Consultants are flighty, self-serving mercenaries. And they’re loners – out to rinse you for all they can get. That’s the entrenched stereotype my consultancy client wanted challenging in a suite of team member biographies I wrote for their web site.

The brief was to introduce each team member’s personality, individual strengths and expertise in a style that brings them to life, showcases their skills and makes clear that they’ve been carefully brought together.

I’ll save you the details of how to interview and research angles that deliberately neutralise the negative perceptions of consultants, because this job raised an interesting point in some thought-provoking feedback (or veiled compliment depending upon how you look at it) from one of the team members I wrote about in a first draft:

I think it’s really good – in fact probably too good in that I’ve a lot to live up to!

This made me think about the danger of raising expectations as a marketing copywriter. It’s our job as copywriters to enthuse about products, services or in this case, people.

We have the power to effectively seduce readers by influencing their thoughts through stories interwoven with facts. That’s tricky ground for copywriters who aren’t as ethically minded as I aspire to be.

Good copywriting is responsible copywriting

I always write with honest enthusiasm and interpret the truth with careful measure and balance. Assertions are backed up with lots of questions to rigorously test them. This often means playing devil’s advocate (sometimes the opposite of what your client wants to hear) and putting yourself in the reader’s shoes – asking yourself if what you’re telling them sounds plausible.

Man balancing carefully on a tightrope against the sky

Photo by image munky

On biography copywriting in particular

I interview my subject, absorb their replies, take notes and then later craft a holistic impression. As a freelance copywriter I manage a careful trade-off between instinctive judge of character and selecting stories and facts that are beneficial to readers. And therein lies the copywriting magic I suppose.

People often understate themselves out of modesty, they play down their achievements and abilities in pursuit of conformity. Because at the other end of the spectrum are the arrogant and bullish self-centred types who no one wants to sound like, let alone hire as consultants. So I see my role as lifting my subject out of bland mediocrity into the realm of exceptional realism, steering well clear of the unbelievable.

There’s that tricky moral grey area again

It’s projects like these that make me realise that being a copywriter is as much instinct from experience as it is skill. And when copywriting for marketing, we have a duty to both ‘talk things up’ while still writing honestly.