on social media. I’ll see you next time for another B2BQ&A. Until then make good content and remember, one day you will die but the content you publish will live forever. Thanks a bunch, Google.

Harry and David: Goodbye!



Verity uses her natural curiosity and intellect to help even our most experienced writers improve their work, as well as creating thoughtful, well-researched copy of her own.

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