Guest blog from Rachel Williams, professional copywriter.
I’ve been working with a client that I really like. This client came to me on the strength of several jobs I’ve done for other, similar companies which, of course, isn’t that unusual. Some clients appreciate that I know a particular sector and see that as a strength – it’s logical.
We’re now addressing a major piece of marketing material, so I wasn’t particularly concerned when he asked me to send over a copy of a similar piece I had written for another company. It’s reference, why not? Half the battle in marketing is knowing what everyone else is doing.
Imagine my horror when my client came back to me and declared that he intended to use my original document (written for another client, remember), change a few words here and there, publish and – quite possibly – be damned.
Morally, ethically and professionally this is just completely and utterly wrong. And I told him so, expecting him to see the error of his ways. But he argued his point. The other company in question is not a direct competitor as such, they are both working within specific – and separate – localised geographic areas. They both have essentially the same offer, the copy I wrote worked for the other company, why not for him?
I have to confess to being completely shocked by this attitude. We are talking about probably the most important piece of marketing he is about to produce and he wants to plagiarise the work that another company paid for. Payment, of course, is not the point. He is doing his business no favours whatsoever by taking this approach. Getting to know the market in which you operate is essential, but so too is finding ways to be different, to develop your own distinctive tone of voice. What works for one business will not necessarily work for another. In my client’s case, the social demographic of his audience is different to my previous client’s – he is operating in an altogether more affluent area and his audience, albeit with the same needs to be satisfied, is far more middle class and well educated than the audience profile I worked to before (ethnic minorities, low wage earners).
As I write I am struggling to get out of this mire, and can only hope I can make my client see sense, to realise that producing a carbon copy of another company’s material will not differentiate his business. And, in any case, how can he possibly use exactly the same words to promote his business and be genuinely passionate about his offer. Wish me luck!