Play Copy 2019.

Copywriting and communication par excellence

The third edition of Play Copy, the conference/workshop on professional writing conceived by Pennamontata, was held on April 5 and 6 in Modena.
Copywriting, political communication, storytelling, and effective communication were just some of the topics addressed at this annual event organized by the agency which, with a new and fresh kind of irony, plays around with certain languages of communication that are currently in vogue above all in the world of advertising and marketing, while declaring itself to be a “leader of absolutely nothing”.  

Educational events: when are they genuinely useful?

I have more than one problem with educational events and professional training courses.
The main one is a certain amount of skepticism I have acquired in recent years towards them.
I have always strongly believed that professional training is an absolute waste of time, if it does not result in a useful change for yourself and for other people. 

When are educational events truly useful? When, among the lecturers, there are at least a few individuals who are used to getting their hands dirty in their specific fields of expertise, which goes above and beyond their presence on the stage as instructors.
At the same time, they must make a genuine contribution to the event, while showing a stronger interest in their presentations than in the construction of their own Personal Branding. Moreover, greater value must be given to writing techniques than to the “coolness” of being the Top Perfomer. In other words, such events are made worthwhile by those lecturers who favor intellectual honesty over social acceptance, which sometimes does thankfully happen.

Influencer vs. Artisan

Today, certain stages are already packed full with “Influencers”, trainers, and communicators who flirt with the public and measure the quality of their performance by the number of applauses received by the end (but also during) their “winning speeches”, which are presented exactly the same way multiple times a year.
Instead, what is needed are artisans of Communication; individuals who always have the tools of their trade “on hand” and who, whenever possible, prefer to remain on the sidelines and out of the limelight. This category of professionals is not interested in going on stage with a generic and superficial approach. 

An example

I’m referring in particular to the speech of Francesca Mattia, who – together with Jessica De Venezia and Alessandra Pistillo – spoke of her experience as a copywriter by citing a Case History. Such an approach clearly expresses the sentiment: “We’re here to speak of genuine things. We’re here to speak of our direct experiences, the difficulties we encountered and the way we resolved them”. 

The emotion (of working with a good Project Manager)

The request of the customer: write a series of exciting texts for educational events aimed at travel agents. For every copywriter with a bit of common sense, “exciting” is a dangerous and risky word, because it is overused and accordingly empty of meaning. You could even go so far as to say that is a hateful word on the same level as “leader”. 
Writing a credible and uncontrived text that is capable of conveying authentic emotion is the job of a copywriter, which for the highly esteemed writer Emanuele Pirella was also an artistic trade. Thus, it’s not a question of writing about “exclusive”, “unique”, or even “wonderful” experiences (unless you are dealing with the demands of a customer who is not very forward-thinking).

«Writing of emotions is a slippery road to go down», declared Alessandra Pistillo, who participated here in the role of Project Manager. I would like to add that the world of communication is full of writers that have allowed their writing to be overrun with trivialities. 
Genuine work tools are needed to avoid such follies. 

Empathetic listening as a work tool  

Here we go again. Now we’re going to be told how important it is to listen and be empathetic and how we must be all more compassionate, more attentive, more patient, more genuine, and in general better individuals. On this note, I think I’ll go have a coffee.
Instead, no. Alessandra spoke to us of her writing techniques, which are based on the book Theory U written by Prof. Otto Scharmer from MIT in Boston. 

Photo by Denise Salis Dennissima_ @Twitter 

For this project, Alessandra looked for specific sources, integrating them with the already rich contents previously made available to the customer. She then interviewed a certain number of people involved in the project and carefully listened to what they had to say with the intent of providing genuine stories to the copywriter. This is because «it is the precise responsibility of the Project Manager to ensure that the creative team is in the right conditions for doing their very best work». Kudos to that!

The copywriter at work

A word of caution: we’re about to enter the creative workshop of words. Francesca Mattia, copywriter for Pennamontata, spoke to us of her method.   
For the project in question, Francesca had what every copywriter could possibly want or need:
    • A brief on the project;
    • A specific brief dedicated to the copywriting part of the project;
    • Supporting materials: books, music, film, and interviews on which to base herself.  
All these resources are needed to become project experts and experts on the theme, while helping us to focus on the demands of the customer. For Francesca, the demands were as follows:

Foto di

Screenshot Twitter @ludolingua #playcopy

At this point, it’s time to call upon the good saints who watch over creativity. 

«Writing is a classic problem with an infinite number of solutions, each of which is subject to an infinite number of improvements» 
(Annamaria Testa, Written minutes. 12 thinking and writing exercises, Rizzoli Etas, 2018, p. XI)

When a professional copywriter is asked to write a text of any kind, the first step is not to sit down at a desk and write, but rather make a series of decisions. This vast array of possible choices starts from the choice of communicative strategy:

    • Who is the customer (for whom are we writing);
    • What kind of public are we addressing;
    • What is the message;
    • What are the goals of the customer;
    • What are the customer’s values.

There are then the creative choices

    • The elements to be included in the text;
    • The elements that should be emphasized;
    • The order in which the elements should be put;
    • The tone of voice that should be used;
    • The rhythm of the copy;
    • How all the various elements should be connected.

There are then the structural decisions, starting from the creative concept.

    • Introduction: key words and theme;
    • The outline of the main body:
        ◦ Content selection,
        ◦ Ordering of the parts,
        ◦ Assigning details to the elements;
    • An ending of great impact.

Finally, there are the stylistic choices:
    • Narrative devices;
    • Rhythm;
    • Tone of voice;
    • Transitions and connections between the various parts of the text.

The copywriter: not a poet (nor a rhymester), but rather a text engineer 

The closing message of Francesca is crystal clear:

«If we try to convey emotion and irony by imitating poets, we will only ever be rhymesters. We instead must aspire to be text engineers».

So, how exactly does she write copy? How has she applied this method to her work? What was the result? Those who participated in Play Copy know the answers.

The grand finale: it’s now your turn to write… and tweet it to me!

The exercise proposed at the end of the speech – writing a script for a video – was consistent with the message conveyed by the speech itself: clear and detailed instructions on the delivery, a rich selection of supporting materials, and punctual feedback. 

Play Copy favored the flow of information between all participants (both live and in live streaming), and among participants and speakers, through Twitter. 

The #playcopy hashtag was in fact among the most trending topics of the weekend. 

Annalisa di Salvatore



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