Brand Strategy Copywriting Marketing

Copywriters think ‘strategists are c*nts’ – can we heal the rift?

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By Jamie Thorp, Senior writer

June 10, 2024 | 5 min read

Jamie Thorp, senior writer at Reed Words, wonders why there’s such a chasm between strategists and copywriters.

Frustrated man attacked computer

Copywriters.

Strategists.

We’re both people who use words to shape brands. So why do we often work on different teams, floors, project phases, planets?

I asked Molly Rowan-Hamilton, VP of Strategy at Live Nation and she said, “It might be because strategists are c*nts.” I thought that was a pretty striking observation and also a great title for an article (editor’s note: I agree).

There’s a view that strategists sit in their ivory tower next to the C-suite, dictating what a brand should do and be. All other roles are executional, bringing their vision to life with words and images.

But is that true?

And are copywriters just as bad?

Let’s see.

Part 1: mortal enemies

I’ve seen snobbery on both sides of the strategy/copywriting faultline. After all, copywriters are just there to churn out quirky lines and maybe polish up the odd brand manifesto (ChatGPT will replace them soon anyway right???).

And of course, all strategists do is make 80-slide decks that baffle clients with essences and brand circles until they get sign-off, never having to commit to anything that lives in the real world.

These tropes are (slightly) exaggerated, but the frustration and misunderstanding are real.

I think that’s because we’re kept apart, not why we’re kept apart.

You can blame that on project timelines, ease of billing, and agencies aiming for economies of scale in how they’re set up. Everything has to be neat and ordered and box-shaped.

But strategists and copywriters are ultimately word people. We both love language and understand its power.

Maybe it’s time for a reset.

Part 2: best friends

Let’s imagine we’ve torn down the ivory tower the strategists supposedly live in. Let’s imagine copywriters now love reading 80-slide strategy PowerPoints. What now?

What are the best ways for us to work together?

1. Use copy to test strategy, not just express it

Coming up with little lines and ideas is a quickfire way of seeing if a strategy works in real life. You’ll get a much clearer sense of what feels right, where you want to go, who you want this brand to be.

2. Write from the start

Bring your copywriters in early. Make their sharp words part of the initial articulation of ideas – not just nice lines at the end. The thinking is what steers everything. Why wouldn’t you want it to be as clear as possible?

3. Imagine a world (or just a room) with no titles

We’re all word nerds. We probably love the same authors and cringe at the same insta-poetry pages. Just be wordy people solving a problem with words. Brainstorm in the same space. Forget who’s who for a bit.

We do better for brands when the lines between us are dissolved. When we give up some of our territory and let the language flow. Don’t see titles. See words. And do it without being C-words.

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