Creative Scriptwriting and Copywriting

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

First Class stamp, please, Mrs Goggins

In copywriting, scriptwriting, Uncategorized, writing on April 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

How to write a bad company website in three easy stages.

1) Give it a lousy title.

Like Royal Mail Fulfilment Solutions. I thought everyone had agreed some years ago now that the solutions word is the worst kind of empty corporate jargon, but perhaps Royal Mail’s memo got lost in the post. There is a danger that solutions has become so despised a term that it may become ironically trendy again, like the asymmetrical haircut or the rail strike, but I don’t think we’ve reached that moment of crisis quite yet.

Put simply, no-one wants a “fulfilment solution”. Personally, I only came in for a stamp.

And, while we’re at it, Director of Fulfilment is a pretty glorified job title for a jumped-up postman, and should only be used without irony in a Buddhist monastery or a sex clinic.

2) Don’t proof-read.

A lot of the language you’ll find at Royal Mail Fulfilment Solutions isn’t dreadful, but there are too many lines that don’t work, and should have been seen off in a final polish.

“We’ve developed a range of services to help your business[…] meet three of your biggest demands: speed, cost and security.”

Well, no. Cost isn’t one of my demands. Reducing costs might be. Monitoring costs almost certainly is. But bare, bald cost can’t be a demand.

And when I hear Royal Mail’s Director of Fulfilment say “we take speed very seriously at Royal Mail” I’m sure I won’t be the only one picturing a row of straight-faced postmen conscientiously necking their amphetamine ration before setting off on their rounds.

3) Use video. Badly.

The very worst part of the Royal Mail Fulfilment Solutions isn’t the language at all, but it is still the responsibility of a writer.

Someone somewhere decided that what would make their website all modern and zingy and accessible was some slick embedded video. Technologically and visually, they were right. It looks good. It’s clean and clear and intuitive. There is clearly some advantage in allowing a friendly human face to represent an organisation that still has a reputation for Soviet style inefficiency.

But it’s still a terrible idea.

Whoever decided to do it doesn’t understand the nature of writing video.

It’s not about controlling language. It’s about controlling time.

A script or a screenplay or a speech looks a lot like printed copy. But it works in a very different way. Your eyes flick across a printed page. You skim and scan. A video plays out its information word after word after word, and it’s hard to find what you want – you have to wait until it arrives.

Also, the spoken word eats up time.

The first time you hear someone read out words that you have written, I guarantee you will ache and yawn and die of boredom. Everything takes so long.

(The first time you hear a proper actor read out your words, it’s like the above, only doubled. A classical training means being taught to enunciate so that your lines can be heard in the back row of the theatre. )

It’s why the best scripts and screenplays read like haiku or telegrams.

A word here.

A word there.

Quick beats.

It doesn’t matter if it’s soap opera or cinema

On top of that, the internet is unforgiving. If your audience is sitting in a hushed cinema, or an expectant theatre, then maybe you can tease them and stretch them and make them wait.

Even those inane TV monitors at the side of the Post Office queue give you some leeway (and maybe that’s exactly where they got the idea for this).

But online, it’s very different.

A world of more exciting possibilities is only a click away. So the video content you put on the internet better be compelling, engaging, interesting or – at the very least – useful.

No-one on the planet can sit there passively while Mike Brown, Director of Fulfilment for Royal Mail chirps on perkily for 2’26” about Recorded Delivery.

Two minutes twenty six!

Do you know what better minds have achieved in two minutes and twenty six seconds?

You Keep Me Hanging On.

All Day and All of the Night.

The Gramophone Sketch.

Irrefutable PROOF that Neil Armstrong never landed on the moon.

Photograph by TomBK on Flickr.