Interview with Amy Batch: What Copywriting and PR have in common
I have recently approached PR practitioners and business contacts across the North East to get their professional insight into their work and Thoughts About PR. I also had the chance to interview Amy Batch. She is a Copywriter and currently works for Northumbrian Water. I met her at the “Careers in Writing” event at the University of Sunderland, where she graduated in 2014.
Copywriters are writing the content for websites, brochures, flyers, etc. to motivate people to an action, for example to buy a product. The job description is not a PR related one, but I feel Public Relations Practitioners and Copywriters could still learn from each other, because both work in business and aim to persuade people.
“PR will likely have a similar challenge, their readership can vary hugely”
1.) You are the Northumbrian Water’s copywriter. What does your position include?
My role is primarily digital copywriting. I dabble with the current websites for both Northumbrian Water and Essex and Suffolk Water, but, for the most part, my work is proactively creating content for our new websites. We’re launching our customer websites later this year.
I’ll also contribute to other areas of the business, of course. To date, I’ve created brochures, letters, leaflets, adverts and regulatory documents, too.
2.) What, would you say, do copywriting and Public Relations have in common?
The first thing to come to mind is writing for the audience. My challenge is anyone who pays a water bill in the North East, and the Essex and Suffolk areas, are potential readers. PR will likely have a similar challenge, their readership can vary hugely.
Our writing must also serve a purpose. I’m trying to help customers using the words I publish, and the PR teams will aim to promote the achievements or news from the company.
3.) You are working as a copywriter for Northumbrian Water. What is the main role of the company in the North East?
Northumbrian Water Ltd provides the North East with water and sewerage services. It’s a large company; it also owns Essex and Suffolk Water. Together, the two companies serve nearly 5 million customers every day.
4.) Northumbrian Water provides service to 2.7 million people in the North East of the UK. How do you ensure that you keep content your communication and writing consistent – whether it’s a brochure or a company’s website?
We have brand guidelines, but I think I am the first outright copywriter in the company, or at least one of very, very few. I’m also the only “Copywriter” in the company. That means I can feed into our copy guidelines. They’re definitely a work in progress, due to some business changes, but they’re coming along nicely!
“…part of my role is to find a happy medium.”
It’s also worth noting that, despite being the only employee with the job title of “Copywriter”, I am by no means the only person to write copy. We have marketing teams and customer care teams, and so many more, who write copy for both internal and external customers every day.
Consistency comes from cross-functional teamwork. Each department has targets to meet and customers to please, so part of my role is to find a happy medium.
5.) While the PR team of Northumbrian Water focuses on corporate communication, you target customers. How do you adapt your writing to the business’ objectives?
The main adaptation I find myself making is simplifying the business content. My performance metrics use customer interaction and engagement data. If I expect a customer to read a page, I must be mindful of varying attention spans, reading ages and understanding.
The company has so many knowledgeable, enthusiastic employees, it’s easy to lose sight of what information is “customer-friendly”. By extracting the “need to know” and giving the content a smattering of the extra information, I hope to keep the content focussed, engaging and informative for the readers, and my colleagues.
6.) Which challenges do companies in the North East have to overcome in the fast-paced news world?
I’d suppose exposure is difficult in the current media climate. The “fifteen minutes of fame” is probably more like three minutes, these days!
Media exposure is often expensive, time-consuming and even if you invest those things, you still can’t guarantee results.
7.) When we met before, you mentioned, that clients sometimes want one thing, but you have to convince them otherwise. Could you name an example and how you have communicated in order to convince the client to do it your way?
The client wanted to promote information for a very small readership on the largest platform we have. It was difficult to reassure the client that their needs were still considered during the decision process for creating content on that large platform.
“Managing clients’ expectations is a delicate process for any copywriter”
In the end, we used research, analytics and persuasive chat to convince the client that the content they wanted was well-served in another area of the platform.
Clients want what is best for their teams, businesses and targets. Managing clients’ expectations is a delicate process for any copywriter, I’d think.
8.) Like me, you studied at the University of Sunderland. Instead of Public Relations, you studied English and Creative Writing. Which three writing tips would you advise PR student bloggers like me for writing their own blog?
Consistency is key. Make sure you commit to your blog and upload content regularly. It’s a great way to prove you can manage your own time and content to potential clients and employers.
Use analytics where you can. If a blog gets more engagement than usual, try to figure out why. What was different about it? Did you promote it on social media, did you get hits from specific search terms, and is the topic of your blog particularly trendy? These can all help you devise a strategy to create more content.
Proofread. Proofreading your own work is very difficult, so one trick I like to use is to return to my work. You’re more likely to see errors with “fresh eyes”.
A big thank you goes to Amy Batch. To find out more about her, check out her LinkedIn profile. You can find ThoughtsAboutPR on Twitter @ThoughtsAboutPR and on Instagram @Thoughts_About_PR. Northumbrian Water can be also found on Twitter @NorthumbrianH2O and @nwater_care.