After finishing my degree at Cambridge I moved to London wholly unprepared for the realities of a world where reading poetry wasn’t all you had to do to get by. I moved to the city with two dreams, which I served concurrently: to work as a writer and to pursue a career in music. They worked together well and touring the States as a session drummer provided a lot of good material, but writing definitely came out on top.
At that time I was doing writing of every possible kind, by day interviewing lawyers and creating content for legal directories and careers guides, and by night writing and occasionally publishing poetry and short stories. I was driven primarily by my belief in the sheer versatility of words: their relevance in all contexts. On the one hand, it was their importance to get a message across to clients and consumers, to make things happen for businesses, and to make information accessible. On the other, it was their power to engage with and express my own experiences, my reactions, and to explore the things I found important. As time went on, the two moved closer and closer together, and the importance of energised writing in brand and marketing content, for content that was human, had weight, and was relatable, became increasingly apparent. As that happened, I moved away from legal and careers guides, and more into travel, arts and culture writing, as well as writing fiction.
Some of my main clients have been VisitBritain, EasyJet, British Airways, Emirates Airlines, and most recently, Sotheby’s. Writing inspirational content about places, about travel, and about art and culture, have always been the things I’ve gravitated to. I also loved the freedom of writing travel content for startups like CityStory and TheThousands. A newer love is writing about video games, which I think are just an incredible way of engaging with narrative and bringing together visual, audio and narrative art.
Working for VisitBritain had me creating a huge variety of content. Creating articles about experiences travelling, about places I loved, about what made so many parts of Britain magical, but also working on social media, both on a daily schedule and also live-tweeting during visits and shoots, conducting interviews, writing newsletters and advertorials, creating microcopy, campaign messaging and more. Because of the need to reach so many different audiences in different countries, I directed a series of first-person immersive videos, that gave people the experience of walking into St. Pauls, or exploring a village in the Cotswolds, or walking down the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh festival, without the need for scripts or language that would need to be translated. They were very successful and were used in multiple campaigns around the world.
The work I’ve done with Sotheby’s has been some of the most engaging, particularly interviews with collectors, artists and photographers, as I love asking questions of creative people, (then savagely cutting several thousand words for space). One of the pieces I was happiest with was called “5 Artists that Broke the Mould”, an audience-building piece because I got to talk about five brilliant and inspirational artists that had done things their way. I also had to interview an explorer, who asked me to write not only the questions but also his answers to them, because he was in the North Pole and didn’t have time.
A lot of authors talk about the research being one of the best parts of writing a novel, I think the same applies to copywriting. Being able to experience or study so many subjects, get excited, then write about them and have the chance to pass your enthusiasm on to someone else, to inform them, or reveal that there’s a whole story beneath the surface, whether it’s a product, a painting, a campaign or a city, is a large part of what makes it so fun.