Why copywriters, etc need to get their facts right

As copywriters, I know it’s not always our fault when a client gets his or her facts wrong and we obediently reproduce these on a website, brochure, sales letter or whatever. But it is up to the copywriter to double and treble-check with the client that – as far as we, the copywriters, are aware – what we are writing about is accurate. And this doesn’t just apply to the copywriter, it applies to the client’s account team and / or PR agency and website designers.

I’ve just returned from an amazing free holiday in Cornwall which my 19-year old son won in a prize draw. The weather was fabulous and so was the location. The house we stayed in was lovely, too. (Seaview Retreats’ Shellseekers property in St Mawes, Cornwall). But we struggled to find the “glorious log burning stoves” described in the bullet points on the web page. Not that we needed them, with day after day of unbroken hot sunshine.

And we never found the “Wii and Wii games”, the “coffee machine” or “food processor” – all of which the bullet point description claimed were present.

Nor the “dressing up box where Batman and Cinderella shall go to the ball”.

Which, as you can imagine, was a real shame…

Another point…

The original Terms & Conditions for the competition showed an image of another property – the most expensive and luxurious property of the bunch, implying that this was the prize. It also said that the prize was a week for up to 4 people in, it implied, any of the Seaview Reatreats properties. Wow, we thought, super luxury awaits!!

But, apparently, the PR agency got this wrong. It should have said that the prize applied to the smallest property. Yes, the other properties may have been available, but only if guests paid (a few £thousand) to upgrade.

However, the Terms & Conditions didn’t say this anywhere.

Now I’m not really complaining; I’m nit-picking. As a professional copywriter, it’s been rammed into me from Day One that, as a copywriter (or advertising / marketing / PR agency), we need to get our facts right. We can’t mislead customers. We can’t bend the truth. We can’t tell fibs.

On the other hand, maybe it was the client that didn’t provide the correct information for the PR agency that produced the prize draw and the web designer / copywriter that compiled the website. Or the breakfast cereals company that ran the competition on their behalf.

As I said above, it’s not always the copywriter that’s to blame.

But, even though my son and I had a fabulous free holiday overlooking the harbour in St Mawes, Cornwall, we were still left with a bit of a bad taste in our mouths.

And, you know, if it had been me that had written the website and competition Terms & Conditions, I would have double and treble-checked with the client.

Are you sure this property has log burning stoves, etc – and (crucially for us creative types) a box of dressing up clothes?

Is the property in the image the actual prize?

Can the winner win a week in any of the four properties?

Are there any other disclaimers?

Oh, and while I’m on the subject of being a copywriter that nit-picks and feels compelled to re-write stuff wherever they go…

Will someone tell the Department of Transport that it should be “Keep 2 chevrons apart” on the M5 and NOT “Keep apart 2 chevrons” (which sounds like a bad translation from a foreign language)?

Contact a nit-picking copywriter at www.creativecopy.co.uk

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