Continuing on with my UAE Digital Marketing Interview Series, I move a bit out of the usual digital channels and onto copywriting. It occupies a crucial spot at the table, but few truly understand AND appreciate it. Here’s someone who gets it and also has a clue about the world of copywriting…
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Nathan Irvine and I’m the CEO and founder of IrvineMedia.
How’d you get started in copywriting?
I started out in journalism in 2004 at Future Publishing in the UK. Most of my daily work was editorially focused, but I had to create the occasional advertorial for the magazines and websites I worked on too.
What keeps you in the copywriting field?
I enjoy writing and the challenge of finding the perfect message for each piece I’m working on. Weirdly, I find building press releases to be fairly therapeutic. I also love the wide range of clients and subjects that copywriting tasks bring to the table. I know more now about fintech, eCommerce and a number of other industries than I did before I went full-time in copywriting.
How long have you been in the game, in Dubai?
I’ve been in Dubai since 2015. I moved here for a role in PR, which was a fairly abrupt change of career. But I quickly found that I missed writing and jumped back into journalism again. As editor of ShortList Dubai, my time was split evenly between publishing and creating marketing materials.
What have you found to be unique about copywriting in relation to the region/country?
You have to be adaptable to every changing scenarios. Dubai is incredibly fast-paced, and so to are the clients we work with. In the UK, before a word was even thought about, a comprehensive brief would be completed and then followed to a tee. But that old school approach just doesn’t cut it here. You need to think fast for the client, get in side their head and serve up some form of their hazy vision. This approach is not for the faint of heart, but the adrenaline rush is quite moreish.
Everyone can write. But not everyone can write well. What’s your advice for anyone who wants to get better at writing?
Practice. I know it sounds obvious, but it’s the best way to get better at anything. The two most important things after this are simple, but effective. Firstly, always delete a word from a sentence if it still works without it. This makes the flow more succinct. Secondly, alway read your work back. You are your own editor so before you publish anything or hand it back to the client, check it over again. You will almost always find something to fix with this process.
Do you use pen/pencil/paper much? Or are you all in on digital writing?
Only to make the occasional shopping list. Making a note on my phone that can then be sent to my computer or someone else is far more efficient.
What does your writing toolbox look like? (Tools you use to excel at your craft)
I don’t actually have one. I read a lot both online and offline, and certain lessons and approaches burrow into my mind. If you want to hone your craft as a writer, then I would steer clear of software that autocorrects your words and grammar. Yes, they save you from embarrassing typos, but I think they also remove personality from your writing.
When do you find the best inspiration for your work? And which helps better: coffee or tea?
I’m up and out of bed at 5am every day. I cycle 45km three times per week on my own and find that this is a great way to find inspiration for the tasks ahead. And I’m one of those annoying coffee drinkers who only buys and uses fresh beans. Instant coffee is simply hot brown water.
What are your writing pet peeves?
Sentences and paragraphs that just run on and on with a total disregard for the reader of the text and absolutely no intentions of ever putting a full stop in place in an attempt to break up the wall of text and allow the person who is casting their eyes over the piece to catch their breath. Like that one.
What do you feel about AI content generators? Are copywriters worried?
They were inevitable. They’ve made a solid start, and some of the examples I’ve seen look like they’ve been created by an actual person. But with a copywriter you have someone that can double- and triple-check articles for accuracy, add personality and respond to specific tweaks as and when you need them. I’d say we need to be aware of, but not worried by, AI content generators.
What’s the difference between content writing and copywriting?
Good question. Here’s an article that we produced on this subject at IrvineMedia: https://irvinemedia.ae/copywriting-vs-content-writing