People are reading more than ever before, making the written word all the more important, and the stakes even higher. Where copywriting was once almost exclusively about persuasion and crafting a fantasy, it’s moved along with everything else in marketing and advertising to a position that is much closer to the consumer.
In other words, today’s copywriter needs to be curious, collaborative and immersive in nature—comfortable with crossing over into UX design or digital as well as exploring their clients’ business to discover the realities on a people and operational level.
What the copywriter then returns with is something authentic and engaging; something marketers and brands can act on and extend through their brand long after the copywriter has done their work.
Sister duo Ellie-Kate Macalister, managing director, and Cruzanne Macalister, creative director, are the co-founders of The Quick Word Company, a Hong Kong-based agency specialising in copywriting with a human touch.
“You can’t put words in peoples’ mouths anymore,” said Cruzanne. “You might see these billboard pictures of fit athletes running over hurdles and you get there and there are these smelly old men hunched over desks with pencils.”
The two sisters bring a diverse set of life and work experiences together, and humour—lots of it. Cruzanne has worked in radio, editorial, standup comedy and as a copywriter at Fluid while Ellie has worked in television and the art industries.
“We started working young. We’ve been waitresses and worked a lot of different jobs across industries,” said Cruzanne. “We started our own company because our CVs were getting pretty weird.”
For Ellie, starting the Quick Word Company has been liberating, as both sisters have been able to channel their unique work ethic and style into client work. Priding themselves on being mobile and straightforward, they subscribe to a creative process that cuts to the core of their clients’ needs.
“There’s no middle man or account management when you work with us,” said Ellie. “We build the relationship with our clients and we’re also the ones delivering the work.”
The agency also partners with a network of international editors, storytellers, service and industry experts and creative thinkers with backgrounds in media, broadcasting, PR, marketing, creative campaigning and standup comedy.
The Quick Work Company’s clients have included SPCA, Ultima II, Nailae, Speak Asia, and Mano to name a few. The agency’s scope of work spans tone of voice, content strategy, scriptwriting all the way through to marketing collateral.
For SPCA, they helped bring personality to the animals in homing and to boost SPCA’s profile on social media. The brand’s Instagram account was well received and attracted over 1000 followers in 72 hours.
Copywriting advice for new copywriters:
- Let go of your ego. Write a lot. Confront your own writing.
- If you’re starting out, do every bit of copy work that comes along. If you’re in university, go out and get experience. Writing doesn’t include what you did in high school.
- Set yourself the challenge of rewriting the copy of a company. Ellie and Cruzanne often ask potential copywriting candidates to do this task as a test.
- Build a portfolio that doesn’t look like a template.
Copywriting advice for marketers:
- Talk to a copywriter. There’s a difference between English writers and copywriters.
- Have a third party look at your copy with fresh eyes.
- Ideas are fun but also a waste of time. Put your ideas on paper—make it clear and make it happen.
According to Cruzanne and Ellie, the standard perception of copywriters in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia is still that of being a “Native English speaker” and “grammar Nazi”.
The two believe that brands and marketers who think of copywriters in this way are limiting themselves and missing out on what good copy can do for their business.
“This might sound 'new age', but we try and get involved in our clients’ creative process as early on as possible,” said Cruzanne. “We go in and do in-depth research with the company’s employees, customers and stakeholders.”
Whether it’s developing the brand DNA or discovering the best way to communicate a new product line, Cruzanne and Ellie aim to find the language of the people and make the communication actionable for the brand.
Their process of “research, discover, mind tempest (brainstorming), pen to paper, rewrite and roll-out”, allow the two to systematically find a creative entry point that is also in line with reality.
“Advertising used to tell you, ‘buy this brand to be the cool kid’,” said Cruzanne. “But these days people look at an ad and they know it has been airbrushed. Now the best brands are engaging with you to simply be the best version of you.”
The hardest thing about being a copywriter in today’s marketing landscape is proving the ROI of good copy. “Of course there’s A/B testing,” said Cruzanne. “But a simpler way of thinking about it is that good copy will only do your brand good but bad copy will lose you money.”